[English page 3]
After having overcome serious difficulties in obtaining the material for the book which contains essays, short stories, descriptions of manners of life, reminiscences, personalities, various documents, testimonies of survivors of the holocaust, photographs, necrologies, lists of the deceased and so on, and after having classified the material edited and prepared it for the printing-press, we are presenting the book to our townsmen and to all those who are interested in these events.
The object of the book, as of all the other memorial books is as follows:
We tried to do our best, however, and the readers of the book have to take into account that the participants in this book were not professional writers but ordinary people to whom we had appealed and asked them to write. We had to accept what they had written and how it was written, except of corrections of language and style.
Likewise it must be clear that the book is not "clean" of errors, mistakes or repetitions in content, as we did not think it proper to delete the few words or passages, when someone mentioned a personality or some event about whom or about which someone else had already written. As for the English section of the book, reluctantly we had to minimize the quantity and publish only a small part of the contents of the book, as it was practically impossible to enlarge the volume apart from the additional cost involved in publishing, which we could not afford.
In conclusion, we express our thanks to all those who participated or extended help to issue the book, either by their contribution in writing or by material help.
May all of them be blessed!
Our friends, members of the Czortkow Association of New York deserve special thanks for their share in the book, as their financial contribution to the Gmiluth Chessed Fund which was ultimately used for the publication of the book, constituted a considerable par of the cost of publication.
May this book be a Monument for the martyrs of our town.
(Czortkow Book Committee)
We the members of the Rabbi David Moses Friedman Society wish to express our deep felt sorrow, pain, and sadness of the tragic happenings to our dearest and closest from the city of Czortkow.
We will never forget what the German, Polish, and Ukrainian murderers did to our families. We will always remember that the whole Christian world looked on apathetically, while our brethren were being massacred and gassed.
We cry out to the Almighty in our ancient prayer: "God, pour out thy wrath upon the nations who have shed the blood of our Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, and Brothers".
On behalf of
Congregation Rabbi David Moses Friedman
Society of Czortkow
Sol Stoeckel Financial Secretary
by Mordechai Silberg
Topography of the Town
On the 17th of September, 1939, the Red Army entered Czortkow. The Jewish population ,breathed freely, because they were saved from Nazi occupation. The Jewish community, Which numbered about ten thousand, continued to live in relative quietness up to the outbreak of the German-Soviet war on the 22nd of June, 1911.
On the 6th of July, 1911 the Germans invaded Czortkow. Although the Soviet authorities had made it possible for anyone to leave town, and join the retreating Red Army, only ,a few hundred Jews, mostly young men, seized the opportunity and escaped to Soviet Russia.
The effect of the virulent campaign conducted for years by the Nazis against the Jews and the Soviets, by means of Ukrainian agents and spies, gave its signs already in the first days of the occupation.The Nazis reaped the fruit of the hate they had sown, as even before they had set foot in the Ukrainian village the peasants broke into the houses of their Jewish neighbors, murdering them together with their wives and children, and looted their property.
An atmosphere of an eve-of-pogrom panic was felt in the town. The Ukrainians circulated all kinds of fantastic accusations against theJews, and after exciting feelings for several days, they attacked the Jewish inhabitants and took them to forced labor, where several hundred People Perished as a result of brutal treatment and lust for murder.
It was the Ukrainian Police which perpetrated the most terrible attacks, brutalities and mass murder of the Jews of Czortkow and its environment.
The first edict issued by the Nazis ordered every Jew to wear on his arm the mark of disgrace the "Star of David" on it. In addition, the Jews were ordered to provide daily several hundred workers for forced Labor, and to fulfill all the demands of the local Nazi authorities.
After a brief period of time, several persons joined to set up the "Judenrat" of Czortkow. The Judenrat numbered 12 people among whom were advocate Dr. Kruh. Israel Langerman, Bertsie Steiger,Feivish Lebhard and Israel Mordechai Treiner.
Among the first demands of the Nazis from the Judenrat was a list of those in the liberal professions. according to which all theteachers as well as lawyers were arrested, among whom were also members of the Judenrat, together about two hundred people. They were brought to the "black forest" about five km from Czortkow, where all of them were shot and buried in prepared graves.
On the 20th of August 1941 a "flying machine arrived in Czortkow and at once started snatching Jews in the streets, who were also brought to the "black forest" and murdered their.
After the liquidation of the Judenrat in the first composition, the Nazis appointed a new one, headed by Dr. Ebner. Among other members of this Judenrat were Hertz Buchsbaum, Yankel Kohn, Leib Winter, David Stoecker, Dr. Goldstein, Dr. Kimmelman and Dr. Feldman.
There is no doubt that the Judenrat was not established in orderto protect the Jews. Its single task was to serve as an agent of communication between the Germans and the Jewish population. Sinceno Jew was allowed to enter a German office in order to arrangesomething, the only official procedure left open to the Jews was the Judenrat.
On the other hand, the Judenrat served also as the executive agency of the Nazi authorities, being forced meticulously to carry out their orders. This in itself was a sufficient cause for the lack of confidence on the part of the Jewish population which turned later into hostility towards the institute and its "personages".
The Judenrat emptied the Jewish population of their property, in order to fulfill the demands of the Nazis.The Judenrat never tried to make use of the large sums and means at its disposal, to do something in order to ease the terrible situation of the Jews in Czortkow. One must, however, bear in mind that the Judenrat was in a precarious position. Its members were unable to meet all the demands of the Nazis. Once and again strict measures were taken by the Judenrat against the Jewish population by means of the Jewish Police.
As is known, a Jewish Police Force existed which was at the disposal of the Judenrat.The Jewish Police Force, "Ordnungs-Dienst" (Order-Service) in German, consisted of 20 men headed by the Officer Hungar of the municipality. These Order-Service received orders from the Judenrat, and carried out with loyalty and strictness all the requirements, like collection of taxes, the confiscation of valuables, furniture; utensils and so on, in order to complete the imposed quotas.
The job of the members of the "Order-Service" was vile and not easy., However, despite the fact that in some cases one policeman or another extended help in time of distress, or showed a kind attitude, nevertheless, generally, the members of the "Order-Service" fulfilled their terrible duty obediently.
Both the Judenrat and the Order Servicemennever shrank back from helping in snatching Jew's to be sent to labor camps, which were in fact death camps. More than once bitter dispute broke out between members of the Order-Service and the rest of the Jewish population.
It was imposed on the town daily to provide hundred or twohundred workers. The work was hard,and while working the workerswere cruelly beaten, and many were shot dead. however, on the nextday the same number of Jews were sent to work as if nothing happened.
Despite the incessant demands of the Nazi authorities. from the Judenrat for the supply of valuables as well as large sums of money,it never happened that the Judenrat did not meet a demand, to the last penny. The order-servicemen forcibly confiscated m the Jewish houses whatever they could, and delivered the quota m full punctually.
More serious was the problem of providing the quotas of workers, ever since it became clear that the so-called labor camps nearKamionka, Tarnopol and Lwow were death camps. The Nazis based their continual demand for new workers on the ground that they hadto release the former ones. The fad, however, was that not a single man of those sent to a "labor camp" ever returned to the ghetto.
Most of the men in the camps starved either of hunger or of cold, or were killed by the Ukrainian police which helped the Gestapo inthe extermination of the Jews. In a short period of time, more than two thousand Jews perished in the camps.
All the Jedenrat faultlessly fulfilled their assignment, however, the Judenrat of Czortkov exceeded all others, especially in itschairman, Dr. Ebner. This man managed his treacherous activitiesmercilessly, with disgusting German punctuality, and the Jewishpopulation was full of powerless anger against the chairman of the Judenrat who served with so much brutality his Nazi masters.
I emphatically declare that some of the neighbors of the Judenrat became rich and benefited from special privileges granted to them at the expense of the Jewish population which was doomed to extermination. No Jewof the town ever contacted them, and the Jewishmasses were keeping distant from them as if they were lepers. However, the members of the Judenrat themselves did everything possibleto keep away from the Jewish community , trusting to succeed in this way to set up a barrierbetween those who were doomed to die, and between those who might be lucky to save their lives, as well as those of their families. However, they deceived themselves, as none of the Judenrat people was saved, and their fate was like that of the other Jews, with the only one difference, that their names will remain for ever under a dreadful disgrace. At the last "Action" of extermination of the Ghetto, the fate of the Jewish police was the same as that of all other Jews. The Gestapo had brought the Jewish police together with other people into the railway carriages and dispatched them to the death-camps at Belzec.
As far as the Germans are concerned. they gave us to understand that we were to doomed to destructionand that it was only a matter of the time, which was to be fixed by the authorities in Berlin. They used to hint to dates, which were delayed and changed again and again, so that our existence turned into, an infinite wait for death.
I shall try to describe the conditions we lived in. If it is at all proper to to be called life.
Early in April 1942 the Germans began to carry into effect their satanic plan for a systematic extermination of the Jews in the surroundings of Czortkow. At the same time the Nazis established a ghetto, in Czortkow. which included the streetsRzeznicka., Skladowa, Targowa, Lazienna, Podolska and Szkolna.
All the Jewish houses were marked with a large "Star of David". Leaving the ghetto without permitinvolved capital punishment. Snatching and shooting as well as surprise-"Actions" in the ghetto area occurred often.
From time to time large contributions of money were imposed,which were to be delivered in a few hours time. Time and again theNazis used to take away from the Jews silver-cutlery, clothes, booksand money. From time to time they used to send large numbers of men to camps and women to work in the neighboring estates.
The first "Action" took place in the days of 26-27 of August, 1942. About a thousand Nazis and Ukrainian police attacked the ghettoat night and took out of the houses about two thousand Jews and sent them away, by train, into the gas chambers at Belzec. About fivehundred sick and aged Jews as well as children were murdered onthe spot.
The detained were divided in groups and to each of them a member of the Judenrat and two Jewish policemen were appointed to be responsible for the respective group. Although both the Judenrat and the Jewish police were personally spared in the first "Action", nevertheless, some of their relatives were among those sent to the death-camp. At the "registration area" near the Bazaar the Germans made a selection and exempted about two hundred Jews who were needed to carry out their indispensable work.
After the first "Action" the ghetto was reduced. Szkolna and Podolska Streets were excluded. and the ghetto comprised only the streets near the river Seret like Skladowa and Rzeznicka.
On the 5th of October 1942 the Gestapo ordered the Judenrat to provide 500 Jews. Both the Judenrat and the Jewish police tried to carry out the order and started snatching Jews and bring them to the"registration area". However, they failed to fill the quota imposed on them.The Gestapo broke into the ghetto and took away by force 500 Jews and brought them to the train. With this group the Gestapo pushed into the carriage 12 Jewish policemen, who succeeded, however, to save themselves by breaking a wall of the carriage and deserting.
It is worth mentioning that in the first "Action" two girls jumped out of the window of the train and thus escaped death. These were the daughters of Mr. Palik (the pharmacist) and Mr. Bercowicz.
The "Action" on larger or smaller scales, continued all the time. However, we got wind of the German decision to liquidate all the Jewish population by January, 1943. The liquidation did not, however, take place at the mentioned date.
In the course of time a large part of the population voluntarily moved to the labor camps which had been established in the big farms at Swidowa, Jagielnica, and Tluste. About a thousand Jews arranged themselves in relatively favorable conditions. they had a self-management : the work was very hard: they settled in more or less good huts and were able to acquire foodstuffs as desired. There were whole families who settled on those farms.
The Nazis organized a special camp for artisans as well as a camp called Store-Camp. At both places about a thousand Jews, both men and women, worked.
By June 1943, the Nazis decided finally to liquidate Galician Jewry. The snatching of Jews did not stop even for one day, and all of them were brought to death camps. Many were shot on the spot.
By August 1943, Czortkow was declared as "Judenrein". When the Nazis came across a Jew he was instantly murdered. A small number of Jews succeeded to find a hiding place at their Christian friends and were saved. However, many others were unlucky, since many of the Christian "friends" who had agreed to hide their Jewish friends betrayed them and delivered them to the Gestapo, who liquidated them.
In the surroundings of Czortkow only one camp remained, the farm of Lizowce near Tluste. Out of several thousand Jews in all the farms, we remained only three to four hundred people. The German manager of the farm maltreated us, and anyone who so desired was allowed to attack us, by day or by night. In such conditions we lived in this farm for several months! We used to sleep at various places, mostly in the forest, sometimes in the open field, for fear of assailants and murderers. For weeks and for months we did not dare to undress. The most of us fell sick of typhus and other diseases. The number of people dwindled day by day.Some fell down while walking and died of hunger of illness or of exhaustion. Many perished by the hands of their neighboring peasants who used to attack groups of Jews, murdering them and looting the rest of their belongings. Many fell by the bloodthirsty Ukrainian police who used from time to time to attack the camps murder the Jews and shoot at the flying ones like hunters at wild beasts.
Such a horrible life continued up to March 1944. At that time we noticed that the Germans were retreating.In the last days before the final retreat they attacked our camp every night and killed manyof us.
The few of us who were saved and remained alive fled to Tluste, and on the end of March 1944 we were freed by the Red Army.
he task of exterminating the Jews in our region had been imposed on special roups of the Gestapo. We also suffered very much from our neighbors, the Poles nd the Ukrainians. If the relations of the non-Jewish population were better, ar more Jews could have been saved remain alive.
Out of nearly ten thousand Jews which Czortkow numbered before World War II.
only about one hundred remained alive.
Death Camps in the Region of Czortkow
It is Well-known that the Germans had planned the final extermination of the Jewish population The perpetrators adapted the plan to the conditions of the political situation. The Germans used all sorts of lies, cunning and fraud, and in this way succeeded to mislead the Jews, who in most cases placed confidence in their promises. It did not cross anybody's mind that there was a German tendency to annihilate the Jewish people. It became clear, however, that many of the commanders, Gestapo people, S.S. and policemen had studied in specially arranged courses, before entering upon the "task". However, form the moment they started in these "activities", they willingly, even devotedly perpetrated the killing and murder of the Jewish inhabitants.
The majority of the Jewish population perished in the camps. Some of these were "labor-camps", where many died of exhausting labor, inhuman conditions, diseases and cruelties of the guards and the policemen.However, these camps had not been planned, theoretically, if practically, to be death camps. Labor-camps of this kind were the farms of the Polish nobles, as well as the artisans-camps of Thomanek. Death-camps were set up at Kamionka, Hloboczek near Skalat, in Tarnopol and in Lemberg. More than two thousand Jews of Czortkow perished in the gas chambers of Belzec.
"Office" which contained a Jewish Department managed by three officials: Dr. Bloch, Lazar Katz, and Dudik Sternberg. They drew up lists of Jews able to work, who received identity cards for Jews, with photos and numbers. This card emphasized that the bearer of it was registered at the Labour-Office and was at its disposal at any time. At the end of the card was a remark: "Snatching in the street of the bearer of this card - prohibited". However, this remark was only to lead the bearer astray and to stupefy his vigilance to sense danger.
The snatching in the streets continued incessantly, and more and more cruelly.
After an announcement by the Germans that every Jew must have his identity
card, which gave him the right to work, stamped by the Gestapo, all those who
presented themselves were detained and sent to a death camp. Only a small
number of Jews obtained the so much hoped for stamp of the Gestapo. However, in
cases of snatching of Jews for a transport into a death camp, no difference was
made every Jew was condemned to death.
by Zonka Berkowitz (Pollak)
Translated by Michael Lande, Advocate
Wednesday the night of August 26, 1942.
One can hear the first shots. crushing of window-panes, shattered doors, lamentation, weeping. screams. there is a feeling of a cruel slaughter outside. The "action" started. Midnight; a beautiful and clear August night. with the moonshine lighting up the rooms, so nice around, and in such a night youhear cries of innocent children, of mothers and men, shaking the air. Only a few streets separate us from the "Aryan" side, where evrybody sleeps freely in his bed.
My ten-year old sister prays to God that she may. be saved and stay alive, and we both. my mother and myself, while watching her, feel that our blood stands still in our veins.
At 2:30 in the morning the "SCHUPOS" (Schutzpolizei) with whips in their hands, having the merciless faces of murderers, are driving us out from our house. We join other Jews, and we are assembled on the square near the "Bristol". where the horse-cars used to stay. And here, watching the scenes of children, being shot to death in their mothers' hands and thrown from balconies. I recall the horrible stories from barbarian times: but even these atrocities are pale as compared with the cruelties and savagery before my eyes.
Wherever I looked around, familiar faces. We are arranged in formations of "sixes", and so we go to the prison yard where there are already several hundred more people gathered. The prison gates are locked and here we have to stay until the following day.
Our faces reflect silent despair. People ask each other about the circumstances of their arrest, and we are wondering what's going to happen next.. Groups are formed, friends look for each other; there are many wounded people with bloody injuries from having been beaten. Children without parents, separated families.
It begins to dawn, and with the appearance of the sun, the heat grows. There is no water, and we quench our thirst with rainwater in the nearby barrels. Hours are passing with the heat becoming unbearale. We are like animals destined for slaughter and kept in a cage; but for thoes animals they spare neither water nor food. Everybody is hungry and forgets even the feeling of shame, making his ordure in public.
At 1:30 p.m. we hear the opening of the gate and we are ordered to step out. Everybody is sticking to the corners, to avoid bing the first, but after a while, we give up and all of us go out. We are now ordered in ten-men formations and escorted from all sides by SCHUPOS, Gendarmes and Jewish militia.
Mickiewitz Street is full of people, as in the days of big parades. We deliver the onlookers a wonderful show. theya re the happy ones and privileged to stay alive.
We are sure we will be taken to the forest, where we can expect to be shot, but we are directed to the railroad station. It seems to me that I never walked carefree and without fear through these streets. The feeling of thirst grows more intense. My lips are dry and the tongue sticks to the palate. It is a terrible feeling. People get rid of their belongings to ease their way.
On the railroad station we are spit up in groups of 120 and more and packed off into freight cars. The doors of the cars are shut. It is dark and tense, impossible to stretch out your arms, absolutely no air to breathe. Everybody strangles and chokes and you feel as if a rope were tied around your neck and such a terrible heat as if fire had been set under the car.
About ten people from the group are placed near the door; whoever has hairpins, nails, fasteners, starts to bore between the boards to get a little bit of air. People behind us are in much worse plight. The take off their clothes and look as if obsessed by bestiality and madness. They are hawking, choking and driven into the utmost despair.
I cannot recall for how long we are waiting of after how many hours the train starts. But when after a long waiting, the train is in motion. a sigh of relief emanates from the mouths of those who are still alive. The hope tht now more air will find its way inot the carriage, or it will start raining and a few drops will penetrate through the clefts. But none of these miracles happen.
It occurs to, me that we are making our way towards Trarnopol. I noticed that in our carriage there is more and more free space. People die and we are seated on their dead bodies. The remaining are raving and wild, mad from suffereing, quarrels between themselves aboug water.; mothers hadn thier children urine to still their thirst.
At night we are arriving at a station where the train stops for some time. We can hear a conversation in Russian. We wonder wht they will do next. A short ray of hope comes to our hearts. maybe we shall stay here to work. We hear many sounds, like that of a detachment of carriages, opening of doors, orders to undress, lamentations; we do not know where from, and whether there are more trains. Our train is driven back, and in our car there are still about 20 people alive. I remember, my mother with a very poor voice asking us to easoe our suffering and to break open a small window which if discoverd would not make any difference for us. being anyway condemned to death.
All of a sudden it becomes light in ourcar and from this moment I can hardly remember,how my mother insisted that I should jump out.I do not hesitate at all, because the motion of the train does not frighten me when I look on the dead bodies around me.
And then I recall two countrymen leaning over me and insisting that I should run away, but all I wanted was to drink, drink,drink.
I throw myself in a nearby pond and I can hardly quench my thirst, which burns my stomach. I am pouring handfuls of water with those hands which had lifted a short while ago dead bodies in the carriage.
Within a short distance from me, I notice a body of a woman from our car. She certainly has been shot to death by the Germans, who were on gurad on the roof of the train. Soon I am discovered by a German, who escorts me to the nearby Police Station, but later I am escorted to the Rawa-Rusksa Prison and put into cell No. 12. The date is the 28th of August 1942. Friday.
Luckily, I arrive at the prison soon after it has been emptied of a big transport of Jews, and I find out that in this transport was Zosha Feldman form Czortkow, the daughter of Advocate Feldman.
There are two days more left for the next transport, and they were to be decisisve for my destiny. Maybe, on account of my young age, the watchman decided to leave me alive and kept me in the prison. for ten weeks. Eventually, though their representation with the Judenrat, I am in a legal way directed to the Ghetto.
Later on, my father delegates to the Ghetto a man with "Aryan" papers, and he takes me to the ghetto in Buczacz. where I stay with my father and brother until "liquidation".
After the "liquidation" I am living in the camps in the region of Jagielnica (Marylowka,Shulthanowka,Trawna) until January 1944. The last two months before the liberation we were hiding in the fields and in the forest.
Fragments of the deportation of Jews from Czortkow to the camp in Belzec, on the night of the 26th of August1942 as deseribed by ZONKA BERKOWICZ, now married POLLAK. residing in New York. 1547 39th St. Brooklyn. N.Y. USA.
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