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[Pages 190-194]

The Village of Holin and Its Jews

(Golyn, Ukraine)

4901' 2415'

by Aharon Lendau

Translated by Deborah Schultz

Holin is a large village west of Kalush, extending through a wide territory, in part mountainous, with a flat area. Three rivers cross its width, and forests surround it. Before the Second World War, about 1500 inhabitants lived in it: most of them Ukrainian, with a small minority of Jews and Poles (about 32 Jewish families and about 20 Polish families.) Despite the small number of Poles, roles of authority, like the town council and the police, were in their hands; also the administration and teachers of the primary school were a majority of them Polish. Of course, the majority of the Ukrainians related to it in hostility, although restrained.

The local Ukrainians saw themselves as an integral part of the Ukrainian people, whose majority lived in the Soviet Union, and whose minority in southeast Poland. The Ukrainians in Holin and the vicinity were Greek Catholic, but among them were found also Pravoslavie [Eastern Orthodox], and a handful that were called Katsap [a negative word, used for a Russian]. The land in Holin was mostly in the possession of the Ukrainians, but supported them only partially.

The Jews in Holin relied on the economic assets they held in their hand still from the days of Austrian rule. From the businesses that were in their hands, a very extensive class of the population earned a living – including also the residents of the villages in the vicinity. Thousands of people, a portion of them woodcutters, were employed in the Glezinger saw–mills in Broszniów [now Broshniv–Osada, Ukraine], three kilometers west of Holin and at the foot of the Carpathians. Special trains carried the trees and the workers to the Glezinger saw–mills. For a portion of the workers, the work in the saw–mills was a supplement to their agricultural work. In the saw–mills of Glezinger, the Jewish youth also self–trained towards [the goal of] aliyah [immigration to the Land of Israel]. Training gatherings of Hashomer Hatsair [Young Guard, a Socialist Zionist youth organization] and Ha–khaluts [for “pioneers” wishing to settle in the Land of Israel] in Broszniów were a byword in all of Galicia.

In addition to the saw–mills, also in the hands of the Jews in Holin and the adjoining villages were: haberdasheries, flour mills, and bakeries; there were even those who earned a living from working the land. Of course, it was [the case] that the economic condition of the Jewish population strengthened its position. (The Jews for their part were very fair towards the rural population.) This gave its results in the beginning of the German occupation: in all the villages west and north of Kalush [where] its [the Jewish community's] wealth was non–existent, then almost all was bad for the Jews from the side of the local population.

The Poles, who also like the Jews were in the minority in Holin, depended on the Polish authority in the country. A portion of them was brought up from the province of Poznań [now in Poland] to the village of Kropivnik [now Kropivnik, Ukraine], for the enterprises of the TESP, to engage in mining phosphates. Only Polish [workers] were allowed to engage in this profession, and so they became well–established economically. [“TESP” stands for Towarzystwo Eksploatacji Soli Potasowych in Polish, or the “Society for the Exploitation of Potassium Salts” in English. In interwar Poland, it produced potassium salt from a mine in Kalush.]

The aforementioned situation lasted until the arrival of the Soviet regime. The major change that occurred in Holin in the two years of Soviet rule, 1939–1941, was the establishment of kolkhoz [a kind of Soviet collective farm], and a declaration about the lands that were in the center of the village, as [now being] land of the kolkhoz. But the thing was done in a slow manner, most of the time not even nationalizing land; they only convinced the farmers to exchange their [current] land in the center, for ground in one place. This function was accomplished successfully by Moshe Fingerman, a Jew from Holin, who was appointed secretary of the village. There were, of course, also additional changes. The commerce and the factories were nationalized; men of the [interwar Polish] police and government were deported to Russia or fled across the border, to Romania or Hungary. In the days of Soviet rule, the supply of essential items was usually deficient. Merchants and shopkeepers, whose businesses were nationalized, began to engage in administrative roles with low salary. Very slowly the individual began to move from an independent framework to a governmental framework. So events went, until the Nazi occupation in the year 1941.

In the days of our childhood, we did not feel any difference among Jew, Ukrainian, or Pole, except for the fact that a Jewish child visited, in addition to school, also kheder [traditional Jewish religious elementary school], and prayed in the synagogue. The Ukrainians prayed in tserkva [Ukrainian word for “church”] and the Poles in kościół [Polish word for “church”]. There were no secrets among us, and all actions of mischievous boys spying were shared.

With adolescence occurred change, and the paths separated beginning at age fourteen to fifteen. It is possible that it was due to the paths of the different professions of each nation, and also in the influence of the preaching in the houses of worship. The paths separated as if naturally; after that, there were only businesslike or polite encounters, for a swift hour and without sequel. To the extent that I can remember, rarely was a Jew invited to a Ukrainian or Polish wedding, and it was true vice–versa. By the Jews in the village, a wedding was a great event, being and occurring only about one time in a year, and all the Jewish population took part in it.

Jews in Holin were descendants of a number of families, which during hundreds of years broadened. Mainly these were the Tsiring, Vinterfeld, and Fingerman families. The Tsiring family was extremely well–established, and had numerous lands, flour mills, and other assets. The family was extensive, and her members engaged in various fields. One of the members of the family, Aharon Tsiring, was proprietor of a flour mill; he and his sons made aliyah [immigrated to the Land of Israel]. Aharon died in Nahalal [now in Israel], and after my own aliyah, I managed to visit them. One of the members of the Tsiring family, Leib, was leader of a few dozen Jews who hid in the small towns in the vicinity of Holin in the time of the Shoah [Holocaust], but sadly, all of them were killed.

In Holin, there was a Ukrainian department store, and a considerable number of stores in Jewish ownership, like that of Meir Heflern, whose son Dovid lived in the Land [of Israel]; of Graubrat; of Zeidi Keler and his son, who also had business in the butter trade, then bought in the village of Tuzilov [now Tuzhyliv, Ukraine] and supplied to Broszniów [now Broshniv–Osada, Ukraine]; a store of the Vinterfeld family; and a store of the Laufer family. A tavern was in the hands of the Fingerman family, and two butcher shops in the hands of members of the Vinterfeld family. There were also in the village Jewish tailors, and the forge of the Luker family, whose one relative, Berel, lives now in the United States. My father (may his memory be for a blessing), Shabtai Lendau, and his brother–in–law, Mordekhai Foxsgelb (the brother of Aharon Fox who lives in the United States), were owners of the bakery in Holin.

The Jewish life [in the village] concentrated around the synagogue. Among the worshippers were some scholars, like Graubart, Broydeh, and Meir Heflern. To them was also added Aharon Tsiring, who was coming every few years from the Land of Israel to visit in Holin. The synagogue corridor served as a forum for politics. From Shavuot until Simkhat Torah, there were notable discussions about who would be suitable to serve in the next year in the high position of gabbai of the synagogue [who helps to manage the synagogue]. The elections for this position were held on Simkhat Torah, and then the outgoing gabbai and the incoming gabbai would provide, at their own expense, a cask of beer for visitors to the synagogue. If the election of the gabbai for his office were for an additional year, he would provide double the amount, and then there was especially great merriment.

There were no organizations for Jewish youth in Holin. However (may they be remembered for kindness), Mrs. Babtsi, and her husband Herman Vinterfeld, would host the Jewish youth. They managed something like a “seminar,” in which they would come up with figures from the past, and analyze the actions of leaders from the generations that were. Thrilling stories were heard there from the days of World War I. To my regret, I was allowed to participate in the circle only very near to the time in which the Second World War broke out, when I was fourteen years old.

In our village there was also a talented Jewish violinist, Munu Flam (?). He taught the children of the village to play on the violin. As he was a fan of radio, he was listening to broadcasts day and night; he [always] gave us in the first opportunity, the recent news from all lands in the world.

There were not, in the village, people with a broad secular education, not among the Jews and not within the non–Jewish population. From among the Ukrainians there was only one “student” that studied in the gymnasium [European–style high school] in Kalush. The children of the Jews, all of them, studied in the primary school, and then they continued in vocational or religious studies afterwards. Medical help was served to the whole population by Dr. Pantser, who would come in his car from Kalush; legal help that was given was found only in Kalush.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, I was a boy of fourteen years old. All of us were happy to hear that the Soviets arrived in our area, preferring that Stalin rule us rather than Hitler. During the two years in which the Russians controlled our area, many of the Jews were helped, and so it also became possible for us youth to broaden our education.

On 22 June 1941, the first day of the German–Soviet war, Kalush and its vicinity were bombed by the Germans. Inside of ten days, Hungarian troops, who participated in action with the Germans, entered our village; there were also a number of Jews serving in it. Thanks to the Hungarian occupation, it was not all bad for the inhabitants of Holin during about two months, excluding several confiscations of property.

The change to evil was felt in August 1941 with the entrance of the Germans and the reception of their authority in the area. The Jews from all the villages around Kalush received a command to pass to Kalush and find in it housing, at their own expense. Whoever was without wealth occupied dwelling space in one of the houses of the congregation. Our family rented an apartment in Mazepa Street, previously known as Kolejowa [Street].

At our arrival in Kalush, there was still no ghetto. The Germans were only beginning to organize their rule in the city, and the first thing that they did – they seized Jews, for cleaning work in all sections of the city, loading of cargo on the train, and so on. My father (may his memory be for a blessing) and I engaged in it for a certain time: Dad, in loading of cargo, and I, working as assistant to a builder who dealt with renovation of the warehouses at the train station in Kalush. After a while, they sent me to polish boots and to take care of horses of the gendarmerie [military police] in Kalush. I was employed like that about four months. In that time, I encountered Jews who endured great suffering in this place. Also for me it was not easy and I took a lot of beatings, but my superior, the Jew Maks Shpats, found each time a way to remove from me the danger.

After the condition of the Jews in Kalush deteriorated and the people began to suffer hunger, the Germans suggested that the Jews knowing to work in agriculture move to formerly German settlements, and work the lands, that remained forsaken after the Germans [residing there] moved in the years 1939–1940 to Germany. The Jews – most of them regarded it trustingly, and also our family agreed to the offer of the Germans. In one night, we walked under guard with bundles in hand, my parents, I, my two sisters and little brother, towards Brutshkov that is close to Dolina, a distance of 40 kilometers from Kalush.

In houses abandoned in Brutshkov, we performed repairs until it was possible to live in them. In this way, we were able to keep in them our meager possessions. Fields were many, but there were scarcely any animals or tools for working the land, and so we were at a loss. In crying and in pleas, I succeeded in convincing my parents to allow me to leave the place and look for work in the vicinity.

I left the house and found work with a Polish family in the vicinity of Dolina. I hid my identity and I presented myself as a Polish boy, who had succeeded in avoiding deportation with his family, the family of a policeman, to Russia. From time to time, I was able to visit and to help my family in Brutshkov, until one day I did not find in the place even one Jew. From the villages in the vicinity it became known to me that they were returned to Kalush. I prepared to also return myself to Kalush, but meanwhile I remained a while in Dolina. There it became known to me that they put an end to all the Jews of the city during a day or two days in a mass–killing. I decided not to delay any longer in the place, but to walk towards Kalush. On my way to Kalush, I arrived at Broszniów [now Broshniv–Osada, Ukraine]. Carefully, I succeeded in entering the house of a Polish shomer shabbes [Sabbath–keeper] (Subbotnik), who was for many years an employee in our bakery. From his mouth, it became known to me that the Jews in Kalush were put an end to or expelled, and there was nowhere for me to return. He advised me to go far from the area, to go in the direction of Podhajce [now Pidhaytsi, Ukraine] and to try to make contact there with the Subbotniks. In a despairing mood, I went up in the morning to the train at the Broszniów station, and I started on the journey east. From there and until the end of the war, I went through difficult days, among them in the ghetto of Buczacz [now Buchach, Ukraine], and also in the German labor camps. From my whole family, only I was left alive, I alone.

 

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