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[Pages 149-150 - Hebrew]

How I survived the Great Aktzya

by Tzvi Koch

Translated by Sara Mages

In 1939, when the Russians invaded our area, the property of the large merchants was confiscated at once. I was also one of the large merchants and my property was also confiscated. These merchants were not allowed to get any work and from time to time new taxes were enforced on them. After many attempts, by using contacts and with a payment of large sum of money, I was able to “purify” my name and remove it from the large merchants list. With that, also the name of my family was purified and we became “honest people”.

In 1941, Tłuste was captured by the Germans. At that time I lived in the village of Nirkow [Nyrków], a distance of twelve kilometers from town. On the first night of the Germans' rule, Ukrainian murderers attacked us and robbed all that we had in our possession. My family and I jumped half-naked through the windows and escaped to Tłuste. There, I lived in the home of Yisrael Yorist.

A number of decrees were published during the first days of the German rule in Tłuste. The Jews were not allowed to be outside their homes after five o'clock in the evening, and every Jew had to wear on his sleeve a white armband with a blue Star of David. Around that time also the first “Judenrat” was established. Some time later, the Germans demanded a certain number of Jews for transport to labor camps. They promised that they would stay in the labor camps for only three weeks, and later on they would be replaced by others. The “Judenrat” prepared a list of the town's Jews and selected from it the people who would be sent to the labor camps. Those who were selected did not object since they trusted the Germans' promise. In fact, none of them returned. Those who wanted to take a family member out of the labor camp approached the “Judenrat” and, after a negotiation for the amount of ransom money, the “Judenrat” determined who would be released. The first camps were Kamionka near Lvov and in Borki-Wielkie.

The Germans continued to demand that the “Judenrat” deliver people for the labor camps, but they were not able to find people who were willing to go on their own accord. The “Judenrat” was forced to grab people from the streets and to conduct searches in order to fulfill the Gestapo's quota. After the quota was filled, those who hid were able to come out of their hiding places, but they were required to pay ransom money to the “Judenrat” fund. I was also one of those who was not caught. I was forced by the “Judenrat” to pay ransom, and indeed I paid.

The money that was collected by the “Judenrat” in place of going to a labor camp, or for the return of those who were sent to a camp, was used to fulfill the Nazis' and the Gestapo demands. The demands were many and the requirements were large. Every now and then, they demanded leather, cash in dollars, and the “Judenrat” was forced to fulfill all of their demands. For that purpose the “Judenrat” extorted money from any possible source. In one of the searches for additional Jews for a labor camp I was in bed, ill with typhus, so they were not able to send me to work. After the quota was filled and the mission ended, the “Judenrat” people appeared in my home to search for my two brothers who were hiding there. They asked me where my brothers were, and when I told them that I didn't know, they forced me to get out of bed, despite the fact that I was sick, and locked me in the “Judenrat” prison. There, I found a number of rich Jews who were also locked up. It was clear that they had arrested us in order to extort money from us.

In general, I was at odds with the “Judenrat”. There were two reasons for that: first, because I was rich and it was possible to demand money from me, more than was possible to demand from other residents. Second, because I had connections with people of the Ukrainian police due to the bribes that I paid them. Not once I was able to release Jews and save them from all kind of trouble not by the way of the “Judenrat”; and the matter angered them. Once I was able to save Minisia Tepper [Mina Tepper], daughter of Pinchas Teiber [Teiwer], from the hands of a Ukrainian policeman. He was beating her, wanting to arrest her for her “sin” of baking bread, a matter that was forbidden for Jews and carried a death sentence. The second time I was able to release Yisrael Yorist. He had been arrested by the Ukrainian police under an order given by the “Judenrat” for refusing to give his furniture to the Gestapo. Then, they ordered to arrest me in his place. I was arrested. My rescue acts hurt the “Judenrat” income and they agreed to release me only if I paid the losses that I had caused them.

After the first step, the abduction of Jews for transport to labor camps, the “aktzyot” started. That is, the murder of Jews by the Germans with the cooperation of the Ukrainian police. After each “aktzya” the number of Jews in town diminished. As their number decreased those who were left were crowded together in one neighborhood. After the great “aktzya”, which took place on a Thursday, when more than two thousand Jews were murdered, the Gestapo ordered the few Jews who were left to concentrate in one narrow street where a “ghetto” was established for them. Later, some of them were sent to labor camps that were established in the town's environs, in the villages of Roshanovka [Różanówka], Lisowtza [Lisowce], Podsniatinka and Swydova [Swidowa]. The surviving Jews believed and hoped that those who were sent to labor camps would survive, and those who remained in the ghetto would be liquidated sooner or later. But it was not easy to be included among those who were sent to a labor camp. Only the physically fit young people were sent there and also those who bought the right and paid money to the “Judenrat”, or by “favoritism.” In fact, most of the Jews who were left were relatively young, since the old people were already killed in one of the “aktzyot”. We need to mention, that there were not any children in the labor camps because it was forbidden to keep children there. A few children arrived with their parents and were kept in secret and hidden under mortal danger. Any child that was found in the camp was executed immediately.

One of the “aktzyot” that I remember well was the Sunday “aktzya”. Usually they did not execute an “aktzya” on a Sunday, because of the “sanctity of the day.” This time, the Nazis tried to perform an “aktzya” in the nearby town of Borszczów, and for some reason they were not successful. For that reason they suddenly appeared in Tłuste and started to shoot every Jew who came across them. In previous “aktzyot” we always knew in advance that something was going to happen and many found a place to hide. This time the matter came as a surprise and we did not have the time to run and hide.

I was saved from the great “aktzya” by a miracle. Before morning, Gestapo men and Ukrainian policemen surrounded the town and opened fire. They called the Jews to come quickly out of their homes and started to search each house for hidden Jews with the help of the “Jewish police”. They brought them to the collection point which, this time, was located in a large field near Yorist's home. My mother of blessed memory, my brother David and I hid in a bunker in Yorist's home. We had just enough time to enter it before the arrival of the murderers. Two days before the “aktzya” I told my brother David that we should leave town and go to the village of Nirkow [Nyrków] or to Podtsuhor near Nirkow, where I had prepared two bunkers with two Poles. I learned from Dr. Averman, the leader of the Judenrat, that the ground was burning under our feet, but Dr. Averman and my brother claimed that it was possible to delay the matter.

When the shooting started we went down to Yorist's bunker. A short time later, the murderers discovered the bunker, opened the upper lid and shouted: “Jews come out!” I came out of the bunker and the others followed me, apart from my mother and two young women who stayed inside the bunker. S.S. men, Ukrainian policemen and one Jew waited for us on top. We were led to the gathering location where many Jews, who were brought there before us, were already waiting. Everyone sat on the ground with their arms raised above their heads. The Germans placed two big wooden crates nearby, and the Jews were ordered to throw inside them all the money and valuables in their possession before they sat on the ground. While I sat with my brother, I suddenly saw Dr. Averman walking by with a German officer. I called him by his name: Dr. Averman! He noticed me and said something to the German officer. Then I heard the officer calling me by my name: “Herman Koch!” I left the circle and at the same time I shouted towards my brother: “David Koch!”, as though they were also calling him. He was afraid to get up from his place because he could have been shot for doing so by the armed guards. I shouted towards him: “Come quickly, you have nothing to lose!” He listened to my voice and came out of the circle. And so, about thirty people were taken out of the circle thanks to the intervention of Dr. Averman and other members of the “Judenrat” who were able, here and there, to influence the “aktzya” organizers to give up a number of people that they recommended.

The Jews who were taken out of the circle were ordered by the Germans to collect the dead bodies that were scattered in different streets in town. Those were the bodies of Jews who were killed during their escape. For that we were given a cart harnessed to a pair of horses and driven by a Ukrainian farmer. The Jews who remained in the collection area were led in groups of one hundred to the cemetery and shot to death.

This is how I survived this “aktzya” and stayed alive. After everything ended, I went together with a Ukrainian policeman, who was one of my acquaintances, to search for my mother in Yorist's bunker. I found her there and went to call my brother. When I came back with my brother I found that, in the meantime, Ukrainian rioters had entered the bunker, stabbed my mother and beat her with murderous blows. Despite that, she survived and was rewarded to immigrate to Israel with us.

It is worth mentioning two “episodes” from this “aktzya”. During the “aktzya” a number of Jews hid on the roof of Moshe Wasser's home near the gathering point. The matter became known to the murderers. They climbed on the roof and threw the unfortunate from the roof to the road. They crashed before my eyes and the eyes of all the people who sat there. The second incident: among those who sat in the collection area was Tłuste resident Simcha Gelber or, as he was called, Simcha the “Kleizmer”. Simcha approached the person in charge and asked him to let him live since he could still work and be useful. In addition, he also told him that he was a musician. To that the German answered him: “Go and bring your violin!” Simcha went to his home accompanied by a policeman and brought his violin. The German ordered him to play before the Jews who were sitting and waiting for their death. But that also did not help Simcha. He was sent to the cemetery in the last group. He probably found his death there since I have not seen him anymore.

I left Tłuste after this “aktzya”. First I went to the labor camp in Roshanovka, and from there I went to hide in the bunkers that I prepared for myself in Nirkow and Podtsuhor. I lived there until March 1944 when the Russians arrived and liberated our area. In 1945 I arrived in Israel.


[Pages 151-152]

The Great Aktzya of May 1943

by Bella Shoham

Translated by Sara Mages

It happened on one of the last days of month of May, the month of spring. The trees wore a green blanket, the sun sent her warm rays to the world, and the birds sang and flirted with joy: Spring had arrived! Spring, the messenger of rejuvenation which brings the joy of life to all living creatures. But that spring brought the Jews of Tłuste, as it did to all the Jews in the area, the blackest news, the news of death and destruction. The final extermination was approaching – “the final Jewish liquidation” as the German oppressors called it. The tension among the Jews of the town – whose number of residents was increased by a few thousand since the area's Jews moved there – increased from hour to hour. For many months they suffered from hunger and humiliation, congestion and filth. They were always subjected to pillage and plunder. But now, their existence was in danger, their chance of continuing to live on this earth was shaken.

Twilight, Wednesday 26 May, Jews were walking like shadows in the back streets, like prisoners waiting for the execution of their sentence. Bitter and shocking rumors arrived from the nearby towns, from Chortkov [Czortków], Buchach [Buczacz], and Borshov [Borszczów]. Liquidation “aktzyot” were held in all those towns according to an accurate plan, the terrible plan of the murderers of the Jewish nation. Everyone felt and knew that Tłuste's turn had just arrived. In a few days, or maybe in a number of hours, the calamity would reach them. Everyone walked depressed, without a spark of hope in their vacant eyes. How could they expect a miracle? Why would the great miracle, for which Jews in all the surrounding towns waited in vain, happen in Tłuste?

A rumor spread in town: tonight they would abduct girls for transport to a labor-camp. My mother decided immediately that I should not stay at home. I must go to the Christian family B., who lived in Naharonika [ed. – apparently a reference to Nahiryanka / Nagórzanka, near Jagielnica], and sleep there. Thanks to my mother, who was Mrs. B.'s school friend, I was welcomed at their home. I spent many days in their home – I worked on the farm, helped their son with his homework, I stitched and embroidered. I did all that I could in order to please them, in order to receive a slice of bread for me and for the members of my family who suffered from hunger and shortage. I arrived with my mother to the home of the B. family, but I did not dare to enter. I was afraid that maybe this time they would refuse to take me in. And what would I do then? Where would I turn and to whom would I go? My mother entered before me in order to receive their approval. A few moments passed and my mother came out of the house. An expression of satisfaction was spread over her worried face. “Get in my daughter – she said – they are taking you in willingly, but please don't come back in the morning until I come to get you.” My mother kissed me as the tears choked her throat, and hurried to return home. The hour of six before evening was getting closer. After that hour, a Jew was not allowed to be seen in the streets.

With a heavy heart, I climbed in my bed fully dressed. The feeling of fear and anxiety gained control over me. I repeated the evening prayer that I had started to recite since the arrival of the bad days: G-d please let me see the morning light and please leave me in the bosom of my family! Woe G-d! Why, why all this torture, and for how long are we going to suffer?

I woke up at two o'clock at night to the sound of frequent gunfire that landed like hail. I understood everything… Mrs. B. approached my bed and whispered with a sad voice: “aktzya, listen, aktzya in town… Get dressed quickly and climb to the attic above the cowshed.” I was trembling as though I had fever and answered her: “I will not go, I will run home to my parents, and if we are sentenced to die – we will die together”.

Mrs. B. was against this thought. In spite of my wish, she walked me to the cowshed and climbed with me to the attic. A Jewish boy, around the age of ten, was lying there pale and trembling from fear. I recognized the boy, he was from Horodenka. His parents perished in the “aktzya” and he was left alone. He had arrived on foot to Tłuste, found shelter with the B. family and shepherded her cows. Mrs. B. covered both of us with sheaves of straw and returned home. The shooting continued nonstop like in a battlefield. We heard the shouts and the orders of the killers, the screams of the murdered and the crying of children. Nearby we heard a Jew calling “Shema Yisrale” and falling to the ground. The moments crawled slowly and the brain was full of thoughts, fear and terror. The pain and sufferings turned my body and my soul into one big bleeding wound. Is it possible that they just kill and murder nonstop! And you, G-d, where are you? Why do you look, observe and keep quiet? The shooting lasted and lasted… and during that time my brain emptied from any thoughts, I froze, I did not feel anything, I did not think about anything. I only lay and waited.

In the afternoon, Mrs. B. climbed to us and with tears in her eyes she begged before us: “Save yourselves and me! The murderers are going from house to house searching for Jews in hiding, if they will find you in my home – we will all be lost together. Please, leave my house and save my soul and your souls together.” Both of us went down to the cowshed, me and the boy. I took my coat off, the one that had an armband with a blue Star of David stitched to its sleeve. Mrs. B. tied a colorful headscarf to my head and an apron to my waist. I took a shovel and threw it on my shoulder and so I left the cowshed completely indifferent to those who would see me. The boy came after me with the shepherd stick in his hand, and used it to take the cows out of the cowshed. At the same time three images appeared at the gate and scared us to death: a Gestapo man and two Ukrainian policemen who came to search the house. They measured us from top to bottom with a penetrating suspicious look. The boy became very pale and turned towards the field as though he wanted to escape. I stopped him and with a forced laugh I said to him in Ukrainian: “Why are you so frightened, you little stupid, they might suspect that you are a Jew! Say hello to the policemen and go do your work! My words probably convinced the angels of death that we were not Jewish. One of the two policemen turned to us and said with kindness: “Come on, for devil's sake, get going!”

We turned towards the field and went away. We were shocked and we did not believe what we saw. Is it possible? Were we truly saved from the hands of the murderers? Again, the will to live, to exist, awakened in me. The apathy and the paralysis that took over me when I lay idle in the attic passed and were no longer there. I did not know if it was the will to live, or maybe the fear of death. I only knew that we needed to hide as soon as possible, and disappear from the eyes of the murderers.

With quick steps we crossed the garden and got closer to the wheat fields. The stalks were tall and full, the wheat harvest season was getting closer, but the blood harvest was at its height and continued non-stop and without a limit. We entered between the stalks, the boy left his cows and I threw away the shovel. The two of us started to crawl on our fours inside the standing wheat. We crawled for a few hundred meters until we moved away from the village. The shooting continued without a break and did not stop for a moment. We ran out of energy and our bodies trembled from anxiety and fear. The boy breathed heavily and, every once in a while, wet his lips with his tongue. His face was pale and he was completely wet from sweat and covered with dirt. He lay next to me holding my hand, as though I had the power to protect him from trouble. The memory of my family members rose to my heart. They remained in town, inside the frenzy, the shooting and murder, and who knows if they were still alive. I broke in a bitter cry, and the boy put his hand on my mouth so the sound of my cry wouldn't be heard. I restrained myself and repressed my feelings, but the tears choked my throat. In my imagination I saw my father and my mother, my brother and sister, my aunts and their children and those who were dear to me, and I did not know if I would be able to see them again!

A short time later, the sound of repetitive voices and gunfire reached our ears. And again, silence, voices and gunfire. After strenuous listening I realized that the voices were counting in German from one to ten. After each counting we heard a spatter of gunfire. At the beginning, I did not understand what was happening. At the end, I raised my head and saw that our legs had carried us to a field near the cemetery. From our hiding place I was able to hear and see how the executioners carried out their murderous plot. People were sent to the burial pit in groups of ten, fathers with sons, mothers with babies in their arms, and those wild beasts, the scum of the human race, shot and enjoyed this devils' game. Who knows who is entering the pit now? Maybe my parents with my sister and my brother? But what is the difference, they are all my brothers! The heart was aching so much…. And this hell continued for hours upon hours, until it seemed that it would never end….

Evening fell, darkness covered the face of the earth, and the shooting continued. Only at around nine o'clock the shooting stopped and silence and stillness prevailed. Over and done with. Everything became silent. Everyone was dead. I had the feeling that I was also dead, although I was breathing and was able to move. We continued to lie in the standing wheat. An hour later I heard a whispering voice calling my name from a distance. At first we got scared, but later on we started to walk in the direction of the voice. It was the voice of Mrs. B. who came to look for us in the standing wheat. After quarter of an hour we met her and she informed us that the “aktzya” had ended and it was possible to return home. I wanted very much to hurry and run to my home to see if anyone remained alive, but Mrs. B. did not let me do so. “There is an order,” she said, “forbidding to go out into the streets and it also applies to Poles and Ukrainians.” She also told me that around three thousand Jews died in the “aktzya.

Mrs. B. took us again to the cowshed and brought us food. We asked for a lot of water because our throats were parched from thirst. We tasted a little of the food, climbed to the attic and lay down, but I was not able to fall asleep. I did not close my eyes all night. It is difficult to describe my mental state during that night. The bitter tormenting thoughts did not let go: three thousand Jews were killed today in Tłuste, three thousand Jews in one day, on Thursday – the day of the reading of the Torah! And G-d saw all of that and kept silent. And what about my family, is anyone of them still alive? Will I be able to see them again? And if all of them perished with the others – why did I remain alive? What for, and for whom? In a few more hours I would know the whole truth. Terrible fear attacked me from the worry of discovering the truth. It was better that the night not end, so it wouldn't be necessary to go to town and see what happened there.

At six o'clock in the morning I departed from the B. family. I thanked them from the bottom of my heart for everything they had done for me and turned to go to town. I knew what was waiting for me in town, and I was prepared to see the horrible sights. Despite that, I was shocked and I did not believe what my eyes saw. The whole road was strewn with the bodies of murdered Jews. Fear and horror fell on me in the presence of this sight. Wherever I turned I saw only blood, blood and crushed skulls. Here lay the body of a four-year-old girl, and there, among the weeds, the body of an old Jewish man. Where would I escape to from this hell? I continued to walk and came across a body of a family member, my cousin who came to town from the village only a few days earlier. What should I do? I started to run like a maniac, but where to? Where is our home and who is still there?

Suddenly I heard a voice calling my name and immediately after that a choked cry “My daughter, my daughter, you are alive! Is it really you or a dream that my eyes see?” It was my mother. She saw me and ran towards me. This time they remained alive, all the family members, indeed, they remained alive – but only for ten more days…


[Page 153]

What I went through during the German occupation

by Yisrael Gertner

Translated by Sara Mages

Even before the Germans entered our area, the Ukrainians rose and killed many Jews in a number of places: Svidovh [Swidowa], Lashkovitz [Ulaszkówce], and Czopowicze [Szypowce]. 15-20 people were killed in the Metzger's flour mill. The Magyars [Hungarians] arrived in our town first, although the rule was in German hands. At the same time, the Magyars expelled around thirty thousand Jews from their country, claiming that they did not have passports. Some of those Jews arrived in Tłuste, and remained in town. A short time later, the Ukrainians complained that the Hungarian soldiers were looting their vegetable gardens in order to give the vegetables to the Hungarian Jews. Then, an order was given to expel all the Jews who arrived from Hungary. Most of them were expelled as far as Kamieniec Podolski, which was over the Russian border, and were shot to death there. Only a few of them did not obey the order and remained in our town.

Later on, the abduction of Jews for transport to the notorious Kamionka labor camp started. Around three hundred Jews were sent from our town, among them were a few members of our family: myself, my brother's son Manie Gertner, may the Lord revenge his blood, and my sister's son Natan Sperber (who now lives in Israel). There, the real hell started. I was there for only 9 weeks, and during that time I was included three times in the list of those who were selected for execution. Two weeks after our arrival I was placed in a group of forty men, and seven men from that group were chosen for execution. Among them was also Rochtsi Gertner's son-in-law. After nine weeks my nephew, Shimshon Gertner of blessed memory, was able to release me with a ransom payment of 250 Dollars.

Afterword, the “aktzyot” chapter started. To our great regret, the “Judenrat” expelled three hundred Jews, and seventy young women were taken out of the Kozia-Gora farm where they worked as laborers. All of them were sent in freight cars to the Belzec death camp. In the second “aktzya” the Germans abducted around one thousand people. Among them were: Tłuste's rabbi, R' Shmuel-Aba Chodorov, and his family, my brother's son, Shimshon Gertner,with his wife and child, and also my brother-in-law and my aunt. They were also taken by train to an “unknown destination”. They also did not know their destination. There were more Jews waiting in the train stations along the way, and when they got closer to Rawa-Ruska they met a number of Jews who worked near the railroad. They shouted to them: “Jews, escape for your lives, because they are taking you to the ovens!” They were transported in cattle cars with their windows blocked with barbed wire. My nephew Shimshon cut the wire, and as the train was moving he threw his wife out first, and he and his brother-in-law jumped after her. The Germans who guarded the “transport” shot after them, but they did not hit them. The train continued on its way, people fell at a distance of about two kilometers from each other, and they met later on. My nephew left my aunt and his boy inside the car. After they met, the three of them arrived to Rawa-Ruska. Jews still lived there, and they helped them with money and with arrangements. A German company sent a delivery truck to Zaleszczyki, and the three were sent in this truck as laborers. The driver brought them to their homes and received a carpet as a payment. Leib Drohobitzer [Drohobycer] was also in the same car, but when Shimshon offered to help him to jump out of the car, Drohobitser told him that he did not want to take part in it because it was better for him to “rid himself of the matter once and for all”.

Shimshon's wife was in her fifth month of pregnancy when she jumped from the train, and four months later she gave birth to a baby girl. When the girl reached the age of eight months the great “aktzya” took place in Tłuste, and everyone perished in it. Ten days later the last “aktzya” took place, and then my wife, my daughter, and all the remaining family members perished. Later on, an order arrived that Tłuste should remain “Judenfrei” and all the surviving Jews were ordered to move to Chortkov [Czortków]. Immediately after their arrival they were taken to the cemetery and shot there. We did not travel to Chortkov, but turned to the labor camp on Milovtza [Milowce] farm. There were forty of us there. Twice we were attacked by the Gestapo men, and only twenty out of the forty were left. Later the “Banderovtzim” [Bandera's gang members] started to bother us. A member of the “Banderovtzim” gang secretly advised me that I should not sleep in the camp or on the farm, but change my location every night. After that those thugs attacked us. They strangled Shmuel's brother-in-law and his son with ropes, and also killed a teenager from Buczacz. Eight days later the farm in Tłuste was liberated.

My sister's son, Natan Sperber, tells about the liquidation of the Kamionka labor camp in these words:

He worked with three hundred men in a quarry and in the forests near Kamionka. They called this place “Kamionka 1”. When the partisans started to get closer, a German accompanied by five Ukrainian policemen came with a machine gun and took everyone to the village. Some of the Jews started to escape, and the Ukrainians started to shoot after them. The first to be shot was Yeshayho Mazer, and others were shot after him. My sister's son was able to escape. Since he knew where I was, he walked a distance of around one hundred kilometers at night until he reached our camp. My brother's son Manie also escaped, but we found out that he was caught in Skalat and shot there.

Among those who were killed in our town was also the veterinarian Spiegelglass, with his wife and daughter. One day, a number of Gestapo men arrived from Chortkov and asked for the location of his apartment. They approached his apartment, murdered the whole family, left their bodies in the apartment and took off.

[Page 154]

The testimony of a doctor

by Dr. Baruch Milch

Translated by Sara Mages

From testimony against the Gestapo men, Paul Thomanek and Kurt Koellner.

In 1935 I was certified as a physician in Prague. I lived with my family in Podhajce, in the district of Tarnopol, until the outbreak of the war in 1939. At the beginning of 1940, after the Russians captured Podhajce, I was transferred under the order of the authorities to Tłuste and worked there as a physician until the outbreak of the war between Germany and Russia in June of 1941.

At the beginning of July 1941, German troops also occupied Tłuste, and for about half a year after the occupation I also served as a municipal doctor in Tłuste because there wasn't a Christian doctor in the town. At the end of 1941 I saw, for the first time, the Gestapo man, Thomanek, at the Ukrainian police station. He was there accompanied by two other S.S. men, Koellner and a third man whose name I don't know. They asked me, as the municipal doctor, if the two–week–old baby that was found dead under a cross was Jewish or Christian, and the reason for his death. I couldn't express an opinion whether the boy was Jewish or a Christian because he wasn't circumcised, but I was able to determine the time of death and his age. I don't know what the end of this matter was.

During the occupation, there were 500 to 600 Jewish families in Tłuste. After that, all the Jews from nearby cities such as Zaleszczyki, Buczacz, Jagielnica and Horodenka, were deported and brought to Tłuste Ghetto. The ghetto was reduced, more and more in terms of area, until five thousand Jews lived in a very narrow area.

There was only a Ukrainian police. About twice a week the men of the Gestapo came to the “Judenrat” from Chortkov [Czortków]. They always came in a truck, which was covered with a black canvas, and accompanied by a small passenger car. The arrival of the black car always aroused fear and panic. Paul Thomanek, Kurt Koellner, Peckmann and Brauner were known as the most awful among the men of the Gestapo.

In July 1941, the Germans already assembled a “Judenrat.” The men of the S.S. came to the “Judenrat” to impose and collect the “contributions,” meaning the silver and gold quotas that we were forced to give them. After that, came the “fur operation” in which we had to give all the furs and the materials for sewing furs. It was followed by demands to provide workers for labor camps, at first in Kamionka and Globocak [Hluboczek], and after that for the establishment of a labor camp near Tłuste for planting orchards for the production of Caoutchouc, for the rubber industry in the labor camps in Lisowice [Lisowce] and Rozanowka [Różanówka].

Hundreds of people were dragged to the labor camps by the Ukrainian police. The Gestapo man, Koellner, was the person in charge of Jewish matters in the Gestapo office in Chortkov. The S.S. man, Thomanek, was the director of the camps in Chortkov and the surrounding area. Later, came a period of “transfer operation” which was directed by Thomanek and Koellner. Approximately at the end of 1941, or at the beginning of 1942, eighty young Jews were required to come to the train station in Tłuste. When the quota wasn't met, young people were taken out of the nearby houses to complete the required number. They were brought to the train station and loaded for Belecz.

In March, or April 1942, I was brought to the labor camp in Kamionka together with about eighty other Jews. There, I hid the fact that I was a doctor and worked for almost a year in the quarry. Two to three thousand Jews from the District of Tarnopol worked at the labor camp in Kamionka.

At the beginning of 1942, I witnessed how Thomanek shot and killed Spiegelglass, Tłuste's veterinarian, together with his wife and daughter. Spiegelglass lived outside the Jewish quarter, out of the city. I lived together with my family in a room which was located a distance of two houses from his apartment. One day, between the hour of seven and eight in the morning, a passenger car arrived. Thomanek and a Ukrainian policeman named Schab got out of it. A second Gestapo man remained in the car. Thomanek approached the house and knocked on Spiegelglass' window. Spiegelglass came out and I was able to hear Thomanek's question: what is your name? After I heard his answer, Thomanek shot and killed him from a distance of approximately one meter. I was at a distance of 10–12 meters.

Spiegelglass fell dead on the spot and then, Thomanek entered the apartment. I heard the sound of additional shots and later found out that Spiegelglass' wife and his eleven–year–old daughter were shot to death. After that, Thomanek and the Ukrainian policeman left the area in the car. Half an hour later a cart arrived from the “Judenrat” to remove the bodies. His wife and his daughter were still in their nightgowns. I saw that with my own eyes.

It's possible that the reason for the “special operation” was due to the fact that a Ukrainian veterinarian arrived in Tłuste a short time before the murder. However, the Christian population and the agricultural farms preferred to use the service of Spiegelglass.

I was also a witness to a second crime in which Thomanek and Koellner took part. Once, on a Friday, Thomanek and Koellner arrived together with four or five S.S. men from Chortkov to Tłuste in the well–known black truck and in a passenger car, and demanded from the “Judenrat” to immediately provide them with a large number of young workers to load the wheat that accumulated on the agricultural farms in the area. Since there were only a few who were willing to do so (at the sound of Thomanek's name many escaped for their lives and hid in fear), the Gestapo men, together with Koellner, entered the houses that stood near the “Judenrat” building and took out of them twelve young Jews. They brought them to the “Judenrat” yard, and there they were shot to death by Thomanek and Koellner. I was then in a nearby house, at the home of a Ukrainian family by the name of Sush, who received medical treatment from me, and I saw everything through the window. From among the murdered I knew two sisters by the name of Kurzer, and a young man by the name of Hessing.

Later, the men of the S.S. entered the nearby houses, to the place of residence of the Spitzer and Stupp families that I visited before noon on the same day because there were several people there who were seriously ill with typhus. They also shot a number of sick people there. Later, all of them were found shot to death. They were also shot by Thomanek and Koellner.

From July 1943 to February–March 1944, I was at the Lisowice camp while my family remained in Tłuste. In the summer of 1943, in one of the aktzyot, about three thousand Jews were collected at the local cemetery and shot to death next to the pit, which was dug as a grave for the masses of victims. My mother–in–law and my sister–in–law also perished then.

Some of the detainees in the Lisowice camp were sent and transferred to Silesia. I was released in Glaubitz by the Russians in February of 1945.

As I've been told, the members of my family were killed in the following ways: The great aktzya of the summer of 1943 started at three o'clock in the morning and continued until five in the afternoon. My family was hiding with a farmer at the edge of the city. My son was three years old then. A Ukrainian cook hurried to a nearby restaurant where Thomanek and Koellner were eating, and told them that my family was hiding with a farmer nearby. Even though it happened after the aktzya ended in the cemetery, the S.S. men also took my family there. My wife and my mother–in–law were shot and killed and my little son was thrown alive into the pit after them.


[Page 155 - Hebrew]

Memories from the Holocaust era

by Chaya Rosenblatt

Translated by Sara Mages

Mordechai and Yota Rosenblatt had three sons: Yeshaya, Tzvi (Hersh) and Kalman. Yeshaya lived in Grodek near Zaleszczyki and was murdered there by the Ukrainian worker, Pilka, who hid him for a short period of time after he escaped from Berezdów Ghetto.

Tzvi was sent by the “Judenrat” to the labor camp in Kamionka and died there a few months later. His wife, Leah, was captured by the Ukrainian police in Rozanowka [Różanówka] and was murdered about six weeks before liberation.

Kalman Rosenblatt, who was wealthy, was arrested by the Russians. He sat for several weeks in Chortkov's prison, until he was released from there for a fee of ten thousand dollars. When the Germans arrived, the family hid for two days in a forest near Ułaszkowce, and later returned to Tłuste. In 1941, during the Hungarian regime, the Hungarian police came to rob his property and only left after they received a large sum of money from him. The family suffered a lot also from the Jewish police. From time to time they came to search for hidden money, and during these searches uprooted doors, windows and floors.

For a certain period of time, they worked on the Keshnzshina [Ksiezyna] farm near Slone [Słone]. There, they were helped a lot by a gentile named, Doshak, who guided and advised them where it was possible to hide. In the winter of 1942, they returned to their home, but in January of 1943 they were expelled from their home by a Ukrainian policeman and moved to live at the home of Ahron Baumister. In the spring, they moved to Holovtshintzh [Hołowcyńce] where they lived in the labor camp and worked in the fields. They felt themselves lucky because they weren't sent to the camp in Kamionka. In this manner, they managed to survive the “aktzyot” that were held in Tłuste at that time. During the “aktzyot” they escaped to the forests and later retuned and continued to work. Chaya, Kalman's wife, worked for individual farmers and for her work she received a meager meal that she shared with her husband.

In the summer of 1943 (May or June), an “aktzya” was held in Holovtshintzh, but Kalman Rosenblatt and his wife managed to escape and hide in the woods. After the “aktzya” they returned to Holovtshintzh. In November 1943 (27 Kislev 5704), the Gestapo man, Brauner, came to the farm and shot and killed many Jews. Among them was also Kalman Rosenblatt.

In January 1944, a typhus epidemic broke out in Rozanowka, the place where Chaya Rosenblatt hid. There was no water in the camp. They used snow for drinking and ate beets. All the camp's inmates used the one wooden comb that they had in their possession. There was only one needle in the camp and the Jews used it to patch up their “clothes” which turned into rags.

Rozya Horovitz from Zaleszczyki, the twenty–one–year old daughter of Shemaria Horovitz, was taken to Chortkov [Czortków] together with nearly two thousand Jews. There, they were going to be executed, but they were kept alive for about a week because the ground was frozen and it was impossible to dig a grave for them. She said that after they were starved for a week they were given a sack of bran, and those who were able to snatch – snatched. They used snow for drinking water and, when she was thirsty and wasn't able to get a little water, she injured her finger and quenched her thirst with the blood that she sucked from her finger.

Rozya Lang, daughter of Shabtai Lang, had a little beautiful daughter. The wife of the director of Holovtshintza [Hołowczyńce] farm adopted her as a daughter and all the children envied her. However, on the day that the “aktzya” was being held in Holovtshintzh, the woman handed her “daughter” to the hands of the Gestapo. The Jews of Holovtshintzh were buried next to the cowsheds, together with the carcasses of dead dogs and cattle.

The veterinarian, Spiegelglass, was murdered together with his wife and nine–year–old daughter, Zoshia, at his home. The girl wiggled and rolled around the room until she covered all the furniture with her blood.

Mrs. Mann took care of her little granddaughter whose parents were killed in the “aktzya” in Tłuste. One day, Chaya Rosenblatt found the girl's red dress flapping on one of the fences. It became known to her that Mrs. Mann was shot and the girl had been smashed into a stone because the murderers didn't want to waste a bullet on a Jewish child. Both were buried in Holovtshintzh.

On Yom Kippur 1943, the Jews collected 500 Zloty and gave it to the “zhontse” [gendarme/ military policeman] to let them pray.


[Page 156 - Hebrew] [Page 215-230 - Yididsh]

A night of horror – one of many

by Dov Pfeffer

Translated by Sara Mages

I would like to describe a night of horror that I, my wife Sabina, and my daughter Paula, went through a short time before liberation. We were at the labor camp in Chipowtza [Szypowce], where only a few of the camp's workers remained after the “aktzyot” that were held there. We started to feel that there was a change in the situation and the Russian front was getting closer to us. Each one of us started to search for a place to hide with renewed enthusiasm, out of hope that the bad days wouldn't last long. My wife and my daughter were hidden by a farmer inside a small pile of straw that he prepared for that purpose. One day, at dusk, the farmer approached us and demanded that we should leave his place at once. According to his words, the “Banderovtzim” [Bandera's gang] discovered that we were hiding at his place. Our cries for help and our tears didn't help us, and we were forced to leave for the road in very bad weather.

At the same time, my brother, his son and also my father, Fischel, were in Chipowtza camp. My brother worked there as a blacksmith. His wife Dora, and his son Ascher, were staying with him. We didn't know that my brother and the rest of the workers had left the camp and moved to the labor camp in Tłuste. Therefore, we headed for Chipowtza farm which wasn't far from where we hid in the farmer's house. To our amazement, no one was on the farm. A large pile of straw stood there, so we decided to climb to the top of the pile and hide there. On top of the pile we found a “bunker” which was probably prepared by one of the camp's workers. The bunker was narrow and the three of us were only able to stand there. A few hours later we suddenly heard the sound of coughing. We knew that Antoni Shevetshuk [Szevchuk], the farmer who hid us, suffered from asthma, so we assumed that he came to call us to come back out of remorse that he threw us out of his house. I thought of going out to him, but I didn't do so. Another half an hour passed and we heard the sound of several people talking. It was a group of “gangsters” who came to explore and find us. We heard them talking, saying that only Jews can hide in this place. After that they started to dig in the pile of straw. They were so close to us that we were able to hear the sound of their breathing. Of course, we were terrified, but fortunately they didn't find our hiding place even though they returned twice to the same location and continued in their search. It was truly a miracle from the heavens…

In the early hours of the morning, long before dawn, we left our hideout and went to the home of Antoni Shevetshuk. Shevetshuk's wife came out to the sound of the dog barking and, when she saw us, she was amazed that we were still alive. She asked us what we wanted, and we asked her to lead us though the forest to the camp in Tłuste. She agreed to our request and we left for the road. She already knew that my brother was shot and killed two days earlier so maybe this was the reason why she wanted to keep us away from her house. However, she did not tell us anything about it. When we arrived to the camp in Tłuste, we found my father, my brother's wife and her son there. Only then I learned about the tragedy that happened to my brother. A short time later we were liberated from the German murderers. They didn't have the time to liquidate the camp in Tłuste, even though they probably had a plan to do so.

An interesting incident happened in our town, Tłuste, during the Nazi regime. A large section of the synagogue was destroyed. The police issued an order to demolish the whole building. However, the order wasn't carried out because nobody wanted to do the job. A few days later they found a Christian carpenter who agreed to do the job, and the “Judenrat” was forced to provide a Jewish boy to help him. And here, as the carpenter was busy sawing the roof beams, a beam fell on him and killed him on the spot. His Jewish helper wasn't injured at all. In this manner the carpenter got his punishment from the heavens for “volunteering” to destroy the building of the synagogue.


[Page 226 - Yiddish]

My road of pain and wandering

by Rokhl (Rose) Rubinstein-Tenenbaum

Translated by Yael Chaver

On June 21, 1941, Hitler's accursed gang set foot on the soil of our town. The Jewish population was immediately greatly panicked. The Germans' first deed was to take away Jewish men, supposedly for work; but they never returned from that “work.” At first, we consoled ourselves with the thought that the German nation was too good, too noble, to persecute innocent, helpless people in this way. But, unfortunately, we soon realized the awful truth: that these nice, tactful Germans had, over the past twenty years, become murderers and bloodsuckers. This is how my husband, Shloyme-Mayer, my children, and I, fell into their hands. My husband was soon ripped out of our arms, but he will never be ripped out of our hearts.

A Judenrat was created in our town; its mission was to help the German bandits. The Germans demanded gold, silver, and jewelry; and the Judenrat had to supply them. Judenrat members protected their own families and friends, and therefore had to press the others even more strongly. Next, the Germans started to demand that the Judenrat supply them with Jews: today, young people able to work; tomorrow, the elderly; and the next day, small children. The Judenrat had to comply. Children were wrenched from the arms of their helpless mothers and tossed into a wagon. They were taken to their deaths this way, but half of them were dead before they ever reached the designated spot.

I witnessed children being torn from the arms of their mothers. They were preparing to snatch my two children away. I heard one German tell the other, “Why are you waiting?” But God himself gave me strength. I twisted away and started running with my children through fields, swamps, and mud patches, until we fell into a heap of straw. We burrowed into that straw, and lay there for three days and three nights, famished and weak, without a crumb of bread or a sip of water. Afterwards, I took my children on the arduous way to my mother's house, in Tłuste. My mother was beside herself with joy. She had already mourned and wept over us – she was sure we had already been murdered.

But the joy was short-lived. Soon the terror began again, along with endless fleeing and wandering.

[Page 227 Yididsh]

The first 'action' in Zaleszczyki took place on November 14, 1941. They issued an order that all Jews able to work go and clean up the barracks; but those who went never returned. On that occasion women and children were allowed to stay at home. In this way, the German murderers decreed a time for everyone. News of this soon arrived in Tłuste and gave rise to terrible dread among the Jews.

Then, a decree was issued forcing all Jews to move into the “ghetto,” the cramped side alleys of the town. Jews were forbidden to walk on the main street, from Czortkow to Zaleszczyki. One day I scampered through that street and suddenly heard someone shouting behind me. I immediately realized that I had run into trouble and had been caught for a heinous “crime.” I stopped, and started to apologize, stammering. I was beaten and whipped, but miraculously emerged alive. The policeman had heard sudden loud yelling from somewhere and let me go. I came home to my children, more dead than alive. Thus we lived in constant terror, which increased day by day.

One Friday, the SS men came into town, started in on the liquor, and got completely drunk, singing songs about the “cursed Jews.” That day, they killed 40 people. They later said it had been “only a joke.” They continued to play such “jokes” on us from time to time.

*****

On Yom Kippur Eve of 1942 [20 September], I was in Skalat. My brother, Yankev Rubinstein, was in the Borki-Wielki extermination camp nearby, where many of our young people from Tłuste were murdered. I helped my brother escape from the camp, but did not have the joy of seeing him come home alive. After much roaming through fields and forests, he was caught between Jasłowiec and Tłuste. I was told that he had a revolver and died a heroic death. He was thirty years old.

As soon as they noticed that my brother had escaped from Borki-Wielki, I was arrested in Skalat. I was supposed to be sent to Borki-Wielki after Yom Kippur, to be shot by the camp commandant. I spent the eve of Yom Kippur in the jail of the “Judischer Ordnungsdienst” [Jewish police]; the time for Kol Nidre was approaching. An elderly woman brought me some food to eat before the fast, but my throat was choked. I sat, lost in thought and deeply depressed – I would soon have to leave the sunlit world and go into the dark grave, leave my beloved children and never see them again. I began to shudder and shiver all over. In the midst of all this, I heard the old woman sigh, and say, “Don't despair, God is our father.” That lifted some of my dark thoughts. I drank some water she gave me and wished her a good year; she then left.

After Kol Nidre, the mood in the room of the Jewish Police was better, even a bit happy: people exchanged good wishes for another year of life… The commander of the Jewish Ghetto Police, Dr. Brif, came in to see me, extended his hand, and expressed a wish that I would see my children again. I was strongly affected by this wish and almost wept but, when I realized where I was, the tears stuck in my throat.

People started to leave the room. I had to return to my dark, barred cell for the night. For a long time, I tossed on the cold cement floor, until my tired eyes closed. Then I was enveloped by a sweet dream: I saw my beloved children near me. They cuddled with me, and the smallest said, “Mama, never leave us again…” The oldest said, “Mama, I want to go ahead of you!” My heart was torn to bits. I knew I had to part with them forever. I woke up, wet with tears and sweat, and had to face the horrible truth: my terrible, desperate situation.

Yom Kippur Day started. Everyone was rushing to synagogue to beseech God with the same wish: not to fall into the hands of the murderers. I was sitting in jail, guarded by one of the Jewish police. The guard changed every two hours. My guard accompanied me to synagogue for the “Yizkor” memorial prayer, so that I could pray for the souls of my dead. When I entered the synagogue, all eyes turned toward me. I realized that everyone considered me lost. I could not scream or cry, but only look ahead with a frozen gaze.

I was returned to my cell after “Yizkor.” The hours passed quickly; the day was almost over. Suddenly, there was a commotion among the police force. A fellow sufferer was brought in, a woman whose husband had escaped from the camp. She was carrying a small child, and they were both wailing. They started to take her to an interrogation, and in the meantime I used this opportunity to go into the next room.

[Page 228 Yididsh]

No one noticed that I had gone. I went over to the window, opened it quietly, and jumped out. I fell into a cellar, but did not lose consciousness. Getting up quickly, I ran. I soon saw a haystack, ran and burrowed in. I lay there until late that night. After I crept out, I started wandering around through the fields and forests until I was able to come home, and my beautiful dream came true: I embraced my children. In this way, thanks to God's miracles, I escaped death.

Reuniting with my children and mother was a great joy. But the joy didn't last long. Soon, we heard of more 'actions' coming, and talk of exterminating the Jews. Once again, we began fleeing like mice into holes.

On Simkhes-Toyre of 1942 [3 October], my two children and I were in Jagielnica, not knowing where we could shelter. I met the wife of the Zalyszczyn Rabbi, who agreed to take me and the two children into their hiding place (my eldest, Yehuda-Aryeh, was 9, and the younger, Yitzchok, was 4).

The Jagielnica 'action' was on Monday, the day after Simkhes-Toyre. The previous night, right after the end of the holiday, we lowered ourselves on ropes down into a cellar that was well-concealed. We lay there until noon, hoping that the 'action' would soon be over and that we would be able to remain hidden. Suddenly we heard the murderers banging and running around, overhead. The dogs of the military unit sensed that there were Jews in the cellar below, and they started looking for our hiding place. It wasn't long before they discovered us and started yelling “Out!” As each person came out, he was “honored” with a few blows to the head, shoulders, wherever they could reach. We were then stood in rows of four and taken to an assembly place.

The large square was already full of thousands of people who had been rounded up. Everyone was ordered to sit with upraised arms. At exactly 2 p.m., we were commanded to get up and prepare for transport. We were all herded into freight cars. Soon, the train started rolling to Belzec, where the gas chambers and crematoria awaited us.

The cars were terribly crowded; the air was stifling. Some of the people couldn't endure it and died at the beginning of the trip. All of us who were living envied the dead. Everyone's eyes were dulled, as though we were insane. Some recited vidui or screamed “Shma yisroel!” We all knew we were going to our deaths.

Suddenly, everyone started shoving towards the car door. Like a heavenly angel, a chance to save ourselves appeared. A board had been pried loose on the side of the car and people scrambled to jump off the rushing train. My two children and I also jumped out. The murderers started shooting at us. My older son was hit by a bullet and started bleeding. He fell and lost consciousness. I ran to him and bound up his wound. I revived him with my tears. The poor child was very weak. I brought him some water from the river, and pulled up a carrot from the field, to keep him alive. We were lucky to escape the clutches of the murderers, but we were exhausted and famished, naked and barefoot under the free skies.

When we got back to my mother's house, her joy was indescribable. People in Tłuste thought that we were no longer alive. Home was very precious to us, after our long tribulations. My son's wound was in very bad shape. The bullet had been a dum-dum [expanding bullet], and the injury site was infected and oozing. I called Dr. Meltzer, good man that he was. May it be to his merit: he did what he could, and God did the rest.

The Jewish population faced a miserable winter. Thousands of Jews came to Tłuste from the surrounding towns, which were now “Judenfrei” [free of Jews]. A typhus epidemic started to spread in the crowded and impoverished conditions. Hundreds of people died. But everyone preferred death by disease to death by bullets. I heard Golda Shpitzer scream at the dead person, during a funeral, “Oy, I envy you…” It was a very harsh winter, with hard frosts and deep snows. More than once, we had to sleep outdoors, to save ourselves.

Passover was coming up. We baked matzah, but did not get to eat it. The day before Passover [20 April], a panic broke out, and the entire Jewish population ran out into the villages, fields, and forests, to save themselves. But that was useless.

[Page 229 Yididsh]

The murderers discovered that the Jews had left the town, and never came. Only several weeks later did they attack the town unexpectedly. It was on Thursday, the 22d day of Iyar, in 1943 [27 May 1943]. That is the date of our annual memorial at the Tłuste association of New York.

I will never forget that day, because that is when I lost the dearest thing a person can have in the world –my mother. She went, like all the others, to her martyrdom as a Jew. Her last words to me were “May God keep you and your children!” It seems that her last wish has come true: my children and I remained alive.

It was shortly after dawn when the murderers charged in. They took up positions at all four corners of town and watched all the streets and paths. The beasts of prey started to collect their victims and took them to the assembly place, in a vacant lot near the church. They herded together everyone they found, and then took them to the cemetery in groups of one hundred. Three pits had already been dug, and planks laid across them. People were shot in groups of ten and dumped into the pit.

My children and I lay in a pit the whole day, together with others. It was as if we were buried alive. We were suffocating, drenched in a deathly sweat, and were sure we would never emerge. The day was endless, and the bullets thundered ever more strongly. There were more murderers, too. Ukrainian bandits had come to help, and they kept rushing around to find more victims. Only when the sun had gone down and it grew dark outside did the terrifying shooting stop. We waited for the right moment and crawled out of the dark pit, one by one.

Ten days later, there was another 'action' in the town. My children and I were then in Rozanowka [Różanówka]. We lay in the fields, but we heard the sounds of shooting even there. Among those killed then were my uncle, Mordkhe Rubinstein and his entire family. Only one son survived, Avrom Rubinstein. After that 'action,' Tluste was 'Judenrein' [purified of Jews]. Anyone left alive couldn't show their face in town. Luckily for us, there were work camps in the nearby villages: Rozanowka, Swidowa, Muchowka, Hołowczynce, Kozia-Gora, and others. It was possible to work there temporarily, as long as you weren't shot or became too weak.

I was lucky to have had Rozanowka, the village where I was born and grew up. It is only two kilometers from Tłuste, and I would often walk along the pleasant road to town. I made my first friend there, Feyge Shpitzer (Yitkhok Shpitzer's daughter), who later married David Wasser. Tłuste was a small town. Living conditions were difficult, but people were happy and there was much warmth and sincerity. The young people had a good upbringing, and it was fun to spend time with them. No one ever thought there could be such a catastrophe.

My children and I were in a work camp in Rozanowka. Children were not allowed in the camp, and I had to keep them outside. I spent the day and the night in two different places. That was also a piece of luck. One fine day in Tammuz [ca. July 1943], they attacked the camp and killed more than 60 Jews. That day, I was with my children in a field, and that saved us.

After those attacks, and attacks on other camps, a major panic broke out. We were afraid that the work camps would also be made “Judenrein,” sparing no one. God sent us an angel, called Pati [Vathje]. He was the chief commandant of all the camps in the villages, and did not let the last few Jews be murdered. He claimed that he needed them for work; besides, their time would come. So, the camps continued to exist.

We endured a terribly harsh winter, without food, clothes, or shoes. We ourselves can hardly believe today that we were able to endure such conditions. Gradually, we began to hear that salvation was approaching, but we were afraid we would not live to see it. But God willed it, and we lived to see Hitler's downfall.

Only a handful of Jews had the good fortune to live to see liberation. In the last few months, many Jews were murdered by the followers of Stepan Bandera and other Ukrainian gangs. Soviet army forces arrived only on March 23 and saved the few Jews who remained alive.


From the days of the Holocaust

by Lucia Teiber

Translated by Sara Mages

Our town was captured by the German army few days after the war between Germany and Russia broke out. The fascist Hungarian army arrived first and the Germans arrived later. A few days later, the Germans imposed their atrocious decrees on the Jews, such as the obligation to mark their nationality by a white armband with a Star of David, various limitations, beatings and acts of murder. Terrible rumors started to arrive about the horrible acts that took place in other cities, and we had the feeling that, sooner or later, incidents of that sort might also happen in our place.

On one of the cold grey autumn days, we learned that the Germans were planning to organize an “aktzya” in our town. A panic broke out and everyone started to search for a place to hide. Also our small family, my parents, my younger brother and I, found a place to hide in one of the barns of a Polish family. However, before dawn the owner of the barn demanded that we should leave the place. To our sorrow we didn't go far. A Ukrainian policeman stopped us and ordered us to come with him. I was a young girl, only around thirteen, but I always had the feeling that in cases like that it's better to try to escape. I separated myself from my parents and escaped. Apparently, the policeman wanted to shoot me because I heard my father pleading with him not to do so. Later, he tried to run after me, but changed his mind and returned. Maybe he was afraid that by doing so the rest of the family would also escape.

I never saw my parents and my brother again. Since then, I was orphaned from my father and my mother and remained alone and lonely. I decided to fight with all my strength to stay alive. One day, I learned that a Jew by the name Glantsberg [ed. Ginsberg] was searching for people to work on an agricultural farm. I managed to join those who left for work and was very happy that they agreed that I join them even though I was still a young girl. There were twenty people in the group. We traveled in a wagon to the village of Rosochacz [ed. near Ułaszkowce] and started to work on the farm. A short time later the number of workers reached seventy. The farm manager was a German whose name I can no longer remember. He was a good and honest man and protected us from the Gestapo. The residents of the village of Rosochacz were known to be cruel evil–hearted people, but they didn't dare to hurt us because of the manager's good attitude towards to us. The living conditions weren't very bad, and we were also not short of food. We received our food from the local farmers in exchange for the clothes that we brought from home.

One day, it was at the end of the summer, when we were busy with the threshing, the German's wife suddenly appeared in the field, riding on her white horse and holding a rubber whip in her hand. She surveyed the Jewish workers with a murderous glance, swore at them and lashed every Jew who came across her way. It was a bad omen, and I realized that we were in great trouble. And indeed, the Gestapo arrived a short time later. They surprised us early in the morning and a great panic broke out among the Jews. There was no way out because the Germans surrounded us from all directions. Luckily, I managed to escape again and came to the house were we lived. There, I climbed to the stove's smoke chimney, the wide smoke chimney that was found in each farm house in the area. There were already two men inside it – Gedalya Teiber and a young Romanian whose name I can no longer remember. (Gedalya Teiber found his death later, after he survived this attack). The Germans looked everywhere to find Jews in hiding, they even looked inside the dark chimney with flashlights, but luckily they didn't notice us.

The Germans gathered and took with them most of the Jewish workers. Only a few remained on the farm. We weren't able to stay for a long time in this place because we learned that the Ukrainian population was finishing the German's work and murdering the Jewish survivors with great cruelty. Without a choice, we started to wander from village to village. Meanwhile, I learned that about one hundred and fifty workers remained in the camp in Tłuste. I decided to join them and started to walk towards the town. It was during the period in which the end of the German regime was getting closer, and the roads were full of German soldiers who escaped from the Red Army. I arrived in Tłuste when the Soviet advance party arrived in the town and the remaining Jews welcomed them with great joy. However, the happiness didn't last long. Suddenly a group of German planes appeared in the town's sky and attacked the camp with bombs and machine–guns. A large number of people were killed in this attack and only a few survived – and I was among them. A miracle happened to me. The barrack where I was staying wasn't hit at all.


[Page 157 - Hebrew]

What I went through during the German occupation

by Zalman Wachstein

Translated by Sara Mages

After the Germans entered Tłuste I stayed a few more weeks at home. Later, I was taken to the camp in Kamionka together with 110 townspeople. There were about eight hundred people from the neighboring towns in the camp. The conditions were very bad. Twenty to thirty people died there every day from starvation, from the beatings and the shooting of the murderers. In their place, the Germans brought other Jewish workers. In this manner, a very long period of time had passed until I returned safe and sound from this hell.

New troubles began at home. “Aktzyot” and various persecutions were carried out. During the “aktzyot” I hid with my family in a bunker that I dug for myself. The murderers searched for Jews, but they were not able to find us because the bunker was well hidden. At the beginning of 1943, the murderers issued an order that all the remaining Jews must leave Tłuste and move to Chortkov [Czortków] Ghetto. I knew that it was only a ruse and a plot on their side, and that they were planning to kill us there. I took my child and we hid for several weeks in the fields and in the forests. In the end, it was impossible to remain in the fields because the gentiles chased us everywhere. Therefore, I was forced to move to the farm in Trabnis [Trawneh] where ninety Jews lived and worked. They also accepted me to work, but I was afraid to sleep on the farm since I knew the murderers' tactics. For that reason, I took my son every night to sleep in the fields. And indeed, my fear was not in vain. One night, while I slept in the field, I heard the sound of gunfire coming from the farm. I understood that an “aktzya” was taking place there. At the same moment I saw people running around me, people like me who slept outside the camp. Sixty people were killed in the camp, and at the same time we survived from death.

The survivors wandered in the fields and in the forests. Twelve members of our group were caught by the Ukrainian police and murdered. Again, we could no longer hold on. First, because they chased us incessantly and second, it was in the winter of 1943 and the rain, snow and cold bothered us a lot. For that reason we scattered in different directions. I went with my child to the village of Kopyczyńce where I had an acquaintance among the residents. We lived there until we were liberated by the Russians. Surely, in our place of hiding we did not lack problems and hardships.


[Page 158 - Hebrew]

An eleven–year–old girl who fought for her life

by Sonia Margules–Alterman

Translated by Sara Mages

The year is 1943. The retreating Red Army is leaving our town. Darkness envelops us and heavy clouds hover above our heads. The Nazi army captures Galicia and opens the oppression of the Jews and acts of horrible massacres. Death lurks everywhere and rail cars transfer our loved ones by the thousands to the gas chambers and the crematoriums of Belzec and Majdanek.

I was only eleven in those days. We still live in our home but for the most part we hide in dark bunkers, without light and without food. Rumors spread that we have to leave our home and move to a “ghetto,” and indeed, the rumor is verified. My mother is also leaving her home with everyone and moves to the “ghetto” with her five children and a load of only five kilograms. It was the last stop. The survivors crowded there on Thursday evening, twenty four hours before the commencement of the Sabbath. Three days later, the gates to the ghetto were locked. No one could enter and leave. We felt that our last hour had come, that a terrible slaughter was about to happen, and there was no savior. Only God knows who will survive this destruction.

With dawn, a day of misery and horrors awoke for the surviving Jews in Tłuste. My mother left the ghetto in secret as she was carrying my three–year–old baby sister in her arms to get a little food for her starving children. In the meantime, the angels of death appeared and broke into the ghetto. They arrived dressed as “students” so the Jews wouldn't recognize them and try to escape from their hands. Suddenly, the terrible “aktzya” began. Shivers pass in my bones when I remember those horrible moments. Each person hurried to save his life – and I was small then, poor and helpless. In the ghetto we lived in a small farm house which stood on the ghetto's border. I jumped through a small window and rolled downhill. I crossed the railway tracks and continued to run without turning my head. Many people ran around but only a few of them managed to reach safety because the Germans rained gun fire on us to make sure that none of the condemned to death would be able to escape. I ran with all my strength until sunset. I didn't eat all day, I didn't drink a drop of water and my lips burnt from dryness. In the evening I found myself in a thick forest alone and lonely and shaking from fear. In the end I was overpowered by exhaustion, and fell asleep.

When I woke from my sleep and opened my eyes, I saw Fischel Langholz's two children next to me. The three of us were happy that we were not alone. A short time later, Russian partisans emerged from the thick forest with bayoneted rifles. We were frightened when we saw them, but they calmed us down and said that they didn't have any intention to hurt us, on the contrary, they knew our bitter fate and felt sorry for us. They promised to bring us a little food to revive our souls. And indeed, they returned a short time later and brought us bread and water. They offered Langholz's older son to join them, they said that he would be able to help them, but he didn't want to be separated from us. The partisans left as they came and disappeared as if the earth swallowed them.

At sunrise, we turned towards the town and started to get lost in the forest. On the way we met a number of nuns who were traveling in a cart. They warned us not to return to the town because the Germans were still walking around, searching for Jews who managed to escape. Nevertheless, we returned to the town.

The road was strewn with the dead and wounded. The wounded shouted for help, but no one came to their aid. The streets were washed with blood and the town was completely empty. We learned that the few survivors were sent to a labor camp out of the town. Among them was also my beloved mother, my eldest sister, my two brothers and my three–year–old baby sister. My mother was sure that I was also killed and began to sit “Shiv'ah” for me. She fainted when she suddenly saw me in the camp. When she recovered, she didn't believe her eyes and said that it was only a false vision since I was no longer among the living.

All of us worked in the camp, also me, the little girl. I worked together with the adults. We suffered a lot in the camp, from hunger and from the beatings that were given to us by our supervisors. After a year full of sufferings and hardship we snuck out of the camp at night and returned to the town, to the labor camp in the farm in Tłuste. My brother, Hersh, found his death there only a couple of weeks before liberation. A few days later, my mother was shot to death as she lay in bed.

We went through terrible years that would never be erased from our memory. We'll remember what Amalek, of the twentieth century, has done to us and keep in our hearts the memory of our loved ones who were killed by the Nazi murderers. We'll remember those who weren't awarded, like us, to live in the liberated State of Israel.

May their souls be bound in the bond of everlasting life.


[Page - 159 Hebrew] [Page 236 - Yididsh]

The liquidation of the Jewish community
in the village of Tzapowitz [Szypowce]

by Yeshaya Rosen

Translated by Sara Mages

Immediately after the outbreak of the war between Germany and Russia a great joy was felt among the Ukrainian residents. They talked openly that when Germans arrived they would be able to take revenge on the Jews, attack them and rob their property. After the withdrawal of the Russian army, prior to the Germans' arrival, gangs of rioters were organized in the villages. They intended to descend on Tłuste and start with acts of murder and robbery. However, there were also those who delayed them and advised them to wait and see how things will turn out. Meanwhile, Hungarian army troops, allies of the Germans, arrived. They didn't hurt the Jews and also prevented attacks by the Ukrainians. This matter didn't please the Ukrainians. They falsely accused the Jews that they collaborated with the few communists who remained in the German occupied area, that they attacked peaceful villages, killed the poor farmers and burned their homes. This libel was circulated by their emissaries in the villages, who turned to the Ukrainian population with a call: “Brothers, hurry to get organized so that you can eliminate your Jewish neighbors before they destroy you.”

This news arrived to our village in the afternoon and caused great panic among the Jewish residents. At that time, I was at the home of Yisrael–Meir Landman z”l. A Hungarian officer, who spoke German, was also there. He calmed us down and said: “You, the Jews, don't be afraid from the rioters. Our duty is to keep the order and we'll protect you.” To the sound of this good news I hurried to go home, to tell the members of my family what I've heard from the officer. Our house was around half a kilometer away from the Landman's house. Farmers, among them many that I had known, ran through the streets as they were carrying axes and pitchforks in their hands. All of them were shouting: “Come brothers to avenge the Jews who crucified Jesus, and now they are rising to kill us.” When I saw that, I panicked, ran to Liebush Langholz' house, and hid there.

At the sight of the riot, members of the Hungarian Army came out and started to shoot in the air to stop the rioters. Together with that, the officers negotiated with the rioters and it was agreed to gather the Jews in the council building to investigate if there was any truth in the Ukrainians' claim. Members of the Ukrainian “militia,” and “volunteers” from among the Ukrainians were sent to collect the Jews and bring them to the council building. We didn't know about this agreement, and when I saw armed “militia” members getting closer to Langholz' house, a thought crossed my mind that they were coming to kill us. I hurried and hid behind a crate that stood in the corner. From there, I heard how the Ukrainians drove out the family with rudeness and urged them to go to the council building according to the order that they have been given by the Hungarian commanders. A short time after the family left, one of the neighbors entered the home, opened the closet door and took out clothing and various items, as much as she was able to carry.

I lay panicked in my hiding place and didn't dare to get out of there until evening. When darkness fell, I jumped out the back window, reached the yard of a Polish farmer and hid inside a large stack of straw. I spent a horrible night there full of fear and worries. I didn't know if anyone from my family and from the remaining Jews in the village were still alive, or if all of them were murdered under severe torture. In addition, it was a stormy night and a heavy rain fell. Only in the morning I found out from the farmer that all the Jews survived death thanks to the interference of the priest and the decisive action of the Hungarian army. In addition to that, it became known to me that on the same night a number of Jews were killed in the village of Koshlovitz. Members of the Metzger and Schwartz families hid inside Metzger's flour mill. At night, the Ukrainians broke the doors, entered and killed all of them with great cruelty. Only one soul was saved from the massacre – Bona, daughter of Yisrael–Avraham Heler z”l, who was engaged to Leibus, son of Michael Metzger. Later, she was murdered in the great “aktzya” in Tłuste.

I was shocked by this news, I wanted to see my family, but I was afraid to walk in the village in the middle of the day. Only before evening I returned home and found my mother crying, not knowing the fate of my father Yechiel and my brother Shmuel (he survived the Holocaust and lives in Russia). Later, we found out that both of them escaped to the fields, and from there they walked to Tłuste at night. During our absence, the gentiles took all the personal belongings from our home, but when we came back they started to return some of it.

We remained in the village for three or four months, and then came the order that all the Jews in the villages would be exiled to Tłuste and their property would be confiscated. We arrived to the town naked and destitute, with only a belief that very soon our enemies will suffer a defeat and we would be saved. But this hope proved to be false. The war continued and masses of Jews, who were deported from Hungary, arrived to Tłuste. The overcrowding grew from day to day, we were forbidden to trade with the farmers, and many died from starvation and diseases.

A short time later, the Germans stated to oppress us and terrorize our lives. They established a “Judenrat,” whose duty was to extort money and valuables from the Jews and force them to go to labor camps. One day I was also caught by two Jewish policemen who “drafted” workers to the labor camp in Kamionka. I started to plan my escape from their hands. And indeed, I was able to evade them when they took us to the street and ordered us to stand in rows. I escaped from the town and wandered in the fields until I found work on one of the farms in the area. There, I received the news about the transport of Tłuste's Jews to the death camps. The heart ached to the sound of this bitter news and I didn't believe that I would be able to hide and survive. Despite all of this, I didn't lose hope and tried to hold on any way I could.

In 1943, the Germans, with the cooperation of the Ukrainian police, started to hold “aktzyot” in Tłuste and the surrounding area to eliminate all the Jews in the region. The surviving Jews were placed in a “ghetto.” After the “ghetto” was liquidated they declared and announced that whoever dared to hide and save a Jew would be severely punished and his property would be confiscated. The farm owner, with whom I found work and shelter, also panicked and sent me away from his home. I found, together with my brother, Shmuel, refuge at the labor camp in Rozanowka [Różanówka] which was under the authority of the “Wehrmacht.” There were about three hundred Jews there, the survivors of the ghettos of Zaleszczyki and Tłuste. One day, when we were in the fields, we heard the sound of gunfire coming from the direction of the village of Swydova [Swidowa]. We learned that all the surviving Jews were murdered in that labor camp. Immediately, all the workers escaped and scattered in the fields and in the forest. My brother Shmuel and I didn't return to the camp and hid in the fields and in the forests. We only came out once a week to ask the farmers for food. A few days later, it became known to us that the Germans and the Ukrainians also liquidated the camp in Rozanowka. We continued to hide in the fields and eventually dug a pit in the ground and hid there for nine whole months, until the entire area was liberated by the Red Army.


[Page 160 - Hebrew]

The Jews of the village of Hinkovtza

by Sara Kimelmann

Translated by Sara Mages

The village of Hinkovtza [Hińkowce] was a distance of seven kilometers from the town of Tłuste. About fifteen Jewish families, who made their living from small trade and agriculture, lived there. They were simple Jews, honest and kindhearted, and were very attached to the village of their birth where they lived for many generations. The relationship between them and their Ukrainian and Polish neighbors was generally good, and this matter helped them and saved them from a lot of suffering during the first period of the German occupation.

The Jews in the village were closely tied to their Jewish brothers in Tłuste. They traveled to the rabbi in Tłuste to ask their questions in matters of kashrut and the like. They paid their taxes to the community of Tłuste and every year, before the holiday of Passover, they sent their contributions to “Maot Chitin.” In 1941, when Hungarian Jews were exiled from their homes and wandered across Eastern Galicia to Ukraine, towards their tragic end, several exiled families found refuge in Hinkovtza. The Jews housed them in their homes and protected them from persecution by the village authorities by paying ransom for their souls. In March 1942, the Jews of Hinkovtza were forced to leave the village and move to the ghetto in Tłuste.

I would never forget the beloved woman from the town of Tłuste who took our family in her home. She gave us a room and sheltered us. Her home was like the gate to the town and many Jewish refugees from Horodenka and other cities, who managed to escape from the areas that became “Judenrein,” found a warm meal and a word of encouragement at her home. Refugees from the area, the first victims of hunger and persecution, were in Tłuste. They were the first to be sent to labor camps, which were established in Kamionka and Borkie, and none of them managed to get out of there alive. Some found their death from hunger or from the typhus epidemic that raged in the town. Most perished in the various aktzyot, which were held in the town, and on the farm in Holovshintza [Hołowczyńce], to which they fled and where they were imprisoned in a “labor camp.”

May this article be a memorial for the martyrs of the village of Hinkovtza, who found their death during the years of the Holocaust, and their bodies are scattered in mass graves in Tłuste and in camps in the area.


In Lashkewitz and in Tłuste

by Tzila Kimelmann–Hanin

Translated by Sara Mages

Immediately after the withdrawal of the Russians in July 1941, even before the Germans entered, a pogrom against the Jews took place in Lashkewitz [Ułaszkowce]. It was held as though in retaliation for the murder of Ukrainian prisoners in Chortkov's prison by the Soviets before their withdrawal. After the pogrom, many families in our town received threatening letters from local Ukrainians in which they were ordered to leave town, or they would face a bitter end. Many took their belongings and moved to Tłuste, Chortkov [Czortków], or other locations. Our family also left town and we moved to Tłuste. We earned our living working in the nearby villages where labor camps were built for the Jews. The general manager of those camps was a German by the name of Patti [Vathje], whose attitude towards the Jews was quite fair. Patti tried a number of times to protect his Jewish workers from the different “aktzyot”, but his success was very small. In the end, most of the workers in those camps were exterminated one way or another.

Just after our arrival in Tłuste, my father worked in Rozshanovka [Różanówka] camp. I worked in Kozia–Gora camp and we lived in Tłuste. My older brother, Shalom, was taken to the labor camp in Borki–Wielke, and perished there in 1943. On a winter day, at the beginning of 1943, my mother went to one of the farms to bring a little food for her family – and never returned. She was probably murdered on her way. After the death of my mother, the three of us, my father, my small brother and I, moved to Rozshanovka camp and worked there until we were liberated in March 1944. A number of “aktzyot” took place there, but we were able survive unharmed.

In the last days before liberation, the surviving Jews gathered on the farm in Tłuste. Many were killed or wounded in the German bombing which took place just before the Russians arrived in Tłuste. After liberation, my father enlisted in the Soviet army and returned from there in 1946. We met in Poland and from there all of us emigrated to Israel.


[Page 231 - Yiddish]

Memories and Experiences

by Shmuel Fiderer (Ben-Moshe)

Translated by Yael Chaver

Soon after the Germans took our town in 1941, a local young man came to me and showed me a letter from his uncle in Krakow, for whom he worked before the war broke out. The young man was able to flee after the first bombs fell and came home safely to Tłuste. He was furious as he showed me the letter, saying, “You read it, and tell me what you think about the writer and the letter.”

The text of the letter was as follows: “My dear nephew! As far as I know, you still have too much clothing, not counting the underwear and clothes you left with me when you fled. In my opinion, you will no longer need these clothes. Think about selling them as soon as possible, because you will need the money urgently. Keep only one suit, and work-clothes as well. Make efforts to find work for yourself and your nearest relatives, as soon as possible. Regrettably, I cannot send you your belongings, as I have exchanged them for food.”

When I had finished reading, the young man asked me, “Well, what do you think of such a letter?”

At that time, we knew nothing about the deeds of the Germans, because ever since September 17, 1939, we had been under Soviet rule. But I knew the young man's uncle was smart and an experienced, energetic merchant. I thought about the letter and starting reading “between the lines.” I realized that this was a letter of warning, to let us know that we were facing a period of hunger and want, and possibly other dangers as well (about which he did not dare to write). I therefore advised the young man to obey his uncle, because the letter was a wink and an allusion to the difficulties awaiting us under German rule. The young man did not agree with me and left in anger.

At that time, the area – between Kolomiya and Husiatyn – had not yet been occupied by the Germans themselves, but by their allies: the Hungarians (Magyars). Soon after entering Tłuste, the Hungarian army placed an order with me for some signboards and guidebooks. They paid me with Hungarian cigarettes, which were in demand at the time and could be exchanged for the best foodstuffs. After I read the letter, I started seeking work for myself in earnest. I realized that it would be better to work far away from the town. I found work with a friend of mine, a Ukrainian academic named Kautsch. He was the manager of the Kushilovtse [Koszylowce] and Popovtse [Popowce] estates. I took Mutsye Schwartz with me, and we both left for Popovtse and worked there for several weeks. When we had finished work, Kautsch sent us each 50 kg of flour and 150 kg of potatoes. It was a fortune at the time, because food was already scarce and hard to obtain in town.

When we returned to Tłuste, the Hungarians were no longer there. As soon as I got back, I was told that a Gestapo guy named Zocher was in charge. He organized all the properties in the Tłuste area into one real estate group. He demanded that the Judenrat send him all the artisans in town for work. Mutsye Schwartz and I also started to work for Zocher.

Zocher was considered a sadist in Tłuste. He was very strict about work and would often beat the Jewish workers for the slightest thing. He was especially dangerous when he caught someone not working. He would then administer a merciless beating. I believe he was also mentally ill: he was a kleptomaniac and often “stole” from his office workers the writing implements he had given them. He was very pleased with me and with Mutsye Schwartz, and we never heard a bad word from him. He even saved me from going to the labor camp in Kamionka, when the Judenrat wanted to exile me there.

At that time, the Judenrat had to send the first contingent of workers to Kamionka and Glubochek [Hluboczek]; I was also on that list. When Zocher found out, he called me in and told me to inform the Judenrat that he, Zocher, had forbidden me to go; he ordered that I be taken off the list. At that time, the Judenrat did not yet understand the limits that the Germans set to its power. They replied that they were not taking his demand into account, and that I would have to follow the Judenrat's orders and go to the camp. When I reported this to Zocher, he said once again, “But you will not go; let them go themselves…”

[Page 232]

In the early evening, after work, he called in Iska Vaysglas [Izka Weisglas], handed him a document, and ordered him to go with me to the Judenrat, read the contents out to them, and then hand me the documents. The document plainly read, “The Jew Samuel Fiderer is busy with the real estate of Tłuste and should not be ordered to do anything else.” The Judenrat then agreed to remove me from the list. In this way, Zocher saved me from certain death. It turned out that almost all those who were sent to the Kamionka labor camp were tortured there and murdered. Only a few people were able to ransom their way out, for great sums of money. In the end, the Germans saturated the entire camp with gasoline and set fire to it, to erase all traces of their crimes. The Commandant of the camp was an SS officer named Thomanek, who also took part in the “actions” in the surrounding towns. In Tłuste alone, he himself shot more than 2400 Jews, the whole time swilling vodka and gorging himself on cake, meat, and other delicacies. He also liquidated the Swidowa labor camp.

Zocher stayed in Tłuste for a short time. He was replaced by an SS officer named Stoll, who came from Holland. Stoll settled in Torskie, a town between Tłuste and Zaleszczyki, and brought in all the Jewish artisans from Tluste, including myself and Mutsye Schwartz. It was in Torskie that I received my only blow from a German. While Stoll was away, his deputy tasked Schwartz and me with quantities of work that were physically impossible to carry out. When I heard what he demanded of us, I burst out, “Impossible!” Fleischer gave me a stinging slap and said, “For us Germans there is no such thing as impossible,” and left the building. When Stoll found out, he had a sharp exchange with his representative about the attitude towards the laborers in general, but I had to suffer the slap.

We stayed in Torskie until the Wehrmacht took over the so-called real estate. The “commander” of real estate in the Tłuste area was a German named Pati [Vathje]. He ordered me to leave Torskie and come to work for him. I took Mutsye Schwartz with me. When we came to Tłuste, we were sent to work for the General Directorate in Jagielnica. The first director there was an SS officer named Kuehne, of whom everyone was terrified. He would even beat the German soldiers with a whip. Once we arrived in Jagielnica, we announced ourselves at the General Directorate office. A company leader took us to a small two-room house and ordered us to make eighteen signs in white script on a black background. “That will surely take you several days,' he said, “so you will sleep here and receive food.” With that, he went away and left us alone.

Jewish children were working in the garden around the house, supervised by SS men and Ukrainian policemen. Terrified, Mutsye Schwartz asked me, “Well, what do you plan to do?” I told him that we needed to finish the job as quickly as possible and get out of there.

We had brought quick-drying paint with us, and immediately went to work. We finished the entire job in a few hours. Schwartz asked me, “What do we do now?” “I'm going to tell General Director Kuehne,” I said. The frightened Schwartz grabbed me by the jacket and begged me not to go, because Kuehne would kill us... I paid him no attention and went to the office to announce that we had finished our work.

Three “Frauleins” were sitting in the office and smoking cigarettes. One of them asked me, “What do you want, Jew?” “I came to inform the Herr General Director that we have finished our job,” I said. Kuehne was in the other room and heard my answer through the half-open door. He immediately came in and asked, “What did you say?” I answered boldly, “The signs are already finished, Herr General Director.” “All?” he asked again. “All!” I answered. “Did the inspector see them?” (The inspector was the company leader, under whom the Jewish girls worked.) “No,” I said. “Then go and call the inspector, I'll be there soon.” I went to call the inspector. In the meantime, Kuehne put on his belt with the revolver; he took his whip and brought his constant companion, the terrifying dog, and we all went in to examine the work.

The two Germans inspected the signs carefully, looking for any defects, but found nothing. It was very clear that they were satisfied with the work. “What do you want from me now?” Kuehne addressed me now in a friendly manner.

[Page 233]

I answered that we would like to return to Tłuste, if possible. In an irritated tone, Kuehne said, “Wow! I sent a car to Tłuste just five minutes ago! It's too bad that I didn't send you with it.” I then asked if he would arrange for us to go home in a horse-drawn cart. “You will have that soon,” he said, and immediately ordered a cart to be ready for us, along with two separate passes, and sent us back to Tłuste in style.

* * *

Six months after they arrived, in the spring of 1942, the Germans took over the management of Polish and Jewish properties, which had been “nationalized” before the Soviet takeover. They planted a tropical crop called koksagiz, whose roots contain a moisture that can be used to manufacture synthetic rubber. The Germans tried this crop in various places, but it succeeded only in our area, around Tłuste. Because rubber was important for military purposes, the management of the entire enterprise was handed over to the German Wehrmacht. The office was in Jagielnica.

Management of all the properties in Tłuste and the close surroundings was held by a high-ranking SS officer named Pati [Vathje]. His rank was Oberleiter. The plantation managers would order most of their workers from the Judenrat for all their jobs, including field labor. The workers were concentrated in special labor camps. Thanks to that fact, and largely also thanks to the decent leadership of our Oberleiter Pati, a certain number of Jews in the Tłuste labor camps were saved and survived the general extermination of the Jews of Poland.

At the end of summer 1943, all Jews capable of work were assembled in labor camps, by Gestapo order. Afterwards, they finished off all the Jews in town, rendering it Judenrein. The Judenrat was also dissolved at that time.

By then, my wife and I had already been working a long time at the Szypowce estate. My job was to mark the newborn lambs, so I was working outside the camp. In the middle of the field, far enough from the farmyard, the Germans built a large stable, where they brought many of the sheep taken from the Russian kolkhozes.

Work went on without incident until December 1943. One Friday, when I came back from work, I met several townspeople who had ridden in from the surrounding camps. They had terrible news: they had heard that the camps around Tłuste would also be made Judenrein, and the Gestapo had ordered that Jews should no longer work on the estates. They said that work in the Tłuste camp had been stopped since yesterday, and the Gestapo had ordered that the Jews in the camps be liquidated as soon as possible. They asked me to go to Tłuste and find out whether all of this was really true. I told them that I would go to Tłuste first thing in the morning. I couldn't go there at night, because there was a good chance that I would not be let in.

As long as the Tłuste Judenrat existed, its members were in touch with the German administration. When the Judenrat was disbanded and its members hid in bunkers, there were several people who could still approach the Oberleiter. The first was Hillel Kenigsberg, who was the economic adviser of the Tłuste camp. The second was his wife, Manya Kenigsberg, who worked in Pati's kitchen. Third was Yosef Frades, who was barber to the Germans and the Ukrainian police until the end. I was the fourth. I was working at Szypowce, and the Polish property manager, Poplarski, received an order from the Oberleiter to provide me with horses, to travel whenever I needed to, even if they needed to be taken off plowing. This was how I got horses the next morning to go to Tłuste. I took along a few chickens, some eggs, and a big lump of butter for the Oberleiter, and started off for Tłuste.

The Tłuste camp consisted of wooden barracks; Hillel Kenigsberg and Sholyme Trembovelski [Shlomo Trembowelski] were the only ones who lived in a brick house, formerly the residence of the guards. My meetings with Hillel and Yosef were always sincere, but this time Kenigsberg did not greet me so warmly. I found him lying on his bed, fully dressed, his face red with agitation. His wife was also in the house, as she was no longer allowed to work in Pati's kitchen.

[Page 234]

I greeted them, but neither answered. I went on, to the room of Shloyme Trembovelski, where I found only Yosef Frades. Trembovelski was no longer there.

Frades, too, did not respond to my greeting. He sat, hunched over and frozen, staring straight ahead. When I came into the room I noticed that his shoes were wet, and realized that he had just come from a journey. I immediately asked him where he had been. He answered, angrily, “What do you want of me, Fiderer?” “I want to know where you were,” I answered stubbornly. Frades lowered his gaze and answered quietly, “I've come from the Ukrainian police.”

“What did the Ukrainian police tell you?” “And do you believe what they say?” he burst out. “Yes,” I answered with certainty. “Everything the Ukrainian police commander told me was always right.” Frades then recounted: The commandant had told him, confidentially, that they had received written word from the Gestapo announcing that the entire Tłuste region had been classified by the German authorities as Judenrein. From now on, the Ukrainians could do whatever they wanted to the Jews; Jewish lives and deaths were in Ukrainian hands. The Ukrainians wanted the Germans to finish us off as quickly as possible. But the commandant added, angrily, “What do they think, the niemakes (Germans)? They murdered all the Jews, and now they want us to kill all the remaining Jews, which they will then photograph to show that it was the Ukrainians who killed the Jews! No, we will not harm you. Please tell Shmuel Fiderer, and also tell him that I will visit him in Szypowce and will tell him everything myself.”

“Well, do you believe that, Fiderer?” “Yes,” I answered, encouraged. “I certainly believe it all!” This conversation was followed by a pained silence. I finally broke it, asking, “Why doesn't either of you go to Pati?” Frades looked at me as though I were insane. “In that case,” I went on, “I will go to him myself!” I turned away and left the room. I calculated that, in any case, I had nothing to lose by going to Pati.

When I came into the kitchen and gave Miss Janka (Pati's friend) the little food that I had brought, I noticed that Mrs. Kenigsberg was now also in the kitchen. As soon as Mrs. Kenigsberg heard that I intended to go to see Pati, she had gotten out of bed and gone into the kitchen, to hear the coming conversation between myself and Pati.

I had myself announced to Pati. Whenever he heard I was there, he would call me into his office and ask for all the details about the farm and the dairy at Szypowce. This time he did not call me in, but rather let me wait. After a while he came into the kitchen, greeted me with a smile, and said, “The only one who remembers me is Fiderer. Thank you for that.” He started quizzing me about the farm. When he had finished he started to leave. I asked him, “Herr Oberleiter, will we Jews be sleeping peacefully in 24 hours' time?” I had asked him this question once before, prior to an “action,” when he told me to get out of town. That time, he answered. “You will not be sleeping peacefully!” I later understood very well what he had meant. I used the same question now, because I did not know how else to ask him. Pati turned back to me and answered, “I give you my word of honor as an officer: you will be able to sleep peacefully for three, or even four months.”

As soon as he said that, Mrs. Kenigsberg left the kitchen to tell her husband the good news. I wasn't satisfied with that answer, and asked him further, “If so, why don't you let the Jews work in the fields?” “You're right,” he answered, “go and tell Kenigsberg that all the Jews should start working again this afternoon.” With that, he parted from me and went away. When I came to see Kenigsberg, wanting to announce the good news, he became very annoyed, and said in Polish,” You idiot, you! Why did you ask only about the next 24 hours?” I responded cynically, “They say that in the course of 24 hours either the nobleman or his dog might die [ed. The ending to a well-known Yiddish anecdote according to which a Jew is given five years to teach the local nobleman's dog how to read, and tells his worried wife that either the nobleman or the dog might die in that space of time – in other words, anything might happen over time]. But I can tell you why I asked about the next 24 hours.

[Page 235]

“Many of the Jews in the camps have prepared bunkers and hiding places at the properties of peasants. They will need a minimum of 24 hours to gather food and clothing, and to disappear into the bunkers.” For me, this was irrelevant. I had not prepared any bunker, because I distrusted the Polish and Ukrainian population. My trust did not increase after the commander of the Ukrainian police came to me in Szypowce and told me what I had already heard from Yosef Frades. He assured me once again that the Ukrainian police would not harm Jews. He told me only that we should be very wary of the SS units before their retreat; the Red Army would arrive in a matter of days or several months at the most. I reported Pati's words to Kenigsberg, saying that all the Jews should resume work. We parted in a cheerful mood.

I left Tłuste and went to the surrounding camps, to report on my conversation with the Oberleiter and his promise: we could work peacefully in the camps for three, even four months. That was in December 1943. His promise indeed came true, as we were liberated by the Red Army on March 23 [1944]. Exactly four months passed between his promise and our liberation.


[Page 235 - Yiddish]

Various Memories

by Eliyahu Albin

Translated by Yael Chaver

The Judenrat always knew in advance when an “action” would take place, or when Jews would be grabbed for work in a camp. They did not know the precise day it would happen, but they knew the approximate times. In fact, they let their friends and acquaintances know, as well as people who would pay for the information. When the SS were rounding up Jews for the camp, or during an 'action,' members of the Judenrat and the “Ordnungsdienst” (the Jewish police) went with them. For a large sum of money, or the right connections, you could be exempted from the labor camp.

My older brother paid the Kamionka camp leader to free me, thanks to the help of the Judenrat in Podwoloczyska. The Tłuste Judenrat demanded a great deal of money from my brother. My brother Sheftel risked his life, removed the blue-white patch, and went to Kamionka as an “Aryan.” He found a connection to the camp commander, Paul Thomanek, and bargained for my release in return for 5000 złoty. However, the Tłuste Judenrat did not like this. The head of the Judenrat went to Thomanek in the camp and told him that he could demand three times that amount, 15,000 złoty. Otherwise, I would remain in the camp… There was no choice but to gather that money over eight days and send it through the Judenrat in Podwoloczyska.

On Christmas Eve there was an opportunity: the high-ranking SS officers went to Germany, and the camp was run by ordinary SS men. They wanted to earn some money, so the Judenrat made an agreement with them to free some Jews in return for a payment of 500 złoty per Jew. Each family with a member in the camp – a father or a son – sold their last possessions to ransom them for 500 złoty. At that time, there were about 140 Tłuste Jews in the labor camp. The Judenrat took all the money from the families but did not free anyone; they divided the money among themselves, reasoning that all the Jews would be murdered in any case, and there was no point in returning them to Tłuste. The money enabled the Judenrat members to hide.

The story of the Judenrat's hiding place is true. Berl Holenberg, a Jew from Tłuste, was once seeking a hiding place for himself. He got as far as the hill where the Judenrat members were hiding. Holenberg was a native of the area and was well known there. He had escaped from the camp during an “action” and wanted to hide in the hill. A kind of tunnel extended for more than a kilometer into the hill. Holenberg stayed there, in pitch dark. The peasant who brought the Judenrat members food once a week (at 2 a.m. on the night between Saturday and Sunday) found Holenberg sitting alone. He suggested to the Judenrat that they take him in and he would feed the additional person. They would not agree, saying, “No, we don't want a witness afterwards.” They suggested that the peasant dig another tunnel for Holenberg, far from their own hideout, and bring him food there.

[Page 236]

The peasant had no choice but to do so. He dug a tunnel for Holenberg, who stayed there for eight months. During the cold winter months, his feet froze. The Judenrat members were sure that Holenberg would not be able to survive under such harsh conditions.

I know this from their actions towards me and my brother. We were hiding with the brother-in-law of the goy (non-Jew) who hid them and supplied them with food. When they found out, they asked the non-Jew to come and discuss something important. The non-Jew went with his brother-in-law on Saturday night. They [the Judenrat members] welcomed him cordially, had a drink with him, and the non-Jew told them that he was also hiding two zhydkes. To make a long story short, they gave him [the brother-in-law] 500 dollars to get rid of us. On Tuesday, our “landlord” came home to his mother, very agitated, and told her that he had enough money and did not need the two brothers any more. His old mother gave him a piece of her mind and told him that she would not do this, that she had been hiding the two Jews for ten months, and she would go on hiding them for a while and would save them. We heard this from the mother of our “landlord.” He himself continued to be angry at us. We eventually had to threaten him: if we were denounced, we would denounce the Judenrat members. From then on, we were very wary of him. We had two revolvers, which we kept loaded. In addition, we never let the peasant come close and spoke to him only from a distance.

This situation went on for six weeks, until the Russians arrived. After our liberation I met Berl Holenberg. He told me what had happened to him, and I told him about my experiences. I also told him that I had known about him but could not help.


[Page 237 - Yiddish]

The Jews in Hinkevitz [Hińkowce]

by Sarah Kimmelman

Translated by Yael Chaver

In the village of Hinkevitz, approximately seven kilometers from Tłuste, there were about fifteen Jewish families who made their living by small trade and farming. They were simple, honest Jews, and were deeply connected to the village; they had good relations with their Polish and Ukrainian neighbors. The good relations even continued shortly after the German invasion.

At the same time, they had strong connections to the Jews of Tłuste. They would travel to Tłuste for the rabbi's decision on religious matters, and they contributed to the annual Passover food fund. In 1941, when the Hungarian Jews were driven into Ukraine (sic), a few families stayed in Hinkevitz. The Jews of Hinkevitz took them in and often paid bribes to protect them from persecution. Eventually, all the Jews – strangers and locals alike – were forced into the Tłuste ghetto, in March 1942.

I will never forget the dear Jewish woman from Tłuste, who took in our family, gave us a room, and cared for us. Her house was at the entrance to the town, and many fleeing Jews, from Horodenka and other towns in the area, received a warm meal and encouragement from her. The incoming Jews were the first casualties of hunger and persecution in Tłuste. They were the first to be sent to the labor camps at Kamionka and Borki, from which few returned alive. Some died of hunger and typhus, but most were murdered in the various “actions” in Tłuste and the Holowczynce labor camp.

Let my few words be a memorial to the martyrs of Hinkevitz, whose bones are scattered in the mass graves in Tłuste and the camps around it.


The End of the Swidowa Jews

by Rokhl (Rose) Rubinstein-Tenenbaum

Translated by Yael Chaver

In Swidowa [Świdowa], a village near Tłuste, the local peasants published and carried out the terrible decree against the few Jewish families of the village, early in the Nazi occupation. One Thursday evening, Ukrainian bands attacked the Jews, who were not prepared and had gone to bed peacefully. The bandits used their farm tools – scythes, rakes, and spades—and murdered all the Jews in the village in this grisly fashion.

The martyrs were buried outside the village. News of the Swidowa pogrom made a terrible impression in Tłuste. One of my uncles, Fishel Rubinstein, lived in Swidowa with his two daughters, two sons-in-law, and one grandson. They were all tragically murdered that night. There also lived in the village a very observant Jew, a true righteous man (tzaddik), Leyzer Waltzer. People said afterwards that when he was attacked he said, “Everything is from God,” and submitted to his tragic fate.


[Page 238 - Yiddish]

Mama

Chaim Fiderer

Translated by Yael Chaver

In commemoration of my murdered mother Ratse Fiderer-Margulies, may she rest in peace; she was in Vienna,
and deported to Theresienstadt on August 27, 1942 – and then probably, like all the others, to Auschwitz…

I don't know your birth date,
I don't know your death date;
I know only that I lost you forever,
I know you were martyred by the Germans.

I know you were driven from your home,
Tormented and tortured in the Nazi hell;
An 80-year-old woman, you were chosen,
Along with others, to burn in the gas oven…

Though you did not miss a single fast day,
Always believed the Holy Creator
Would protect you from trouble, from hardships,
You shared the fate of millions.

I say kaddish for you year after year,
You live in my imagination, as though I see you now;
Your motherly love – like a prophecy
Ordering me to flee from the beast's jaws…

I fled aimlessly, wandering
Over lands and seas, until I found rest,
And you? You were caught by the murderous gangs –
And I suffer and grieve every day, every hour.

 

tov238.jpg
Memorial plaque for the martyrs of Tluste in the “Holocaust Cellar,” Jerusalem*

Translation of plaque from Hebrew:

In eternal memory of the martyrs of the Tluste community
Destroyed by the Nazis
and Ukrainians in 1942-1943
In the ghetto and in work camps
Of the surrounding countryside.
[signed]
Organization of Tluste Survivors in Israel

* Editor's note: Israel's first Holocaust museum, established in 1948, on Mount Zion near the traditional site of King David's tomb. The better-known, larger, Yad Vashem was founded in 1953.

 

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