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[Columns 717-720 Yiddish] [Columns 537-540 Hebrew]

The Days of Suffering and Pain

by Shoshana Somberg-Gon

Translated by Pamela Russ

From the first moment that the German captors entered Dubno, they cast terror over everyone. They immediately began snatching up people for work. Whoever went out into the street – risked his own life. A German, or a Ukrainian assistant, was able to capture him. And capturing meant – not necessarily for work, but also for torturing, which ended in death.

This happened at the time we lived in the ghetto. One of the members of the Judenrat was moving to a more comfortable room and in order to move his things, he mobilized some workers from the Jewish workers' office. There was no means of transport and the people worked hard bringing over his things to quite a distance away. After putting his things inside,

[Column 718]

it appeared that a washing tub was missing, which they found by one of the laborers – Berko Meidit, who had a paralyzed hand, and whom the Germans themselves freed from work. The Jewish police decided to pass an “open judgement” on him, and that was no more than cruelty, because they beat him so severely that he ended up needing a doctor.

Participating in this act was the commandant Fritz Siss, whose name will be cursed eternally, along with others, among whom was – Groisblat.

This act of the Jewish police stirred up the ghetto residents, and in protest, some of Meidit's neighbors carried him home before everyone's eyes. My husband and I tried to turn in one of the

[Column 719]

policemen whom we met en route. But he informed on us to the commandant Siss and they told us to present ourselves to the police. What was waiting for us was very clear. We escaped through a window and hid in a bunker that was a place the police did not know about. We remained there for more than twenty-four hours, went through great fear hearing how the police were in the same room and were emptying out everything. Afterwards, we found out that they had even taken the pillows. That's how we escaped our punishment.

However, the other Jews who supported Meidit, were punished by the Jewish police receiving twenty lashes each.

This was the regime of terror of the Jewish police in the ghetto, with Commandant Siss at the head. They were convinced that, “Nothing will happen to us.” And their end was no different than that of the other ghetto residents, with the difference only being time…

* * *

When it became clear that they were going to enclose the Jews into a ghetto, I went to Meisliches' mill to buy some flour for these difficult times. It was I who went because the men were afraid to be seen in the streets.

As soon as I went into the street, I noticed an unusual group of Ukrainian police who were chasing the Jews. I was not afraid, and continued on my way. Two policemen stopped me and without a word, they began to beat me and drag me off to “work.”

We came to the prison building. Groups of Jews appeared on all sides. Among these groups were – a number of Jewish women. They chased us into the prison

[Column 720]

yard and told us to lie down on the ground, face down. Whoever spoke even one word, or made even the slightest movement was beaten murderously by the policemen. After such tortures for several hours, the “selektzia”[selection] began. The young and healthy were ordered to go to a table around which there were Gestapo men, and they sorted: right, left. Those who had “work permits” were freed, but in the process they were given many beatings.

One Ukrainian mercilessly made fun of the respected elder Sh. Hurwyc. He tore out his [the Jew's] beard. After that, he tied up the elderly man with a wire, and showed off his achievement to his fellow murderers.

My brother Pesakh was shot on the spot. Someone else had his ear cut off in one motion, and he was left lying in a puddle of blood.

In every corner and place there were terrible screams. New groups kept on coming. They were given shovels and ordered to go dig ditches.

It was my row's turn to appear before the murderers. I begged them to release me because I had left a small child behind. Because this “Aktzia” was mainly for men, they let me go. As I left the prison, I had to pass in front of rows of Ukrainians who beat me until I fell over all bloodied and with torn clothes. How I was lucky enough to reach the first Jewish house – I don't know, but there I received help for the first time, they washed me up and changed my clothing. Later I went home. I still heard shooting on the way. They were shooting the captured Jews whom I had seen in the prison yard.

1,400 men died on that dark day. Fathers and sons, among them – 13 women. We were 14 women, and I remained the only one alive…

 

dub539.jpg
This is a photograph taken in Germany of Dubno survivors.
They are holding a Memorial to the Martyrs of Dubno.

[From Hebrew columns 539-540]

 

[Columns 721-724 Yiddish] [Columns 517-520 Hebrew]

Testimony about the slaughter in Dubno

Hermann Graebe

Translation provided with the kind permission of the
“Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team”
(www.HolocaustResearchProject.org)

On 13 July 1942, Hermann Graebe, a German engineer of the firm Jung A.G, witnessed the round-up of Jews at Rowne ghetto in Volhynia, and he wrote this description of these tragic events:

He was in Rowne in order to prevent the deportation of a hundred Jews, employed in the engineering works of which he was the manager. Immediately after the war he recalled:

On the evening of this day, I drove to Rowne and posted myself with Fritz Einsporn in front of the house in the Bahnhofstrasse in which the Jewish workers of my firm slept.

Shortly after 2200 the ghetto was encircled by a large SS detachment and about three times as many members of the Ukrainian militia. Then the electric arc-lights which had been erected in and around the ghetto were switched on.

SS and militia squads of four to six men entered or at least tried to enter the houses. Where the doors and windows were closed and the inhabitants did not open at the knocking, the SS man and militia broke the windows, forced the doors with beams and crowbars, and entered the houses.

The people living there were driven on the street just as they were, regardless of whether they were dressed or in bed. Since the Jews in most cases refused to leave their houses and resisted, the SS and militia applied force. They finally succeeded, with strokes of the whip, kicks and blows, and rifle butts, in clearing the houses.

The people were driven out of their houses in such haste that small children in bed had been left behind in several instances. In the streets women cried out for their children and children for their parents.

That did not prevent the SS from driving the people along the road at running pace, and hitting them, until they reached a waiting freight train. Carriage after carriage was filled and the screaming of women and children and the cracking of whips and rifle shots resounded unceasingly.

Since several families or groups had barricaded themselves in especially strong buildings and the doors could not be forced with crowbars or beams, the doors were now blown open with hand grenades.

Since the ghetto was near the railroad tracks in Rowne, the younger people tried to get across the tracks and over a small river to get away from the ghetto area. As this stretch of country was beyond the range of the electric lights, it was illuminated by small rockets.

All through the night these beaten, hounded and wounded people moved along the lighted streets. Women carried their dead children in their arms children pulled and dragged their dead parents by their arms and legs down the road towards the train.

Again and again the cries, “Open the door, Open the door!” echoed through the ghetto. The words of Grabe's affidavit, which froze the Nuremberg Court with horror and pity when read by Sir Hartley Shawcross on 27 July 1946, should in no respect be abridged.

“On the 5 October 1942, when I visited the building office at Dubno, my foreman told me that in the vicinity of the site Jews from Dubno, had been shot in three large pits, each about thirty metres long and three metres deep. About fifteen hundred persons had been killed daily. All were to be liquidated. As the shootings had taken place in his presence he was still very upset.

Moennikes and I went straight to the pits. Nobody prevented us. I heard a quick succession of shots from behind one of the mounds of earth. The people who had got off the lorries – men, women and children of all ages – had to undress upon the order of an SS man, who carried a riding or a dog whip. They had to put their clothes on separate piles of shoes, top clothing, and underclothing.

I saw a heap of shoes that must have contained eight hundred to one thousand pairs, great piles of clothes and undergarments. Without screaming or weeping these people undressed, stood in family groups, kissed each other, said their farewells, and waited for a sign form another SS man, who stood near the pit, also with a whip in his hand.

During the fifteen minutes that I stood near the pit, I did not hear anyone complain or beg for mercy. I watched a family of about eight, a man and a woman, both about fifty, with their children, aged about one, eight and ten, and two grown up daughters of about twenty to twenty –four.

An old woman with snow-white hair was holding the one-year old child in her arms, singing something to it and tickling it. The child was crowing with delight. The man and wife were looking on with tears in their eyes.

The father was holding the hand of a boy about ten, speaking to him softly. The boy was fighting back his tears. The father pointed to the sky, stroked the boy's head and seemed to explain something to him.

At that moment the SS man at the pit shouted something to his comrade, who separated off about twenty persons and ordered them to go behind the mound of earth. Among them was the family I have mentioned.

 

dub517.jpg
Mass grave
[From Hebrew column 517]

 

I still clearly remember a dark- haired, slim girl who pointed to herself as she passed close to me and said, “Twenty-Three.” I walked to the other side of the mound and found myself standing before an enormous grave. The people lay so closely packed, one on top of the other, that only their heads were visible.

Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of them were still moving. Some lifted an arm and turned a head to show that they were still alive.

The pit was already two-thirds full. I estimated that it already contained about one thousand people. I looked round for the man who had shot them. He was an SS man who was sitting on the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his legs dangling into it. He had a sub-machine gun across his knees and was smoking a cigarette.

The people, completely naked, went down some steps which had been cut in the clay wall of the pit and climbed over the heads of those already lying there, to the place indicated by the SS man. They laid down in front of the dead or injured people. Some of them caressed those who were still alive and spoke to them softly.

Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the pit and saw that the bodies were twitching or that the heads lay motionless on top of the bodies which lay before them. Blood was pouring from their necks.

I was surprised I was not ordered away, but saw there were also two or three uniformed policemen standing nearby. The next batch was already approaching. They climbed into the pit, lined up against the previous victims and were shot. When I walked back round the mound I noticed another lorry-load of people which had just arrived.

This time it included sick and infirm people. A very thin old woman, with terribly thin legs, was undressed by others who were already naked, while two people supported her. The woman appeared to be paralysed. The naked people carried the woman around the mound. I left with Moennikes and drove back to Dubno in the car.

On the morning of the next day, when I visited the site, I saw about thirty naked people lying near the pit- about thirty to fifty metres away from it. Some of them were still alive, they looked straight in front of them with a fixed stare and seemed not to notice neither the chillness of the morning nor the workers of my firm who stood around.

A girl of about twenty spoke to me and asked me to give her clothes and help her escape. At that moment we heard a fast car approach and I noticed it was an SS detail. I moved away to my site. Ten minutes later we heard shots from the vicinity of the pit. Those Jews who were still alive had been ordered to throw the corpses into the pit, then they themselves had to lie down in the pit, to be shot in the neck.


[Columns 725-732 Yiddish] [Columns 545-548 Hebrew]

Dubno after the Liberation
(From a Private Letter)

by Sioma

Translated by Pamela Russ

Many friends have already received letters from their acquaintances, and everyone is asking the same thing: “Who is left alive?” Because of a population of 12,000 souls, only 40-50 are left, and in conditions that are unimaginable – in forests, ditches, and the like. I will try to describe

 

dub725.jpg
The survivors of Dubno Jews in Germany

 

that which we experienced in that terrible period. Even if I would write an entire book, it would still be doubtful whether I could recount that of our hellish lives. But I will try, in general strides, to describe that period.

In the years of 1939-41, I occupied a head office in a willow tree sawmill. Our physical lives were good,

[Column 726]

we lived peacefully, and even went to Lemberg frequently. But this ended very quickly. The sudden assault on June 22 put an end to everything. Oh, how the tragic Yona wanted to go deep into Russia, but we did not allow him. And now I blame myself for his death because I allowed myself to be convinced by my wife Priva not to let him go. The end was that both were killed.

With the first moment that the Germans entered, the horrors began. The first sign was – the yellow patch. Every German could spit at a Jew, denigrate, and insult him, for which there was no

[Column 727]

punishment. Every Jew had to bow down or even stretch out on the ground in front of every passing German. Woe to that Jew who did not heed these orders stringently. Capturing Jews and beating them was a daily activity.

Two months after the German occupation of the city, all the Jews were transported to the ghetto. Everything was quickly “organized” in an administrative manner, because you could not take anything or any food with you. That's how some families were taken there to live in unimaginable crowdedness, without any sanitation conditions, always being harassed, young and old, from morning to night, and taken to hard labor.

Every day we thought that it could not be worse. But that which never even came into our minds, was not even difficult for the thugs. They were not satisfied with starving, terrorizing, and humiliating us –

[Column 728]

because they knew that Jews lived with the faith that the rage would pass. One fine Thursday, they assembled the best of the Jewish youth, the handsome and healthy ones, took them off to prison, and from there – to the cemetery, and told them to dig out graves, and there they met their death. But the murderers were not happy with this and two days later they murdered another 200 victims in the same manner.

From that time on, each Jew considered himself a living dead. Death was always with us. The people were already very skilled at interpreting the events, and various horrific rumors were our daily servings. Fear consumed every spark of hope that remained in our hearts. At dawn, on February 27, the Germans sorted all the ghetto residents into skilled workers and non-workers. Those “so-called” without a skill,

 

dub727.jpg
Dubner [those from Dubno] after planting trees in the “Martyrs' Forest”

 

[Column 729]

were evacuated to Surmicz where mass graves had been prepared in order to kill them there. Rivers of blood and tears flowed. Many lost their minds and their cries reached the heavens. But all was for nothing. German precision demanded that the people position themselves four in a row, in an organized manner – and “disciplined” and “organized” like that, 3,500 pure and holy souls were murdered only because they were born as Jews.

Among the victims – were my dear mother and father and other relatives. Those who survived were Yankel, Zelda, Loybe, Priva, Yona, and I. In October, on Shemini Atzeres and Simkhas Torah [the last two days of the Sukos holiday], the ghetto was once again encircled. From the remaining population, they selected 350 skilled workers and 3,800 others, and transported them all to their death, all the while beating, punishing, and shooting young children on the way. Among those who died were my relatives. I, Priva, and Yona escaped into the forest. After this Aktzia, we returned to the ghetto thinking that with this final act it was over. But one tragic Shabbath, a gang of Ukrainians under German command arrived, and as in the previous manner, they murdered the last survivors.

[Column 730]

The city had become a cemetery. The peasants took to looting and wherever they discovered a Jew, they handed him over to the Germans for a reward.

In a camoflaged hiding place, we were able to save ourselves from a slaughter. It is impossible to imagine the risks we took as we escaped into the forest and hid there by Gurbik. We were there for three weeks with only the shirts on our backs – and this right in the winter. We went into the city, and they saw us, recognized us, and captured us. They killed Priva, and I escaped, wandering around like a shadow. Yona was not around, and Priva was also dead. They murdered the dearest people. And in my heart there was the thought that I was left alive in order to be able to take revenge. This feeling of revenge gave me the strength to live. I fled into the forest, suffered hunger and cold, and begged for death to relieve me from the ghosts by day and by night – but I lived despite it all.

The Red Army began to come closer and the Germans – to recede. As a Polish forced laborer (I had Aryan papers under the name of

 

dub729.jpg

 

[Column 731]

Butnar Kowycz), they sent me over to Krakow. And from there, 5,000 forced laborers were sent to dig the defense line on the San River. I felt that victory was near and I had to remain alive in order to be able to retell what we had experienced and to take revenge. I began to work well, energetically. A German colonel arrived and they summoned me to him, and the Nazi officer presented me as an example of a Pole that loyally serves the Germans, and blessed be the Polish nation that they have such a son…

The Russians continued to attack. I and another eighteen people were lucky to escape from the camp and hide in the forest until the Russians came and freed us. I went 500 kilometers on foot and finally arrived in Lutsk. I was arrested by the NKVD [Soviet Secret Police] and sat in prison for 14 days. When I proved that I was a Jew, they let me go free.

I am alive. Is this a life? I am wandering among the destruction,

[Column 732]

lonely and alone, without a living soul with whom I can exchange one word, without anyone recognizing me. I work as a bookkeeper, but after work, life is not really life. I am looking for a way to take revenge: for Priva's death – 100 Germans; Yona's death – 1,000 Germans!

Yes, I found Batya with her two daughters. That's it. As I am writing, blood is dripping out of my heart, tears are running from my eyes. For how much longer will I be able to go on? Greetings to all.

Your Sioma[1]

I would so much like to be together with you, see someone from the family, from our nation, tell of the German horrors of death, tell and tell, so that the future generations will know.

No resting! Let no Jew in this world be silent! We all have to take revenge! Revenge!

(Translated from Russian)

 

dub731.jpg
[There is no caption under the photo on this page, but the phrase in the photo says:
“19 years after the Shoah [Holocaust] of the community of Dubno – 5722 [1962]”]

 

dub546.jpg
Standing on the edge of a common grave
[From Hebrew column 546]

 

dub547.jpg
Survivors standing on the edge of a common grave
[From Hebrew columns 547-548]

Footnote:

  1. The author of these lines later died in a car accident. Return

 

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