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[Column 689]

From the Sad Days

 

[Columns 693-706 Yiddish] [Columns 459-468 Hebrew]

The Life and Destruction of the Jews in Dubno

by Moshe Weisberg

Translated by Pamela Russ

[ ] translator's comment
( ) remark in original text

The regional city of Dubno lies near the river Ikva, at the crossroad of Kiev–Rovno and Brody–Lemberg [Lwow/Lvov/Lviv today], an old city that already exists for hundreds of years. Until the outbreak of the German–Soviet war, life was busy there in all areas. There were around 12,000 Jews, 60 percent of the general population. In 1941, in the beginning of the Nazi regime in Dubno, there were 13,000 Jews there.

On June 25, 1941, the Nazi thugs invaded Dubno. A terrible fear befell the Jews. The Jewish stores were looted by the Germans and the local Ukrainian residents. Looting of Jewish private properties also began, as well as the beating of Jews, coercing them into labor, and persecution in general. The bread ration for Jews was decreased to 100 grams daily. A public order was made that Jews must wear a white band 15 centimeters wide, with a blue Star of David. On October 17, 1941, the white bands were changed to yellow patches of eight centimeters in diameter, which they had to wear on the left side of the chest and on the right side of the back. The Judenrat [Jewish council] that was created, with magistrate Konrad Tobenfeler at the head, had to bring in all kinds of monies every day, and they also demanded contributions, such as for example, clothing, linen, furniture, dishes, instruments, and so on.

On the 22nd of July, a month after the Germans invaded, the first killing riot of the Jews took place. It was a Tuesday afternoon. Some trucks with SS men arrived in Dubno and mobilized the help of the Ukrainian militia, and they began the first murder–Aktzia [action]. The Ukrainians captured 150 men. And from the house where I was (Zabrama 5), they herded out all the men. Me and another three (Weisboim Leizer, Bortnik Mikhel, and Hersh) managed to hide. The Jews that were captured were herded together at the post office where the SS murderers were already waiting.

[Column 694]

They threw themselves onto the Jews and beat them mercilessly. Seventy men were returned home and eighty others were stuffed into trucks and taken to the Jewish cemetery (I lived not far from there). Ditches were already prepared there. The [Jews] were ordered to undress naked. They were beaten again, their gold teeth were ripped out, and then finally, the Jews were set out in rows by the ditches, and then shot. The following day, my Ukrainian neighbor Czerniakow brought all kinds of pictures, documents, eyeglasses, and other such things that he found in the cemetery near the ditches.

In mid–August, the Nazi military powers ordered the Dubno Jews to give in all their gold, silver, and other valuable possessions. This order was carried out with exceptional strictness.

The second Aktzia took place on August 21, 1941, only for the men. It was a Thursday, and all kinds of rumors circulated, and soon, an exceptional panic as well. Jews began fleeing to their homes. Ukrainian police appeared in the streets. They were armed with pistols, steel bars, sticks, and all kinds of killing devices. The eyes and part of the faces of many of the Ukrainians were covered with black masks. The local Ukrainians tried to disguise themselves in front of the Jews who knew them well as former friends in school, in the military, from other social activities, and from other friendly situations … As wild animals, they attacked the Jewish streets, courtyards and houses, searching through cellars and attics. They dragged out elderly and young men from all kinds of hiding places. They beat and wounded and wildly chased the defenseless Jews.

That day, I was in the Judenrat. During that bloody day, the murderers came in about twenty times and searched for the hidden officials.

[Column 695]

Out of 42 officials, 37 were seized. Some managed to save themselves as they locked themselves in a disguised, small house on the side, where I was as well. From that small house, we saw the market place where the Jews were herded together and were taken in groups to the city prison. In the yard and in the halls of the prison, Ukrainian police were set out in two rows, armed with sticks and iron bars. Each Jew had to pass through the two rows and was covered in blood after being beaten. The German murderers sat in a room where they took away all personal belongings from each of the Jews and sentenced almost each person to his death. Only few were freed. Those sent to their deaths were driven to the Jewish cemetery, where everything else was taken from them and they were stripped naked and shot. This Aktzia lasted for ten hours, until seven in the evening. A thousand Jewish men died at that time.

From that day on, for about half a year, there was no greater Aktzia in Dubno. There were only incidents where individual Jews or smaller groups were shot, where they [the Germans] contrived all kinds of lies. The Jews were working in various urban and military forced labor. As such, they [the Germans] diminished their morale, beat, mocked, and forced them into the most difficult labor. The greater part of the Jewish population became starved out skeletons, drained in morale, physical and psychological – to the greatest degree. The Jews comforted themselves with all kinds of made–up rumors. But confusion grew every day, primarily because of the invasion of the Nazi army on all fronts. Thousands of Soviet prisoners were brought into the city. They were tortured with beatings and starvation, no less than were the Jews. In the winter months of 1942 alone, in Rovno and Dubno 55,000 Russian war prisoners died.

The Germans also systematically destroyed the Jews. They always ordered the Judenrat to hand over the Jewish possessions and goods. The demands were enormous, and it was difficult to satisfy them.

[Column 696]

Confusion grew from day to day. More confusion was caused by the different news about the devastation that circulated from the surrounding, of neighboring cities and towns. From Rovno, for instance, tragic news was received, that on the 10th and 11th of November 1941, 18,000 Jews were murdered, and they were buried in nine ditches in the Sosenkas [lit: pine trees] (a small forest, five kilometers behind Rovno). Similar news also came from other Volhynian cities.

On the 5th and 23rd of March, two thorough Aktzias took place, for which they had to create a ghetto. For these Aktzias, the Germans mobilized thousands of wagons from the surrounding Ukrainian and Polish villages. Hundreds of Ukrainian policemen threw into the wagons, from all the Jewish homes, the best possessions and goods, furniture, things, and all kinds of products. All they left behind were shabby things and broken dishes. For the Ukrainian people, this was a great opportunity to rob from the Jews. The Poles, not to be left behind, also took advantage of this.

On April 2, 1942, the first day of Passover, a ghetto for the Dubno Jews was set up. By that time, there were ghettos already in most of the Volhynia cities. But it was different in the eastern Ukrainian regions. There was already no sign of any Jews there. The small, dirty Sholom Aleichem Street was designated as the ghetto in Dubno. Several other small, neighboring muddy streets that were on the shore of the Ikva River, led to the borders of the ghetto. The place was walled in with a tall wooden wall and with barbed wire. Within one day, all the Jews of the city had to move there. For the meager eleven thousand Jews who were still living in Dubno at the time, this place was too small, and the crampedness was intolerable. All of these terrible conditions caused all kinds of epidemics.

Every morning, each day, designated groups would be marched to work,

[Column 697]

and in the same order, return at night. Not one single Jew was permitted to be seen outside of the ghetto. Often, the German or Ukrainian gendarmes would conduct searches of the groups that returned to the ghetto. For discovering a few deca [small weight] of butter or other foods, the person would be murderously beaten and then arrested. This situation, for instance, happened to my friend Klara Tenenboim. She was a horticulturalist, and worked as a gardener for the regional commissariat. Once, when her group returned from work, suddenly, the police commandant Mr. Popka and some Ukrainian police detained the group and conducted an investigation. They found ten deca butter on Klara. Mr. Popka beat her murderously, stomped on her with his feet, and then took her and some other girls to the police department. There he searched them again, and then when he found Tenenboim's admission certificate to the university, he ripped it up cruelly, screaming: “Jews are not permitted to have any education!” For the little bit of fat that he found, he sent the girl to be shot. Thanks to the great efforts that the regional commissioner, for whom she worked, put forth for her, she was able to save herself from death. And more so, Klara Tenenboim survived the Nazi regime and is now in Vienna.

Life in the ghetto was without hope, filled with an intense waiting for some sort of change. And a change did come, but an extremely tragic one. In mid–May 1942, six weeks after setting up the ghetto, the Germans divided the ghetto into two parts. One section was for men who were skilled laborers who received special permits, and the second section was designated for the men who were not skilled. The number of work permits that were handed out was limited. But in fact, those who received the work permits were not only those who were skilled but also those who had excellent “connections” or who paid handsomely for those papers. I myself was hired as a technical builder in the regional commission, and thanks to that I was able to provide work permits to 25 Jewish young men who were hired to work for the Ukrainian painters of the regional commission.

[Column 698]

The Jews already understood that a great tragedy was being prepared for them, and that is what happened. May 27 was a day of horrific slaughter for the Jews of Dubno, costing the lives of about 7,000 souls. The principal murderers of the Jews of Dubno in the first line were: the commandant of the gendarmerie Pan [Mr.] Popka; the director of the German labor office Hauptman Hammerstein; regional commissioner Broks; his deputy staff–director Alleter; and the inspector Wiza. Pan Popka was the type of criminal whose ugly, crooked, and creased face, with his whip in hand, quickly personified his character. Hauptman Hammerstein, who was from the Sudeten, was tall, and had a refined face and a pleasant voice. He wore glasses on his nose. Whoever spoke to him for the first time, could never imagine that this sort of person could be such a wild, slick murderer to an exceptional degree. Regional commissioner Broks was more of a quiet person. He would sign the rulings or give his consent. His bloody orders were carried out by his subordinate Germans or Ukrainians. Later, he would come with inspections to the places where there were incidents. His deputy staff director Alleter was a short man, very stern, and in reality, he directed all the work of the regional commissariat. He was the main torturer of the Dubno Jews. Inspector Wiza, as Pan Popka, was more of a criminal type, a sadist who would always beat each Jew who passed him, without any reason or having done any misdemeanor. He participated in every Aktzia.

Other than the Germans, the leaders of the Ukrainian people also had a hand in torturing the Jews. Among them, first in line, were: Mayor Burka, vice–mayor Serwas, senior official Siderovitch, and others. A certain Stashik exceeded them all. These abovementioned Ukrainian leaders were teachers by profession, who worked with me in Soviet schools from 1939 to 1941. Then they declared themselves staunch Communists.

[Column 699]

The Aktzia itself happened in the following way. May 26, 1942, in the evening, the Jewish ghetto police received an order not to leave any of those non–skilled on the side of the skilled workers. At twelve o'clock at night, three shots were heard at the ghetto gate of the skilled workers, after which wild German SS men and several hundred Ukrainian police tore into the ghetto. Also, the outside of the ghetto was surrounded by armed police. They all wore helmets; and the Germans were also leading dogs. They began tearing out the Jews from their houses. Those who were ripped out of their houses were beaten mercilessly. Many women fell in a faint as they watched their young children being trampled on by murderous feet. The sick and elderly were shot on the spot. Other Jews jumped into the river (Ikva), to encounter their death there rather than at the hands of the murderers. Many people lost their minds. One woman, Khaya Feinblit of Ribno Street, who had had no children for fourteen years after her marriage, and bore her first child only after the beginning of the German occupation, when the murderers wanted to take her tiny child away during the first Aktzia, she threw the baby into a barrel of water, screaming: “I myself should be the one to see to the death of my long desired child!” Then she herself swallowed poison. The barbarians laughed at this, and with joy, continued on in their bloody sport. The persecuted, tragic Jews were herded together near the exit of the ghetto where there was a deathly and dark silence. From time to time, when trucks would come for the people, a last miserable scream would be heard as it cut through the surrounding silence. The victims were rammed into the trucks and driven to the place of death. Those that could not be pushed into the trucks were chased on foot. The men were herded to the Jewish cemetery; women and children – to the airfield that was behind the city near the train station in Surmacz.

One such harassed group comprised about 800 school–aged children.

[Column 700]

The best dressed children were set out in fours. They were given bouquets of lilacs in their hands. And in an irony of fate, our most beautiful children went, in the most beautiful month of the year, in May, to their own funerals – with flowers in their hands. They were chased by Ukrainians, Germans, and German women with dogs that they would incite. Many children were torn apart en route by the dogs. That's what the German women and mothers did, with their own children safely in their homes.

Groups of Jews were brought to the deep, dug out ditches. Everyone had to strip naked. They tore out everyone's gold teeth. Only very rarely, could you hear a sigh or a cry of pain. The men and women were skeletal, with pale yellow faces, more like shadows than people. They were indifferent to everything. The naked people (men, women, and children) had to kneel, with their faces lowered into the dug–out ditches and their hands placed over the back of their necks. A German sat at the edge of the ditch, holding a loaded machine gun. His feet were hanging over into the ditch and he had a cigarette in his mouth. Every few minutes, you could hear a machine gun ringing out, and twenty people fell into the ditch. That's how every few minutes a new set of twenty victims fell. Those people who were not murdered with the first shot, were murdered by the second shot. Some were suffocated under the new corpses that fell on top of them. And that's how a bloody movable mass collected in the ditches. The filled ditches were then doused in gasoline and lit. Blood oozed out into the earth in some places. Even the following day, the Ukrainians noticed how the ground in some places had shifted.

This Aktzia lasted until May 27th in the morning. On that day, the Jews from the second section of the ghetto were chased to work, as if nothing had happened. These were the remaining skilled workers for whom a small piece of white paper had delayed death for a certain amount of time.

[Column 701]

One can only imagine the psychological condition of these people who for the most part during the night had lost their families, friends, and dear ones with whom they had grown up and lived together. From time to time, cargo trucks appeared, loaded up with clothing, shoes, and various other things. These were loaded up by the Jews themselves, taken from their own brothers where they were gruesomely killed. In some places, the passing Ukrainians and Poles remained still and watched the tragic Jewish groups who were once again leaving to work. They remained still and smiled mockingly. In the best case, someone would shake his head sadly and then continue on his way. The next day, many of those sympathetic people would quietly relate how the majority of their brothers had helped the wild Germans grab out the Jews who were hiding and then delivered them to their death. A teacher who was a friend of mine and with whom I had worked, the Ukrainian Wolodka Druczenko, had himself snatched out Jewish children and delivered them to the Germans. The main role in searching out the hidden Jews was carried out by Vanka Hofman. His father was a lawyer, a Russian. As the Germans arrived, he and his family became Volksdeutchen [ethnic Germans, i.e., German by race, regardless of citizenship]. One of his sons became commandant of the Ukrainian police and during each Aktzia, he himself shot hundreds of Jews. One of the daughters also worked in the commissariat. The abovementioned Vanka played a dark role in torturing the Jews. When the work permits were being handed out, he took large sums of money for each permit and later searched out the Germans and delivered the permits to them. He even turned over his own school friend Misha Spitzman to his death (it is worth noting that Klara Tenenboim in Vienna saw Vanka Hofman there).

After the Aktzia, the beautiful summer days became even more difficult for the Jews. There were 3,000 people that remained alive. They were always in fear and certainty that they were being kept alive just so their last bits of capacity could be used, and their end would be – a tragic death. But there were still some naïve optimists, who

[Column 702]

comforted themselves with all kinds of contrived news from the front, from overheard talks among the Germans, or from the radio. When a German dared to say a word against Hitler or his government, that was enough for the Jews to build mountains, and then to comfort themselves for weeks… Meanwhile, the Ukrainians and Poles, for a designated time, had to learn the Jewish skills so that they would be able to replace the Jews when needed.

Sensing the approaching end for the remaining Jews, the Ukrainians and the Poles began taking the Jews' valuable possessions, promising the confused Jews that they would receive help in time of danger. The Jews gave away their best to these non–Jewish neighbors, saying: “If we survive, we may get some things back. And if not, it won't matter if things are lost.” An acquaintance of mine, a Polish woman, Zophia Stepanovitchova, where I was almost every day, hid the possessions of two of her Jewish neighbors, from homeowner Bronstajn, and from the Jewish girl Adela and her mother. Besides having a cellar filled with Jewish goods, there were two closets filled with things. When the abovementioned Adela wanted to go to her closet of things in the other woman's house, and wanted to take out a dress for herself, they taunted her and threw her out of the house. The same thing happened with the woman Bronstajn when she wanted to take some of her clothing. This is what almost all the Ukrainians and Poles did, as they became rich from our tragedy.

I myself heard such a discussion from that same Stepanovitchova. I was sitting in her room, and the Polish seamstress Kolowa came into the house. She did not know that I was sitting in the other room. That Kolowa began speaking in a cheerful voice: “Pani [Mrs.] Zosha, can't you take a piano from a Jew for your daughter Dzidka? They are going to kill the Jew anyway. And you, Pani, will have a piano for your daughter. I've already taken a piano for my Helen, and thank God, they've already killed that Jew. So now I am sure that it is mine!” … And Kolowa continued: “I also must get two good

[Column 703]

fur coats for me and my husband. Pokeh–und–lapka [?] coats I already have from the Jews, but I want a lambskin coat. And I'll get it … Zosha, you can't be sleepy, and you have to do whatever you can, because compared to what others have, we could choke!” The abovementioned Dzidka, for whom she tried to prepare a piano, was one year old. Zosha, to whom her friend was speaking like that, showed with her finger at her nose that Kolowa should not say anything. Then, angry, I came out of the other room, and said in a cold and dominating voice: “Yes, you Pani, will play an Oberek [a Polish dance], Mazurka [Polish folk dance], on the piano after the Jews have been murdered. But I don't know if you'll have to play a death–march also for the murdered Poles.” And that's exactly how it was. After expelling the Jews, the Ukrainians began to murder the Poles, burning and looting their possessions. These are only small incidents that characterize the relationship of the Ukrainians and the Poles towards the Jews in Ukraine. A Pole with a sincere view of the Jewish tragedy, with compassion and offering help – was a rarity. Ukrainians of this sort almost did not exist. The local Russians were also not any better. A friend of mine, the Russian Kosak, who worked with me in the regional commissariat as a draftsman, later showed his true face. When I left Dubno with Aryan papers, after some time he investigated me in order to deliver me into German hands. Only the local Czechs, in certain instances, demonstrated empathy and offered help for their Jewish friends. All the non–Jewish residents who are so busy with their fear of God and kneeling in their churches and Russian churches, were banging their heads on the floor; they who always repeated the holy words, “Love the other as you love yourself, feed the hungry, and give drink to those who are thirsty” – these, in reality, showed themselves to be gruesome and bloodthirsty murderers. And in the best case – as those who robbed the Jews' possessions, and assisted the Germans in exterminating the Jews.

Meanwhile, one day followed the other in the ghetto. In the evenings

[Column 704]

each Jew lay on his cot with the feeling that this could be his last night. Many times, because of all types of rumors, people did not go to sleep at all. Many Jews prepared underground hiding places believing that there they would find protection, and in a raging time would be able to save themselves from death. The bunkers and hiding places were so cleverly disguised that they really thought it would be impossible to be discovered. But still, later these places proved themselves to be useless, thanks to the collaboration of the local non–Jewish population with the Nazis.

Slowly, life in the ghetto reached the greatest heights of poverty and depression. The bread ration was very small and no other foods were given out. Whoever had the opportunity traded his last possessions for food in order to stay alive. For a drop of butter or little piece of meat they gave away their most beautiful suits or other valuable possessions. Very often, Jews also paid with their lives.

Regretfully, it has to be recognized that in the Dubno ghetto there was no cultural or political activity. The reason was that right after six weeks of the ghetto's existence, a large part of the Jewish residents were killed and those remaining alive continued to suffer for another four months.

From the first Aktzia in Dubno until the liquidation of the ghetto, the Germans used all the Jewish skilled workers. The German demands were great and the Jews could not fill them all. The chairman of the Judenrat, Magistrate Konrad Toibenfeld, and the head of the Jewish work department, Rozenboim, actually lost their control, not being able to find a way to deal with demands that were impossible to meet. And on the other hand, not wanting to give the enemy a venue for imposing more problems, they did everything they could possibly do. Tragically, the largest number of Jewish skilled workers was already rotting in the earth. The head of the German labor office, Kat Hammerstein, would himself come to the ghetto and chase the Jews to work, beat them, and torture them.

[Column 705]

There were incidents when individual Jews would run from the ghetto into the forest or to familiar peasants and live there with Aryan papers.

Summer 1942, news arrived in Dubno about the liquidation of the ghettos and other Volhynian cities. Two Jews who had fled from Kremenets related about an Aktzia that had taken place there in July 14, 1942. About 12,000 Jews were killed then in the Kremenets ghetto. They also said that until their death, the Kremenets Jews suffered a greater hell than the Dubno Jews. Between 50 to 100 Jews would die daily from starvation. Another refugee from Rovno said that on one fine July day they killed the rest of the 7,000 Jews in the Rovno ghetto. This tragic news also foretold the fate of the Dubno Jews.

In August 1942, once again 4,500 Jews were assembled in the Dubno ghetto. Included were the exiled village Jews from the surrounding areas, Jews who for generations were connected to the agricultural work with their fields and meadows. The Jews could bring hardly anything with them into the ghetto. There was an even greater hunger and lack in the ghetto. On top of the Dubno Jews' greatest level of material suffering, was the economical Aktzia that took place in that same August of 1942. The purpose of this Aktzia was to remove all food products from those Jews who were still alive. The Jews had to bring all their meager foods to a designated place.

October 5, 1942, was the day of the tragic end of the rest of the Jews in the ghetto. With Aryan papers, I was already fifteen kilometers from the city, in the village of Kurdafon. This final Aktzia was similar to the previous one. This was exclusively carried out by the Ukrainians, who, as envoys of the Germans, with joy and song, drove from city to city and liquidated all the ghettos, murdering those Jews who were still there from the precious Aktzias. During this Aktzia, many Jews committed suicide by hanging themselves, ingesting poison, or jumping into the Ikva River. My cousin Leizer Weisboim hanged himself; the dentist Kagan and Dr. Artmanova

[Column 706]

and others also poisoned themselves. Many Jews were killed right on the spot in the ghetto. Dead bodies were lying everywhere across the city streets outside of the ghetto, where they died as they tried to escape. The last holdout of Dubno Jews was also killed in the same airfield, Surmacz.

The following day, after murdering the Jews, the looting of the leftover Jewish goods began. The Germans took the better things, the rest was divided up as gifts for the local non–Jewish residents. They distributed the possessions according to official and work positions. Of the entire non–Jewish population in Dubno, there was one Pole, Popuzhinski Stefan, who was the director of the gymnasium, who had enough moral fortitude and strength to decline these gifts that were given to him from the Jewish possessions.

While looting the Jewish homes, the Ukrainians and Poles searched and found those unfortunates, and mercilessly, delivered them into the hands of the German gendarmerie. The Germans understood that there were still Jews hiding in some places. So they posted notices ordering the Jews to come out of their hiding places. In these summons, the murderers ensured that no harm would come to these Jews because they were needed for work.

This smooth reasoning unfortunately was successful. The completely oppressed Jews began to believe that maybe, truthfully, this time good fortune would shine on them. That's how the Jews finally crept out of their hiding places. Within just several days another 150 Jews appeared in the ghetto. For a few days, they were “so called” taken to work in the workshops in order to trick even more people to come out of their hiding places. All these naïve, trusting people were shot on October 23, 1942.

That is how the Dubno Jews ceased to exist. That is how all the Jews of Volhynia stopped breathing.

 

dub462.jpg
“Return-entry pass” for workers allowed out of the ghetto for forced labor; it allowed people back into the ghetto at the end of a day's work. 
[From Hebrew column 462]

 

[Columns 707-712 Yiddish] [Columns 453-458 Hebrew]

The Liquidation of the Dubno Ghetto

by Yehoshua Wovek

Translated by Pamela Russ

On June 22, four AM, the first German bombs fell on Dubno – and this was the beginning of the great Jewish tragedy. The Soviet families fled and the Russian army began to recede. The municipal officials packed their suitcases, and only the Jewish residents were lost. The residents of the main streets hid in the corners and back streets.

Wednesday, 8:30 in the evening, the NKVD (Soviet Secret Police) left town. The Christian residents were in a happy mood, as they made fun of the Russians.

There were already two Jewish victims: the young man Simkha Pessy's, and the son of Dovid Poliszuk. His father did not cry. He said to me: “May his death be a redemption for all other Jews of this town…”

That same day, around two o'clock, the Germans marched into the city. Their first order was: “All Jews, from age fourteen up, must wear an armband with a blue Star of David on their sleeve.

The second command: forced labor for all Jews. He who will get out of doing this – will go to his death.

The troubles began. A Ukrainian police and a city administration, comprised of Ukrainians, were set up. Each day had its murders, each day had its snatching up for forced labor. At the beginning of July, 85 Jews were grabbed up – and they were never seen again.

August 21, 1941, the second Aktzia [round up] began. They were seizing Jews. We knew that their end would be – death. From seven in the morning, until five in the evening, they seized 900 men, except for one woman who was shot that day – the daughter of Motel Podisik. Each person died a horrible death.

The following day, an order was given to give payment to the Ukrainians for the piece of “work” that they did. They also had to give all their radio apparatus to the police. In a short time, they had seized about 80

[Column 708]

residents and no one knew where they went.

The SS elder, the murderer Fafke, declared openly: “I can't close my eyes at night if they've killed only a minimum of ten Jews.” SS Hammerstein said: “A Jew who does not work must be killed.” And the murderer Vize remarked: “I am waiting for the day when they will kill the last Jew…”

The winter of 1941-42 arrived.
Cold, frost, starvation, and grief. An order was given to give all fur coats to the Germans. For disobeying – death penalty. And a tax per head. There was also an order to bring several kilo of gold.

 

dub453.jpg
Yekhezkel Mendelson
- as a Polish prisoner in a detention camp

[From Hebrew column 453]

 

The eve of Passover, another order: to set up a ghetto.

On the first day of Passover 5702 (April 2, 1942), the ghetto was created. The order demanded that by seven in the morning, all the Jews must be inside the ghetto. There was nowhere to run, but they tried to flee. They were carrying small children, they were dragging furniture, dishes, clothing; cries, wailing, and sobbing.

There was one comfort in the heart: Those who had relatives and family in Israel would be saved from this hell. But woe to those who did not live to merit this.

All were now in the ghetto.

May 15 and 16, 1942. Something was hanging in the air… They were saying that they were digging ditches. Why ditches? To hide potatoes, foodstuffs? No one knew.

May 27, 1942 (Sivan 21, 5702). At four a.m., SS men tore into the ghetto, wearing long leather coats, in one hand – a gun, in the other a rubber truncheon. “Everyone out! You are all going to your death!” The heavens and the earths all opened to the cries of the women, men, children, and elderly. The shooting did not cease until five in the evening.

The bloody toll of the day: 1,200 men, 1,500 women, 1,800 children. A total of 4,500 murdered, may their blood be avenged. On that day, I lost my wife and three-year-old dear son and 35 other souls of my family.

[Column 709]

As night fell, people began to crawl out of their hiding places: from the bushes by the river, from the closets, from the trash cans.

To those who carried out the killings, the Germans gave a day to rest: “Since they experienced so much yesterday, we'll let them rest today…”

 

The Strength of Liza Leviatan

Several days after the terrible slaughter, a group of Jews was sent to collect and pack up the clothing. It was horrific. Many recognized the clothing of a brother, a mother, parents, and relatives. At that time, they told over the story of Liza Leviatan, the wife of Meyer Geker. Liza pleaded with the murderers to allow her to say something before her death. She was given permission – turned to the murderers and said these words to the German nation: “You Germans think that you can kill all the Jews in the world? Not true! There are Jews in Israel, and they will take revenge for the spilling of innocent blood…” After that she asked that she be shot before her son was shot. The murderers did not to grant her this favor.” She grabbed a piece of earth, soaked it in blood, and threw it at the Germans. After that her holy soul departed.

Itamar Klempner of Dubno, who was hiding under a pile of clothing, the clothing that had been torn off the tragic victims before they were killed, heard and saw all the horrors and heroic actions.

At that time, rumors spread that in all the surrounding towns the ghettos had been liquidated, and Dubno as well would soon become “Judenrein,” cleansed of Jews. We began to dig hiding places for ourselves and search for escapes outside the ghetto: in the villages, the forests, fields. We prepared false Aryan documents. The person who was caught with these types of papers was killed on the spot. That is how Yakov Geker and his wife Chai'tshe Lerner were killed. They were caught in Pentolye with false papers.

In the ghetto they said: “The Germans will certainly lose – but we've already lost…”

[Column 710]

For many years, my brother Shloime lived in the Czech village of Mirogoscz. Now he took in the family Misponis, Benny Burtnik, myself, and my sister.

Summer of 5705, we worked for a short time for the Czechs.

 

The Last Yom Kippur in the Dubno Ghetto

The Days of Awe of the year 5703 [1943] arrived, and I could not give up having prayers with other Jews, so I left to go to the city.

For Kol Nidrei [the evening ritual prayer of Yom Kippur] we assembled in the house of Sikulerin, on the shore of the Ikwa. The rooms were full. There was only one well-known cantor in left in town, Reb Pinkhas Shokhet. We sat on the ground. Very often, one of the people praying would approach the khazan [cantor, person who leads the prayers] and say quietly to him: “Reb Pinkhas, may you merit a year of life…” Many were banging their heads in the walls, choking on their cries… so that no one would hear them outside … After kol nidrei, the cantor said some other prayers. Later, all the Jews crawled back into their dark corners.

Meanwhile, more terrible rumors were heard. The threat of death was everywhere. My sister and I ran back to the Czech village. The following day, they declared in the village that all Jewish workers had to return to Dubno… My brother's family, my sister and I, hid ourselves away in a hiding place in the village, near the theater hall. We did not return to the city.

 

Simkhas Torah 5703 [1943]

A few days later we heard that on the day of Simkhas Torah Jewish blood was running like water in Dubno. Many, with their own hands, burned their few possessions in all kinds of ways, and others took their own lives in many different ways. Not more than 25 families remained, and another 150 Jewish skilled workers.

We hid in our ditch for seventeen months. No washing, no change of clothing. It was cold all the time, and there was bad weather. This was all in our favor because

[Column 711]

that made it easier to sneak out and find a piece of bread and some greens to keep us alive.

There were ten of us who went into the ditch, and six came out alive. Three died of hunger, thirst, filth. One, the brother-in-law of my brother, left to go find a piece of bread, and he was shot on his way to the village.

October 23, 1943, the last Altzia liquidated the remaining survivors in Dubno. The city became “Judenrein” [“cleansed” of Jews]. The final place for this murder was the suburb of Zobromye. A small group of only 10-14 skilled specialists were left to complete all kinds of jobs for the murderers. They lived on Alexandrovska Street. In the end, they escaped. Some of them died on the roads, and some in the forests.

Once, we pushed ourselves in with Simkha Stievel and his wife Genya. They were hiding at the home of a Ukrainian. They were troubled, unfortunate, and having no means to protect themselves, they decided to return to the city and surrender themselves

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into the murderers' hands. We took them into our ditch, set up a corner for them for sleeping, and then they lived with us.

Finally, we merited the day of February 9, 1944, when the Soviets liberated us. It was difficult to get to Dubno, so we went there on foot. On the way, we met others from Dubno. They were dressed haphazardly, wrapped in rags and sacks, drained from hunger and illness. We could not recognize them unless someone called their names. That's how we found Khaim Segal, Abrashe Grinzweig, and the Belfer brothers.

In the town Warkowycz, we saw the first Jew. And from there, we left for Dubno after the city was freed. Our hearts were bleeding as we saw the houses, the streets, bridges, trees – were there. Only our nearest and dearest were gone, forever…

Cursed be those who did this to us! And cursed be the earth that drank in the pure innocent blood!

 

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