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[Page 337]

Sarata

Sarata
(Sarata, Ukraine)

46°01' 29°39'

by Zvi Schaechter

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Sarata was surrounded by wide green fields of wheat and corn, stretching to the horizon. Fruit trees bloomed across the bridge – a meeting place for young people and young couples, who enjoyed the charming landscape of the little hill and the smell of hay and fresh fields. The town was located near the train station, and it included a Jewish settlement among German farmers. It was surrounded by Russian, Bulgarian and Romanian villages.

The Jewish settlement in Sarata started during the 1905 pogroms; the first Jews to settle there were refugees, who escaped from the pogrom raging in Akkerman and Farmacia, and in their flight reached Sarata.

The local German farmers refused to receive the Jews among them. The refugees from the pogrom addressed the Committee of the Kishinev Jews and following their appeal the authorities intervened and the German settlers received instructions to allow the Jews to settle in the village.

The German residents were well–to–do, with large agricultural assets. The houses, about 400 in number, were built in a beautiful rural style, surrounded by large courtyards. Each courtyard had a fountain and the water was drawn by a pump. In the yard there were a chicken coop, a cow shed, a stall for the horses and pens for the sheep, as well as large bales of hay.

The neighborhood villages would bring their agricultural produce to the local market, where the shops belonged mainly to Jews.

The main roads in the village were dirt roads. During the winter rains the heavy dirt turned into sticky mud and it often happened that a shoe or a galosh remained stuck deep in the mud. In some places, however, there were stone sidewalks.

The Sarata Jews were honest workers, healthy in body and soul and full of national feelings. The life in town, in the agricultural setting, increased their national longing. Eretz Israel was identified with hard agricultural work, which was seen by these Jews in their close neighborhood.

One hundred and fifty Jewish families lived in Sarata, in rented homes; only few of them owned their homes. The German residents avoided selling homes or plots to Jews; they did not like the fact that strangers lived among them and possessed property.

Beginning in 1923, the Jewish settlement increased. Many Jews from the neighborhood were accepted in the village, and remained there. They felt welcome by the warm and hearty Jewish atmosphere that prevailed among the Jewish families in Sarata.

 

Livelihoods

Most of the Sarata Jews earned their livelihood by commerce and work connected with agricultural produce. Beginning in 1935, the number of Jews in town increased day by day. Jewish families from the neighboring villages joined, and Jewish merchants from Kishinev and other cities came to buy agricultural produce, part of which was exported.

Sarata and its environs were a rich center of grains, milk products, meat, eggs, wool and leather. It was an administrative center as well; it had a Justice of the Peace, a Tax Department and other offices.

The market place was in the center of town, and around it the shops that provided the daily needs of the farmers: there were wood and iron warehouses, kosher butcher shops, bakeries, coffee houses, groceries, and shops that sold textiles, building material, household utensils, etc. Most of the shops were built of stone; some of them were just whitewashed sheds.

Once a week, there was “the fair” – the official market day. Many farmers from the neighborhood villages arrived, to sell their produce and buy what they needed. Special stands were kept in the market place for the Jewish merchants from the neighboring villages that came to sell their wares,

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mostly textiles and haberdashery. The fair was held in the market place and nearby streets. We had a friend, who sold notions; and for many years he would come a day before the fair to our house, take his ware out of the boxes, and our family members would help sort it out and arrange it carefully – treads, combs, needles etc. to have it ready for the fair. One of our relatives would come once every 10 days to sell tobacco, although tobacco was under government monopoly.

Many of them were trading in wheat – they were keeping the wheat in the warehouses until they had a sufficient amount for loading.

The center of marketing was the train station. Many earned a substantial livelihood around the train station. There was a constant movement of activity and effort. Jewish agents would lease the warehouses of the station and receive the wheat shipped by the merchants. They would also load the ware on the train cars and send it to its destination.

Many of the residents worked taking the grains to the station warehouses, on wagons pulled by horses. That was hard work, but profitable. There were also peddlers, who bought produce, leather and farm animals in the neighboring villages and sold the ware to the wholesale merchants. Some of the peddlers traded in textiles and notions, others sold sewing machines.

Special agents would travel on the train back and forth, taking care of the commercial relations with Kishinev and other cities. Their role was to relay urgent letters and urgent orders from the various shops, and to bring or exchange missing items. On their way to town, they carried with them local agricultural produce – butter, broiled geese and salami – to sell in town. They carried their ware in packages, and were therefore called “the package agents.” While on the train, they were very careful, paying attention that a package wouldn't be stolen. Everybody recognized the package carriers, and many Jews joined them in the train car, turning the journey into a pleasant meeting of jokes and stories.

 

The Jewish Community

As the Jewish population increased, the community began to organize. Jews from the neighboring villages and towns came to Sarata, where it was easier to make a living. Beginning in 1923, they felt the need for religious and educational institutions. A rented apartment in the center of town served as a prayer house during weekdays. It was, however, too small for the Holiday prayers; for the “Days of Awe” and other Holidays they rented a large warehouse for that purpose.

They began to organize, intending to build a synagogue for the Holidays, which would serve during the rest of the year as a place for meetings and cultural activity. Among the activists were Nachman Altman, the Gabay of the synagogue, and Melekh Lublinski. They bought a plot of land in a Jewish neighborhood in the center of town, and building began. The plan was for a large building but the funds were sufficient only for the erection of the walls, and the structure remained several years without a roof. It was feared that the rain and winds would destroy it.

Several years later the “People's House” [Bet Ha'am] was completed and served as synagogue during the High Holidays. During the year, cultural and Zionist activity was taking place there, as well as community meetings, festivals, plays, elections to the Committee and the Zionist congresses, lectures of Zionist representatives and meetings of the youth movements. Theater groups playing in Yiddish performed their plays in this hall as well.

In the center of town they kept a rented apartment, which served as a synagogue during weekdays and a Hebrew School for the town children. The Community had a ritual slaughterer [shochet] who also served as cantor during the High Holidays. Our shochet was Chaim Baruch and after he became ill others filled his place.

 

Education

The Sarata Jews invested great efforts in the education of their children in the spirit of national Judaism. They hired teachers, who worked permanently in the rented apartment in the town's market place.

The teachers made great effort to teach the children basic elements of Jewish customs and Hebrew language, reading & writing and preparation for the Bar–Mitzva. There were times when the town also had a kindergarten, for the pre–school children. However, the support of the community was limited; some of the parents hired private teachers, on their own account. The teachers were full of national spirit and worked hard, despite their low salary, because they considered their work a national mission. Some of the parents had financial difficulties – yet they sent their children to the Hebrew high–schools Tarbut in Akkerman and Kishinev.

 

The Library

In many of the homes one could find private libraries in Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew. Whoever wanted to read a book – could find it. In 1933, by the request of the readers, the Community Committee of Culture founded a public library. It was first located in the home of Mrs. Chefetz, a wise and educated woman, who served as the librarian in her own home. Later, the library was transferred to Bet Ha'am. The librarians were volunteers, young girls from the youth movements Beitar and Gordonia. They were diligent and devoted workers.

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The Women's Committee

The Damen Komitet was the women's organization that included all women in town and helped all and every social and national activity in town: organizing festivities, visiting homes to collect donations for the JNF or charity, secret charity [matan baseter] etc. Their help was felt in the other community activities as well, in particular in the department of culture and education.

Among the active women were: Mrs. Bat Sheva Gertzberg, Mrs. Allensohn, Mrs. Krasnov, Mrs. Feldman.

The community was responsible for religious matters, kosher slaughtering, upkeep of the Bet Ha'am, support of the needy. Its income came from the “bowls” [ke'arot] placed on Yom Kippur in the synagogues, where every Jew would pay the sum imposed on him by the community, according to his means. The activists of the community were: Chaim Chefetz, G. Feldman, M. Hasid, Lublinski, A. Schaechter, N. Altman. N. Altman was elected as the gabay of the synagogue.

 

Entertainment

A Drama Group, which provided the artistic part of the community festivities, was active in town, with the help of the women's committee. The income of the performances was devoted to charity and cultural needs. Some of the festivities and parties donated their income to the JNF (Keren Kayemet LeIsrael). All Sarata Jews were going to see these performances. This was also the occasion to display the latest fashion in dresses. Usually there was also a raffle and the servings were plentiful and delicious – all prepared by the women's committee. The guests were delighted and the atmosphere was joyful; sometimes the spectators joined the performers in song and dance. There were also literary discussions and debates concerning the various plays.

 

Zionism

The Zionist ideas spread in Sarata with the first Jewish family that settled in town. As the settlement grew, so did the Zionist activities, expressed by collection of donations for the National Funds and various other activities of the Zionist organization: distribution of the shekel, election to the Zionist Congresses, etc.

Since 1928, the coordinator of the funds management and the local activities was my father z”l Avraham Yitzhak Schaechter, who recruited people to the Zionist cause. Our home was always open for the delegates.

Among the activists were: G Hasid, I. Rabinowitz. The Sarata Jews donated to all fund raising projects.

In 1929, the youth movements Gordonia (headed by Elkana Altman) and Beitar were established, and the Zionist activity increased. All the young people remained friends, however, in spite of the ideological differences.

 

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A group of young people in Sarata

Sitting from right to left: Ch. Foigel, S. Altman, Unknown, L. Schwarzman, Hershel Tzirolnik
Standing from right to left: A. Ostrovski, M. Korol, P. Schwarzman

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One of our basic principles in educating our youth was love of the Jewish people. In 1940, the Soviet occupation put an end to the Jewish Zionist activity.

 

Anti–Semitism

Already at the beginning of the thirties, envy and hate of the Jews was felt in Sarata. The local Germans were very active, had close and constant contact with Berlin and spread the anti–Semitic poison. The town, where honest and rich Germans had lived, turned into a snake–pit of wild hate against Jews. The Sarata Germans adopted totally the Hitler theory.

Since 1933, the boycott, aiming to dispossess the Jews of their property and hurt their economical standing was working well. A constant propaganda was conducted, urging the German population and the other minorities not to buy in the Jewish shops. This propaganda was accompanied by the regular Nazi abuse and insults.

The Germans, with financial help, opened stores in all commerce branches. They incited the farmers in the surrounding villages and the hate increased day by day. One of the Nazi activists, who had studied dentistry in Germany, wore the Nazi uniform and went from store to store spreading evil Nazi propaganda and hate.

The German Youth also wore clothes similar to Nazi uniform. They were organized in an association by the name of “Good Friend” – but in their deeds they were far from the concept of “good.” Once they caught a Jewish little boy and forced him to salute and pronounce in a loud voice the Nazi salute. Often they would throw stones to break the windows of the synagogue, in the market or in Bet Ha'am.

The farmers in the surrounding villages also conducted wild anti–Semitic propaganda and incitement and prevented non–Jews from entering Jewish shops. The Sarata Jews looked into the bitter reality with wide open eyes. The sharpened knives, ready for the final solution, were in front of them.

We shall mention here some of the Jews active in the public life:

Tzipora Altman – her home was the meeting place of the youth movements Beitar and Gordonia. Her sons, Zinia and Yechezkel, were active in Beitar and her son Elkana in Gordonia. She helped with the activity of the movements, hosted delegates, and her house was always full of young people. Her husband, R'Israel Altman, educated his children in a national spirit, to work and perform good deeds. He was an example for them.

Mrs. Cheifetz – a noble and educated woman. She promoted social and cultural life among the local Jews; was very active in the Community Cultural Committee and one of the initiators of the library, which was located in her home for some time and she was the librarian. Together with her husband Chaim, who was one of the leaders of the Sarata community, she raised their children in a national spirit; they went to school at the Hebrew High–school Tarbut in Akkerman.

N. Grinberg – a well–to–do pharmacist, helped every needy person, supported every Zionist activity and made large donations for the youth movements.

G. Hasid – one of the most active of the Jewish community, in particular in matters of Judaism and Zionism. As a teacher, he was obviously active in educational matters – library and cultural events, and was the local correspondent of the Russian newspaper.

Feldman – one of the owners of the flour mill; a handsome and honest man, he helped in the community activity and liked to help others. He was respected by all residents of the town.

Nachman Altman – Goodhearted, had a Jewish soul. He was one of the first to devote himself to the building of Bet Ha'am and invested many efforts to finish the building, which became an important property of the Sarata Jews. He was also the permanent Gabay of the synagogue.

Netzik Perlman – a warm and goodhearted Jew. Russian literature was an integral part of his education. He loved books, and had a large number of Russian books in his home. He was one of the writers of the “Petition” in Russian and fully identified with its content. He and his family were murdered in the German torture camps.

R'Israel Galperin – “the Jew from Eretz Israel.” He was a religious man with a beard, dressed in Hasidic garb. His speech was mixed with Torah teachings. He was always busy working or reading a book, and set aside special times for Torah study. Even in his little store of flour and bran, where there was never a long line of customers waiting, he was reading a book. At home he worked hard and was devoted to the few farm animals he kept for the needs of his family – which earned him his nickname. His wife was a true “woman of valor” (Proverbs 31:10) – at dawn she was in the yard milking the goat and collecting the eggs. She was also learned in the sayings of our Sages. The family perished by the Nazis.

David'l Seltzer – had a warm and hearty look and was always in a good mood, “to the spite of all Jew–haters.” He was working in the trade and transport of grains. His work never provided him with enough sustenance for his family, but he was always confident and joyful. He loved singing about freedom, and would say “life is short, and without singing and dancing it is also bitter” and was active in the drama group. At the signing of the “Petition” (to open the gates of Eretz Israel to Aliya) he was asked by the writer of these lines whether he will sign, and he replied “Of course, I want to make Aliya to Eretz Israel.” He was not saved; he perished together with his devoted wife.


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Sarata

by I. Ben–Hur (Altman)

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

In my childhood I lived in the town Prival in the Kishinev County. Hundreds of Jewish families, their homes and their businesses, were concentrated on one very long street.

The two teachers in the Hebrew school, who were nicknamed, according to their hair color, “The Red” and “The Black,” taught us the love of Zion. Every year on Lag Ba'omer they would take the town's children and sometimes the parents as well to an outing in the midst of Nature, to a large forest where we enjoyed ourselves with Hebrew songs and dances.

Once, the President of the Zionist organization, Nachum Sokolov, stopped in our town while traveling by train to Kishinev. The train stopped for a long time, to give all the townspeople the possibility to see the President. My uncle, Shmuel Tabakman, went with me to Sokolov's car and asked him how will the Jewish farmers go to Eretz Israel? This conversation became etched in my memory.

I followed the Schwarzbard trial by reading in the newspapers the reports about the trial. The hero of the trial obviously earned my total admiration.

After some time, a pioneer [halutzim] training camp was established in town; the pioneers lived a few kilometers from the town, in buildings that belonged to a rich Jew from Kishinev named Balaban, who possessed a large farm and vineyards. He provided for the halutzim their main sustenance and lodging. I would spend days in their camp, in particular Saturdays, and I learned about their organization and way of life.

The town was not really a Zionist town, but the youth was Zionist. Most of the young people in town felt like members of one big family.

Following the work of my father z”l, who was a supplier of food and grains for the army, a short time before my Bar–Mitzvah we relocated to the Southern part of Bessarabia and settled in the little town Sarata, in the Akkerman Province.

Most of the local Jews lived in German farmers' houses; the Germans were the majority of the population in town. After some time, the Jews concentrated in the North of the town and founded a Jewish neighborhood.

Here too, the Jews were the shop owners and merchants, and the Christians, especially the Germans, were the land owners. Bulgarians and other Christians in the neighborhood helped with the work in the fields. This work was done in a primitive way, with the help of farm animals; it was very hard work, in particular during the long rainy season.

While still living in Prival I was doing agricultural work. I would join my uncle Yakov Fikhman (cousin of the writer Yakov Fikhman) in his inspection tours of the village fields, and I loved the huge sunflower fields, the corn plantations and the wheat and barley fields.

Even after my Bar–Mitzvah, during the summer vacation months and during vacation days from school I would go with the farmers to their fields and join them in their work – easy or difficult – in the field: plowing, sowing, harvesting, primitive threshing in their own courtyards etc.

One of the tasks I remember in particular was cleaning the corn cobs that the farmers would bring to the big storehouses. Tens of German youths would work together removing the kernels from the cobs while singing, and I joined them often.

Considering the town from a Jewish and national standpoint, it can be said that it was a “sleepy” town, without Hebrew cultural activity. Apart from very few groups that met in private houses for chats or a little dancing, the connection between the young people in town was insignificant. A major change occurred in the beginning of 1929, when Zvi Schechter and his family came to live in Sarata. After a few discussions in his home, it was decided to open in town a branch of BEITARBrit Trumpeldor” and a lively activity began, in particular among the young people.

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Soon we enjoyed in Sarata a visit by the president of BEITAR in Eretz Israel. During his visit he had a difficult conversation with my brother Elkana (Nyona) and as a result several members left BEITAR and established a branch of the Gordonia movement and so we had two youth clubs in town. It should be noted that despite the ideological differences between BEITAR and Gordonia and the heated discussions, the close friendship between the individual members of the two groups was preserved.

With the establishment of the youth movements, other cultural institutions were established as well: a Hebrew library serving both parties, a drama club and others.

In time, I began making preparations for hakhshara [training for Aliya]. The first BEITAR member to make Aliya was Yitzhak Hershkowitz z”l; all townspeople escorted him to the train station, and after some time he came for a visit with his wife, native of Rechovot in Eretz Israel; the visit left a strong impression on all of us.

After our local branch was consolidated, I started visiting the neighboring towns, to try to establish BEITAR branches. I would walk from village to village, at first alone and later accompanied by a few members of the branch. We did our best to encourage the young people to join BEITAR.

We visited many times the town Artsyz, which was known as a center of activity of Jewish communists, and we managed to open there a BEITAR branch. I owe thanks to this town for the fact that my Aliya was reset for an earlier date – and this was how it happened: one evening, when I had come to lecture at the branch, I spent the night at the home of a friend. I woke up when the Security Police rounded up the young people of the town and began to sort out the communists. I was arrested together with the other BEITAR members. My explanations that there was no connection whatsoever between BEITAR and the communists were of no avail, neither was our formal authorization from the Ministry of the Interior to manage the branch legally. The officer was severe and what infuriated him against me was the fact that I was not a local member. Only after my father z”l came at noontime with instructions from the regional police was I released. After this event I was called to the BEITAR delegation in Bucharest and told that my Aliya was be soon.

In the beginning of 1933 I went to hakhshara (training) in Beltz. Here I had a cousin who had been previously at hakhshara in Prival, but he did not make Aliya. In another part of the town there was a Gordonia training camp

 

akk342.jpg
Jabotinsky's visit at the BEITAR training camp in Zastavna
Sixth from left is R. Schoenfeld from Sarata.

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and I would visit them to learn how to organize the camp.

At the end of my training period – which was shortened because I was wounded in my leg – I tried to go on Aliya illegally. I went to Galatz and with the help of relatives of my father z”l I met some Yugoslavian sailors, and was supposed to join them as a sailor and begin my journey to Eretz Israel. They put me on a boat on the way to their ship, but as I boarded the little boat they robbed my money and put me down far from the port of Galatz. Depressed and tired I arrived at noon to my relatives in Galatz, who called my parents and my sister was sent with some money for me. I went home, and this was the end of my illegal Aliya.

 

akk343a.jpg
BEITAR at the elections to the Zionist Congress

First row standing from right to left: S. Kaprishanski, Zvi Schachter, I. Grinblatt
Second row standing: Milia Ohrbuch, D. Gratzberg

 

As a compensation for this adventure, my mother HY”D sent me to her brother's family in Kilya. Maybe she intended to prevent another attempt of illegal Aliya. When I returned home I found another invitation to come to the BEITAR offices in Bucharest in order to arrange my Aliya. I was certain that I was going just to make the technical arrangements, but as I arrived in Bucharest the BEITAR representative Schieber informed me that I shall board the first ship to Eretz Israel, and even did not let me go back to say farewell to my parents and friends. I never saw them again.

Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur 1935 I made Aliya to Eretz Israel with the Bulgarian ship Borges and my first stop was the Absorption Center in Bat Galim, near Haifa.

 

akk343b.jpg
BEITAR Sarata 1932

Sitting first row (from right): G. Glazer, A. Seltzer, W. Kaprishanski, S. Schachter. B. Krasnov
Sitting second row: A. Korol, S. Altstein, Z. Schachter, L. Schwarzman, S. Hasid
Standing third row: R. Gerstein, B. Altstein, Ch. Kapeishanski, R. Seltzer
Standing fourth row: Ch. Foigel, A. Wasserman, A. Ostrovski, A. Finkelstein, L. Galperin, S. Soybel, A. Goldenberg, M. Altman

 

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The BEITAR Branch in Sarata

by Zvi Schachter

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

In 1929 the BEITAR branch in Sarata was founded by the writer of these lines. Soon the “branch” found its way to the hearts of the young people in town and many of the Sarata Jews. A great number of young and adult Jews showed interest in the activity of the branch and joined the meetings. The parents of the BEITAR members, Jews healthy in body and soul, totally identified with their children, and Zionism was their aspiration and longing.

The Sarata Jews felt strangers among the local German population. They read correctly the menacing signs of what was about to come. They did not oppose Zionism and the number of parents who desired a national education for their children and sent them to the Zionist youth movements increased constantly.

Our educational aims were: educating a true pioneer–fighter; training toward building our country and defending it; acquiring extended knowledge in the geography and history of the country, the nation and Zionism; doing physical exercises and learning songs about the homeland and its landscapes.

During one of the festivities we performed a play that included songs about the Kineret [the Sea of Galilee] and Mount Hermon – “My Kineret” and “My Hermon.” Indeed, in Sarata Kineret and Hermon were ours, we grew up with them. Our young people, who were raised in a rural region, absorbed the smell of the field, the love of work and the aspiration to live a healthy life in our homeland.

Beginning in 1935, our activity met with difficulties, because of the attitude of the German residents, who refused to rent us a place for our activity. They would attack us with obscene words and with shouts “Jude!” and often, while we were working in the field, German boys would assemble nearby and with sticks in their hands would make the Hitler symbol, the swastika. Once, in 1937, as we were training in the yard of the Galperin family, the “Hitler–Jugend” [Hitler Youth] called the gendarmes with the pretext that we were “disturbing the peace” and bothering the residents. The BEITAR members were arrested and fined. The German population and the local authorities did everything to interfere with the activity of BEITAR and Gordonia, but the movements continued their national and educational activity with double energy.

 

The activity in the “Branch” [of the Movement]

We would assemble in rented apartments for our regular activity; the rent was paid by the savings of the members. Some time before the meeting, the “attendants” (members of the movement) would come to clean and make a fire to heat the place. I remember that once there was a leak of CO from the burning stove, and all members became sick with headaches and vomiting.

Since 6 January 1930, we celebrated every year the “Day of the Inauguration of the Flag.” We always had a rich program, which expressed the achievements of our branch and also enabled us to collect donations. Members of all age–groups would perform national songs in Hebrew. All Jews in town were invited, and came willingly to take part in the festivities.

Announcements and newspapers that arrived from the central offices, as well as organized assemblies helped to spread the ideology of BEITAR in town.

The BEITAR members participated in general public activity, such as working in the community library. Many members, in particular young girls, participated in the Drama Club; the income of the performances was devoted to charity. BEITAR took part in the collection campaigns for the National Funds and helped the Zionist delegates who visited Sarata. These delegates arose much interest and all were eager to hear their speeches. One of the most loved delegates was Shmuel Gaber, who came several times to help us; many residents fought among them for the honor to be his host.

The BEITAR activity was not limited to Sarata. Relationships were established with other branches in the neighborhood, as Tatarbonar and Artzyz and visits and common festivities took place. In 1937, the Tatarbonar BEITAR branch hosted their Sarata friends in a camp that they erected on the road between

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A BEITAR training group in Radautz with a pioneer woman from Sarata, R. Schoenfeld

 

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The Zev Jabotinski BEITAR farm.
First at right R. Schoenfeld, first at left S. Frank.

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the two settlements. The close relationship with the neighboring BEITAR branches increased the activity and brought a feeling of friendship like one big family. Jabotinski, during his visit in 1938 in Akkerman, expressed this feeling: “I have come to bring you greetings and wishes of success from the BEITAR branches around the world, including those that I have not visited. I am sure that every BEITAR member feels as you do: we are indeed one big family.” The Sarata branch helped preparing the visit and a large delegation participated in the welcoming party.

Our first and main worry was Aliya to Eretz Israel. Our members were trained at several training camps (Zastavna, Radautz, Gura Humorului etc.) aiming to develop the ability to adapt to the conditions in the country and prepare to the expected struggle. In 1930, Sarata BEITAR members began going to the training camps. The locked gates of the country prevented many from fulfilling their aim of Aliya; the number of “certificates” was limited, sometimes null, and the chances to obtain one were low.

The former BEITAR members and the revisionist circle helped us in our work. On their initiative and with their support, we organized a memorial assembly, in memory of Shlomo Ben Yosef on the day he was executed by hanging; we participated in the preparations for the elections to the Zionist congresses, we signed the “Petition” that requested from Britain to open the gates of the country etc. Among the activists were: Netzik Perlman, Milya Ohrbach and David Rabinowitz.

A few words about two BEITAR members who are not with us any more:

 

Leibl Galperin

He came from a religious–national home, joined the BEITAR activity with great devotion and was ready for any assignment that was given to him. He was responsible for the administrative part of the activity: he rented a locale and took care of its maintenance. He was full of life and loved jokes, but in his work at the BEITAR branch he was serious and always ready to meet any call and to extend help to his friends whenever needed. He lost his life tragically near Tashkent.

 

David Gerzberg

He went to the Hebrew High–School, was devoted to the national idea and was active in the movement branch with much energy and talent. He was an artist and for over a year his illustrations decorated the BEITAR educational publications. He could not make Aliya, and fell in battle against the Nazi enemy.

* *
*

The BEITAR members in our country

A strong will and national devotion produced the building and fighting youth. With a pioneer enthusiasm, the Sarata BEITAR members filed their mission of building and liberating the country. Wherever they were sent, they fulfilled their tasks with courage and talent. We shall mention some of them:

 

Yehezkel Ben–Hur (Altman)

In 1935 he arrived in Eretz Israel, by an illegal and dangerous way. He was part of the BEITAR “Road Company” [plugat hakvish] stationed on the Kastel Hill near Jerusalem. In December 1937, as Arabs were murdering Jews, Yehezkel reacted by shooting at a bus full of Arab passengers and was sentenced to death. The sentence was then changed to life imprisonment. In 1944 he was released from prison, and after he took part in capturing the city of Jaffa he joined the Jerusalem ETZEL brigade and was among the group that founded the settlement Ramat Razi'el in the “Jerusalem Corridor” and the youth village in the name of Johanna Jabotinski.

 

Yitzhak Gershkowitz

He was the first Sarata BEITAR member to make Aliya in 1931. He joined the recruiting companies in Rosh–Pina. For his active opposition to the “population census” he was sentenced to 30 days in the Akko prison. After that he relocated to Rechovot and continued, with the others, the struggle for the State. But he was arrested again and was sent for 11 months to the Mizra prison and then to Latrun. He died in 1976 in Netania.

 

Rivka Schoenfeld

She was in the Zastavna training camp and made Aliya in 1935. She reported for service at the Hakotel [the (wailing) wall] Regiment in Zikhron–Yakov and completed her service in 1937 in the plugat hakvish [“the Road Company”] near Jerusalem. She was a member of ETZEL, carried “instruments” (weapons) to the Old City in Jerusalem and participated in the transport to Jerusalem of the shofar that was blown on Yom Kippur at the Wall.

 

Israel Lublinski

Was at training camps in Zastavna and Radautz and made Aliya in 1939. As he arrived in the country he reported to the recruiting unit in Rishon LeZion and later in Mishmar HaYarden. While he served in Yesud Hama'ala he became ill with malaria. By the order of the Movement he joined the Jewish Brigade and fought on the Italy, Belgium and Holland fronts. In 1946 he was discharged from the army.


[Page 347]

The “Gordonia” in Sarata

by Elkana Altman

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

I grew up in the town Sarata, situated about 60 Km. from the county capital Akkerman. Most of the residents were German, but about 150 Jewish families lived among them. This fact left an imprint on the life in town. Like in other towns, the Jews were mostly merchants and provided the needs of the farmers in the neighborhood. A certain percent of the Jews were craftsmen; it should be mentioned that the relations between the Jews and Christians were good.

It is interesting that from the point of view of the political landscape there was almost no difference between the little town Sarata and the large cities – all the parties and movements present in Akkerman or Kishinev were active in Sarata as well: General Zionists, Revisionists, Tze'irei Zion [The Young People of Zion], Po'alei Zion etc. Naturally, since the population was small, the number of members could sometimes be counted on the fingers of two hands… The Gordonia movement was different, however – most of the youths in town were members. I myself joined the movement at the age of 13, and at 16 I already was the secretary of the local branch. When I was 18 I became the manager of the Sarata branch and I represented it in the main offices of the movement in Akkerman. The leaders of the Akkerman branch were: Baruch and Zev Kamin, Hirschfeld, Sheftel Zuckerman and others.

Our activity was well felt in town, whether by the various Zionist donation campaigns, or by the Hehalutz activity and other areas of activity, where the young people took a significant part. A special mention deserves the activity for Aliya to Eretz Israel, in particular the illegal Aliya. We invested great efforts to send on Aliya as many people as possible, and no wonder that so many young people (at that time they were young, that is…) from Sarata live in Israel.

 

akk347.jpg
The Theatre Club in Sarata

 

[Page 348]

The Holocaust

by Zvi Schächter

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

In June 1941 the Nazi invasion began. With the thunder of the cannons, the Jews of Sarata heard the bells of alarm – a warning, that it was time again to pick up their wandering sticks, the sticks that had been kept in a dark corner since 1905, when they fled to Sarata to escape from the riots in the Akkerman region.

The Jewish youth was recruited to the army in the war against the Nazis and the entire community was worried. The Sarata Jews were not bothered by illusions – they knew the Nazis and what they meant. They also knew the neighborhood and some of the villagers; they knew that those would be the first to rob and murder, in particular when it was clear that the Jew and his property were “free-for-all.” The Jews felt what was coming: hate was palpable in the air, and bad news was coming from the front, indicating the approaching storm.

The Sarata Jews began evacuating; thus began the great wandering on the road from Sarata to Akkerman and to the Dniester passes, on the way to Odessa and other regions in Russia. First they evacuated the women and children and the men remained. Long convoys moved day and night, wagons loaded with house objects, on top of which the women and children were sitting, their eyes expressing sadness and worry. The Soviet authorities used some of the wagons to transport materials and machines as well.

When darkness fell, I recognized on one of the wagons two women, their faces smeared with soot so that they would not be recognized. I tried to speak to them but they replied in Ukrainian. They were Hinka and Niora Gurewitz, well known in Sarata and Akkerman.

By mid-July the rest of the Jews, except for a very few, had left Sarata. Already in the morning of the evacuation day, the Jewish shops were broken into, robbed and destroyed.

 

The Siege of Odessa

When the approach of Hitler's soldiers became known, it was impossible to continue the journey eastward. Odessa was under siege and all roads were blocked. Not all the refugees succeeded in their flight toward the depth of Russia. The Nazis surrounded Odessa and blocked all roads. Very few managed to escape by way of boats. Yet Odessa became a temporary shelter for most of the Jewish residents of Southern Bessarabia.

Day and night the Nazis bombed the city. Many houses were destroyed. All night the skies of Odessa were lit by fire-bombs and burning buildings. Frightened Jews ran from place to place looking for shelter. The bombings of the Jewish neighborhoods continued sometimes for days on end – without having any military purpose, but just to kill Jews. Some of the Odessa Russians were influenced by the Nazi propaganda and were waiting impatiently for the day of riots and plunder. One day in August, a Russian announced that the Germans were killing Jews and robbing their property and the rumor spread through the entire city.

One night, while fleeing from the bombings, we passed near a Russian's house and noticed a shelter in the courtyard. We asked to enter and find some shelter, and were refused: “Impossible! Where there are Jews, many bombs are falling!”

Yet, most of the region's Jews stayed in Odessa, including the Sarata Jews, most of them outside, under the sky, in the public park or on the promenade at the sea. They would sit and sleep on bundles, sacs and suitcases – a deplorable sight of wanderers lacking a roof over their heads. Day and night the Nazi oppressor murderously bombed them from cannons and planes. Buildings collapsed, culture houses and synagogues were destroyed. Odessa was besieged by the Nazi army and there was fighting in the outskirts of town. The Odessa Jews joined in the battle against the enemy and helped with great devotion in the effort to push them back.

 

The Nazis in Odessa

In October 1941, the Nazi army entered Odessa, and the spilling of Jewish blood began.

[Page 349]

An order was issued, that all Odessa Jews must appear for registration and they will be given proper documents. When they did, they were immediately sent to the Delnik death camp. A month later, a similar order was issued, this time with the purpose to annihilate the Odessa Jewry. The heavy hand of the Nazi animal would not rest. The number of the Sarata Jews was reduced daily.

Several weeks later, mass-deportation began, to regions around Odessa: Atzikov, Berezovska, Bogdanovka. On their way, the deported people met groups of Jews taken to be murdered. Near the villages they saw Jews digging large pits – it was well-known for what purpose: the Nazis did not try to hide their crimes. From Berezovka they took 34,000 Jews and sent them to work in the Kolkhozes. Many of them did not reach their destination, dying on their way as a result of torture.

The murderous machine worked day and night – during the winter storms, in the snow, in clear summer days, in the eyes of the entire world. Jews were forced to dig their own graves and the Germans murdered them. The Nazis subjected them to torturing labor, and when they were at the end of their strength they killed them.

We do not know the details of the murder of many of the Sarata Jews, nor of their burial places. With awe we bow our heads over their unknown graves. May these lines serve as an eternal memory to all of them; they excelled in their national pride, devotion to their families and courage, in life and death.

 

Akk349.jpg
Memorial service for the Akkerman martyrs
Second from right: A Schachter from Sarata

 

[Page 350]

Yosef Kaprushanski and his wife could not stand the suffering of the Odessa Jews. He took his wagon and horses and they returned to Sarata. They were murdered near the Bulgarian village Kamtchik.
Israel and Devora Galperin and their son David - religious people – were killed near Odessa.
Tzipora (Feiga) Altman, Mania Altman and her baby-girl perished near Odessa.
Betty Tzirolnik, Zonia Galia and the daughter Anna perished near Odessa.
Nachman amd Polia Altman perished near Odessa.
The Hefetz family, the mother, Bosia and Mika. Bosia was a doctor. When he worked in the deportee camp, he saw a German soldier beating a Jewish boy and hitting him with his boots. This murderous act, the humiliation and subjugation enraged him. He approached the murderer and with a stroke of his fist threw him to the ground. As a punishment, the Nazis murdered his entire family in sight of all the deportees in camp.
Grisha Gertzberg and his wife, a rich merchant arrived to Odessa and was deported to Bogdanovka and from there to a deserted Kolkhoz, Achmatzotka. They were put in a pigsty and perished of hunger. Their two daughters survived.
Netzik and Chana Perlman and their two daughters were murdered in one of the camps near Odessa, after hard work, humiliation and hunger.
Yakov Kolpetzki and his family were murdered near Odessa.
Neshil Kolpetzki and his family were murdered near Odessa.
Yosef Kolpetzki was murdered near Odessa.
Yakov Glazer, his wife and his son David perished near Odessa.
Chana Kaproshanski and her family – the evil hand reached them in the Caucasus, where they were murdered.
Yosef Kornblit perished near Odessa.
Beril Streicher, his wife and the daughter Tzila Gerstein and her two daughters perished near Odessa.
Shimon Gershkowitz and his wife perished near Odessa.
Munia Gershkowitz and his wife perished near Odessa.
Avraham Peltz, his wife and his daughter were murdered.
David Rabinowitz, his wife and his daughter were murdered near Odessa.

 

On the way to Eretz Israel

In July the Nazis occupied Sarata. The villagers in the neighborhood raided the town and began robbing the Jewish houses, but not only the content of the houses. They took windows and doors and stones from the walls. The Altstein's house was entirely destroyed, not one stone remained in place – they destroyed even the foundation of the house. They also smashed the tombstones and used them for building purposes.

Moshe Leib Lublinski, a 70 years old Jew, could not stand the hardships of the road. Most of his life he worked among the German residents of Sarata and he did not imagine that his life was in danger. After the Nazis murdered him in the yard of his house, for several days they did not allow the neighbors to bury his remains.

Shmuel Lublinski, about 30 years old, son of Moshe Leib was cruelly murdered in one of the neighborhood villages. He was a pleasant young man, with a permanent smile on his face.

Tzila, a young woman who could not leave the place, was murdered in Sarata.

Zvi Halperin, a student at the Yeshiva, wearing his traditional clothing, was tortured and abused physically until he returned his soul in purity. He was murdered by his neighbor, a young Ukrainian.

Welwel Schwartz, an old man, perished in Sarata.

Fanny Steinberg, her daughter Miya Wakertchevski perished in Shaba, in a cruel, horrendous death.

Several families, learning after the war what had happened to their families, came to Sarata, but soon left the place on their way to Eretz Israel.

Many of the Sarata Jews perished – by suffering and torture they paid for being Jews. But their spirit was inherited by their descendants, who lived to realize their aspiration in life and their last wish: they established the State of Israel.

 

The fighters

From Odessa to Stalingrad, and from there to the occupation of Berlin, the Sarata young Jews fought the Nazis courageously and heroically until their surrender. Some of them, including invalids, returned from battle with medals, others fell in battle.

Eternal Glory for these heroes:

Lublinski Aizik; Lublinski Gedalyahu; Rieder Danny; Y. Tomashpolski; D. Gerzberg; M. Altman; D. Roizman; Motil Ostrovski; Yitzhak Streicher; Shlomo Bronfman; Avraham Finkelstein.


[Page 351]

Iziya's Story

by Zvi Schächter

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

In the month of July 1941, on the road stretching through yellow cornfields, a wagon pulled by horses was moving among a long line of wagons. The wagon had left Sarata early in the morning, on the journey to the bridge on the River Dniester. The sound of tractors pulling damaged cannons and other heavy weapons blended with the sound of the wheels of the loaded wagons. The weapons were taken from the approaching front and the human voyagers were escaping from the Bessarabia villages. Everywhere one could see and feel defeat. Even the tired horses pulled the wagons heavily. The convoy was progressing slowly. There were rumors that a day earlier the Germans had bombed the convoy and sent paratroopers for the purpose of sabotage.

On the wagon that came from Sarata, four people, pale and worried, were sitting. One of them, holding the reins, was David Seltzer; but it was not the usual joyful and happy David'l. His face was sad, and he was deep in thought. David'l was traveling to his family, his wife Zenia and his twins, Iziya and Dora. They were waiting for him in Odessa.

Two Russian soldiers standing on the road stopped the wagon, announcing: “No entry to Odessa.” They ordered him to turn around and take the road to Ukraine. David explained to the soldiers that he must go to Odessa where his wife and young children were waiting for him – to no avail. He decided to take another road and go to Odessa by way of Ovidiopol.

His son Iziya, one of the few who survived the murder pit in the camp, told us what had happened – a shocking testimony, drenched in the blood of tortured Jews, who even on the threshold of death preserved their dignity. -

In October 1941 the German army entered Odessa. An order was issued, that all Jews should register in a place called Fontenia and receive identity cards. Some 60,000 Jews came, including old people and children. They were taken to Delnik, a deserted army barracks, with some buildings and huts. On the way, the Gestapo soldiers beat them with sticks and rifle butts. Babies on their mothers' hands were crying bitterly. The Germans urged the helpless walking people and shot into the crowd without reason. Finally they reached Delnik and the Gestapo pushed the crowd – thousands of them, one on top of the other – into the mined buildings. Horrible cries were heard, there was no air to breathe. The murderers activated the mines in the huts and blew up the Jews inside. The air became filled with sounds of terrible explosions and foul smell of smoke and blood, alongside with the victims' cries of despair.

We – my father, my mother and my sister – approached the place; we were a step from certain death. But, for some reason the Nazis postponed the annihilation acts and we managed to return to the empty apartment and remained there.

In November 1941, the Gestapo issued an order that all remaining Jews in Odessa appear in the prison yard for work. My father heard that whoever went there was immediately murdered.

My father did not go. My parents spoke to a Ukrainian peasant, gave him a fur coat and my mother's golden jewels, and he promised to hide us. He led us to a hidden corner in the attic of his house. From there we could follow the movements of the Gestapo. We saw them go from house to house and cruelly pull out the Jews. Again an order was issued, for the Jews to appear at the Slobodka, and from there they were deported to the Atzikov, Berezovska and Bogdanovka Regions. Three weeks later, the peasant who had taken our jewels brought the Gestapo to our hiding place.

The Nazis sent us, together with many other Jews, to a deportee camp in Berezovka, 28 Km. from Odessa. The remaining Odessa Jews were crowded there, having been forced to walk during the cold winter days in the snow storms. They walked through snow and mud, crying and listening to their children's heartbreaking cries. They had no strength to continue, due to the hunger

[Page 352]

that they had suffered in Odesa, where many members of their loved ones had perished. Many were wounded, their clothes torn and blood-stained from the beatings. Many fell and couldn't get up and the Nazis kept on shooting and killing the weakened walkers.

From Berezovka they deported the Jews to the villages Gulievka, Sofievka and Zlatosteva, to the Kolkhozes – a short “rest.” But the Nazi Satan planed meticulously his destruction work and the murder-machine kept accurately the time-table.

We were sent to the Sofievka Kolkhoz, for agricultural work. My father brought to Sofievka some Sarata people who were in the neighborhood, Fishel and Tzirna Rieder and their daughter-in-law with her baby, as well as Yehoshua Hersh Apteker, his wife and their son Sioma. We worked on a Kolkhoz in Sofievka. Our family lived in the house of a Ukrainian peasant, a Baptist family, who despised the Nazis. The villagers told us about the horrors of the Nazis, the murders that they had seen with their own eyes, and the constant shooting of Jews. We knew that the fate of the Jews was decided and the murder was executed systematically. The region was populated by Germans, who collaborated with the Nazis, as did some of the Ukrainians. We were living in the Kolkhoz, alert to any noise, to the barking of a dog, to the sound of steps in the long winter nights. It was great suffering on our poor shoulders.

In the spring of 1942, in the dawn of a day in the month of May the Gestapo surrounded Sofievka. The “Aktzia” was approaching – they will soon begin searching the houses and taking the Jews. We the children and Mother hid in the haystack in the yard and our father remained in the house. The Nazis turned the house upside down looking for us, also shot to the haystack but did not hurt us. My father and others were taken outside the Kolkhoz; the pits were ready; but before the shooting they picked from among the Jews several craftsmen – and my father, Fishel, Rieder and Apteker said that they were craftsmen, harness makers. They were among the few who remained alive after this Aktzia; the others, several thousand, were killed.

When my father returned home, he heard constant sounds of shots. As night fell, we became afraid. Any noise worried and frightened us – any moment they could come. Long were our nights in Sofievka. The Nazis turned our day into night.

On a hot summer day, in August 1942, the Nazis again surrounded Sofievka. 3000 Jews had remained in the place. We were staying with the Baptist Ukrainian family. The woman told us that the Aktzia had begun. She asked us to leave with them my twin sister Dora, since the Nazis, they said, would not recognize her as Jewish. She dressed Dora in a typical Ukrainian dress. She was afraid to take me, since the Nazis checked the boys, by taking off their pants.

The Germans surrounded us. Early in the morning they took us all out of the house and beat us cruelly. They checked every corner of the house. They were experts in “Jew-hunting.” Some Jews who tried to escape were immediately shot. Iziya's fate had been the death march and other suffering; now he is with me and is well physically, but the wound in his heart is still bleeding for the loss of his loved ones in the Valley of Death.

Early in the morning we were taken outside the village, to a fenced place: myself, father and mother, Fishel and Tzirna Rieder, Riva Rieder and her baby, Yehoshua Hersh Apteker with his wife and their son Sioma. Near the place there were long ditches. Before that they had brought Jews who had been ordered to deepen the ditches. The Nazis ordered all of us to undress, either just for humiliation or with the added purpose to “kill and inherit” our clothes. Naked, humiliated and depressed we stood there, not understanding why they tortured us and shot at us. The sun sent its rays and lit the sad picture. The crying of the mothers was heard over the distance. I was standing and saw with my own eyes the massacre, I saw the Nazis and their evil faces full of satisfaction and pleasure, caused by their murderous acts.

As Riva came close to the pit, she asked for mercy for the baby in her hands. A Gestapo woman, in Nazi uniform, hit the head of the baby with the iron stick in her hand. A horrible cry came from the mouth of the mother, but she was immediately silenced with a bullet. Silence came over the place, but it was very soon broken: shots were heard again and the murder machine continued working. Yehosua Hersh Apteker, his wife and their son Sioma approached. On the edge of the pit Apteker embraced his wife and kissed her – love in front of murder. On the threshold of death they preserved their dignity. The bullets ended their lives. The 14-year-old son Sioma was shot and thrown into the pit while still alive.

It was near sunset and the sun sent its last rays. The murder continued. The number of Jews, naked, weak and suffering, which was about 3,000, decreased from minute to minute. They knew what to expect, every minute – many of them accepted reality; the majority was waiting in silence.

From the pit, desperate cries were heard, from mothers asking mercy for their children – what was their sin? But none of these cries could move the heart of the Nazi animals. I was standing some 5 meters from the edge of the pit and I saw Satan at the peak of evil. My father and mother were approaching. My mother was holding my hand and asking for mercy.

[Page 353]

Standing in front of a Gestapo platoon that was shooting with sadistic pleasure, she fought with the last of her strength, not to let me out of her hand. A shot silenced her awful cry, as she was protecting me with her body and pulling me with her toward the pit. I fell with her, heard another shot and lost my conscience. That was how my mother saved me from death.

Iziya's face was red and a tremor went through his body -.

When I woke up, I found myself on a pile of murdered people. Heartbreaking sighs were heard. Some of them were still dying and buried alive. I was covered with blood and hurting in my entire body. I was hit by a bullet in my leg, while I was thrown into the pit. With my last strength, after a great effort, I managed to climb out.

It was dawn. The first rays of the sun could be seen through the morning fog. I saw Sioma Apteker, wounded in his entire body; he could not climb out of the pit and together with Avrasha I helped him. Avrasha was a 14 year old boy from Odessa, who was also saved from the bullets fired at him in the pit. We managed to lift the wounded Sioma out of the pit.

As we came out, the German soldiers charged with keeping guard at the pit, fired at us. Sioma was hit again, fell and did not get up. Avrasha and I ran to the nearby grove of trees while the Nazis shot at us and bullets were flying all over. But we reached the grove and hid there. In the morning we saw through the trees how the Germans poured gasoline into the pit and burned the corpses.

For some 12 days Avrasha and I remained in the forest. We were afraid to go out; German peasants were living in the neighborhood and we were certain that they would report us to the Nazis. We were hungry and thirsty. The days were hot and we were dehydrated. We ate what we found on the ground – rotten potatoes, beets.

The Ukrainian peasant in whose house we had lived came out to the field and brought us a bottle of milk and some bread. He told us to be careful, since the region was full of Nazis and their helpers. He also told us that Jews deported from Romania were living in the Mostovia camp, and the Nazis were not shooting at them.

We were still hiding among the trees of the little grove of trees. The neighborhood was hostile, shots were heard often. We saw, from the distance, people digging pits. The region was full of mass-graves. Was our road again leading us toward the Nazis? Weak, covered with rags, tired and hungry we would walk during the nights and during daylight hide in the cornfield. How will we reach Mostovia?

Suddenly we saw a wagon loaded with green animal feed, making its way on the road to Mostovia. Without the wagon driver knowing, we climbed onto the wagon. But a passing German peasant observed what we had done, climbed the wagon as well and held us. Suddenly a motorcycle passed making great noise; the horses became frightened and began galloping. The wagon swung from side to side, we managed to free ourselves from the hold of the German and jumped from the wagon. With our last strength we ran toward the corn field and hid among the tall corn plants. Will we succeed? The German arrived to the closest village and alerted other villagers, who began searching the corn field. We held our breaths, several times they passed on their horses close to us, but they did not discover our hiding corner. So we were saved again from certain death.

We lived in constant fear. Death loomed over us. But salvation was still far away; we were pursued from every side and the hope that we would escape decreased; every road led to the hangman. Every day Jews were digging new graves; shots were heard in the area all the time. However, even young boys aged 12 years and swollen from hunger – the strong will of life pushed them forward looking for salvation. It was rumored that in the camp of the Romanian Jews they don't kill the prisoners, only kept them hungry.

Two more days passed, two hot days of hunger, thirst and exhaustion. At night we passed near a small village – just a few houses. We heard the dogs barking. Going out of the forest was dangerous, but we had no choice. We entered the cellar of one of the houses; there we found cheese and sour milk, we ate and drank. But our systems were not strong enough to process the food, and as we left we were hit by diarrhea. Who knows whether we will have enough strength to overcome our many troubles? Still, we continued walking toward Mostovia – at night on the road and during the day through side roads and groves.

About half a kilometer before Mostovia we saw again Germans shooting Jews; later we learned that gypsies were also among those shot. We saw the bloodthirsty Nazis in their uniforms and heard the horrible cries of the victims – I remembered my beloved and my blood was boiling in my veins.

When we approached Mostovia, we met a Russian peasant who told us to be careful since our lives were in danger.

Iziya continued his story. He was breathing heavily as if he was carrying a heavy load on his shoulders -.

[Page 354]

While we were talking with the Russian peasant, a Romanian Gendarme appeared and asked in Romanian: “Who are you?” I replied in Romanian. Avrasha did not know Romanian. The Gendarme took us on his wagon to his commander in Mostovia, who was guarding the Jewish deportees' camp. The Commander asked us where we came from. I told him that my parents were murdered and we escaped from the death pit, and added: “We are in your hands, do with us as you see fit.” The Commander asked “What will happen if I shoot you?” and added: “Don't be afraid, here you will receive clothes and food and you will not be harmed.”

The Gendarme took us into the kitchen and gave us food and clothes and army boots. He told us that they have an order to shoot Jews who came from Russia and Bessarabia, but they will not harm us. In the evening, the head of the Romanian Jews' Committee in the camp came and told us that we have been saved. We were included in the camp of the Romanian Jews – about 600 Jews – and sent to work in the kitchen. We stayed there about seven months.

In 1943, an order came from the Romanian Red Cross to set us free. With the help of the Red Cross and under its protection we went to Sofievka to take our sister who was still living with the Ukrainian peasant family. When the Baptist peasant woman saw me – knowing what had happened at the Aktzia – she was frightened, thinking that I had risen from my grave. I took Dora and returned to Mostovia and the Red Cross transferred us, together with many other children, to Tiraspol. There, 1200 children were put in quarantine, to avoid spreading of diseases. They cut our hair, gave us new clothes and by the end of 1943 we were sent to the city Iasi (Yassy).

The Yassy Jews welcomed us warmly. When the front came close we were transferred to other towns in Romania. Everywhere, the local Jews took care of us and we lived with Jewish families. Later we were taken to Bucharest and waited for the Russian occupation. The Russians took the Russian children and sent them to Donbass, where there was a coal mine. I worked in a brick factory, but I didn't find rest in Donbass; I wanted to find a relative or an acquaintance and relate what my eyes had seen, about the bitter end of my parents and the thousands of Jews whose graves were scattered throughout the fields of Transnistria. I left Donbass and went for a few days to Sarata. I found there a few Jewish families who were about to leave the destroyed town.

I went to Odessa, which was again in the hands of the Soviets. I informed the authorities about the Ukrainian who had informed the Nazis about us. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

When Iziya mentioned the Ukrainian, his eyed sparkled and his breathing became heavy – his whole personality said “revenge!” -

I continued my journey and came to Kishinev.

Iziya drank some water and stopped talking for a short minute. The horrors rose again before his eyes, sweat covered his face. How great the will of life, the courage and the power of struggle for existence of a young Jewish boy. At the table Iziya's son was sitting, looking like his grandmother who had remained there. This will not happen to him; he is living now in his own country.

 

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