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Holocaust

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Live testimony

by Shabtai Avni (formerly Steinbercher)

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

My father, Meir Steinbercher, was engaged in tobacco trade, which he supplied to the Germans and he was also a money changer. During the roundup of the Jews before sending them to the camps (Aktz'ya), on Pesach week 1942, we hid in our house on Krawiecka Street, in a bunker that Dad and I had dug. We heard screams, shots and bitter cries above us. From the bunker we saw, through a hole we made, what was going on outside. The killers set fire in the nearby streets and as a result, after a few hours, the smoke entered the bunker, and we began to choke. We had to leave. I went out first, afterwards - my father, who was badly burned in his hands, and my mother, Ita, who was burned in the head. I poured several buckets of water on the aisle, so we could get out. Through the nearby fields we managed to dodge to the west, to the village of Slovodka, and to the village of Kovki. In Kovki we hid at the house of a farmer, in a pile of straw. From there I was sent by my father to fetch food from the bunker in Kuty, and find out what was the situation. A few days later we returned to Kuty.

After a short time, the head of the Judenrat demanded a payment, so that we could obtain a work permit. We paid five hundred dollars. A few days later, the whole family was sent to Kolomyia ghetto. My father worked in forced labor and was beaten aggressively by the Ukrainians' and the Poles. In Kolomyia ghetto we lived in a synagogue. I worked as an engraver for an SS officer. The ghetto in Kolomyia was divided into three parts. Every day, the Germans checked part by part, in order, collected the dead, and made a census of the rest. There was a shortage of food in the ghetto and the hygienic conditions were terrible. Many died every day. One day I realized that the end of us all is near. My older sister Atel and I decided to run away to Kuty. In Kuty we hid on the roof of the Schechter family, and from there I had to look for food. Over time, I got a job with one German. My father, may God avenge him, managed to escape from the ghetto in Kolomyia, with the entire family of his sister and with my little brother.

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On the way, in Kosov, he died.

I was able to bring the rest of the family, my two brothers and sister, to Kuty. After a short time, I managed to get a smuggler, and we were transferred to Romania for a decent payment. On the way we were caught by the Romanians, who wanted to send us back to Kuty. Thanks to a large payment, we were left it in Viznitz. Two weeks after, we were transferred to Transnistria. There my mother fell ill with typhus and died in great agony. My older sister, little brother and little sister worked in the town of Mostovoy. After a short time, the Romanians moved them somewhere between the mountains and shot them. Of that group, only a carpenter and a child survived. I was sent with a large group to Bog River to build a bridge to the German army. With the German withdrawal from the Ukrainian front, we were able to reach the port of Constanta in Romania. In July 1944, we boarded three ships: Bulbul, Mefkure and Morena. Two of them were sunk by the Germans. Luckily, I was on the third ship. The ship arrived in Turkey and from there we arrived by train in Israel.


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Testimony

by Yaakov Altman

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

On the seventh evening of Pesach, we learned that the roundup of the Jews before sending them to the camps (Aktz'ya) would take place the next day. Since we knew about the fate of Kosov and the other towns in the area, we prepared for the worst. The people prepared hiding places to try and save their families. The next day at eight o'clock in the morning the killers passed by in black cars, on which the emblem of the skull of death was stamped. The killers attacked the town with the help of local Ukrainians, Ukrainian police, German border guards and the Wehrmacht (German army) police. They started looking for Jews, and when they could not find them, they turned to the chairman of the Judenrat. The man replied that he did not know where the Jews were. In return, they set the town on fire. The people fled the burning houses, looking for a way to escape, but there were many killers. They repulsed the victims back to the burning houses, throwing them into the fire until they were burned alive. Thus, about a thousand people were murdered.

That day, my brother, Shimon Altman, my uncle and cousin, Primche Altman, Yosl Gruy and his daughter Hannah were murdered on the street. I worked in the cemetery for two days and saw with my own eyes what the killers did. This picture will remain in my memory forever. I, with my own hands, buried many Jews. I remember Raphael the butcher, Leibush the butcher, Shlomo Moshkovitz, Natan Moshkovitz and many more.

The killers ordered the survivors will be transferred to Kolomyia ghetto. The Judenrat negotiated, endeavoring to allow at least some of the survivors to remain in the city. Some people were allowed to stay. Some of them bought a work permit (Arbeits Shine) for money. The people were desperate. Men shaved their beards, to make them look younger.

My family members who were taken to Kolomiya, included Hanna Oyphzhar and her children, Bella, Moshe, Haim

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And Shimon. I do not know how they were killed. Shimon Oyphzhar tried to escape to Romania, but on the way, near the town of Roznov, he was killed by the Ukrainians. Wolf Groy, his wife Rivka Golda and their children, Vita and Shimon, were also transferred to Kolomyia ghetto. Many died of starvation in Kolomyia.

The situation was difficult in Kuty as well. Many died of starvation. I have seen people swollen from lack of food. The people walked around restlessly, not knowing what the day will bring. Some of the survivors lost the will to live, waited for the next day, perhaps hoping a miracle would happen. Others were looking for a way to escape, trying to cross the border into Romania, flee to the forests, or dig bunkers.        

My brother Avraham, Isaac Hozen, his wife and daughter, and David Shmeretz were among the first to cross the border into Czernowitz. They were followed by others, including: my mother, Miriam Altman, my brothers, Ephraim and Shimon, and my nephew, Zalman Groy. Zami was caught, but was later released because of his young age. Today he lives in Israel. At one point I also helped my father, Moshe Altman, my sister, Hannah, and my brother, Haim, to get to Czernowitz. I stayed in Kuty together with my sister, Rosa, her husband David and their son Ezra. Our relationship with the family members in Romania was disconnected.

Not everyone who tried to escape to Romania succeeded. Clara Ettinger was caught at the train station in Czernowitz, because of a tip-off of the train conductor. She was imprisoned along with other people who were unlucky and caught. On October 20 they were all sent to Sniatyn, and a few days later, on October 26, they were shot dead.

On September 7, 1942, the Germans declared a census and registration of all Jews. We realized on the day before that they did not mean to count. On the night between six and seven in September, many tried to cross the border, but all were caught. There were people who tried to hide. They were not many. But hunger overwhelmed them as well, and they turned themselves in to the police, among whom was also my cousin, Ephraim Oyphzhar. He was transferred with everyone to Kolomyia ghetto, where he perished. On that day, September 7, my sister Rosa, her husband and son, were also taken to Kolomyia.

I and others from Kuty - members of the Littman Ornstein family, Aharon Goldschmid, his wife Asrat, Mrs. Kahana, Herschel Feldhamer and the children of Tatka Tzvivach, the daughter Atel and the son Mitzia – were hiding. Only Atel Tzvivach, who now lives in Israel, survived from the entire group. It was awful. The city was empty of Jews. The houses were broken into, the property was looted, I wandered among the empty houses, looking for a place to hide. Every noise made me jump.

From the seventh of September until the nineteenth of October, I hid in Stry-Kuty (the old Kuty), in the toilet of Aharon Goldschmid. At night I was looking for vegetables

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in the gardens, and from that I revived my soul.

On the night of October nineteen, I crossed the border into Romania. The next day I arrived in Czernowitz and met my father, my sister Hannah and my brother Haim. My father and brother were later extradited to the authorities. They were taken to Sniatyn where they were murdered. Of all my family, only my brother Avraham and my sisters Hannah and Sheindel (Yaffa) survived.


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Sally Rapoport (Oya)

by Nehama Braunstein (from Meltzer family)

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

When Sally Rapoport was born, in 1932 in Kuty, she was the family's pampered girl. She had three older brothers, who pampered her and took great care of her. Because she did not know how to pronounce her name as a child, she called herself "Oya", a nickname that remained until her adulthood.

When she was about nine years old, before the last roundup of the Jews before sending them to the camps (Aktz'ya) in Kuty, her mother, Dina Rapoport, accompanied her to the train station, which took them to Czernowitz, Romania. There, a borders' smuggler helped her cross the border for a nice payment.

Oya came to her aunt, her father's sister. Th aunt was afraid to let her stay with her, so she gave her a little food and sent her on her way. Oya left and cried. She met a Romanian gentile, who spoke German, and understood that she had nowhere to go to and that she was Jewish. Despite this, he brought her to his house, allowed her to bathe, and gave her food. He even fulfilled her request to eat kosher food. She was given a vegetarian and dairy meal. The next day he brought her to a Jewish family, which held her until the end of the war, and that was because they sent their daughter to London to be rescued from the Germans.

After the war, I came to Czernowitz. There I met Sally, as well as Tzipa and Isaac Hozen, who also stayed in Czernowitz, and did not meet Sally throughout the war. In 1946, when Tzipa decided to emigrate to the United States, she took Oya with her and raised her as her own daughter. In the United States, Oya attended university. Today she works as a teacher. She has a family, a husband, three sons and a daughter. She leads a traditional lifestyle and lives happily.


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Testimony

by Nehama Braunstein (from Meltzer family)

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Before the outbreak of World War II, I was imprisoned in the prison of Purdue, on the German border, after being accused of activity in the Communist Party of Poland, which was, as was well known, illegal. When the war broke out, the director of the prison fled and all the warders fled with her. We, too, the prisoners, broke out the prison, and fled for fear of the arrival of the Germans.

These were summer days. We went out about five hundred women, and we walked to the woods. About a thousand political prisoners, who chose an action committee for themselves, gathered in the woods. This committee offered its help to the mayor in the war against Germany, alongside Poland. The mayor of Warsaw refused to distribute weapons to the released prisoners, but agreed to include us in the city's anti-aircraft defense system.

When the Russians arrived in Praga, a Warsaw suburb, we, the Communists, moved to the Russian side, and from there we drove towards Lvov. Together with a young friend from the prison, named Clarcha, I arrived at the home of my sister, Sprintza, who was living in Lvov at the time. We stayed there for two days. Our legs were swollen from walking and we were tired and exhausted.

I returned to Kuty, the town where I was born and raised. After I recovered, I started working at the town's culture house. A representative of the N.K.W.D. who was with us offered me a mission beyond the German enemy lines, within Poland. I was sent to my parents in Chernivtsi to operate a radio device. I was then transferred to a village near Kaminitz-Podolsk. I was given a radio device and a gun in case I fell into the hands of the Germans.

I lived with a Polish family, who supported the Communists, in a village at the crossroads between Bialystok, Kharkov and Kiev. My role was to report about the movement of the German army to both Russian intelligence and the partisans in the area.

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I stayed about two months in this place. During the day I would hide among the trees in the field, watching the movement of the army and memorizing everything. At midnight, at a pre-determined time, I would take out the radio device, which was hidden in a tin box in the cowshed, and broadcast for about half an hour.

It was agreed between us that in case I lost contact with the partisan forces, I should write a message on a note and bury it in the straw, next to a certain tree in the village. This place also served as the “mailbox”, where I was supposed to receive messages from the partisans.

At that time, I was working in a field hospital of the German army as a translator from Russian and Ukrainian to German. There I befriended a German dentist who was a social-democrat.

When the contact with the partisan unit stopped, I was notified in the “mailbox” in the straw that I should return to Russia. The German officer also advised me to flee, as the Germans suspected that I was Jewish. The officer provided me with some food, and I set off.

In those days I faced the horrible sight of the execution of Jews. These were Jews brought from the Hungarian Carpathian region.

The partisans sent me, through a farmer from the area, a forged permit from the German headquarters, allowing me to move to Kharkov. The certificate states that I am looking for my husband, who escaped from Russian captivity. On the certificate was written the name of the farmer mentioned above, who pretended to be my father, and I, his daughter.

During our escape to the Russian border, five other people joined us. We added their names on the certificate, one by one, as “relatives.” At first, we met a doctor and a nurse from a field hospital who had fled from the Germans. We then added to the certificate a Russian soldier who had escaped from German captivity. He was the son of Litvinov, who was the Russian foreign minister at the time. More people joined us, all of whom we registered under false names. My name, for example, was Wanda Tchikovska.

On our way, German soldiers met us. They liked the parachute shoes I was wearing. They took them from me, and gave me tattered shoes in return, but did not harm us.

On one occasion we were stopped by a German unit of Yugoslav soldiers. They checked our belongings. The battle rations we had were over, fortunately for us, but they found in our belongings Russian money, on which were written obscure words. Of course, we were accused of being Jews. A Polish soldier who was with them said he could diagnose if we were Jews or Poles. He asked me, since I was at the top of the list, to say the Christian morning prayer in Polish. Luckily, I knew the prayer, which I studied while I was still in Kuty among the Polish Gentiles. This is how my life and the lives of those who joined me were saved.

We used to walk at night. One night, near Kharkov, we heard Russian-speaking voices

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on a field phone. We were excited. The nurse who was with us ran towards the voices, but we stopped her. One of our friends crawled towards the voices, to see if they were indeed Russians. And indeed, these were Russians. We went out to meet them, and asked them to take us to the secret Russian police, and there we parted.

I was sent to Moscow, and Litvinov's son handed me a letter to his parents. When I came to Moscow I was uncertain about where I should go. I decided to go to Litvinov's parents' house first, to let them know that their son was alive, and to hand them the letter. When I reached the steps of the house, a taxi stopped and a young woman holding a newborn baby in her arms came out. In retrospect, I learned that she was the wife of soldier Litvinov. His father came out of the house at that time, and asked what I wanted. When I showed him the letter from his son, he hugged me tightly, let me into their house, and asked me to tell everything about his son. He said he was sure his son had been killed, and wanted to name the baby after him. I rested for about four days at the Litvinov's family home, which treated me very nicely. After that, I stayed (for about two weeks) in Gorky Hotel, one of the most luxurious hotels in Moscow. According to the secret police order, I have written about everything I have been through since I was arrested in Poland.

I did not return to Poland again. I trained in operating a tractor and later was transferred to Nympulsham, Kazakhstan[1]. Towards the end of the war, I moved to the city of Gorky. During this time, I worked as a tractor driver, and I even knew how to repair any part of the tractor.

In Gorky I heard the news that Kuty had been liberated by the Russians. I wrote a letter to Kuty's mayor, and I learned that of all my family members, no one was left. The only survivors were Sally Rapoport and Chipa and her husband Isaac Hoosen. They lived in Chernivtsi.

I came to Chernivtsi and lived with them in the same apartment. Although the war was over, the Jews were still in danger from the Ukrainians. I went back to Kuty with Isaac Hoosen and a few other relatives. The city was demolished and its houses destroyed. I knew that when the German invasion began, my Communists friends sent a cart with horses to rescue my mother, but she refused to leave town.

Our house was destroyed, and torn pictures of family members rolled on the floor. I have collected the photos and they are kept with me to this day.

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We saw that some of the gentiles in the town were wearing the clothes of the Jews who perished, and we informed the municipal officials about this. Following this, the residents were gathered in the center of town, near the church, and were sent to Siberia.

After all this, and since I saw that there was no point in staying in the town, I decided to immigrate to Eretz Israel. Here I met my brother and some of my good friends.

Editor's note

  1. Aryeh Hazenpertz tells that he learned from Nehama Braunstein that when she came to Moscow she met Beria, the head of the secret services, and Stalin's right-hand man, and told him about the extermination of the Jews in Poland. Beria warned her not to spread the news. He made her realize that he was saving her life just because of her contribution as a loyal communist, and sent her into exile in Kazakhstan. Return


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Testimony

by Landwehr Bronislaw

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

In 1941, when the Russians arrived, I was about 25 years old, working in Kuty in painting cloth signs. The war began in June 1941. I was taken to serve in the 339th Battalion - Mortar Battalion. We were transferred to the border with Hungary. There we launched an offensive, eight days after the Germans invaded territory held by the Soviet Union. We advanced to the Russian border, crossed the Dniester River, blew up Zelshiki, near the Prut River, which separated Romania from Poland. I was wounded by the explosion blast and taken prisoner by the Hungarians, unconscious, and taken to the hospital in Kolomyia. After a week in captivity, I woke up, and was handed over to the Germans. One night I ran away from the hospital towards Kuty, which was forty kilometers away. I worked as a painter and made signs. I worked for the Germans near the border separating Poland and Romania. In April, the Germans staged roundups of the Jews before sending them to the camps in the city and killed about seventy percent of its Jewish residents. I was saved due to my work. At my working place was an Austrian guy, a good guy who befriended me. He advised me to flee towards Romania, and even helped me pass the Charmos River. He also gave me a train ticket to Chernivtsi. Unfortunately, I was caught by the Romanian gendarmerie, who transferred me to the city of Trespol, where many Jews who had fled like me were concentrated. They took out the strong people among us, those who could work, and killed the rest. We were left about twenty-five people. Two weeks later we were transferred to a German camp, where there was also an SS school. We were sent to farm work in kolkhozes in Ukraine in an area called Sukhovka.

In 1943 the Romanians arrived. They transferred us to a place called Nikolaev, by the southern Bog River, where we were taken to build a bridge for the Germans. They imposed more hard work on us. Their treatment towards us was disgraceful. They beat us

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aggressively regardless of the hard work we performed. I was familiarized with a Russian prisoner there who looked after us (the conditions of the Russian prisoners were better). He said he heard the Germans were beginning to retreat, and they killed everyone who was left. He suggested that we flee and join the partisans. And indeed, one night I fled there with another Jew from Russia. We arrived at a meeting place that was given to us a few days later. The place was thirty kilometers from Nikolaev and was called Transnister. The partisans interrogated us, and when they saw that we were telling the truth, we took the oath and joined them. In one of the operations against the Germans I was wounded by shrapnel. The partisans left me in the city of Rizopol, with a Russian woman who cooperated with us, until their return. They arrived after a short period. I stayed there, and started working at a local cinema and in other various jobs. One day the cinema owner asked me to join him in his travel to the city of Vinnitsa to bring a new film. On the way there we encountered a soldier dressed in a Polish army uniform. When I asked him, he said that the Polish army was being rehabilitated and new soldiers were being recruited. I went to the place he mentioned, and enrolled as a non-Jewish Pole. I participated in an officers' course and then was transferred to an 8-infantry battalion and was sent to the front. I arrived in Warsaw, which was still divided and half occupied by the Germans. It was a hard winter and everything was frozen. On January 17, 1945, we conquered the city. We continued as far as Berlin and conquered it on the twentieth of March.

On May 9, 1945, the war ended. I served in the army until 1953. I was discharged with the rank of major. I lived in Silesia, where I worked in a factory and I was in charge of manpower. In 1957 I immigrated to Israel with my family.

Today I am a member of an organization of disabled soldiers and partisans due to the war against the Nazis.


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The last day of Pesach 5702

by Yaakov Gottel

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

For more than half a year, the organized murders of Jews in our area have been carried out. The roundups of the Jews before sending them to the camps (Aktz'ya) that were held by the Gestapo headquarters from the province of Kolomyia, with the active and enthusiastic help of the Ukrainian police and the Ukrainian population, have already taken casualties from the Jewish communities in Kosov, Kolomyia, Sniatyn, Nadborno, Zabalov, Zjabia and other surrounding towns.

The method repeated everywhere with precision. In the morning a number of trucks arrived in the town with Ukrainian policemen under the command of the Gestapo, they closed all the exits and entrances, took the Jews out of their houses, killed those trying to escape, and the others were led to the outskirts and shot after being stripped of their clothes and later thrown in mass graves that were excavated in advance. The Ukrainian population, the inhabitants of the neighboring villages, helped to find the Jews, and at the same time, looted the little property that was still left. Around evening time, usually at five o'clock, the roundup of the Jews ended, and the killers returned to the district town.

It was clear to us, the Jews of Kuty, that our turn was about to come. In the meantime, the people were preparing hiding places, some in the basement and some in the attic, under the floor or inside large baking stoves. Others temporarily moved to towns where the roundups of the Jews (Aktz'ya) had already taken place, assuming it will not happen there again. There were also those who paid money to Ukrainian friends, hoping they can hide in their homes when the time comes. Despair and fear prevailed in everything.

On April 8, 1942, the chairman of the Judenrat, Sigmund Tillinger, was summoned to the Gestapo headquarters in Kolomyia and was required to hand over a thousand Jews within two days. He claimed he could not do that. They informed him that they would do the collection themselves.

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Tillinger visited our house that evening and told us about it. It was clear that the roundup (Aktz'ya) in our city was very close. The next day, April 9, the last day of Pesach, every member of our family went to his matters. My father worked as an accountant at the municipal electricity plant that belonged to a local German family, the Yakel family, that until the war my father was a partner in it. My sister worked as a pharmacist in the only pharmacy in the city, while I worked with twenty other Jewish boys in building a dam on a stream of the Charmush, called 'Malinovka'. Only my mother remained at home, intending to hide in a hiding place under the floor.

At exactly nine o'clock the first shots were heard from the direction of the town center. It was clear to us that the roundup of the Jews (Aktz'ya) had begun. All of us took the tools, axes, shovels, pickaxes and ran towards Mount “Ovidiush”. As we crossed the road leading to the town, we came across a group of peasants headed by the young and infamous Rodka. They ran to the city, with empty sacks in their hands, to loot the houses of the Jews. When they discovered us, they shouted "Jews! Jews!", But when they saw a group of young people with axes in their hands, they continued on their way, and we went on our way.

We passed by the Grau family's house and started climbing the steep mountain, in the direction of the forest. While we were climbing, we encountered our neighbor, Ephraim Druck, who was unable to climb because of his Typhoid disease, and we pulled him with us too. We reached the forest, and deepened in it, to get as far away from the city as possible, in case they were looking for us.

It started to rain. Shots were constantly heard from the direction of the city. Thick smoke rose to the sky. We understood that the Germans had set the Jewish Quarter on fire, in order to force the Jews to come out of their hiding places.

We sat in the forest wet and scared, not knowing what exactly was going on in the city, and what had happened to our loved ones. In the meantime, a number of fugitives from the city have joined us. When it became dark, we approached the edge of the forest, to take a look into the city. The city was on fire. The Great Synagogue that was built, according to the tradition, two hundred years ago, protruded in particular. Shots were not heard anymore, but despite that, we decided to stay in the forest for the night.

When the morning came, we saw that the roundup of the Jews was over and we went down to the city. The sights we saw were shocking. The entire Jewish part of the city was burned down. The bodies of murdered Jews were rolled in the streets. The massacre was terrible. More than a thousand people were murdered, burned or taken to an extermination camp, including my mother, who decided that the hiding place was not safe enough, and tried during the roundup (Aktz'ya) to reach the home of a Ukrainian acquaintance, and was caught on the way.

The murdered and burned were buried in a mass grave. The most shocking sight of all was the parade of mothers, who carried their babies in carts for burial, after strangling them with their own hands, so that they would not discover their hiding place with their crying.


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Rabbi Chaim Druckman - Personal Myth[a]

by Naomi Golan

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Personal myth is a raw material found for a sense of destiny. There is no leader who has not carved such a myth out of the events of his life. And Rabbi Chaim Druckman does not deviate from the rule. Three times, he told me, he received his life back as a gift. The first time when he was hiding in the hiding place in his uncle's house when the Nazi soldiers broke into the house. It was as part of their first roundup of the Jews (Aktz'ya) in his hometown Kuty. At that very moment, the grandmother could not hold herself and... sneezed. All those who were in this hiding place began to say in their hearts, "Shema Israel", and prepare for the bitter death. But miraculously, the Germans heard nothing. That was the first time he was saved. The second time he almost died was when he crossed by foot, at night, the waters of the Charmush River. He did not know how to swim, nor did his parents. The water reached almost to his nose. If he would have failed for a moment - he would have drowned. Wet to the bone, with all his clothes and bundles on him, shivering from cold and fear of death - he reached the other bank and that was the second time he was saved.

The third time happened to him on the docks of the port city on the Black Sea coast. Little Chaim was about to board a ship that would take him to Israel. His name was called - but he did not hear. Even the couple with no children who "adopted" him for the time of the voyage - did not hear. There is no other possibility, said the porters, you missed the first ship, you should board on the other ship. And later he learned that the first ship he did not board was the “Mafkura”. The same immigrant ship that was sunk by the Germans and all its passengers were killed. That was the third time he was saved.

When he grew up, after he understood the meaning of these three miracles – he realized that his life was not his. That they belong to the people of Israel, they are of the destiny he received from his rabbis, to spread the belief in the beginning of redemption and the recognition of the State of Israel as a first step towards redemption...

Original footnote

  1. The article was published in the newspaper HaTzofeh on Friday, 7 Shvat, (13.1.89). Return

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The only survivor of the Druck family

by Itke Druck

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

I was born on October 5, 1926, in Kuty. As a little girl, I did not understand what the future held for us. We were a respectable and large family. My father, Mendel, traded with the villagers successfully. My mother, Bertha, raised us, the children, Tully (Naftali), Yossef, my sister, Pini and me. Fate wanted that I will be the only survivor from my family. In the first months of 1941, no one suspected that at the end of a year, no trace of Kuty's Jewry would remain.

After the first roundup of the Jews (Aktz'ya) in the town, in April 1942 my parents urged me to flee. They pressured me to cross the Charmush River, which separated us from Bukovina, and to seek for a refuge there. With much suffering I was able to reach Chernivtsi. There the difficulties began from the start. With the help of the Jews of Chernivtsi and the community, we hid in basements and barns, and also received assistance with the food. But my brother Tully was not lucky. He was captured and was returned to Kuty along with other Kuty residents. Their end was bitter, they were all exterminated cruelly.

Being hidden in hiding places in the city, there was a danger that the Gestapo will discover us and punish us. So, we decided, with the help of the local Jewish community, which treated the refugees, to flee to Bucharest, the capital of Romania. With the help of the JDC, which loaded us on trucks, and bribed those who had to be bribed, we arrived in Bucharest. There we were divided into camps. I was in the Rescorude camp. Later on, they enabled the youth to move to Constanza port, and from there by rickety ships, to sail to Palestine. Three ships left the port with a considerable number of people from Kuty, but not all of them arrived. Two of the three ships were torpedoed at sea and sunk. Only one of them arrived to Israel. I was in it, along with a number Kuty's residents.

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In Israel, I met a young man, Moshe Yorblum, and I married him. Our first daughter, Helen, was born. My husband had a brother in Paris, who invited us to stay with him. We stayed there for four years and then we moved to Melbourne, Australia, where our son Martin was born.


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Testimony

by Arie Hozen

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

This testimony describes the course of my life in World War II, between the years
1941–1944, when I was 25–28 years old.

In the first days before the entry of the Germans, the Ukrainians rioted, beat us, pulled our beards and looted our property. One night they gathered all the distinguished Jews in the city center to dismantle Lenin's monument, which was built by the Russians. They were forced to dismantle the statue under horrific threats and beatings. After a few days, the Romanian soldiers entered. Two weeks later, the Hungarian army entered and stayed in the area for about a month. Then the Germans entered. The day after their entry, the Jews were forced to wear the yellow badge on their right arm. After a short time, the Jews were forced to change the badge with a blue-and-white ribbon with a Star of David. Then the real troubles began.

One day the Jewish men were gathered near the Charmosh River to collect the bodies of the people from the village of Jablonitz who were murdered by the Ukrainians. The sign “The entrance to Jews and dogs is forbidden” was hung on the Ukrainian shops. The sale of milk and meat to Jews was also forbidden. They tortured us with hard labor and starved us until the first roundup before sending us to the camps (Aktz'ya). We felt several days ahead that the Judenrat was very worried. We felt that something was about to happen. Dr. Steigman, Zelig Tillinger, Zatzka Hirsch and Baltok were in the Judenrat. I do not remember the names of the others.

On Thursday, the last day of Passover, April 9, 1942, at nine in the morning, I, Leiba Glassberg, Leibza Aharon and more, were working on Tudiober Street, when we suddenly heard gunshots. Each of us fled in the direction of his family. On the way, Tuli Meir, the son of Gedaliah Mirles, came up to me and said, “Run away! Because they are killing.” I ran to my family. They were waiting for me, and then I locked the door from outside, and entered the house through the window. Dad, Mom and my two sisters,

[Page 159]

Rachel and Sarah, entered our hiding place, and I entered from the other side of the apartment, where Bartza Shiber, his wife and their child lived in our apartment. We made a hiding place in their apartment, where Mendel Aron's wife and Rebecca Koller were. A few minutes later we heard gunshots again, and the whole row of houses caught fire. I heard them breaking our house door and searching the apartment. They reached as far as the closet behind which was our hiding place. Rebecca Koller jumped to the door, I stopped her and after ten minutes we felt the smoke coming from the house. We had to decide what to do. I thought we should stay in the hiding place and be burned, but everyone else objected. So, we went out one by one to Esther Hootrer's house. I saw my mother, Leah, coming out of the burning house. The Germans and Ukrainians captured her, beat her and took her.

As we stood in Esther Hootrer's house, we felt that here, too, the house was starting to burn, and therefore we all dispersed. From a distance I saw Jews with the blue and white ribbon, pulling a cart, and I joined them. In the cart were the bodies that were collected. I walked with them to the cemetery. The Jews who pulled the cart were Zelig Tillinger, Itza Hootrer and Berl Leib Hamer. Tillinger told me that he saw how my father was led and how he was beaten. I kept running from the cemetery. I took off the blue and white ribbon so they would not notice me. I was approached by Ukrainians who wanted to draw me to the center. I resisted and walked freely, as if I was not a Jew. I entered Flaviok's street, who was a police officer in the city. As I was walking, I suddenly saw Flaviok and the Gestapo passing behind me. Luckily, I was not noticed. I reached the Malinovka River and from there I walked to Obelus and climbed to the forest. I sat down under a tree, covered myself with a branch, so that they would not notice me, and watched the town go up in fire.

It rained all night, but I felt nothing. In the morning I came down the mountain and wanted to walk through Tudiober Street. The Hotzols (Ukrainians) came towards me and did not let me go any further. I went back and walked through Deluga Street. I approached the street where I was living. A Ukrainian woman approached me and told me that we were already liberated. I approached our house and saw that only the tin roofs remained. I started looking in the hiding place, where I found the remains of my two burnt sisters, Rachel and Sarahke. The head of my little sister Sarahke looked as if it was alive. I shouted and cried, but no one heard me. So, I collected their body parts in a small box, and carried it on my back to the cemetery. There I dug a grave. I heard Ovadia Moskowitz being asked who was left of my family. I raised my head and said, “only me.” The question was asked by Abba Hoz (Schnitzer). A little farther from me a mass grave was dug. I helped bury Dr. Olsker, Reisel Shelem, Itta Schnitzer, Asher Freilich and Moshe Letzer (Greenberg). I went back to the street where I was living, went into the basement of Yossef Greenberg and Ettel Feiges, where I saw the burnt bodies of Yossel and Ettel Srul Mendel Aron and his wife, with the two children of Lieber Glissberg. Lieber Glissberg was on the other side of the house. He was burnt too.

I walked around for two weeks without food and clothes. I finally had to go to the ghetto

[Page 160]

in Kolomyia. Many paid the Judenrat to obtain a permit to stay there. Hannah Socher and I walked to Kolomyia. The Shatner family, Reiza's parents, went with us. I went into Kolomyia, to the first corner. Hannah Socher went to her relatives. I was put in an unfinished house, where I met many people from Kuty, already dying. Every morning a cart collected the bodies. I was afraid to go out to the streets because the Jewish assistance police had caught people to be sent to work. I was with one of the members of the Judenrat, who was from the Hannah Socher family. His last name was Sharl. He said that “there is no need to kill, everyone will die anyway.” I was in the ghetto for about ten days, until we contacted a smuggler that got us out of the ghetto. We were several people, on the way everyone dispersed. Hannah Socher and I reached Pistin, where the Ukrainian police chief came up to me and asked, “Hozen, where are you going?” I replied that I was going back to Kuty. He was an acquaintance of mine, named Nanny Glibitz. At the time he was the lover of Schindel Hirsch, the daughter of Douga Shabair. He allowed us to continue on our way and told me to be careful. I did not wear the blue-and-white ribbon.

Early in the morning we arrived in Kosov, where the survivors were gathered to go to work. I passed through the Kosov court, where the Gestapo was. I walked cheerfully, whistling, as if I were not a Jew. We stayed there until the evening, and went with the same workers, to town. We could not stay in the city. I stayed on the roofs of the ruined houses of the Jews, and then we decided to cross the Romanian border.

Me, Hannah Socher, Mitzah, Leible Klinger and Itza Gottlieb, paid a smuggler to get us across the border, and so we got as far as Storozinetz. There we were arrested and sent to Ukraine, to Tiraspol. We were in Tiraspol only for a short time, and then we were taken via Odessa, Berezovka, to Suhvalka, which was a Sovkhoz[1], and also served as an open concentration camp for the Jews. Of course, there was nowhere to run because all around there were flat fields, with no hiding places. There were Germans everywhere. Occasionally groups of Jews would be gathered and executed. There they killed the Jews of Odessa and Bessarabia as well as many of the Jews of Kuty.

For a year I worked in a pigsty. I ate the same food the animals ate and slept in the kitchen where I made the mixture for the pigs. I walked half naked, infected with lice. I kept my personal cleanliness by bathing in the hot water that was used to prepare the food for the pigs. Unlike many others, I did not get typhus, that claimed many victims.

After a year, the men were gathered and led to Nikoliv, to build a bridge. In Eurobka was a Jew named Motzi Katzar. The next day he sent some of the men, including me, to Mataybeka. At night there was order and I could not attend it as I had a fever. One of

[Page 161]

the Ukrainians came and beat me aggressively. I was unable to go to work. There was a Jewish supervisor, who was a tailor from Chernivtsi. He hit me on the back with a stick, saying that no Polish Jew would survive. He lives today in Haifa, in Hadar HaCarmel. At the time I was looking for him, but eventually I got tired of the searching and abandoned it.

From Mataybeka we were transferred to Koryevka, where roads were paved for the passage of tanks. I was no longer able to work, and one fine day a committee came and sent the Jews back to the camps from which they had come. They did not want to release me. I had there a friend, a medic, who took my hand, and moved me to the side of the liberated people. His name was Lonnie Margolis from Bessarabia. A few days later, they gathered ten sick men and hung them. I was transferred to Balta, and from there back to Berezovka. From there to Suhvalka, where we had much more freedom.

The front was near Provomeisk. We heard the shots from its direction. One day they gathered the children and sent them to Romania. I drove with them to Iasi. I could not stay in Iasi, and went to Chernivtsi. Three days later the Russians entered. They captured Jews and sent them to the Donbas mines. I was caught and taken to a hospital, from where I fled with others to Dorohoi. We walked almost the entire way back to Iasi, Focsani and Bucharest. After five weeks in early November 1944, I left for Israel, with the help of the Joint. We sailed to Turkey on the ship named 'Saleh Adin'. From Istanbul we arrived by train via Syria and Lebanon to Atlit.

Throughout the war, from 1941 to its end, my brother, Yossef, was in a Russian prison and survived thanks to it.

Original footnote

  1. A governmental farm. Return


[Page 162]

Memories from the Diaspora

by Haim Hazenpratz

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

My name is Haim, the fourth out of seven children of the large family of Moshe and Shina Roizie Hazenpratz, natives of the town of Kuty. I studied in a 'cheder', in a Polish elementary school, in the Hebrew school 'Tarbut', and was educated in the Zionist youth movement in the town, 'Hashomer Hatzair'. I studied a profession in the city of Stanislavov, and following the recommendation of my brother, Gershon, and his wife, Rosa, I continued to study welding at the community school in Warsaw.

When the war broke out in 1939, I dropped out of school and returned to Kuty. My eldest brother Gershon and his wife Rozke also left Warsaw and settled in Kuty, where their first daughter Vita was born.

On June 22, 1941, the Germans invaded Russia. They advanced and wreaked havoc along the way, as they usually did. The Germans were accustomed to a blitzkrieg and in some places they advanced without resistance. The Russians offered the population, and especially the Jews, to evacuate to the depths of the state. Among the evacuees were my brother Gershon, his wife Rosa, their baby girl Vita and me. We reached as far as Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.

We worked in a kolkhoz and I was drafted into the Russian army. In 1942, I served in Persia, close to the capital Tehran, in a unit that was set up to guard rebellious Persian parts in the population.

There were seven Jews in my company. Every evening we would go out of the camp gate, by the order of the Jewish sergeant, with parts of weapons, and hand them over to a Jew, probably an Israeli, who would transport them, in various ways, to Israel. On the examination, and possibly due to a tip-off, we were caught, imprisoned and sentenced to death. When we were dressed in red, they would take one of us out every day, and carry out the sentence with a shot.

For thirty-nine days I sat in the cell of those sentenced to death. One day an NKWD officer appears and offered me to contact President Kalinin and ask for a pardon. The request was accepted, and the death sentence

[Page 163]

was replaced by ten years of hard labor.

The hardships began. I was sent to the vicinity of Kuybyshev, to dig the "White Sea" canal. I ran away from there, got caught and as a punishment I was added another year of hard labor. I was sent to the Far East, north, to the Polar Nights area. Supply ships arrived three times during the summertime.

It was possible to cultivate the land only in these two months. During this period, they grew up potatoes and some vegetables there.

We lived in barracks, and took out, or rather, washed, sandy soil, which contained gold. There was a steel cable that led from the barrack to the mine, and we held the cable so that the wind would not blow us away. The frost was intense, more than 50 degrees Celsius below zero. I learned to be a “Feldsher”, a nurse, and worked in a clinic. Every day, at six in the morning, I had to check the thermometer outside. When I saw that the frost was reaching minus fifty degrees Celsius, I informed the inmates not to go out to the mine.

A few weeks before my release, I checked the thermometer at six in the morning. The temperature was minus fifty degrees Celsius. I informed the inmates not to go out to work. About an hour later, the camp commander appeared, checked the thermometer and called me to the facility. After showing me that there is a change of one degree - that is, minus forty-nine degrees Celsius - and without hearing my explanation, that it was probably getting warmer, he ordered me to move from the clinic to the mine. I was sent to the mine and added to the work. Before the end of the workday, one of the prisoners hit me in the head. I fainted and I stayed lying on the sand all night. The next day, one of my friends transferred me to the clinic. I was received there by the chief physician, who was a free woman. After checking on me, she gave me several days of sick leave.

When the camp commander saw me, he wanted to take me back to the mine, but the physician turned to him, insisting that she needs my assistance. She set a condition, that if I will return to the mine, she resigns. And so, I stayed to work in the clinic until my release.

On the evening of my release, an NKWD officer appeared, interviewed me and said, "Tomorrow you will be released. You must live in the village. You must not leave its borders. If you are caught when you are outside the village, you will be punished and returned to the camp." Until Stalin's death, I was forbidden to leave the village. After his death I received rehabilitation (pardon and purification of the name).

In the village, I found a Jewish family, from Nikolaiv, near Odessa. There I got married and had two daughters. In 1958, with the help of my brother, Arie, I was able to obtain a permit to travel to Poland, and from there I traveled to my brother Gershon in Australia.

 

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