by Hillel Kenigsberg
Translated by Sara Mages
On 6 July 1941, the last Soviet troops left town after they blew up the train station, the grain and straw warehouses next to it, and also the trains which stood at the terminal. Later, when the Germans arrived in town, they forced the Jews to clear the rubble. The town was also slightly damaged by the fire which took hold of the buildings near the train station.
On Sunday, 7 July 1941, the local Ukrainian authorities immediately organized. The day passed quietly, but the pogroms against the Jews in the surrounding area, which were organized by the Ukrainians, began at night. The town of Ulaskovtzh [Ułaszkowce] opened it. Every year, on 7 July, a festive gathering and a large annual fair, with the participation of farmers from the entire area, was held in Ulaskovtzh. Masses of peasants, who were inflamed by the inciting speeches of the Ukrainian priest and the local school teacher, came out of the church and started to attack the local Jews and also the monastery, which the Russians had turned into an almshouse for old men and contained a number of Jews. The attack in Ulaskovtzh served as a signal to the Ukrainians in all towns and villages in the surrounding area. The refugees from these places came to Tłuste and aroused panic in the town. We feared that that the murders would also spread to Tłuste, but thanks to the calming speeches of the Ukrainian priest Izbulskie [ed. Anton Navolskyy], the Ukrainian bank manager Bablokov [Badluk], and the lawyer Androshinov [Andrszczyn], nothing had happened in our town.
Two days later, the advance guard of the Hungarian army arrived and took control of the town. The attitude of the Hungarians towards the Jews was quite good. The Germans were already in the nearby city of Chortkov [Czortków] and terrible things took place there. They forced the Jews to dig out the bodies from the graves in the prison yard and bury them again. Several Jews were killed in this operation.
A Jewish council, which was composed of the intelligentsia circles and wealthy residents, was organized in Tłuste. It was assigned to negotiate with the Ukrainian and the Hungarian authorities on any matters related to the Jews. At the end of July, camps after camps of Jews, who were expelled from Hungary, started to arrive. Some of them remained in the towns across the Dniester River, but most of them were expelled farther east, toward KamieniecPodolski. In the first days of August, Hungarian drivers arrived from Kamieniec and told us that, in a single day, about thirty thousand local Jews and also refugees who arrived from Hungary were shot and killed there.
The first Germans arrived in town in the first half of August. They housed their offices in Zaleszczyki, organized a Judenrat in Tłuste and appointed a Ukrainian police force. First and foremost, they ordered the Judenrat to supply them leather coats, boots and woolens. The Judenrat organized a Jewish police force, enforced taxes on the Jewish population, and drafted Jews to work. In late August, an order was issued that each Jew must wear an armband on his arm (it was a moderate attitude in comparison to Chortkov. At the beginning, about three hundred people, from among the intelligentsia, were taken out and shot near the city.) A short time later, an order was issued that all Jews who lived in the villages and in the suburbs must move to town. In October, it became known in town that in Zaleszczyki the Germans took some of the Jews, selected those who were fit to work, and the rest, about 600 Jews, were shot to death.
On Yom Kippur, the Jews of Zaleszczyki were expelled to nearby towns and only two hundred Jews were allowed to remain in the town. More and more refugees arrived to our town from nearby towns, and the density increased from day to day. Jewish homes were marked with a Star of David. At the same time, they also started to draft people for the Kamionka labor camp and the Judenrat was forced to supply a certain quota of Jewish workers. In our town, as in other locations, the rich were able to redeem themselves by paying ransom.
In September, a notice appeared that all Jewish farmers must report to the agricultural office in Chortkov. There were seven or eight Jewish farmers in our town, but we weren't able to report in Chortkov because it was forbidden to leave the town. Therefore, we reported to the municipal office which was managed by Ukrainians who directed us to the Judenrat. The Judenrat ordered us again to report to work at the German agricultural building. In the end, they only kept the four farmers that they have chosen, and I was one of them. The commander was a Gestapo man by the name of Zocher, and the whole town feared him. He was the director of Liegenschaft [real estate]. At that time, the Germans took over the agricultural farms which had been nationalized by the Russians, and began to demand that the Judenrat supply them work forces for these farms. They also recruited the former farm managers to help the Aryan managers who were appointed by them.
In February 1942, the management of Liegenschaft was transferred to the hands of the Wehrmacht, who turned to the Judenrat and demanded about ten thousand workers for the agricultural farms. With that, they turned to the Gestapo in Chortkov with the demand not to hurt the farm workers during the aktzyot. The Gestapo refused to ensure that. The matter was transferred to the management in Lvov and from there to Himmler himself. The answer to this matter was late to come, and in the meantime the Gestapo men acted as they saw fit, meaning, without favoritism towards the workers on the agricultural farms.
In the month of March 1942, the Liegenschaft management left Tłuste, but two members of the administration, I and my sister's son, were left in place. The manager of the department was a very decent German agronomist.
In May, a new manager, a reservist by the name of Patti [Vathje], arrived. He was also very decent and over time helped the Jews of Tłuste a lot.
In July 1942, the men of the Gestapo arrived in town and demanded to hand over to them 10% of the town's people, among those who had become a burden on the Judenrat. About two hundred people, old and feeble, were turned over then. To complete the quota, the Gestapo brought 75 young women who worked at the KoziaGora farm near Tłuste. All of them were taken to the train station and sent in an unknown direction.
The second aktzya took place on 5 October, 1942. In this aktzya the Germans collected, with the help of the Ukrainian militia, about one thousand of the town's residents. They put them in train cars and transported them to Belzec death camp. All the Jewish residents left their homes, hid in bunkers or fled the town. The Germans removed all the property from the abandoned houses and the rest was looted by the local population.
After the second aktzya, the situation of those who remained worsened. The town was filled with refugees from towns in Stanislaw district. The extermination of the Jews ended in those towns and they were declared cleansed of Jews (Judenrein). In Tłuste, as in other towns in the area, the Germans started to organize labor camps. Only Jews who managed to receive the letter W were accepted there. This matter involved lot of work and many difficulties. At the same time, a typhus epidemic broke out, and about fifteen people died from it every day. In addition to that, there was always fear of an aktzya. According to a rumor, the entire district of Tarnopol had to turn Judenrein by the end of 1942 and, according to the Gestapo's timetable, Tłuste was the last in line.
In the last days of December 1942, the Ukrainian militia started to grab Jews on the town's streets and send them to Chortkov and there they were interned in the Gestapo's prison. The abductions lasted for several days, until the beginning of January 1943. A number of abductees were released after payment of large ransom and the others were held in prison for a long period of time. All of a sudden, the Gestapo leadership informed the district Jewish council in Chortkov that the Jewish detainees would be released and the council should find absorption places for them. It seemed that the winter conditions prevented them from conducting aktzyot on a large scale, and a relative calm prevailed during the winter months.
The fear of aktzyot started again after the cold days had passed. People were afraid to sleep in their homes and started to stream to labor camps as if they were a place of refuge. In May, news arrived about the aktzyot that were conducted in nearby towns, and people started to worry that Tłuste's turn would come soon. A certain date was even stated some said that the aktzya would take place in the morning of May 25. Only a few people remained in town, most of the residents fled to the fields and to the forests. Only those who had a secure hideout remained in the town, and the elderly and the sick were forced to stay.
And here, the day passed and nothing happened. People started to believe that it was a false panic and most of them returned to their homes. Later, members of the Judenrat confirmed that an aktzya was planned for 25 May. Two Volksdeutsche informed the Gestapo headquarters in Chortkov that the Jews escaped from their homes and for that reason they postponed the execution of the judgment to 27 May.
On Thursday, 27 May, at five o'clock in the morning, we suddenly heard the sound of gunfire coming from all directions. About six hundred Germans surrounded the town and all the roads were blocked. The Germans gathered about three thousand Jews in the market square and led them in groups of 100200 to the cemetery. There, they were shot and buried in a mass grave that was dug by seventy young Jewish men. After the three thousand were shot and buried, the Germans also killed the young men who dug the grave and sorted out the victims' clothes. Only one boy, aged eleven, managed to escape the shower of bullets and survived the war. The murder was conducted by a person named, Tumanek [Thomanek], who killed 600 Jews with his own hands. Apart from the three thousand who were killed in the cemetery, about eight hundred Jews were killed in the town's streets when they tried to escape from the hands of the murderers. On the day after the aktzya, the Jewish militia collected the bodies and brought them to the cemetery for burial.
The Jews who were on the farms and in the labor camps weren't hurt in the great aktzya. They also didn't hurt the members of the Judenrat and the Jewish militia. More than one thousand Jews gathered in the town with the hope that they would be left alone for several months. But also this hope was dashed. About a week after the great aktzya came the final liquidation of the remaining Jews in the town.
It happened on Sunday, 6 June 1943. Patti, the manager of the agricultural farms, knew what was going to happen and warned the workers not to dare to go to the town. On the same day he also tried to gather as many workers as possible from among the town's residents. At 11 o'clock in the morning, a group of Gestapo men arrived in the town, locked the ghetto, which at that time was reduced to only two streets, and started to hunt the surviving Jews who were inside it. The Jews who were caught were taken to the cemetery and shot and killed there by Tumanek, the aktzya commander. It should be noted, that it was the one and only time that an aktzya was held on a Sunday, on the Christians' day of rest.
Eighty Jews remained in the town after this aktzya. They were sent to Chortkov under the order of the Germans, and there they were eliminated. Several members of the Judenrat and the Jewish police managed to cross the Romanian border with the help of one of the Ukrainian leaders. Some of the town's wealthy men also joined them. A Ukrainian guide transported them across the border, and there he turned them over to the Romanian police. They were brought back to Zaleszczyki after they were robbed of everything in their possession and handed over to the Germans. On the same day, all of them were shot and killed.
After the liquidation of the Jewish population in Tłuste the town was declared free of Jews. Several hundred Jews remained in the labor camps on the agricultural farms and lived under very difficult conditions. Only twentythree Jews remained under Patti's protection on the farm in Tłuste. At the same time, detachments of partisans began to appear in the forests around the town. Sometimes, the partisans attacked the farms to get the supplies they needed, but they didn't hurt the Jews. On the contrary, they encouraged them with words and promised that their bad situation would not last for many days. However, they refused to let the Jews join their companies. They justified their refusal with the fact that they also suffered from shortage of weapons and supplies.
The Germans probably suspected that there was contact between the partisans and the Jews, and it may be that these concerns prompted them to eliminate the Jews in the labor camps despite the severe shortage of workers. On 15 July 1943, an aktzya was conducted at all the labor camps. Only a few managed to escape to the forests to save their lives. The wicked didn't touch the farm in Tłuste since it wasn't an official labor camp. Theoretically, the farm workers had to live in the KoziaGora camp, but Patti disobeyed the order and allowed them to stay in the farm.
All the labor camps were eliminated after the aktzya in the camps, and the Jews weren't allowed to stay there. The camp managers denied access to each Jew who tried to return to the camp or to the farm. Also Patti ordered the Jews to leave the farm, but when he saw their distress he agreed to keep them.
Every Friday the farm managers gathered in Jagielnica. On the Friday of that week, Patti returned from the meeting around three o'clock in the afternoon, and before he entered his home, he approached the Jewish workers and said: the matter that we've been waiting for finally arrived, but unfortunately too late. Permission came from Himmler to employ about six thousand Jewish workers in the labor camps. He informed us that from now on the labor camps could exist legally and the Jews would be able to return and work there. The Jews who escaped to the forests and lived there under very difficult conditions started to return to the camps, but also here their situation was very difficult because they constantly feared attacks. In addition, they were always hungry because the food ration was poor and inadequate. The conditions on the farm in Tłuste were relatively better. Patti and the other managers and supervisors treated us well. We worked in the vegetable garden and ate stolen potatoes that we pinched from the fields. Most of the workers weren't from Tłuste. They were refugees from the nearby towns who arrived to Tłuste and miraculously survived.
When autumn arrived and after it winter, a typhus epidemic spread among the camp's inhabitants. In addition to that, we also suffered a lot from lice infestation. Again, the Ukrainian police found a reason to destroy the Jews to exterminate the disease. At that time, murderous attacks by the Banderovtzim began in the camp and each attack cost dozens of victims. The police used the opportunity of Patti's absence from the farm in Tłuste, and killed five people. A woman was lying on one of the beds with her little daughter. Both were sick. The policeman shot the woman and killed her, but he didn't notice the girl and she remained alive. After the police left, the girl jumped up and came to our hut and her nightgown was soaked with her mother's blood. The girl her name is Margalit (Margulis) survived. A seventeenyear old boy, who looked very sick after recovering from typhus, was also killed in this manner. His mother refused to step aside despite the policemen's warnings, and then the policemen also shot her. She was Lutka Krasotzka [Lotti Krasutski] and her son Norbert.
From the beginning of 1944, refugees who collaborated with the Germans began to arrive to the Tłuste area from Russia. Among them were many members of Ukrainian police companies, who murdered every Jew who came their way. In February, a regiment of ten thousand Cossacks from the Don region, who joined the Germans in their retreat, passed by. They also caused many deaths among the Jews. In Lisovtza [Lisowce], they disremembered many Jews with their swords, and dozens of Jews were injured by them. At that time, the Ukrainian policemen weren't allowed to enter the labor camps, but every Jew who was caught outside the camp boundaries was brutally murdered by them.
On 16 March 1944, the German headquarters evacuated the farm in Tłuste and took all the farm equipment. The local headquarters (the labor headquarters) was left in place. We didn't suffer from the Germans (who belonged to the regular army and not to the Gestapo), and they even tried to help us a little. In contrast, the Ukrainian policemen threatened that they would have time to finish us off at the last moment.
Liberation day, 23 March 1944, arrived. A company of Ukrainian policemen passed in the early morning hours. They began to rage and demanded vodka from the Jews as they were threatening with the pistols in their hands. The German company commander accepted the Jews' request and came to drive the policemen away. A few hours later, the last German company got the order to retreat, and left the farm and the town. Close to three o'clock, the first Soviet tanks arrived and the surviving Jews came towards their liberators with open arms and crying from happiness. However, their happiness didn't last long. A squadron of German planes suddenly appeared over the camp, dropped several bombs on the barracks, and even shot those who gathered in the camp's yard. About seventy people from among the survivors perished in this bombing and many were wounded.
Ten days later, a German regiment which was surrounded by the Soviets around Kamieniec managed to break the blockade and advanced towards Tłuste. The Soviet army advised the few surviving Jews to join them in their retreat to Chortkov. All the Jews, apart from twenty sick and wounded, joined the Soviet army. In each town they were joined by the local survivors and, when they arrived in Skalat, their number reached to about a thousand people.
The migration, in the footsteps of the Soviet army, lasted about four weeks. Later, the front line moved away from our region and the Jews began to disperse, each to his own place. However, a short time later the vast majority left the country, which was saturated with the blood of their relatives and compatriots, and moved to the city of Chernovtsy [Chernowitz] where a relatively large group of about ten thousand Jewish survivors remained.
by Maria Kenigsberg
Translated by Sara Mages
The Germans entered our town on 6 July 1941. For three days the town and surrounding area were without a specific rule. During these few days the Ukrainians attacked the Jews who lived in the surrounding villages and murdered them with great cruelty. In town, two Ukrainian leaders, the priest and the lawyer, influenced the masses of Ukrainians not to hurt the Jews. Under the influence of their words, the Ukrainian militia detained the Ukrainian rioters who arrived from the villages and did not let them enter the town. Zumerman and his wife, who lived in one of the villages, survived but their three children were murdered by the rioters.
After three days, a Hungarian military regiment arrived in our town. The Ukrainian mayor, who expected the Germans to arrive, built a triumphal arch decorated with a Ukrainian and a German flag, but the matter was not right in the eyes of the Hungarian commander. He called the mayor, slapped his face and ordered him to remove the two flags.
The attitude of the Hungarians towards the Jews was relatively good. Surely, they drafted many Jews for forced labor, but in a peaceful humanitarian way. There was one ruffian among them who abused Jews, and because of him a number of Jews drowned while building a bridge over the Dniester River.
Two weeks after the arrival of the Hungarians, the first Jewish exiles arrived in our town from Hungary. Apparently they were Jews with Polish citizenship. Nicely dressed, they were transported in vehicles and brought many valuables with them. Some of them were allowed to remain in our town, and the rest were transported farther, to the area of Kamieniec Podolski. Many Jews served in the Hungarian army, some of them as drivers, and they helped a number of Jews to return to their homes, to Budapest. A few weeks later, we found out from the Hungarian drivers, who returned from Kamieniec Podolski, that the Germans held an aktzya there, and shot and killed around twenty thousand Jews from Romania and Poland who escaped together with the Soviet army and stopped in Kamieniec. One woman from Kamieniec was able to move to the Soviet sector and reach Moscow. There, she told on the radio about the Germans' acts of terror against the Jewish refugees.
A few weeks later, at the end of the summer, the first Germans arrived. I walked in the street and saw them humiliating a Jewish girl. This was their premiere act. After that, a German by the name of Zocher arrived and received the management of the farm in Tłuste. He was a bad man who beat Jews. He came to the Judenrat and ordered different items and furniture for his apartment. In addition, he requested a number of Jews who were knowledgeable in agriculture. My husband and my brother were among those who signed up. He employed them in different jobs in the farm. They worked very hard and Zocher stood over them with a gun in his hand hurrying them up. He himself lived like a king and held magnificent parties. The farmers worked for him during the winter months.
At the beginning of 1943, the Germans started to confiscate the Jews' furs. The furs belonging to my brotherinlaw and my husband were also confiscated. At the same period of time I started to come frequently to Zocher's apartment on the farm. My former cook, Modra Monka [Mudra Munk], worked as a cook in his home, and she asked me to come and help her serve since she was not an expert in this manner. Once, during a party, I came across Zocher. He stood in the company of a Nazi by the name of Stoll, who was going to take over the management of the farm. According to my armband he realized that I was Jewish and shouted at me: What are you doing here? I answered him that I came to help the cook with the preparations for the party. He did not believe my words, but when he saw how well I worked, he softened and let me stay until the end of the party. At the end, nothing was changed in the management of the farm. Zocher remained in his post and since then I was allowed to come to his home with his knowledge and permission.
Sometime later, Zocher was transferred to Berezdów, and an agronomist by the name of Hanf took his place. Together with him came a new manager by the name of Patti [Vathje]. My husband stayed to work as Patti's helper, but I lived in our home, which was kind of a villa, together with a family from Hungary. It was a woman by the name of Kato whose husband returned to Hungary with the Hungarian army drivers. They did not have the time to transfer her, and she lived in our home together with her husband's parents.
A few of my closest relatives lived in Horodenka: my father, my oldest sister with her daughter, and also my brother with his wife and two children. After the great aktzya of December 1941, in which a few thousand Jews were murdered there, my niece Leila [Lilka] arrived in Tłuste and moved into our home. Under her initiative we started to build a bunker in our home, in case an aktzya would take place in Tłuste. On 15 August 1942 my husband's nephew arrived from the farm with a special message. Lauterbach, one of the German farm managers, sent him together with my son to bring me to the farm since the Germans were planning to hold an aktzya in town. We all went to the farm, and there they hid the whole family in the attic of the department agronomist's home, and in the attic of Lauterbach's home. My child and I remained in Lauterbach's apartment. In order to engage me in any kind of work in his home, he tore a shirt and gave it to me to repair.
On that day, the first aktzya took place in Tłuste. According the quota, the Judenrat was demanded to hand 350 people, mostly old people, to the hands of the Gestapo. The old people were ordered to take brooms with them, so it would look like they were being taken to a place of work. In addition, the Germans took seventy young women from the farm in KoziaGora. All of them were taken to the train station and sent to a death camp, probably to Belzec. On the same day my sister, Leila's mother, arrived in Tłuste from Horodenka. She arrived at the time that the old people were collected and taken to the train station. She had enough time to hide in a corn field near our house, and waited until we returned home.
On 5 October 1942, a second aktzya took place and around two thousand men and women were killed. Patti told us in advance about the aktzya and we informed other Jews. Patti told us that those who would work on the farm on that day would not get hurt. Many of the workers asked him to let their family members stay on the farms, and he agreed in a number of cases. In spite of that, members of the Ukrainian police arrived to the farm, together with the Germans, and took a number of Jews who were hiding in the workshops.
Approximately at the same time, the last aktzya took place in Horodenka, and the last surviving Jews were liquidated in the city. My father and my oldest brother also got caught, and were locked up for three days in a warehouse without food and water. Later, they were led to the rail cars and sent to Belzec. My father, Henryk Spiegel, was seventytwo years old at the time. Despite his advanced age he spoke to the hearts of his brothers to fate, who were younger then him, and asked them to open the door and jump out. They hesitated to do so, so he pushed his way to the door and jumped out. Many jumped after him. Also my brother was able to jump out of another car, but he did not meet with my father despite the fact that both of them jumped near Stanisławów. My father arrived in Stanisławów, and from there he left on foot to Horodenka. On the way he was caught and taken to the Ukrainian police station. There, he was given to the hands of a Ukrainian policeman who was ordered to bring him to the police station in Horodenka. To his luck, the policeman was a former worker on my brother's farm; he knew my father and released him on the way. In Horodenka, which was already Judenrein, he met my sisterinlaw and her children, and all of them reached us in Tłuste. My brother Max [Markus] Spiegel arrived after them.
Patti advised my husband to move his family to the farm. So we moved to live on the farm where an apartment was allocated for us together with the Ukrainian supervisors. They treated us with fairness, and somehow it was possible to live on the farm. At last, Patti received management of the farm in Tłuste, and the management of two other farms. A German by the name of Frank was appointed manager of the other farm. He was related to the Governor General of Poland and was a very honest man. He treated the Jews with fondness and never sat at the table without his Jewish helper, Katz, father of my friend Erna. After we moved to live on the farm I started to work as a cook in Patti's kitchen. A young man, Bercio Lublin, worked with me. He dealt with the ironing and took care of all the household matters.
And so we lived in relative calm until the end of May 1943. Rumors started to circulate during the last days of the month of May about an upcoming aktzya. According to rumors, the aktzya was going to take place in the morning of 25 May. Most of the town's Jews escaped to the fields and the forests. When this rumor proved to be false, most of them returned back to town. Only the very few, who were very cautious, did not return. At first light, Thursday 27 May, at 3.30 before morning, the sound of gunfire was heard from all directions. The aktzya had started. The farm was full of Jews at that time. During the months of reprieve the Ukrainian supervisors moved to live in town, and Jews came to live in their place. A panic broke when the shooting started, and everyone was running around looking for a place to hide. I saw many Jews running out of the farm and falling from the policemen's bullets. I entered Patti's room he stood undressed, pale as dead. This time he also did not know in advance that an aktzya would take place. Meanwhile, five Gestapo men arrived to inform Patti about the aktzya. They brought a truck with them and loaded it with a large number of shovels from the farm's yard. They also ordered lunch for fifteen Gestapo officers. The commanders of the aktzya were young handsome men. A number of them were not able to eat, and one of them sat shaking all over. They probably got encouragement injections before the aktzya. The Jews who worked on the farm belonged to the W group, and they were not harmed in that aktzya,; but outside of the farm boundaries the lives of the Jews were not protected. The teacher, Albin, worked in the farm's office. He wanted to reach the farmyard and was killed right by the gate. From the farmyard we were able to see what was happening in town. Jews were taken from their homes and congregated in the market square. At two o'clock in the afternoon they started to lead them in groups to the cemetery. The pharmacist Falber walked together with his wife, his young daughter, and his fatherinlaw, Pel, the manager of the Jewish bank in town. The Germans wanted to keep Falber alive, but he refused to separate from his family. In most cases people walked quietly without shouting or weeping.
And the moment upon which they started to eliminate the Jews who were brought to the cemetery arrived. At the same time four Gestapo men sat down to eat lunch at Patti's apartment. Suddenly I heard the voice of my young son, Edzio, calling me from his hiding place in the attic. I climbed up to him and started to calm him down, but he was not able to relax. I am afraid he said, I see from the window how they shoot the Jews. Meanwhile also Patti came in with teary eyes. From the window we were able to see the cemetery and a meadow next to it. The Gestapo men stood around it laughing and ridiculing. The victims were ordered to undress before they were executed. They climbed in groups of five on the board that was laid across the burial pit. One of the Germans stood on the side and gave the order to shoot. They left the beautiful girls until the end. Among them also was the daughter of Falber, the pharmacist. Before they eliminated them they undressed them, took their pictures and after that they shot them.
The Ukrainian policeman Shrab [Schab] and the Gestapo man, Tumanek [Thomanek], stood out with their great brutality during the aktzya. Tumanek, who originated from Silesia, was the commander of all the camps in the area where Jews resided. He was a fat man, and had the look and the face of a pig. There was not a day when he did not kill at least two Jews. In this aktzya he set aside one thousand Jews, and killed them with his own hands. The Germans wore gloves during the execution and, after they were done, they removed them and threw them into the burial pit. Close to four thousand people were murdered in that aktzya.
A short time after the aktzya, Tumanek arrived to the farm accompanied by a number of Gestapo officers. At the same time my husband was at the apartment of one of the Polish farm workers. One of the officers entered the apartment and when he saw my husband he asked him: What are you doing here, Jew! My husband explained to him that he was helping to manage the farm. Meanwhile Tumanek entered and confirmed it, but he aggressively demanded that he take him to his wife who was also staying on the farm. At that time, I was hiding in the attic with my son, with Mrs. Averman (she had been caught with all the Jews, released and arrived at the farm), and with the teenage boy Bercio who worked in the kitchen.
Meanwhile Patti returned from his evening walk, and Tumanek left the farm. I was in great danger because according to the rules the worker's wives were not allowed to stay on the farm with their husbands. They had to live in a special camp that was established in Chipowtza [Szypowce].
The few Jews, who were caught and brought back to Tłuste after the aktzya, were packed in a narrow street that constituted a closed ghetto. Some of these Jews were transferred to the farms as workers under a special permit that was given by the Judenrat.
Around two weeks after the aktzya, on Saturday, Patti told my husband that he urgently needed a large number of workers for the next day, Sunday. He needed to enlist them immediately, out of the town's Jews, and they must be on the farm by seven o'clock in the morning. My husband asked him: What about the workers who have wives?" To that Patti said: Let them come with their wives. My husband ordered as many Jews as possible from the Judenrat office, but only eighty people arrived. Also not all the workers' wives arrived. An aktzya, in which all the remaining Jews in town were killed, took place on the same Sunday. Only the few who were able to hide in secure bunkers survived. It was on 6 June 1943. Patti tried to engage all the Jews who were ordered to work in all kind of jobs in locations far from the farm. He himself arrived early in the morning, rode his horse from farm to farm, and tried to employ each Jew that he met on his way.
After this aktzya I moved to the camp in Chipowtza [Szypowce] and left my son with my husband on the farm in Tłuste. Patti advised us that I should try to obtain Aryan papers so that I could travel to Hungary and live there as nonJew. I rejected the idea because I did not want to save only my own life. There were a number of rich Jews in the Chipowtza camp, and also the wives of Judenrat members. I was there alone with my brotherinlaw, my husband's brother. My husband wrote me that I should try to save my life any way I could, but I did not stay in that camp for a long period of time. Despite the ban, my husband brought me back to the farm. Patti knew about my arrival and ordered to employ me in the kitchen. My husband had sent the boy to one of the managers on the KoziaGora farm. In his opinion the boy was safer there than with him on the farm. When I returned to the farm also the boy was brought back.
A few days after my return to the farm, on the night of 15 July 1943, a number of vehicles and carts arrived at the police station which was located near the farm. We woke up and saw a large number of Germans and Ukrainian policemen. We heard the orders that were given: you travel to Holovtshintzh [Hołowcyńce], and you to KoziaGora. We understood that something serious was going to happen on those farms. We also saw vehicles full of policemen traveling on the road leading to the Lisowtza [Lisowce] farm that Frank managed. A short time later we heard the sound of gunfire, and we started to search for a place to hide. We were sure that they would also come to us. I wore my coat, sat in the house and waited for their arrival. I was desperate and accepted my fate. Two people who escaped from Holovtshintzh hid in a ditch not far from the farm. The Ukrainian policemen Dubitshenko [Dubiczenko] walked by the ditch and when he saw a Jewish woman hiding there, he said: I did not see anything, but hide well so somebody else will not see you. He was a good man. He pretended to search for Jews in the roads, but in fact he warned them to hide, and when he came across a bunker he tried to conceal it better.
The murderers did not arrive to our farm. My husband hid in the warehouse, and also the rest of the Jews hid wherever they could. I was angry at my husband for not bringing me to his hideout, but it became clear to me that he had asked one of the Poles to bring me to him, but the Pole did not say a thing and a half to me about that. When I sat and waited, the Ukrainian police commander, Kushliak [Koszulak], and a German policeman by the name of Hubert, who was a good and decent man, entered. They walked around the house, met a number of Jews, but they did not hurt them. On the contrary, they tried to calm me down and ease my fears.
After the aktzya we found out that the murderers were not able to perform their plot in the Lisowce. The manager Frank stood before them and announced that if they destroyed his Jewish workers he would desert the farm and abandon it. A number of Jews, who were trying to escape, were murdered there, but those who remained at work survived thanks to Frank's interference. In contrast, a total liquidation took place in Holovtshintzh and at Rozanowka [Różanówka]. At Rozanowka, two Jews tried to defend themselves with weapons and were shot by policemen. They were killed immediately in the place. Patti, who arrived at Rozanowka during the aktzya, wanted to intervene in favor of the Jews, but he was not successful because the Germans were very angry.
After the aktzya an order arrived from the Gestapo not to accept Jews to work on the farms. Patti informed us about the order, and added that he did not know how to advise us. We were desperate because living around the farm area meant liquidation by the police. In this desperate situation we started to think that suicide was the only solution for our distress. With the help of a German farm worker we sent a letter to my husband's relative who owned a pharmacy in Chortkov [Czortków], and asked her to send us enough poison. But she refused to do so (later she committed suicide after the liquidation of the Chortkov ghetto). The farm was divided into two camps those who supported suicide and those who opposed it. Those who supported suicide asked Trembovelsky to build a chimney in their apartment so they would be able to poison themselves with the fumes. But he refused to come to their help. I will fight to my last drop of blood he answered. And indeed, he survived together with his wife and his sons. Our six year old boy, who heard all the conversations about suicide, started to question us in the matter. When he found out that it meant going to sleep and not waking up, he started to cry and shout: I don't want to die, I want to live!
In the end Patti agreed to allow all of us to stay on the farm against the orders that he had been given. Surely your lives are not safe here he said, but they are not safer anywhere outside of the farm. Two days later my husband came with a smile on his face, gathered all the Jewish workers, and told them about a surprising change that had taken place. Patti invited him and showed him a letter that arrived from Himmler permitting to employ six thousand Jewish workers. To my great sorrow the letter arrived too late, said Patti. And so the surviving Jews were allowed to stay on the farms. Patti informed all of the farms in the area and, again, all the Jews who were wandering and hiding in the forests gathered there. After all, it was the most comfortable and the safest way to exist.
Again, we entered to a period of relative calm that lasted for two or three months. At the beginning of the autumn a new trouble jumped on us typhus. With the spread of typhus in the area, the Ukrainian police started to eliminate the sick. Already at the beginning of autumn we receive the news that the police had killed thirty Jews on Trawna farm near the town of Borszczów, following a typhus epidemic that had broken out there. There were a few cases in our camp, but the people tried to walk for as long as they had the energy to do so, and not to fall into bed. And indeed, there were those who were able to recover from their illness by walking. The illness did not skip our family; my husband, our little son and I, became ill. Luckily my sister Chava [Eva] was on the farm with us and took care of us.
One day, in the afternoon, we heard that Jews were running around the yard. It turned out that it was the Ukrainian sanitary police. We were able to bribe them and they left. It was around 11 before noon. In the afternoon the door suddenly opened and six Ukrainian policemen led by their commander entered our room. My son Edzio and I lay in bed. Young Krasutski, who had just recovered from his illness, got out of his bed and stood next to my bed. Also my husband and my sister were in the room. The commander turned to my husband and asked: Do you know how to run? We knew the meaning of this question. My husband got up and answered: If it is required, we will run . They asked about the child's illness and my sister answered that he was sick with the whooping cough. After that they entered the next room we immediately heard the sound of gunfire. We also heard the sound of gunfire coming from outside. The policemen returned to our room, ordered Krasutski to leave the room, and killed him behind our window. They killed Mrs. Margulies in the next room, but the girl who lay next to her was able to hide from the policemen and was not killed. Krasutski's mother ran after her son, and when he dropped dead she fell on his face. The policeman Mróz ordered her to leave, but she answered: after you killed my son you can also kill me, so they also killed her. Bercio Lublin was already walking after recovering from typhus; when he saw the policemen he started to run, but he was shot and killed. After they executed all these murders, they searched the bodies and robbed every item of value. They took a diamond bracelet from Mrs. Krasutski. Before they left they ordered the Jews to bury the dead. Patti was not in the farm on that day, he only came on the next day.
At the beginning of 1944, a new period of riots started, and the Banderovtzim started to run wild in the area. Again the Jews were the first, although they also attacked the Poles and even the Germans. According to Patti's request, 25 soldiers were sent to the farm to protect it from the Banderovtzim attacks. Once they attacked Lisowce, and Patti sent ten soldiers to protect the place. During this period the Germans protected us from the Ukrainian rioters.
The Banderovtzim attacks increased and, at the beginning of March 1944, they held a massacre in Holovtshintzh. The murdered were buried in the camp, and the wounded were brought to the farm in Tłuste. Slowly, slowly the farm became the last place of refuge for the Jewish survivors in the whole area.
One day, two senior Wehrmacht officers arrived on the farm. When the Jews saw them they became frightened and started to flee. My husband began to talk to them, and they asked to see the Jews who lived on the farm. My husband also feared them and advised them not to enter the hut where the wounded were lying. Despite his warning, they entered, looked at the wounded and showed great concern for their poor condition. They were also interested to know what they were given to eat. In the end, a unit of 36 soldiers arrived in the camp and their commander received the duty of camp commander. These soldiers had an excellent amount of supplies and demanded people for work. And so, fifty Jews were fed by thirty six soldiers. The squadron commander supplied wheat and corn to feed the Jews on the farm, whose number at the time was around four hundred.
Meanwhile the front got closer and closer, and one day Patti started to pack his belongings. The Jews were very worried because Patti had protected them in the most difficult situations. Also during the last days we needed his help when Vlasov's men arrived together with the retreating German army, and the Cossacks came for a visit from the Don region.
Before he left, on 15 March 1944, Patti approached the German commander and asked him to take care of us. The commander treated me with kindness and asked me to continue to manage his home the way I did during Patti's days. He expressed the hope that he would be able to protect us until the arrival of the Soviets, because the local headquarters was the last to leave the area during a retreat. And indeed, there were a number of occasions when the Germans saved us from the hands of different rioters who came to the area during the last days of the Germans retreat.
The day the Soviet army arrived was a day of happiness, but it turned into another day of tragedy. The Germans bombed the farm just before the arrival of the Russian advance army. Eighty Jews out, of the four hundred survivors, were killed in this bombing.
On 1 April the Soviet army was forced to retreat. We joined them and arrived in Skalat. A warehouse full of Jewish clothes was discovered there and we were given the opportunity to change our clothes. From Skalat we went on foot to Zaleszczyki, and from there we crossed the Romanian border. A Jewish officer in the Soviet army transferred us with his car to Chernowitz. It seemed to us that we had arrived in another world, totally different from the one that we had lived in during the last years.
by Klara Shatil
Translated by Sara Mages
A. The great aktzya in Tłuste
Around two months before the great aktzya, starting on 27 May 1943, rumors circulated in town that the Germans were planning to hold an aktzya there. The Jews gained experience from the previous aktzyot and started to search for a place to hide. They started to build bunkers inside their homes, in the cellars and under the roofs. The hideouts were mostly between double walls and in tunnels. Many Jews prepared a refuge for themselves at the homes of their Ukrainian neighbors or in one of the nearby forests.
My sister and I joined a number of friends, who had a secure place in the nearby forest, and were in good relations with the forester. We spent seven days in the forest, and when nothing happened in Tłuste we returned home. In town, we took turns guarding at night in order to sense the approaching danger and give ourselves enough time to hide in the bunker. Such nightly rotations existed in almost all the buildings and stopped when people got tired of it.
On 27 May 1943, at 4 before morning, the first shots were heard. When we woke up we realized that the ghetto was completely surrounded by the Gestapo and the Ukrainian police, but we had enough time to go down to the cellar and hide in the bunker. During the day we heard the sounds of steps and banging in the cellar, but the policemen were not able to find our bunker. We sat there all day and also the following night. At night we realized that the danger was over. My fiancé decided to climb up to the apartment and bring a little food and clothes. One of the women, a mother to a small child, joined him. It is possible to assume that when they turned the light in the room they caught the attention of a Ukrainian policeman who was wandering in the empty homes in order to loot them. He caught my fiancé and the woman on the cellar steps and demanded that they give him all their silver and gold. I heard the sound of a shot and, after that, the voice of my wounded fiancé, Mordechai Warmbrand, who begged before the policeman and promised to give him everything that he had. Give! The policeman shouted, and took all the gold from his hands. After that we heard another shot. They were the last victims of the great aktzya. Fate wanted the first and last victims of the aktzya be the residents of our building. The first was the homeowner, Mrs. Krampf, who did not have enough time to go down to the bunker and was shot by her front door.
B. In Rozanowka camp
In the villages near Tłuste there were labor camps in which the Germans settled Jewish laborers to work in the Caoutchouc plantations. One of the camps was located near Rozanowka [Różanówka] village. The work was difficult and exhausting, and the food ration that was given to us once a day was very small. The work day lasted from sunrise to sunset.
After the last aktzya, on 6 June 1943, Tłuste was declared Judenrein free of Jews. The few survivors were forced to turn to one of the labor camps where it was possible to live legally. My sister and I moved to the camp in the village of Rozanowka which was located around two kilometers from Tłuste. In addition to the difficulties, which were caused from the hard work and the small food ration, we suffered a lot from the Ukrainian supervisors and managers. They treated us with great cruelty and took the food that was given to us by the Germans. We were forced to sell our last items of clothing and exchange them for a little food.
One day, at the end of July or at the beginning of August 1943, around 4 o'clock in the morning, we suddenly heard the rattle of cars. Immediately we felt that a tragedy was going to happen and we escaped with our lives to the nearby fields. We lay in our hideout all day. The shooting lasted all day and never stopped. Later, we found out that around eighty camp residents were killed on that day. They were buried in a mass grave in the camp grounds.
After darkness my sister and I came out of our hideout, but we did not know where to go and to whom to turn. Suddenly we saw two young Ukrainian men who ordered us to follow them. They probably wanted to rob all that we had in our hands and maybe also to kill us. They demanded money, gold and watches from us, but we had nothing to give them. On the way an older farmer joined us. Immediately he started to scold them for frightening us and took us to his home. He fed us and allowed us to sleep in his barn. At night the two young men returned. They demanded money and valuables from us, but when they realized that we had nothing of value, they took our shoes and our coats.
In the morning we left for the road in order to return to the camp and, to our joy, we met on the way a number of Jewish workers from the camp. The survivors reported for the daily morning line up in the camp's yard, as though nothing had happened. Simply there was no other choice. My sister and I also returned to the camp. Around eighty people remained there.
Summer passed, autumn came, and with it came the rain and the chill. The rain leaked into the hut and soaked us to our bones. The food ration improved a little. We collected potatoes in the fields, and we were able to cook or roast them on the fire. One night, the field kitchen, where the workers' soup was cooked, was stolen; and since then we no longer received our small ration of thin soup. After we collected the potatoes, we worked in the farm's storerooms and ate corn kernels that we stole from there. Those who were caught by the storekeeper suffered a bitter fate.
With the arrival of winter our lives became more difficult. Our clothes and shoes were torn, and we went to work with rags wrapped around our feet. In addition to the hardship that was brought to us by the cold and the hunger, a typhus epidemic spread among the camp's workers. Many of the sick died from the lack of medical care. We buried the dead at night so the local residents and the German authorities would not sense it, since there was a danger that they would liquidate the whole camp. Also a serious lice plague spread around the camp, and there were cases of people who were tortured to death by this plague. The typhus epidemic provided the Ukrainian police with an excuse to come to the camp and shoot whomever they wanted, the sick and the healthy. Later they stopped shooting people, only looked at us, nodded their heads, and decided that we were not even worth a bullet one way or another death would come and finish all of us.
We did not have clear knowledge about the situation of the war, but news filtered through that the Germans were retreating. We feared that during the chaos of the retreat we would fall victim to the Ukrainians' cruelty. And indeed, it was not an empty fear. One night the rioters attacked the camp in Holovtshintzh [Hołowcyńce] and murdered 40 Jews with great cruelty, with axes and knives. The residents of our camp started to make plans for the day of trouble. Some arranged for a place to hide with the local farmers, and the rest, without any other choice, waited for their fate.
At the beginning of March 1944, the Germans' great retreat began. The few Jewish survivors left their camps, gathered on the farm in Tłuste, and waited there for the arrival of the Soviet army. During those days, happiness and sadness were mixed together: happiness for the forthcoming liberation, and grief for our love ones who were not rewarded to live and reach the day of liberation.
On 23 March the first Soviet tanks appeared in Tłuste. But, during the first moments of happiness, German bombers arrived, bombed the camp, and killed many of the last survivors.
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