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Malka Stern Knoplich, Salameh, was still a young girl when the war broke out. There were seven children in the family. At the time, her parents had an orchard in Kilmtevitz village. After the bombings and burnings, the children scattered, each to a different place. One brother had the daring to sell his goods after they had been confiscated by the Germans, and they searched for him in order to shoot him. He ran away to Russia. Girls were also taken by force for compulsory labour. A few pretty girls were photographed by the Germans, and they were afraid of the results. Golda, the granddaughter of Motel Shobenmacher, who was particularly pretty, had the hair in the middle of her head cut off by the Germans so that they could recognise her more easily. She quickly hid herself. The girls also had to work dung. In the other towns to which no Jews moved, the latter were the first to be sent to forced labour by decision of the local Jewish inhabitants. Her brother Moshe Eliezer was beaten by the Germans, became ill and died. After his death, his wife gave birth to a boy who was given his father's name.

The girls did their forced labour in the fields where they were often slapped and insulted by the Poles. There were also cases of Jewish denunciations. The Germans entered the houses to conduct searches and looked into the pots to see what was being cooked. An order was published prohibiting Jews to live in the villages and together with Christians.

Once upon a time, the good old Andrei Kazak had served in the Tzarist army together with Malka Stern's father. When the Kurov Jews were liquidated, Andrei Kazak hid Malka in his own attic. Some of the Jews being taken from Kurov to Konskivolia tried to run away. A few succeeded, but others were caught and brought back by the Jewish police. Of several thousand Jews in Kurov, only thirty were left. They worked in a shop for the Germans. Malka and her brother Samuel Aaron wished to enter this workshop. The Judenrat demanded ten thousand zloty in order to admit them. They returned to the Pole Kazak. Malka Stern had a camera and was still thinking of photographing several young people and children of Kurov in the hope that this would at least be something to remember them by. She saw how the Gentiles were already dragging the tombstones out of the cemetery and using them as whetstones for their scythes. The Germans dynamited the remaining foundations of the synagogue. During a fresh action, she ran away and wanted to take her friend Hannah with her.

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But Hannah preferred to die on the spot, and after the shooting, Malka saw her lying in a lavatory, shot and dying. Her brother Samuel Aaron, who was already among the partisans, was betrayed by the peasants. They beat him to death and burnt his body. A second brother, Joseph Leib, was buried alive when earth collapsed over him while he was building a bunker.

The remaining Jews now began to be hunted. They were chased and searched for in bunkers, stables, attics, haystacks and dog kennels. Twenty–seven Jews were found including several girls. Among these was Elka Zuckerman, whom the son of Ulrich the Volksdeutsch wanted to release, provided she let him have his way with her. He was not prepared to accept any money. But instead of answering him, Elka Zuckerman spat in his face and was shot the following morning.

Malka became ill with typhoid. Her brother, Yankel Meir, returned from Warsaw, became ill and died. She lay in a bunker surrounded by Germans and peasants who were looking for hidden Jews. They searched with probes and listened with stethoscopes. She was walled into a false cellar with a back wall and an opening of tin. The peasants began shifting the tin. They jumped out and to jump over a two metre wall. Chaim Kaluch was shot while jumping. Malka managed to get over. She jumped and crawled over fences, through running water and reached the cemetery where she hid herself. The firemen also cruised with their engine, hunting for Jews. She could hear their bells ringing nearby. They jumped down and began searching like bloodhounds among the corn. One of them saw Malka lying there. He pretended not to notice her, but later approached and demanded all that she had. She gave it to him to the last penny.

On a tree she saw the names of several young Kurov people she knew. They wished to commemorate themselves at least somewhere, because they foresaw that they must die. But still, some Jews might remain alive and read their names on the tree. She, Malka, also cut her name on the tree.

She became infected with lice. Once again she found an exceptionally good Christian woman who hid her. Several of the people she knew in hiding became mad. Then came the liberation. She hurried to Markushov to look for surviving Jews. There she met some of her own but young Gentiles arrived, surrounded them all and wanted to kill them and destroy the last traces of the Jews. However, a company of Soviet soldiers arrived unexpectedly, including a Jew. He saw what was happening, took his rifle and pointed it at the Poles, who fled.

Shimon Ellenbogen went to the village of Luen to take vengeance on the Polish murderers for killing his wife and child. There he was killed by the same murderers.

Levi Jacob the butcher had remained alive and prepared to marry. He was murdered by the Poles in Kurov when the Red Army was already in the district.

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Malka Stern went to find out who had murdered Levi Weinbuch but she was shot at and barely managed to escape with her life.

Together with a whole group of surviving Jews who had hidden in the district as well as in, or near Warsaw, like Golda Ackerman, she was attacked at midnight in Kurov by Poles who wanted to shoot them. They escaped with a very bad fright but were robbed and left almost naked and barefooted.

Malka went to Lublin and Lodz where she married. In 1946, she proceeded to Germany and from there she came to Israel in 1948.

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Always on the Eve of Death

by Malka Knoplikh–Shtern[1], Kfar–Salame

Translated by Tina Lunson

 

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Dovid Rozenberg

 

Hersh Shtern (Hersh Zelde's, or Hersh Burish), and his wife Serl Leye and their seven children Meyshe–Eliezer, Sore–Hinde, Yakov–Mayer, Yosl–Leyb, Shmuel–Aron, Malka, and Tobe. In his youth he was a floor–layer in Warsaw, but in Kurow that trade was not a readily saleable item; in his later years he was occupied with managing orchards and fruit trading. He worked hard but rightfully earned his honest piece of bread. He saved a little money and invested in a small house, not far from the besmedresh. During the times when they did not need to stay in the orchards and they were in town, they could stop in at the study–house to pray with others, not to be entirely cut off from God, and also to chat with Jews in order not to be cut off heaven forbid from Jews and Yiddishkayt.

 

Fruits, Boots, Bombs

We accepted that war was coming. We knew what Hitlerism meant for Jews. But in the moment our worries were limited to what to do with the fruit. The landowners had put a lot of money into the orchards, including borrowed money, and we had not yet managed to harvest everything.

We kept our ears tuned to every rustle. We asked every peasant who read a Polish newspaper what he learned. We ourselves were ready to pick the fruit from the trees. On the first of September 1939 when the German war was declared, the German espionage movement was already beginning to be rampant and was widespread. They blew up the train lines and the panic increased. We decided not to remain sitting in the orchards any longer. We shook everything out of the trees – the ripe and the unripe fruit – and hired peasant wagons to drive it into Kurow.

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We had a huge cellar. We were going to store the fruit there until Yankl–Mayer, the son who dealt in boots, demanded ¬– because his merchandise was worth more money and the damage would be greater (also there was more fear that the military would requisition the boots) – that we should first hide the boots. He was right about that and that is what we did. So it turned out there was a lot of fruit left outside and not hidden. Even in the early days of the first bombings – many of which included incendiary bombs – fire engulfed all the houses from one end of town to the other. It was one huge flame, not missing one house. There was great wailing. One of Shmuel Khanisman's sons, Peysakh, one of Yosl's sons, and one of Meyshe Dzshad's sons were wounded, and Yosl one of Motl Berl's sons was killed. The entire town was left without a roof over its head, but that was not enough: we were not even given enough time to think. The airplanes shot their bullets over our heads with such speed that we had to hide our heads under every stone and shove ourselves into

 

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Malka Shtern and her brother Yankl Mayer, who was killed

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any hole that we could in order to save oneself from certain death.

When the Germans saw that their work was accomplished not a single house was left standing, and they stopped the bombing for a while. Jews from Kurow used the opportunity and most of them spread out into the fields and to the surrounding villages. A large number of those not directly connected to the town thought that they might operate their businesses and work in Lublin, and fled there. But most of them turned their cellars into workshops and could not leave their town. They thought that after the bombardment they would be able to organize somehow with their remaining possessions.

Soon a wave of the homeless let loose from Warsaw, Demblin and other towns came toward Kurow, because the town lay in the middle of the highway routes. They thought they could stay in Kurow, but seeing the destruction they set out wandering further. So, as on the roads that lead to Lublin, one saw only masses of refugees. People mixed in with separated military troops, canon, wagons. But soon came a second bombardment that aimed at the wandering masses on the roads who were completely helpless, with no place even to hide their heads. Many of the refugees were killed, both Jews and Poles. The Germans were going from victory to victory. The Polish military was completely smashed. Jews tried to look around for someplace to lay their heads. Each one repaired to his ruins to take a burned rafter, a bent piece of tin, to draw over his head, searching for a piece of bread and some way to begin trading.

A bit of a circus begins as Jews hide products, and speculate with prices. Jewish life becomes unbearable. We consider our situation. The fruit that had not been hidden was stolen. We have to start selling that which was hidden in order to get food for ourselves. We do not have any house to go into. We decide to go on living in Klimtovits. We find a house there that the owners did not have the money to finish building. We go in to live there. Sore–Hinde in Belzshits, Yankl–Mayer in an orchard in Kumashits near Opole, Yosl–Leyb in another house in Klimtovits, Shmuel–Aron in Karmovits, so we are spread among various places. I with my father and mother arrange ourselves in the unfinished house in Klimtovits. The situation becomes quieter. The horror gradually passes, and we begin figuring out what to do. We walk to Kurow and tackle the cellars where we had stored a little fruit and also Yankl–

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Mayer's boots. Everything has been stolen by the Germans. They took all the fruit from the cellar and drove away with it. They did not touch any of the boots. We are then left without a groshen of money. We took out some boots, sold them and made some money, and wanted to find a cellar to occupy. My sister was also trying to get her place in order but the Poles were in chaos under the leadership of Ulrich the Folks–German (he had settled in Kurow years before and favored us with electric lighting, but at the same time was a spy for the Germans); under his rule he provoked the Ukrainians and extorted everyone. Here he picked quarrels with someone, there with some Jew, finding some basis in order to arrest him for charging high prices or simply in order to take his merchandise, therefore we declined to remain in Kurow as it was better to stay in Klimtovits. We gradually removed the boots and divided them among several places with gentiles. We earned a little and wanted the whole family to be together; we began to inquire where all the brothers were. We received bad news. Yankl–Mayer, who had had many orchards and fruits at Kumashits near Opole, had all his fruit requisitioned by the Germans. He disregarded that and sold more that half of it, making a lot of money. The Germans were searching for him. He certainly would not be able to see the light of day, and he fled to Russia. We took in his wife and child. When we heard that Meyshe–Eliezer was in Vonvilits we also went there to be closer to the family. After a short time Yosef–Leyb also came to join us and we were together. Yosef–Leyb later went back to Kurow, and set himself up in the ruins of his house.

 

Shofar–blowing

The holidays Rosh–hashone, Yon–kiper, Sukes, went on under the provocation and agitation of Ukrainians. Ulrich may his name be blotted out took charge of all that. He considered himself the complete ruler of the Jews. All the Jews of Kurow – including many who had come from the villages – gathering in Vonvilits to pray and blow the shofar. The reason was that in Vonvilits it was easier to find a place to pray. And there the mayor of the town was a little better to Jews than in Kurow, where we would have to put up with trouble from Ulrich and his Ukrainian bands. But in the middle of the Torah reading Ulrich's son with a band of Ukrainians burst into the shul and beat the congregation and the Rov bloody and desecrated the Torah scroll. When the mayor of Vonvilits, Miller, heard about it he was resentful that someone had been allowed to cross the border of his authority and had Ulrich's son arrested. The holiday was shattered but we still blew the shofar and finished praying. But besides that the air was incendiary against Jews.

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Slavery and Tributes

The authorities issued several decrees against Jews: One must wear a star–of–David symbol, and shave off beards. We were sent to sweep the streets, wash the floors. Some of the young women were photographed and that sent fear through the Jewish women. Golde, the granddaughter of Motl Shabnmakher, was very pretty, and they shaved her hair in the middle of her head so they could recognize her. She never appeared on the street again after that. They used lewd, disgusting language in the presence of the women. After six in the evening, anyone appearing on the street would be shot. Until eight in the morning no living person was on the street. No Jew may ride on the train. Jews may not heat their homes with peat. A Jew must have a de–lousing certificate. All were decrees whose goal is to denigrate, break morale and body.

One Fishl, a son of Pesl Meyshe Leyvi, whom people called Filip, walks on the street, an S. S. man feels the whim to send a bullet after him, he falls dead on the street. I look a little like a Christian and succeed in moving freely. I risk my life in order to bring some lamp oil from Opole to Kurow and Vonvilits, so that others will not have to sit in the dark on winter nights.

The S. S. demands of Jews that they establish a Judenrat [“Jewish Council of Elders”] and through them they demand Jews for all kinds of heavy and dirty labor. They send girls and women to polish, wash, cook for men, clear the snow from the roads, clean up the riding horses. They send my father to Nolentshov to work at the airfield. We are transformed into servile laboring slaves by the German S. S. and military. Henele Elenboygn – a grandchild of Yerukhim – and I were snatched up for dirty work, excrement, and were held for two weeks. Various tributes were laid on the Judenrat.

The S. S. succeeded in bringing about a split among the Jews, an animosity between one Jew and another.

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There was an ugly saying that the Jew from outside should have to go on the forced labor, and those born in a place first in the second row. That means that if we are from Kurow and we have migrated to Vonvilits, all the work should be piled on us. The same too in Kurow. For those who still remained somewhat moral it was denigrating to have such a relationship between Jews. The S. S. also demanded a number of youths to go clear out the swamps, where boys 13 to 15 years old stood in water in very cold weather. Most of them got lung inflammations.

One Shabes, after a series of jobs that I had already done, they called me out to work again. I very much resented it and I did not go. But soon my mother was arrested for it. She was already sick at the time and I had to go and get her released, so then I had to keep working.

Cases of typhus began close to Peysakh in 1940. My brother Meyshe–Eliezer, who was rich and traded with Lublin, was caught by the S. S. They robbed him of everything he had. He came home beaten up and soon developed typhus. Much was done to try to save him, by private, secret doctors. But he died, leaving his pregnant wife.

On erev Peysakh 1940 she gave birth to a son and gave him the name Meyshe–Eliezer. So passed the first year of the war. The beloved summer comes. We figure that the warmer weather will make our life easier. But even in summer our tormenters do not release us from their sadism. The field work demands hands. They make Jews slaves. They send us to plow and work the fields. We, from towns and villages, carry out the work as we can but those from big cities cannot do it. They get beaten. We are 30 young women dong field work in Lipski. Jewish girls from the larger cities, poor things,

 

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First row from right: Fishl Tenenboym, Perl Mendele's son. Shmuel Aron Shtern, Leyvi Vaynbukh
Second row: Ber Ayzenshmidt, Zalman Vaytsman (son of Khaye Rotbarg and Ben–Tsien), Yasha Shtern. Except for Tenenboym, no on survived

 

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swallow the slaps that the filthy gentiles dish out and so choking on their tears also swallow their shame. To eat, we have just a small piece of black bread with some soured milk that upsets our stomachs. Many got sick. But one must work while sick too. We go on strike and soon are surrounded by a company of Polish gentiles and, under the threat of beatings, we must keep working.

The holidays Rosh ha'shone, Yom–kiper, Sukes, arrive, when one asks God in heaven for help, but it does not come. It makes our hearts very heavy. Without hope. But the holiday comes with an announcement that all those who migrated from other towns will be removed. What should one do and where should one go? Despite the fact that Yankl–Mayer had constructed a small building in Kurow and wanted us to hurry to him, father did not want to live with a child of his and chose instead to go to live in Klimtovits. But when Jews began to move a little, going to other places, there were nasty people who reported this and the German Wehrmacht stood along the road and took whatever they had. Father was robed of everything he had. He was left without a groshen of money. Yosef–Leyb started smuggling again.

 

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From right: Sholem Shnaydleder, Mendl Falkovitsh, Malka Shtern, Yosef Tsukerman. All murdered except for Malka.

 

We got a little money from him again, and I become the food provider. I smuggle peat for fuel. When they catch me I succeed in bribing the catcher, because I look like a Christian. And that is how we get along until Passover 1941 in Klimtovits. Morkhe'le Rotfarb was also with us in Klimtovits. Bashe Yankl Lipinski's, Bila Yokl's and his daughters Miriam and Khane, Khayim Neyman and others. At that time they were taking people again for work in the swamps near Yuzepov. It is hard work, one must bathe in cold water before beginning work. But however bad that was, it was nothing compared to what came next.

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New Decrees and Typhus

A series of new decrees was issued after Peysakh 1941:

Jews are prohibited from leaving the towns where they are settled.

If you meet a Jew while walking, you may beat him.

Any Jew who possesses butter goods must bring it to the authorities.

Daily inspections. They search out what people are cooking. Always new contributions that are demanded by Ulrich himself, or the Judenrat in Kurow or by the thieves from the German authorities. Unbearable. Summer goes away, winter comes. We freeze. There is nothing to heat the houses with. Mother is already very sick. I try to trade in something else on the side. I get a little bread from time to time at forced labor.

New year 1942. We are still in Klimtovits after all. Illnesses break out. Especially typhus. Then Aron Velvel's two daughters die of typhus. It gets harder and darker. One is left without any energy. But the decree that Jews are forbidden to live in the villages hits our heads like thunder. Most of all, Jews should not live with gentiles. So, we have to leave Klimtovits. Purim time comes. After it is made known by the village magistrate that we have to leave Klimtovits, father takes mother to Kurow to be with Yannkl–Mayer. Horrible rumors fly by that many Jews have been murdered along the roads. Whoever we send out does not return. The rumors are not certain. Some say yes, some say no. Yankl–Mayer has somehow constructed a kind of double wall in his house that he can hide in. I try to do trade, smuggle a little food, to get some nourishment. Trading like that to Klimtovits I stayed there, and on the interim days of Peysakh I undertook to knit a sweater at a Christian woman's house. Having had a premonition, I did not go home the last day of Peysakh and stayed with the woman. German S. S. made a search in the village. They even came into the gentile's house saying that they were searching for Jews. My appearance did not cause any suspicion and they did not bother me and went away. But the search put the fear in me and I packed everything into a hand–basket and wanted to go to my father and mother in Kurow.

 

An Exception – Good Gentiles

A gentile, Andrey Kozak, approached me and said, “Kurow is completely surrounded. They are taking all the Jews to transport them for work. Obey me, do not go to Kurow, stay here and hide yourself.”

They locked me up because I was determined to go to see my father and mother before they were sent away. But the good gentiles locked me in and did not allow me to go. What happened there in Kurow was the worst.

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They were herded together in the market square like sheep and were sent off in the direction of Konskivolye. Fortunately my brother Shmuel–Aron escaped and came to me in Klimtovits with a great wail. What to do? We got up in the middle of the night and went to Kurow. Indeed the town was clean of its Jews. Only a few shadows appeared. We scurried up into an attic at old Andrey Kozak's, who had saved me. He was also named Kozak, and we stayed the night there. But after that terrible nightmarish night Shmuel Aron could not be still, and he ran to a gentile and paid him money to go immediately to Konskivolye to learn where they had been taken. He came back and related, “They have assembled them under a strong military guard and no one knows what they will do with them. Some had saved themselves by escaping from there, but some had been caught and not successful. Rekhl Dvore Malke's escaped with her child but the Jewish police caught her and sent her back.

 

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A picture from 1942, at the edge of the river in Kurow after the liquidation of the Jews

First row from the right: Menashe Bukhshrayber (Shleyme “Koze's” son), Khayim Peysakh Gerberman, Leyvi Vaynbukh, Sholem Shnaydleder (Yeshaye Berker's), Elye Ritser (Meyshe “Krupnik's”), Yosl Vaynbukh (Leyvi Yekiv's), Yosef Tsukerman, Avrom Vaynbukh
Second row: 1) Unknown, 2–3) Yankl Faynshmit's two children (in Israel), 4) son of Note Etinger, 5) child of Note Leybl Miryam's, 6) Fishl Tenenboym (a son of Mordkhele Shuster), 7) a child of Fotshe Leybl Miryam's, 8) a child of Avromtshe Goldberg. All but three were killed.

 

Without Father, Without Mother, Without Jews

People consoled themselves with the thought that there was so much fieldwork to be done and the peasants managed not to do the work, they would have to keep the Jews. We later realized it, when our parents wept hard and kissed Yankl–Mayer and Yosef–Leyb and begged them to save themselves however they could and to see if they could save Malkele

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so that some trace of the family would survive. We could not get to them because they were enclosed behind barbed wire. When we heard that the train was bringing cars in which lime has been sprinkled, we already knew what was gong to happen. After a few days they were taken to Karmovits, and after that to Nolentshov. The sick were driven on with beatings, so that they fell along the way. We were very upset. The mind cannot conceive of what had been done. The only small hope was that perhaps they did not kill them but all signs indicated that we were now without father, without mother, without Jews. I was the first to run to Konskivolye to join with my parents and go to death together. I was also the last to return to Klimtovits. As it appeared, fate had it that I should remain alive. As I approached Klimtovits I met Shmuel–Aron. What are you doing? Where are you going? We heard that Ulrich had organized a labor workshop of 30 men. Maybe we could be part of that? We headed for Kurow. We appealed to the Judenrat, but they demanded 10,000 zlotys from us. We begged for something else to do since we did not have the money, but they did not want to give us that either. We were very bitter about their handling of their own Jews. We decided to go back to Klimtovits. We went to the seventy year–old gentile who had served with my father

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in the tsarist Russian army in their youth. He allowed us to stay in his attic.

After being with him for a few days, the partisan bands began their work, and blew up the rail line and robbed. A lot of German military was stationed in Klimtovits and they made an investigation of the village in order to find partisans and Jews. But when the old gentile realized the great danger, a certain death, he placed himself at his doorway with a cross and swore that there were no Jews with him. We were again saved from certain death. The old man was happy but as an old man he was afraid to hide us any longer. He asked us to go away. Then there was nothing else to do but return to Kurow.

About 200 Jews remained in Kurow: Yoske the cantor's daughter, Barukh Zishe Tsukerman with two sons, Khanele Shaye's two sons, Mendl Perl Mendl's, Hersh Khaye Brayndl's, Meyshe, Shmuel Yitskhak Naymark's, Fishl Tenenboym and two sisters, Elkele Tsukerman, Eliezer Yankl Lipunski's son, Menashe Shleyme Koze's, Khanetsha Kose, Shimeon Elenboygn, Rokhl Popelnik and her father Yisroel Dovid, Shmelke Ritser, Manis Eliezer's two sons, Leyvi Yankev Katsov's with two sons, his sister Miriam with another brother and sister, one of Khaye Brayndlele's sons, Hersh, Hilel Kavren's daughter and some others. We looked around us – a few Jews who saved themselves. It chilled us to the bones. I take a few photographs, so there would at least be a memory, a recollection of what once was. We somehow settle ourselves in some hay. I cook for several families. A shudder goes through us when we see the goyim dragging the gravestones from the Jewish cemetery and make sharpening stones for their scythes from them.

The work groups that have been set up to work for Ulrich meant that they were protected from German hands during their work. But that was only temporary. In November 1942 S. S. men came to Ulrich and demand of him that he liquidate the Jews. They stood all the Jews in one place and shot them. Only a few escaped. The small number of Jews who remained in Kurow ran away.

At the time I said to Khane, daughter of the tall Royze, let's run away and hide. But she did not want to. She said that if they were going to kill us, she could at least die in her own place.

 

More Victims

On Monday I go up to the attic to hide. When the shootings quiet down I happen to go to the privy and am horrified to see that Khane was still tottering but

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but soon gave up her soul. It appears that the murderers shot her there. I am saved once again by an accident. I run away. Yankl–Mayer is fleeing to Warsaw. Shmuel–Aron is gone, because he decided to go to join the partisans. I said goodbye to him with a sad heart. I had a feeling that I would never see him again, and he advised me to go into the bunker that we had made in Yankl Zaltsberg's house. Gitl, Hilel Kavren's daughter, was there. Hersh Khaye Brayndl's son, Manis Eliezer's two sons and Etl Shmelke's. My brother Shmuel–Aron, who went to the partisans along with Khayim Khanisman, was killed in their first action. Felled by a German bullet, because the peasants reported them and turned them over to the police. Yitskhak Simkhele Shaul's fell into a pit and was suffocated. My dear brother Shmuel–Aron was captured after he took several bullets in the legs and could not flee. The peasants beat him to death and burned him.

I go to Volye Ushinski, because I knew that the partisans bought weapons there. I start out for Bobovisk near Klode. On the way I come up against Poles, “Spitsles”. I legitimize myself. I have a Polish pass and look like a Christian. If they know that I am a Jewish child they would kill me. In Klode I am met by Etl, Manis Eliezer's daughter–in–law, Hilke's daughter. I immediately hear from them that my dear brother is no longer alive. I am now completely alone, on my own. I go back to Kurow and suddenly meet Yosef–Leyb. And Borukh Zishe Tsukerman. After a while I also lose Yosef Leyb: In 1943 he was digging a bunker and while digging blew up an area of earth and was buried by it on the spot.

 

The Very Last Remnant

After all these troubles and experiences we went back to wait it out in the bunker. Let happen what will. A woman from Warsaw named Khasha was with us and befriended us, and also Mayer Fayvl Kartman's. We started putting things in order. We were in the bunker by day and at night I stole out to peasants to beg for a little bread, water, but fate would have it that we would still not have that measure fulfilled. The anti–Semitism was too deeply rooted. The Poles could not rest if there was a pair of Jews left in Kurow. The village mayor issued posters that all Kurow Jews should leave. Soon he gathered a few farm–hands, _______________, _____________, and even bandits, and loosed them in pursuit of finding Jews. They dragged out 27 Jews. They gathered them at the prison. Among them was Hersh Khaye–Brandl's, Sholem Shnayderleder, Mendl Perl Mendl's, Ber Shleyme Meyshe Asher's, Elke Tsukerman, Fishl Tenenboym, Yankl Belzshitser. Fishl Tenenboym escaped.

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Top row from the right: Yekhezkel (?), Malka Shtern (Salama, Tel Aviv), Yosl Khanisman (in New Zealand), Elka Tsukerman, Fishl Tenenboym (in Italy).
Second row: Shmuel Tsukerman, Sholem Shnaydleder, Yosef Tsukerman, Elye Ritser, Dovtshe Rimer's son
Third row: One of Fotshe Vaynberg's children, one of Note Vaynberg's sons. All but three were killed

 

He also wanted to rescue Elke Tsukerman, Aron Velvel's daughter. He wanted to give a lot of money to Ulrich's son, but he demanded from Elke that she give herself to him. She angrily spit in his face. In the morning they all were shot. This was at the end of 1942. Pinkhas and Yekhiel Goldberg were also killed at that time. And usually for something silly. They had been suspected for a while.

Reports went around that they were especially searching for the Shterns. Because we were known as rich people. The gentiles wanted to torture us. They posted spies to follow us. We only went out when we had to beg for a piece of bread. One time, when Khaye Oberkleyd and one of Borukh Zishe's sons went out to bring back a little straw, they were followed and arrived back at a moment when we were all gathered in one place. We earnestly begged them, we gave them whatever we had – money, jewelry – to go away. They later brought us bread and water and food. In time they became “trusted” by us.

Some among those gathered were not reasonable characters. We soon began to argue. This one wanted to go bring something back, that one wanted to go and bring something. This also created a situation in which we were not being careful enough, so that we were always in danger. We would have to flee from the bunker. When they saw us running in the middle of the day they started shooting at us. We and a few other managed to hide ourselves. When the shooting stopped I went to one of our friends, Tarkovski. She began to cross herself and cry that they only had one son. She was afraid that they would burn all her possessions. We left her and set out to find Rukash. We promised him a large

[Column 418]

sum of money and we remained there in hiding.

At the beginning of 1943 the Germans began pulling together the few remaining Jews in order to kill them. They began making a Jew–town in Konskivolye for the whole region, promising supposed work.

Being strained from all the events and also very pessimistic about our situation, we began to gather in the Jew–town with the anticipation that if we sensed any danger we would run away. My brother Yosef–Leyb and Borukh–Zishe Tsukerman, Khaye Oberkleyd, Mayer Kartman, Shleyme Nisenboym and his son, Ber–Shleyme Meyshe–Osher's, Eliezer Yankl Lipunski, Menashe Shleyme Koze's, Khayim Khanisman, Feygele Oberkleyd and her husband, Fotshe Leybl Miryam's, Ben–Tsien Yitskhak Shuster's, Etil Manis Eliezer's daughter–in–law, were with us.

Leyvi Yankev's with his two sons and two sisters. Miryam and Malka with a brother, Fishl Tenenboym, Beyltshe one of Ben–Tsien's daughters, – she was quickly recognized when she went outside, taken back to Rude and shot.

I get sick with typhus. They make an extra wall in the house so that I might easily hide in a time of danger. But, the fact that I got sick is very bad. What to do? They pay a doctor a lot to come in secret, he heals me. I get well and stand on my own feet. My brother Yankl–Maher comes from Warsaw, gets sick and dies. He was destined to die in his own environs.

Also living in our room were Borukh–Zishe Tsukerman and his son, Eliezer Yankl Lipunski's. Borukh Zishe had a little money. He began trading in currency. Around that time the commandant of Pilikh got the sudden desire to have a diamond ring. It was soon rumored that in Konskivolye there was a Jew who dealt in currencies, so he must get him the

[Column 419]

diamond ring. We see that danger is near again, and we decide that we must go into a bunker. I take all the money from Borukh–Zishe and run to the Konskivolye cemetery. Germans come to search him and find nothing. In anger they take all the clothing. I, in my rush, forget the documents with the Polish passport. It is hanging on the wall. But they do not notice it and that is lucky for me, because without that Polish pass I cannot move around.

 

Kur419.jpg
From right to left: (1) A son of Dovtshe Zandmer; (2) Beyltshe, daughter of Ben–Tsien Vaytsman; (3) Fishl Tenenbaum; (4) Elye Ritser; (6) daughter of Yisroel Dovid Kenig

 

Chased Like a Dog

There are further secret reports that the Germans have decided to eradicate the last few Jews. But first they must extract all they can from them. At the same time we hear that Germans and Poles are posted in the fields, in peasant homes, in bunkers, and wherever else they might find a Jew who should then be shot and burned. I always depend on my premonition. Not everyone wanted to leave Konskivolye. I leave them behind and go back to Kurow. We lock ourselves into a bunker, but after a few days – the 7th of May 1943 – we hear in the bunker that Germans have surrounded all the ruins around us and with probing rods are searching for bunkers where Jews are hiding. Our bunker was constructed like this: after three cellars there was a fourth cellar where the lower wall could be pushed aside, so that one could escape. If we saw that the danger was great, that wall to the fourth cellar which was covered with tin – a peasant had already stuck holes in it with a pitchfork so we could feel the tin – we knew could break through the counter–wall and get out of there. But when we come out, we see a closed wall which, in order to escape, we have to climb over its two–meter height. I do not know where I found the strength and energy to climb over that wall, ably

[Column 420]

and quickly. But Khayim Klukh, unfortunately, was shot hanging from the wall. Once I was over, I understood that they would still search for me. I went to a gentile house, cried a lot that he should save me, but he would not. But I saw a doghouse near the stalls. I went into that. While I was sitting in the doghouse I pulled off a board that led to the stall on the other side and I lay down in there. I can hear well what is going on around me. I hear how they assemble all the captives and demand money from them. If one will tell on another who has money, the teller can live. I could hear all of this and I lay there in terror the whole night, until eight in the morning when the peasant came into the stall. The Christian noticed me, but his son wanted to save me, but his father came over and screamed at me to get out of there. The Germans used the labor of the firefighters who ran from hole to hole like a swarm of locusts. When the firefighters turned the other way I reached for the ragged coat that I had tossed aside in the doghouse in order to be lighter for an escape. I escaped. I jumped over a hedge, and a stream, and so made it to the Jewish cemetery, and rested there until noon.

I look around me: what would become of me? I am all alone once more. I do not know who could save me. I hear the sounds of the firefighters again. It seems as though they are running around like predatory hounds, looking for Jews. I dig myself in among the grasses. A gentile man notices me. He understands that I am in hiding. He pretends not to see me, but at noon he changes his mind and comes back, and says,

“Look, I have a choice to kill you, but I feel sorry for you, so give me the money that you have.”

I give him the last few zlotych that I have and take off running. But where to? I meet a farmhand who is working in a field. He is very kind and advises me to go to the peasants and work in the fields for them. No one will recognize me. He also tells me that not long ago a Jewish boy jumped from a train.

“Look for him among the grain!”

I discover him easily. He immediately understands who I am. He tells me that he heard that in Konskivolye there is a Jew–town, so he was gong there. I explain the situation of the Jew–town, and that now everything is liquidated. Better, let us go together to Kurow to look for someone, maybe someone has saved himself.

What was once Leybl Solti's house has been turned into a furrier shop, making fur coats for the Germans. Six Jews from Izshbitse work there under the supervision of a German commandant.

[Column 421]

Kur421.jpg
Yosef Tsukerman, son of Borekh Zishe and Freyda (Klaperman) – murdered

 

But besides that, they stand in fear of the German S. S. who do not consider any permissions or custodies. They must hide also. We go to them. They take us in with open arms. They dress us and give us good food, but more than that they cannot give. We stay with them for a few days during the day; at night we go up to Rukashe's hayloft. Until the gentile man notices us. I cry in front of him to help us, but he will not help at all. I stay a little longer with the Izshbitse Jews, but I see that these good people have troubles. They themselves are jeopardizing their lives when there is a stranger among them. But they say that I cannot leave them. One of them, Blank, was a very genteel person. He would not put anything in his mouth but bread and milk due to he concern about breaking kosher laws.

I try to get to Klimovits. I set myself up in the woods nearby. There I meet two of Leyvi Yekiv's sons, the son of Shleyme Andrus, Leyvi Yekiv's sister and her husband. They propose that I go back with them to where they are. I notice that on the trees, there is scratched the names of Dovid and Yosl, Leyvi Yekiv's, I scratch my name into a tree as well. Someone may pass through who

[Column 422]

was also saved and know that on this day I was also alive. I try to reach the gentile with whom I left a sewing machine, and to ask for money for the machine. I have become mangy. When I see night approaching, I go up to a hayloft, bury myself in straw and sleep well. When I wake up it is already the middle of the day. I am afraid to go out in the middle of the day, and when the peasant came up he was surprised but did nothing to me. On the contrary, he was good to me but he could not hide me. He was afraid. I go again to the Izshbitse Jews and hear that a few of the Kurow Jews whom I was with have been shot – among them a son of Shleyme Andrus. I sit with them for a while, but I understand that I cannot be with them any longer. Their German overseers can come at any moment. I go back among the grain stalks. At night I go to sleep in the Polish cemetery. My body is burning with heat. I come again to the Izshbitse Jews. I cry to them, what should I do? The Jew speaks to me like a father and tears stand in his eyes:

“My child, obey me, that little boy Dovid Leyvi Yekiv's comes here all the time. He comes to collect little pieces of bread to eat, don't leave him, go with him. You will find Leyvi Yekiv's family in the forest too, don't leave them, go be with them.”

I took along another woman with me, Khashe from Warsaw. Just at that time Dovid Leyvi's did not come. It seems that they knew that the Germans were strenuously searching for Jews and partisans, and it was dangerous to come out of their hiding places. I hide in the fields; at night in the haylofts of the barns. The peasants know that I can knit beautiful sweaters, and they take me in, sit me down in a hidden place and I knit. And so I hide Khashe Blank near me.

Partisans had wounded two Germans near Volye–Ushinski. So they hanged a few Poles and that immediately threw a fright into the whole region. When the gentile partisans arrived, they warned us that we should not roam around too much. That was probably the reason we had not seen Dovid Leyvi Yekiv's. I had not found any place for myself, sometimes in the hayloft, sometimes with the Izshbitse Jews.

Once I was sitting with a gentile woman, knitting. Suddenly it sounded as though Germans were coming. The woman ran to me saying I should get out quickly. It was clear that if I ran away now it would mean certain death. But the woman was afraid for me to stay with her. That moment was critical for me. I oriented myself quickly and began shouting at the gentile:

“You chase me out at such a moment? You go out, now, so that both of us will not be killed.”

[Column 423]

The woman ran out, out of shock.

 

Kur423.jpg
For wounding one German, they hanged ten local residents

 

I rolled up my sleeves and took the place at the laundry tub where the woman had been standing. The Germans come in, they look here, they look there, they noticed nothing, They go away.

After that I go searching for Leyvi Yekiv's. It would soon be winter. I join their group. They had several bunkers themselves. They are not all together. If something happens and people are caught, they will not catch everyone. Khashe goes out to Volye–Ushinski to get bread.

The partisan movement spreads ever more and more. The reports from the front say that the Germans are getting beaten and suffer defeats. I have a throat infection. I go around in a fever. Also the rash is spreading on me. I do not have any place to wash myself. I consult with Khashe. It remains that I should go to the gentile woman who is hiding all my brother's possessions. Meanwhile the Germans are bringing in Ukrainian highwaymen to fight against the partisans. I was dubious because of my illness, but the gentile received me very well. She gave me the stall to hide in. When the Ukrainians went away she took me into her house, gave me clothes to wear, brought the doctor for me and healed me. She gave me a place in the kitchen to sleep. Of course, the servant who was there was jealous of me. She thought that I was a Christian and complained that I got the lighter work and she got the heavy work. The gentile became afraid that she would report her, and I had to flee.

Many were killed in the Ukrainian actions: the Shobenmakher family; killed in Klode were Fotshe Leybl Miryam's, Avremele Oberkleyd, Khaye Oberkleyd, Shleyme Koze's daughter and her daughter, Meyshe

[Column 424]

Ritser's wife and son. At the same time they also shot Khaye Goldberg though her child remained with a gentile family in Kurow.

I go again out to the field where the group of Kurow Jews has located. Khashe is also hiding with them. Peysakh 1943 arrives. Suddenly we see, coming across the field, Avremtshe Goldberg with a girl and a boy. He relates that the son of Shleyme from our courtyard has gone mad. He was shot. He tells us also that in the village people want to kill him. We advise him not to go back. But he doesn't listen and goes back. Then Yehoshe Tsukerman's little sister also went mad. She was killed. Leyvi Yekiv's buried her. Sholem Kenig was also killed at that time, during a battle of partisans against Poles.

 

Kur424.jpg
Khantshe Bukhshrayber–Elenboygen (Shleyme Kozes daughter), murdered along with her child by gentile men in the village Luen. Her husband, the partisan, went into the village to take revenge and was also murdered there.

[Column 425]

The Last Poisoned Moments and the Liberation

 

Kur425.jpg
From right top row: Yosef Khanisman (Wellington, New Zealand), Fishl Tenenboym (Italy), Yosef Tsukerman, Elye Ritser
Second row: Elke Tsukerman, Malke Shtern (Israel)

 

Finally the days arrived when we heard that the German murderers were retreating on all fronts. We can hardly contain ourselves. We crawl out of our hiding places with joy. We begin to ask around where the Jews are to be found. We go. Fishl Tenenboym, Berl Krupnik and his family (one of his sons had to be carried because he has a disease in his legs). His wife is also sick. Yehoshe Tsukerman, Altman, one of the Izshbitse Jews. Gentiles say that there are Jews in Markushov, We arrive here, but it seems that our joy is still premature because there we are surrounded by a crowd of Poles who want to kill us, in order to wipe out the remaining witnesses to their murders. We lay on the ground. But a company of Russian soldiers arrives unexpectedly. Among them is one Jew. He realizes what is happening and points his weapon at the Poles. They flee. And the good Pole Kordovski advises us that we should hide for the next two weeks. We can come out freely once the Russian military posts are set up in Kurow. I decided to travel to Lublin. Along the way I met:

Khaye Vaserman–Ritser, Shmuel Khanisman with his son Yosef, Hersh Kotliazsh with his wife, Simeon Elenboygn Rifke Yerukhem's son who was going with his rifle to the village Luen to take revenge on the gentiles who murdered his wife and child. We insisted that he not go, but he did go and met his death there. We also took along the two children who had been with Christians. That was a girl of Feygele Oberkleyd and also Sabtshe Goldberg, one of Sholem Rov's grandchildren. We turned them over to the Red Cross as they were in very bad condition health–wise. They made complete recoveries, but before we left

[Column 426]

a Jew from Shlezien arrived whose children had been killed in the war and he adopted Sabtshe. After that he would not give the child up.

Gradually we began to trade. We also began to contemplate how we might support ourselves in Kurow. Leyvi Yekiv's son went into the Polish military, which was just being organized. Leyvi Yekiv's started slaughtering cows and selling meat to the Christians, and began to make money. He was very encouraged. He built a little house near the highway and said that for anyone who was saved, he would stow a sack of sugar and various foodstuffs in his house, so that any Jews who passed through could eat and drink. He considered marrying Khashe Blank. And he began to build a life. But fate had it otherwise. The knife was not yet satisfied. When he was in a village buying cows, he was killed.

Polish partisans attacked us one time and took everything. We were again naked and barefoot. Without a groshen of money. Golde Akerman hid in the attic and no one saw her.

We decide to search out Leyvi Yekiv's murderer. We pay money to a certain gentile and I volunteer to go with him to search. I am very afraid that I could be killed too. I don't look at all that. But asking the first questions along the road the goyim figure out that we are looking for Leyvi Yekiv's and begin shooting at us. I run into a side road, and through another path back to Kurow. Then we all decide that we will not stay: that we must leave forever our thousand–year–old settlement.

We travel to Lublin where Berl Ritser gives me a little money and I travel to Lodz, settling there until 1946. I marry there and move to Germany. I stay there until 1948 and then we move to Erets Yisroel in 1948.

 

Kur426.jpg
Leyvi Yekiv's, murdered by Poles in liberated Poland

 

Translator's footnote:
  1. This writer spells the town's name “Koriv” in Yiddish but we have transliterated it Kurow for consistency in this book. Return

 

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