by Sigmund Mach
Translated by Mira Eckhaus
Wilhelm Mach, my father, the son of Doctor Sigmund Mach, my grandfather, after whom I am named, studied in Vienna, Austria. His studies were interrupted due to the death of his brother. In order to fulfill his parents' wishes, he returned to Kuty. My father saw the future of the Jewish people in Palestine, so he sent me, his only son, to attend the 'Tarbut' school. He hoped that there I would learn Hebrew properly. At the same time, and despite the various difficulties, my father founded the Maccabi Association in Kuty in order to stimulate the youth to engage more in sport. Thanks to him, the sports team 'Nordia' was later formed. He wanted that the youth will know how to defend themselves and be engaged in sports. He himself was an active member of Maccabi Vienna and played in a representative team. My father was also the secretary of the merchants' union in Kuty, and he managed the union by himself as an active and vibrant institution. All his acquaintances appreciated him very much.
My father, may God avenge him, ended his life in a tragic way in 1942. He died by hanging in the prison in the city of Kolomyia. All the prisoners (the non-Jews), were obliged to see what kind of a punishment receives a prisoner who dared to help another prisoner (to me his son Zigi) to escape. Before carrying out the terrible punishment, they broke his hands and gouged out his eyes. A Ukrainian policeman who could not hang him, was arrested. He was and will always be my hero. His memory will always be with us.
Pepi Mach, my mother, was shot when she jumped off the train on the way to Auschwitz. My grandmother, Kila Mach, suffocated to death during the journey on the same train.
Eliyahu Shankel was shot in the prison in Kolomyia. Wolf-Bar and his family were killed. Eliyahu Swicher, Ita, Max, Herman and Bruno were killed. My grandmother, Rosa Knoller, her daughter Ernestina, Irwin, and seven-year-old Richard, whose head was smashed against a telephone pole, were all murdered. Sigmund Knoller, the dentist, perished in the Janowska concentration camp in Lviv. After the war, the murderers disappeared and were not punished for all their misdeeds.
Doctor Zbigniew Tostanovsky, who was not Jewish, risked his life to help us. He acted alone. I owe him my life.
When I die, the memories of my relatives will end. Our future generations remain and they are the ones who need to remember.
I will add several details about Kuty and the murder of the Jews that was around Passover 1942. The Jews were required to wear a white headband with the Star of David. My friend Freddie and I had private lessons in Hebrew. Freddie left our house. About three trucks with Gestapo men came from the city of Kosov, and Freddy was shot two houses from us. He was the first victim of the Aktz'ya. He was eleven years old.
We hid in the attic and we heard the call Yude Raus (Jews get out). We heard gunshots and Gevalt screams and murders of our people.
Doctor Friedman and his wife were taken out of bed, sick, and were murdered in the street in front of their house. Many of our people were murdered or thrown alive into the flames of the houses that the Germans set on fire. The entire Jewish area went up in flames and burned. After the Aktz'ya, the Germans informed the remnants that the Aktz'ya is over and they can calm down.
Later on, the Germans announced that the Jews had to register in order to receive food stamps. We appeared before the Judenrat, because there was a shortage of food, and it was forbidden to buy from the gentiles. Violators of the ban were sentenced to death. The German police arrested everyone who was present, and transferred us to the prison in Kosov. The next day we were marched to Kolomyia, without food or water. Many fell along the way. My dad pushed me off the bridge into the Frut River. The Germans chased me with gunshots until I got out of the water.
Five times in the years 1943-1945 the Germans arrested me and I managed to slip away. When I was captured for the fourth time, the Germans called me 'the bird' (Der Vogel). I was never a hero and I was always afraid of death. I saw cruel things that I will never forget. There were times when I wandered in the forests. I prayed to the moon because I saw my father's face in it. I ate grass, my legs swelled up and I was full of lice.
When I was in prison in Kolomyia with my father, we were beaten with sticks every day. My late father begged that they will beat only him and leave me alone, but they refused. Once a day we were given brown water (soup), in a tin plate with lice floating in it. We were thirty detainees and we were waiting for more Jews from the Kolomyia ghetto to come, so they can execute us all together. I managed to escape from there. Since I was very thin, I managed to get through the bars. My father also tried to escape. He cut flesh from his body with a razor, but couldn't get through. People were humiliated, starved and lived in inhumane conditions, like animals.
When I was in the prison in Kosov, there was a Jew named Mitz with us. He was an opera singer in Vienna. His hair was black. A whole night he sang arias and operettas despite the fact that the next day
we should have been shot. The next morning his hair was white. The Germans took us out with dogs guarding us. They demanded that we sing a Jewish song before the shooting, but we refused. After they killed the first victim, with the sunrise, we sang 'Hatikvah'. This was the most beautiful singing I have ever heard.
I remember an incident near the village of Kovki, when I crossed to Romania via the Chermush River. With us was a Jew named Feiner with his little son. He was from Kuty. The Ukrainians murdered him on the Romanian side with knives and I still hear his screams to this day.
by Victoria Mendel
Translated by Mira Eckhaus
When the war broke out, I was in Kuty, where my husband, Dr. Menashe Mendel, had a lawyer's office. The town of Kuty was located in a beautiful place, on the slopes of the Carpathian Mountains, near the Chermush River. In Kuty lived about ten thousand inhabitants, of whom over three thousand were Jews. The others were Ukrainians, Armenians and Poles. The town of Kosov was seven kilometers north of there. Far from it were the city of Zaleskie and the district city of Kolomyia.
'Kuty' (a corner - in Ukrainian) was named so because the town was in the corner between Romania, ancient Turkey, Hungary and Bukovina. It was a healing town, because the river contained minerals such as radium and others. For this reason, the fishing in the river, which consisted mainly of trout fish, was sparse. Many people came to the city to bathe in the water of the river and were healed from their illnesses.
Mount Ovidius, on which, according to legend, lived the Roman poet and writer Ovidius who was sent into exile, was known throughout the area. My husband attributed the dignified behavior and noble movements of the Ukrainians, the inhabitants of Stari Kuty (Old Kuty), to their origin from the Roman tribes, and he treated them accordingly.
Three hundred years ago, the Baal Shem Tov[b] lived in Kuty. The tombstone of Rabbi Gershon Kotvar, the Baal Shem Tov's brother-in-law, remained in the cemetery. The Ukrainians talked about the Baal Shem Tov, who helped them prepare wood for the winter, assisted them with the water supply, and many more issues. They used to point to
the spring where he used to dip every day, in the summer and in the winter. In the winter, he used to break a hole in the ice with his ax and would dip into it as if it was a mikveh. The Ukrainians told of him that he used to wear their clothes, as if he was one of them, and in light of his deeds and fame, they called him the 'holy man' (Swizty Muż).
The town of Kuty, which was about four hundred years old, was the property of the Polish nobles of the Potocki family, and for many years it served as a border point between Poland and Turkey. Mrs. Pototska was called by the Jews Di Fritsa (the lady). She established a wine brewery in the town; therefore, she made sure that the first Jews were brought to the town, among them, the Klinger family, who built the first synagogue and brought to the city a butcher and a cantor. The Jews were engaged in producing and selling wines. My grandfather Klinger used to travel with his assistant to the city of Piyuma, to tread grapes. He also brought from Hungary the famous wine - Tokay. He himself was treading grapes and dealt with the importing of the wine. The wine was preserved for several years. The Klinger family had wines that were two hundred years old. They preserved the wine for the Armenians, who came from all regions for the dance parties. They had a lot of money in their wallets and to impress their friends, they used to take a five-hundred-krone bill, roll tobacco in it like a cigar and smoke it. The Klinger family was friendly with both the Armenians and the Ukrainians. During the occupation, they saved us more than once from the Nazis.
Four hundred years ago, there were Armenians in Kuty, who arrived in the summer months from Austria and Bessarabia, and after a while settled permanently in the town. The Armenians used to come to the town every year on the Feast of the Three Kings[c]. Even during the time of the Austrians rule, the Armenians used to come to the town for recreation, trade and choosing brides. A month before their arrival, the town would begin to bustle. My father-in-law, Zvi (Hersh) Mendel owned land in Zebrash (between Kuty and Kosov). He worked hard. He was a religious man. Every Shabbat he used to wear a shtreimel on his head, he wore a silk kapota and a sash (girtel) around his waist. When he returned from the synagogue, he used to bless the wine and eat a honey cookie with his family members. Then he would gather around him the gentile farmers who worked for him and waited for his arrival, he honored them in schnapps and a honey cookie and read to them the Parsha of the week, while translating it from the holy language into Ukrainian.
Thus, the routine continued for about fifty years. The Ukrainian peasants were related to my father-in-law, Zvi Hersh Mendel. During the First World War, the family members stayed in Hungary as refugees. At the end of the war, they returned to Kuty. The Ukrainian peasants returned to him all the grain, potatoes and all the crops from his land from the four years of the war. The relations between the Ukrainians and the Jews in Kuty were good. In the Aktziya that was carried in Kuty,
the Armenians or Ukrainians living in Kuty did not take part. Instead, they helped us and the other Jews.
After the defeat of Poland in 1939, the Polish government withdrew to Romania, including the Minister of Finance and the President Moshchicki. They retreated through Kuty. A week after the withdrawal, the Russians entered the town. They opened a post office in our house. My husband was known as a Zionist and used to participate in the movement's conferences. During the Russian rule, we did not sleep peacefully, we were afraid that they would send him to Siberia.
The Russians were in Kuty for two years. They destroyed us spiritually and culturally. In the first days of the war, in the summer of 1941, riots of the Hutsuls, the mountain dwellers, started. It was after the Russians left. Familiar bodies of Jews began to drift on the waves of Chermosh water. The bodies were picked up by Kuty's Jews, who buried them in a Jewish burial. Kuty's Jews began to hide. The situation worsened every day. The priest, who was the brother-in-law of my neighbor, helped us. He allowed the entire Mendel family to hide in his house. In the first days, after the Germans entered Kuty, about twenty of us hid with the priest. We stayed with him for three days and three nights. As soon as the Germans arrived in the town, they began to negotiate with the Ukrainian priest. They demanded that he sign a petition, according to which the Ukrainians demand to expel the Jews from the town. As we were hiding in the next room, we heard through the door the negotiations between the priest and the Germans. Luckily for us, the priest refused to sign the petition.
During the German occupation, our house was used as a post office, as it was during the rule of the Russians. We received two rooms and a hall, which we arranged as a bathroom. The Germans inquired in the town who was the influencer Jew. People pointed at my husband, and he was appointed as the chairman of the community (Judenrat). Proclamations and notices appeared in the city, which included German orders to hand over to them all the gold and furs; A death penalty was expected for those who refused to do so. Then, the Germans checked the account books, and calculated the taxes for collection. The collection of taxes was imposed on my husband. He went to Kolomyia, contacted the tax inspector, Dr. Lorenz. After a short conversation, he remembered that he studied law with my husband. Dr. Lorenz asked those who were present to leave the office, he stayed with my husband and they made a renewed acquaintance. He called him Mr. Colleague (Herr Kolege). It became clear to them that both of them were learning with the same professors in Vienna, attended the same classes and were even examined together. Dr. Lorenz was ashamed in front of my husband, and the case brought them closer. As a result, my husband received a special attitude from other Germans as well. From time to time, Germans from other places appeared in the town, and robbed.
My husband was always treated with great respect. The first Aktziya in Kuty was carried out later than in other places and they stated that it was thanks to Dr. Mendel. In other places, such as Kosov, the first Aktziya was carried out already in the second month after the arrival of the Germans. In the city of Ternopil, as well as in Kosov, the Aktziya was carried out after two months. The people thought that the Germans would not do anything in Kuty.
On the day of the Aktziya in Kosov, which was about ten kilometers away from Kuty, and was carried out, as mentioned, a few weeks after the Germans entered, on the Sukkot holiday, we hid with the neighbors, the Palausov family. The woman, an Armenian named Anna Chonigevitz, was the director of the public school. Her husband was a Pole that was born in Lviv. He was a retired banker. We learned about the Aktziya from the Ukrainians. Anna made the guest room available to us, and dismissed the maid. She herself cooked for us. When our daughter got angina, she moved her to her bedroom and took care of her. On the third day, at four o'clock in the morning, my husband met the rabbi of the city, Rabbi Yaches, at the entrance to the bathroom, and only then did we learn that, in addition to us, Rabbi Yaches and his family were hiding in the third room. The owners of the house, the Palausov family, did not tell us about the rabbi. Mrs. Anna served us a new jar of jam every day, and refused to accept anything in return. We lived with her for three days and we were five people. The rabbi's family also included five people.
In one of the days before the Aktziya, my husband went to Stanyslaviv, to deliver leathers to the Germans. Leathers were produced in Kuty, at that time they stopped the production, but there was still stock. It was learned in Stanyslaviv that the Germans wanted the Jews to hand them all the children up to ten years old. This news devastated my husband, and he decided to resign from the Judenrat. The Ukrainian priest from Kuty helped him with this. The matter was not easy. He pretended to be ill and presented medical certificates from two different doctors. At night, my husband would communicate with the cities Sniatyn, Kolomyia and Stanyslaviv because the post office was at our house. The manager of the post, the Ukrainian Honchuk, who was a childhood friend of my brother-in-law, the physician Dr. Zeev Mendel, helped my husband. It was important to follow the movement of the German killers. When we learned of their movement, we sent the children, Rachel, Bitzia and my younger sister Donia, to inform the neighbors. They were supposed to inform others that they needed to hide. In one of these days, a peasant from the old Kuty, brought me a cross, and said that with its help I could trick the Germans and hide. The Ukrainian peasant women from the old Kuty (Stari Kuty) behaved well in the war time and hid Jews with them, but the Armenians were more loyal.
At April 9, 1942, on the last day of Passover, at nine in the morning, the Germans started the Aktziya in the town. My husband was on his way to the Judenrat. A Pole stopped him and said: Doctor, where are you going? They are already shooting there... My husband returned home. We added double iron doors in the basement. My husband had an iron bar, in case the Germans broke in. He also prepared a bucket of water and some food. The manager of the post Honchuk closed the doors
behind us with the key, according to a prior agreement. Ten minutes later the Germans were nearby. We heard running and shooting. They did not come to us. We sat in the shelter day and night. The older daughter fainted three times. The next day, the manager Honchuk opened the door, and said that the Germans were at his place and asked about us. He swore to them that we left the house.
Since all the Jews were in shelters, the Germans threw torches and bombs at the houses and inside the houses. The Germans started shooting and burning at nine in the morning until five in the afternoon. Shots were heard all the time. The next day, a delegation of about ten people arrived from Romania, from the city of Wiesnitz. Among them was a foreign newspaper reporter and a Romanian officer from the border guard. They saw a big fire and came to find out the cause. My husband led them all over the town. The Germans were also present. All the dead were buried, the town was in ruins. Everyone was silent, they could not believe that such a terrible thing could happen. When my husband saw the shocked delegation, he decided to leave for Romania, and ask permission to enter Romania for the rest.
I heard about a German from Polish Silesia, who was standing in front of a house that went up in flames. Suddenly a six-year-old girl jumped from it. The German picked up the girl and pushed her into the flames. The next day this German brought butter and some cheese to a Jewish family that was saved.
The negotiations with the Romanian border guard were unsuccessful. At the night after the Aktziya, my husband, our children and a well-known textile merchant from Kuty with his daughter were smuggled to Romania. There they were received by an officer who was known to them. The Romanian police received them well, and served them rolls, eggs, wine and fruit. They presented their request to the Romanian officer. They said that they had property in gold and furs worth about five million lei (Romanian money) and asked for entry for two thousand Jews. At twelve o'clock a reply from Czernowitz should have arrived. Ten minutes before the scheduled time, Germans entered the office with guns, and expelled them all back to Kuty. With them were about sixty Jews who fled from Kuty and were captured.
I stayed at home with my sister and made arrangements. I believed in my husband's influence on the Romanians who knew him. I thought that in a few days we would move to Romania, but a Jewish woman appeared and said: They are all detained by the border guard. I could not internalize it until I finally saw them.
My husband and my older daughter were forced to work. My husband was registered as a worker in his brother's field. About 160-200 Jews worked there. My daughter was signed up to work in a company that was engaged in cutting trees under the management of the engineer Todd. The Germans were interested in pine trees
from the forest. They cut down the trees and made thin wooden boards from them. The work was done in a sawmill, which was in my father's windmill. My daughter, who received food at work, supported my father. She went to work with a ribbon on her arm, which identified her as Jewish, and when she went shopping in the market, she took it off. The farmers knew her and knew that she was the daughter of Dr. Mendel and the granddaughter of Zvi Hersh, but they ignored the matter.
I moved to a nearby village, to hide there until the end of the war. Ukrainian acquaintances, with communist views, came to us at night and moved us to a village called Kovki. The landlord that held us was a smuggler. He smuggled schnapps, food and tropical fruits. In exchange for taking care of us, I gave him furniture, blankets, pillows and a promise that he would receive about eighty dunams of land. He provided us with flour, butter, cheeses and apples for the townspeople, for which we paid him in gold. For three months I supported my family and others as well. But the Germans increased the frequency of their visits to the village. They grabbed carts, eggs, sausage. It became too dangerous to stay there, so I returned home.
In September 1942, the Germans re-conducted a general registration of the remaining Jews. Two Germans were sitting and making the registration in a narrow street. They looked cheeky. At first, they registered the sanitary workers (medical workers), followed by factory workers, sawmills and flour mills. The registrants were dressed in clean clothes and wore clean ribbons on their arms. Those who made the registration requested the name and date of birth. I thought to myself that it was so easy to point a machine gun at us and kill all of us. Then I decided to move to Romania at any cost, even though I didn't know what was waiting for us there.
My husband did not believe in salvation. He was devastated. But I decided to defend myself with the rest of my strength. On the fifth day after the registration, we were smuggled to Romania. Smugglers from the village of Kovki took me, my little daughter, my younger sister, and eight other Jews, men and women from Kolomyia, across the border. In Romania we were welcomed by Romanian peasants. They kept us in a pigsty, because they knew the sniffer dogs get confused and lose their prey due to the pungent smell. They were looking for us all over the border, because Ukrainian peasants informed them that they saw fifty people. In reality there were only twelve of us. We sat in the stable. On the third day, at noon, a Romanian smuggler arrived with peasant clothes and ordered us to change our clothes. To my question, what will happen to our clothes, he replied that we will receive them in Czernowitz. My little sister, my daughter and I had to travel by train. Others wanted to go by car. They were rich and had many jewels. Meanwhile, my sister got diarrhea because she ate only corn and plum foods. Her fever went up and she could not travel. My daughter and I wore torn leather boots and peasant clothes. The smugglers ordered us to follow them to the train station in Wiesnitz. The smuggler, his sister-in-law, and a girl from the village walked in front of us. When we arrived about 200-300 steps before the station, they disappeared.
My daughter noticed what was happening, and thought they were preparing to kill us. She saw that the girl from the village started to run away. My daughter urged me to run away too. I was desperate. I wanted to go to the Romanian police station and ask them to take us back to Kuty. But my daughter signaled me to join the runaway. She spoke Ukrainian, and I asked her in Ukrainian to lead us to the Romanian house from which we left. She transferred us to a foreign peasant and left us in his yard. An hour later the peasant left his house with keys and wanted to put us in a shack. While we were standing by the shack, we saw Kuty. It was illuminated by the light of the full moon. We were devastated. The little girl laid her head on my lap and burst into bitter tears. And then the peasant appeared. I had the impression that he would kill us. I did not want to go into the shack under any circumstances. He shouted: Filthy Jewess, what do you want from me? I don't know you. And I insistently told him that I want to go back to the Romanian woman. The peasant went to his house and suddenly came back. He took my daughter by the hand and we went down the hill. We ran into the peasant's yard. A guy came out and asked who we were and what we wanted. I answered that I knew the Romanian woman from the hospital. He believed us and wanted to lead us to her. In the meantime, the smuggler arrived, grabbed the guy by the throat and asked: Where are you taking the Jewish women? Then he turned to me and asked: What do you want? Wood? Wait! Finally, he led us to the smuggler, who had to take us to Czernowitz. The woman ushered us into the guest room, which was furnished with furniture that were looted from Jews in Wiesnitz and told us to wait. When the smuggler of our group came back, he was angry that we left him before the train station. He shouted that he was looking for us and couldn't find us. I didn't answer him anything. He ordered to prepare us a hearty breakfast and left. Then, I wrote a letter to my sister, asking her to inform the rest of our group that we had fallen into the hands of a gang of murderers. I sent the message with my daughter. They kept a close eye on me. Even when I went to the bathroom, the smuggler's wife followed, and waited by the door. In the afternoon my daughter returned. The smuggler appeared, sat down at the table, took out a note and said: You see, I want to transfer you to Czernowitz. You can believe me. I asked him to connect us with our group. He promised me that in the morning, at dawn, they would come to me. And indeed, at around seven in the morning, my sister and one man from Kolomyia's group appeared. I told them about everything we have been through. The young man heard me calmly and said: I thought you were a clever woman, but now I understand that you are not different than all women. I believe the peasant... and left. Later I learned that they were all murdered by the gang.
At a certain moment I took out my brother's business card from London and said to the smuggler: You will be rich if you save this gir.l It must have affected him. We were transported to Czernowitz in peasant clothes. During the examination in the cars, we made ourselves sick. The locomotive and the cars stood there for about two hours. At that time, a number of Jews from Kuty, about whom we knew nothing, were taken out of the cars.
He transferred us to a Jewish hotel in Czernowitz. It was seven in the morning. Around twelve, the hotel owner appeared and asked me if I wanted to hide with him, and if I had gold and gold jewelry in my possession. We looked very poor in our torn clothes. We were hungry and tired. The hotel owner ordered us out and we stayed outside. I started looking for addresses, and I went to Dr. Noah, a friend of my brother-in-law, who was also a physician. We were warmly received there. His wife prepared hot baths for us, gave us clothes and kept us for three days. We contacted other people from Kuty, and with their help we managed to arrange a place to stay, at a tailor named Katchka, who was from Katowice (Poland). I worked in his workshop and we slept there. The Jewish community in Czernowitz brought us food every day. We received food for three meals and lived in basements and attics. The Jews in Czernowitz did not wear ribbons. There were no Aktziyas there. They were transferred to Transnistria (Ukraine) where they died of hunger and disease.
A month after, I said goodbye to the girls. I sent my children to a Polish church... I ordered the girls to tell the priest that they had crossed the border alone and ask to receive immediate assistance. They immediately transferred the little daughter to the care of an old woman named Tashchinska, and my younger sister was transferred to Craiova, a Polish camp where she began to study in a gymnasium (high school). I said goodbye to my eldest daughter, whom I met in Czernowitz, and we met again only a few years later.
On the third day, after I crossed the border, my husband also crossed the border, together with the whole family, but they were captured by the Germans, who returned them to Kuty. The Germans locked them in a house under a roof. They jumped and hid with one Armenian. The Armenian hid them for three months in Dolina in Kuty. Every few days he brought them food. It was in the months of November-December, when the fields were covered with snow. A Ukrainian peasant discovered footprints in the snow and brought a German. The German police transferred them to the court in Kosov. They held them there for three days, while reflectors were directed at them and their hands were tied behind their backs. The Ukrainian director of the hospital in Kosov delivered food to the Mendel family, to Dr. Bartel and his family, and sent my husband his clothes and shoes, because he was deported while wearing his pajamas.
On the third day, the twenty-first of January 1943, everyone was shot in the court's yard. First, they shot my husband. After him, they shot his younger brother, Zeida Mendel, his wife Frida from the Oringer family of Kolomyia and their daughter Enola, who was seven-years-old, Leon Oringer and my sister-in-law's daughter, who was eight-year-old, Doctor Brun's wife, Doctor Leon Bartel, his wife Sara from the Tillinger family and their eleven-year-old daughter Gisela. The head nurse of the church, who is an acquaintance of my brother-in-law, doctor Wilhelm (Zeev) Mendel, the former director of the hospital during the Russians' rule, told me about this event. Wilhelm managed to escape to Krakow after jumping from the roof.
The head nurse is currently (1957) in Krakow, Poland. My husband wrote to me two
letters and delivered them by smugglers. Both letters are with my eldest daughter. The Armenian who hid them, Miko Moisewitz, transferred them to Israel after the war. The Germans banned this Armenian and the Armenians collected funds to redeem him.
While I was in Czernowitz, I lived with a laundress, who told me one day: Seventeen years I worked for a Jewish doctor. They treated me well. I want to thank them back; a relative came to us from Poland, and I had to hide her. You, madam, are Catholic, and you will always find accommodation. I answered her: You are right. Everyone needs to be saved, without exception. I will take her in my room. The Jewish woman came and stayed with me for three days. Then she disappeared. I would go out to work early in the morning and come back late, so as not to do her injustice. On the fourth day, it was Sunday, the Jewish woman left the house, holding a large pigskin backpack. I stood behind the window and saw through the curtain how a Romanian policeman approached her, said a few words to her, and arrested her. In the evening I learned that the Romanian handed her over to the Germans.
I moved in with the laundress's sister-in-law for about five months. I left her apartment because she accepted an old Jew from Vienna. She told me that she was scared. The Jews paid a lot of money and I had no money. I was left without a place to stay and without money. On the last eleven lei (Romanian money) I bought a German newspaper, and I went to sit in the park. I wanted to know what was going on in the world. I sat there hungry until late. I had no job. At that time the Germans returned hundreds of Jews to Poland. I went into the store where I used to shop and bought cat food and a dry bun. That was, more than once, my daily food portion.
At the beginning of spring, I sent my daughter to the rabbi's house in Bucharest. After a week, I went there too, while I'm hiding between cheese barrels, covered with a carpet. I fainted twice. We were stopped on the way three times and I barely made it to the rabbi's house. Everyone knew his address, everyone visited him, both day and night. His door was always open. They had a cook who cooked even at night, for those who were late to come. The rabbi was banned twice. He was detained for two weeks and his wife continued to accept runaways and did not turn them away. Their home in Bucharest was on Cuza Vuda Street. Their home was always full of refugees, who even slept on the floor, due to lack of place. The rabbi's wife would put the children in her bed.
In the meantime, I learned that they are planning to send children to the Land of Israel. I planned to send my daughter and sister, who in the meantime moved from the city of Craiova to Bucharest. The Jewish agency bought tiny ships. I went from office to office, and with the help of revisionists I achieved
three places, for me and for the two girls. One travel place cost the Romanian Jews one million Lei. I, as a Pole, did not pay anything. It was in July 1944.
It was forbidden to take luggage or suitcases. Just a backpack or bag. The revisionists took care of us, and we also received money to get going. The Romanian Jews were jealous of us. They thought we were the happiest people in the world. Many acquaintances accompanied us to the station. At the port of Constanta, they checked our luggage. Germans stood there and laughed at us. They rudely put us in the small ships. The three ships were close together. I headed to the middle ship. Since the other two ships looked nicer, my sister got angry. We didn't have time to get on board, and the Germans closed the entrance with ropes. My sister ran to the other ship, and I pulled her by her braids back to the ship. We carried our luggage under the Germans' ropes, but they pushed us, and lowered the culvert, which connected the ship to the shore. We managed to organize ourselves, and then the Germans ordered us to go out onto the deck, to organize in a line, and then the Germans took pictures of us from the shore.
The three ships were from Turkey and the crew was Turkish as well. Our ship was called the Bulbul. It was an old ship, which was used only to transport potatoes. We laid inside like sardines, close to each other. The ship was designed for a hundred people, and we were three hundred. We left at six o'clock, and I can still see in my mind the sunset and the joy of the passengers, especially the children. Happy and tired, we fell asleep.
At eleven o'clock at night, we were woken up by a loud noise. We felt that the Germans were approaching and catching up with us. The captain immediately understood what was the matter and changed the direction of the ship. At that time clouds rose from the sea and covered us. A storm broke out in the Black Sea where we were sailing. We heard shouts and cries of help from drowning people. Our captain, an old Turk, didn't want to stop and he could not stop. At about five o'clock in the morning, he took pity on three people who had been in the water all night. He lowered a ladder and brought them onto the ship. The three were survivors of the Mafkura ship. One of them was a woman from Budapest, beautiful, about twenty years old, dressed in a nightgown. She was nine months pregnant. Her husband rose up to the ship with her. Both of them were athletes, swimmers from Budapest. The third was a young merchant from Kolomyia, who now lives in Israel. The captain did not want to receive more people. We saw that there were more people in the water, the voices of the drowning people are heard in my ears to this day. The storm raged for two days. The ship was loaded, and it seemed like it was going to break up. We turned around without being able to get out of the Black Sea. We had to throw all the luggage into the sea. In order to maintain the balance of the ship, we moved from one place to another all the time inside it. We all got seasick. When the storm stopped, the captain and his crew wanted to leave the ship and save themselves. About fifteen young revisionists threatened him with knives.
At six in the morning, the captain informed us that the storm had passed, and he managed to bring
the ship to a small Turkish port, called Itza. At around nine o'clock, we saw a boat approaching us. An officer from the border guard asked us over the loudspeaker who we were and where we came from. Our captain told him everything that happened to us, and a doctor from our people, who spoke French, asked for permission from Turkey to dock there temporarily on the way to Israel. He also requested to take off the ship a woman that had contractions. A short time later, a boat with a Turkish midwife arrived at our ship. A fat woman, her husband, who was a doctor, and a woman from Romania who mastered several languages, got off our ship. They promised us that they would contact the Jewish community in Istanbul and arrange for us to get off the ship quickly. We waited patiently, hoping that the matter would be resolved soon. But around five o'clock in the evening, the boat returned with the people and without the midwife. It turned out that the Turkish government refused to allow the woman to give birth on its land, and refused to let the people on the ship to disembark on Turkish land. The captain and the crew left the ship. A group of young revisionists, who in the meantime had learned to navigate, took command and ran the ship. We waited at the port for three days. On the third day, a boat with the midwife approached from the west. At that time the Turks joined the allied forces and therefore allowed us to go ashore. Several boats appeared, and at eight o'clock in the evening we went ashore.
In the first night we slept in the field. Near the field was a stream, and we drank from its sweet waters. We lit a fire. They brought us sacks of food with fresh bread, boiled eggs and olives. In the morning they sent us carts and we traveled on an ancient Roman road that led through high plateaus and dangerous valleys. The convoy advanced slowly. A military guard was also sent to us, headed by an officer who treated us with kindness and sensitivity. He rode a horse and from time to time, checked each cart and asked how things were. When he saw a tired face, he signaled to stop.
We spent the second night in a dirty school, on the floor. But outside, in the yard, they prepared food for us, on behalf of the Jewish community in Istanbul. After breakfast, everyone received a package of food for an entire day. Then we went down to the valley. For two more nights we slept in the field. The whole time we were guarded by a military unit headed by an officer. On the fourth day we reached a village. They put us in a beautiful mosque, and we slept on the floor, which was covered with carpets.
The Turkish population, who knew about our fate, welcomed us with joy and tears in their eyes. I have never seen so many crying faces. They were not allowed to come near us. When we arrived at the place where the trucks were waiting, reporters from various newspapers were already waiting for us. We drove in trucks on dangerous roads. We drove for two days until we reached the train station and from there, in cars that were intended to transfer cows, we continued to Istanbul. We arrived at five o'clock in the morning. From the train windows we saw Jews waiting and greeting us, with tears of joy in their eyes. We were assigned the largest Jewish school, and there
gentlemen and ladies of the distinguished class took care of us. The tables were set with a hot dinner, but we were late. We only arrived the next morning. Zeev Jabotinsky's son, Ari, welcomed us warmly. He spoke to us in German and led us by train to Beirut. Everyone was given a package with clothes, soap and toothbrush, chocolate, handkerchiefs and two pairs of socks. In addition to that there were candies and lots of fruit.
In Beirut we were received by the British. At night, in the cars, we received aluminum plates, spoons and forks, and British ladies served us sandwiches. They transferred us to their camp in Atlit, in buses, and from there I went to an immigrants' house in Tel Aviv.
In 1948, my eldest daughter arrived in Israel. She was already married and had a three-year-old girl. She left Romania via Hungary and Italy, where she stayed for two years in Cinecitta. I haven't seen my eldest daughter since I arrived in Bucharest. The Russians entered Czernowitz, and separated us from the eldest daughter. Since then, I have had no news about her. Being on the ship, at the time of the great storm, I was happy that at least one girl would be saved and stay alive, because our ship was shaking off the load and water flooded us. Everyone laid with their eyes open and saw death. But my two daughters were saved, thank God!
by Dr. Ze'ev Mendel
Translated by Mira Eckhaus
My friend, Mr. Schechter, I was eighteen years old when I left our town. At the time, we ran away from the Russians. I was immediately drafted into the Austrian army. At the end of the First World War, I was on study leave at a university in Vienna. After the Poles returned to control our region, I was able to come to the house during the holidays to see my relatives and rest. After finishing my studies in Vienna and an internship in Krakow, I stayed in Western Galicia (Krakow and Tarnow). Only rarely I came to Kuty, to visit my relatives. With the outbreak of World War II, I ran away from the Germans. I came to Kuty and I got a job at Kosov Hospital. I worked there until the Germans entered in 1941. Then I was thrown out of the hospital, but I stayed in Kosov. From time to time, I visited my relatives in Kuty until finally, in September 1942, I escaped with my brothers and sisters and their families to Vizhnitz. From there, we were returned to Kuty by the Romanians. There were many other people from Kuty with us. We were locked up in the attic of Tonikovsky's house, under the supervision of the Ukrainian police. With the help of a bribe, I was able to get out safely from the hands of the Ukrainian militia, and with the help of the nuns from the hospital in Kosov, I went over to the 'Aryan' side and lived a gentile life until the end of the war. When the war ended, I was in Krakow. I organized the first aid for those returning from Auschwitz and the various hiding places. I helped reorganize Jewish and Zionist life in Krakow. I was the head of the community, a member of the Zionist Executive and the Jewish Committee until I immigrated to Israel...
by Betty Neuman (from the Glazberg family)
Translated by Mira Eckhaus
We were a family of eight members. One brother died at the age of eleven from appendicitis. It happened before the war broke out. We were left only three sisters: Rivka, Koka, myself and my two brothers, Berl and Tony. Everyone except me got married and started families before the war. Berl married a wife in 1938, and still had no children. Tony had only one child, and so did Koka. Father died suddenly in 1940, during the days of Russian rule.
Rivka was the first victim of the Holocaust. She was abducted from home when her husband was absent, and she never came back. Her husband made desperate efforts to bring her home. He gave all his property because he was promised that it is possible to find her and return her home, but in vain.
Koka was the second victim. Her husband worked for the Germans. One day she left the child with the neighbor and went to get food for her husband. On the way she was shot. The child was killed in the neighbor's house. In the same year, the people of Kuty were transferred to the Kolomyia ghetto. Tony and his family did not want me to join them, because they were afraid that I would be killed because of their daughter. Tony believed that I could be saved because I was still young. They did not reach the ghetto. On the way there, they killed Tony, his wife and daughter.
Mom and I stayed at home. One day, mother went to Sniatyn to find out what was Rivka's fate, because her (Rivka's) husband said there was a chance she was saved. Mother was killed in Sniatyn together with my brother-in-law. My older brother, Berl, lived in Warsaw, and perished there, in the ghetto, together with his wife.
I remained alone. I was joined by my neighbor, Mrs. Mayer. After the last Aktziya, in which the synagogue was set on fire, we started to escape. On our way we met a German who beat us hard but allowed us to continue running saying: You are lucky that I don't kill you, because I have no order to do so. We continued running, until we arrived at the house of a Ukrainian, who hid us in a pigsty. When he felt that the place was not safe, he hid
us in some open pit, where Ukrainians defecate. There was not even a place to sit. And I lost my sense of smell. The Ukrainian, who wanted to help us, brought us food every day, and promised to take care of us and smuggle us to Romania. He arranged a border smuggler, who promised to get us across the border if we gave him all the jewelry we had. At night we started crossing the Chermosh River, where the water was shallow. He abandoned us in the middle of the river, saying he was going to find a partner, and did not return. We didn't know if we had already reached Bukovina or if we were still in Kuty. We were both frozen and wet. We continued walking without knowing where we were going until we reached the riverbank. We sat there until dawn. At dawn we started walking. Suddenly we saw a young man with an ax in his hand. We were sure he would kill us with the ax. Luckily, this guy was our savior angel. He suggested we hide in the bushes and recommended not to go out on the street. At night he brought us hot milk, food and gentiles' clothing. I didn't eat anything, because I wanted to die. My friend encouraged me. She feared that if she was left alone, she would not be able to be saved. There were shots in the area all the time because it was shortly after the Aktziya. We stayed several days in the forest, in a hiding place.
One night our savior took us to his home. He hid us in the attic and covered us with straw. During this whole period, I hardly ate anything, and I was underweight. We hid in the attic for several days. One night his brother-in-law took us to the train station and intended to put us in a freight car. Suddenly two people came, one in uniform and the other in civilian clothes, and asked to see our documents. In the meantime, the train started to move. The man who was dressed in civilian clothes offered to put me on the next train, alone. I told him that I'm not going anywhere without my sister. He decided to keep us alive. I had a high fever, and black spots appeared on my body. Apparently, it was a typhus. In the morning I wanted to go to the police and turn ourselves in. The chief of police was also the head of the village. We managed to arrive at his home according to the instructions we received from the people on the street. He told us to wait and to enter the other room. It turned out that we met a savior again. He kept us in his house for a few weeks, and he especially pampered me. I was sick, and he gave me water and milk. After a while he prepared faked documents for us, he dressed us in gentile clothes, and brought us by train to Czernowitz.
In Czernowitz we reached the head office of the Jews. One Jew was standing there and wouldn't let us in because the Jews of Romania were forbidden to bring in refugees from Poland. I pushed him and I said: ''Until now, we were saved by gentiles and now you will cause our death?'' He went to consult, and finally allowed us to enter the building. I tearfully told everything that happened to us. They contacted a committee that dealt with illegal refugees. They found us separate accommodations. I was separated from my girlfriend. We slept every night in a different place, because it was forbidden for the Jews of Czernowitz to keep illegal citizens. In one of the houses
that I slept in, there was a Jew who took care of me in a special way. I was not allowed to leave the house, but one day I decided to go out and go to a fortune teller. A policeman caught me on the way. Since I could not answer in Romanian, he wanted to take me to the police station. The friend who took care of me looked for me everywhere. When he saw that the policeman was leading me, he gave him a ring as a bribe, and in return he released me. We learned that illegal refugees are being transported to Bucharest where legalization can be obtained. There were several groups of illegal refugees. Each group left with a border smuggler, who received money from the Jews of Czernowitz or from the Joint. Our smuggler disappeared and two guys felt pity on us and added us to their smuggler.
We arrived in Bucharest. The two guys took care of us very nicely and took us to an apartment that was prepared especially for them. One day we were called to the Swiss consulate where we received documents. We were sent to closed camps near Bucharest. I arrived in Slatina. Several friends traveled with me: a brother and sister from Kuty, who wanted to go to Slatina, because they had relatives there. We arrived together at the Sternberg family home, and there I met Yozek Neumann, my future husband. Yozek arrived in Slatina in 1939 with the Polish army. Together with friends, he founded a committee that took care of new refugees. He arranged for me to live with a gentile, who thought I was not Jewish. He visited me often and took care of my needs. He gave me money for food and clothes. He told me that his wife and son perished in the Holocaust.
At the end of 1943 we learned that we could go to Palestine, but first we had to arrive in Bucharest. We were not allowed to leave Slatina, so we had to leave without permission. Yozek joined me to Hashomer Hatzair, he knew they would be able to transfer me to Palestine. One day in 1944, we finally arrived at the port of Constanta, where three ships that looked like boxes were waiting for us. Several hundred people crowded into each ship, even though they were intended for only a few dozen. The names of the ships were: Morino, Mafkura and Bulbul. The ships were supposed to sail to Turkey. They separated me from Yozek despite all the efforts. We were told that it doesn't matter because we will all meet in Turkey. Before sailing, men and women were separated in order to conduct a personal search of each. I really wanted to be with Yozek, because I had no other relative in the world. Suddenly I saw a man with ranks and medals. He seemed to me to be a senior officer, so I approached him. I asked him to transfer me to my husband's ship. I gave him my passport, even though I didn't know him. In the meantime, Yozek arrived to say goodbye before boarding the ships. When he heard that I handed over my passport, he turned pale and I saw despair in his face. I suggested that he travel alone and be saved, and I'll be fine. One minute before the ships' departure, the same officer returned, with my passport, with the name of the previous ship erased and the name of the ship ÷Moreno, the ship on which Yozek traveled, written on it. The three ships set off. The other two ships - Mafkura and Bulbul - were sunk by the Germans and only the ship Moreno arrived in Turkey safely. From Turkey, through Syria, we arrived by train to Palestine and started a new life together.
by Hana Klinger (from the Abush family)
Translated by Mira Eckhaus
I, Hana, am the only one of the entire Abush family that survived. My father, Shimshon ben Yosef, my three brothers, Yosef, Meir, Meshulam and their families, perished. Also, my two sisters, Hogia and Yente. Hogia and her husband, Avraham, were the first victims of the massacre that was carried out by the Ukrainian soldiers, under the guidance of the German occupiers, on the last day of Passover, in April 1942. Their three children were taken to an extermination camp. My late mother died before the war. She died a natural death. We found the bodies of my late sister and my late brother-in-law in their home. We buried them ourselves, separately, since the bodies of all the other dead that day were collected and buried in one mass grave.
Me, my husband Moshe Klinger and my only daughter, Sabina, managed to escape to Romania after hardships. From there we were deported to Tiraspol, to a camp in which the Jews that were deported from Romania were imprisoned. Life there was inhumane. Tiraspol is a city in Ukraine, in a land that the Romanians called Transnistria. Its land has absorbed a lot of blood and tears. I was in Tiraspol for two years, together with my husband and daughter. In April 1944, we were liberated and rescued. From Tiraspol we went to Czernowitz, to be close to our old home, to try to find remnants of our families.
At the end of the war, in May 1945, we went to Poland to look for remnants of the families. Unfortunately, we didn't find anyone. When we learned that my husband's sister, Tsila, and her family were in Belgium, we were happy to join them. There, in Belgium, we were blessed and had a son, who was named Shimshon Wolf, after my father and my husband's father. We learned that my husband's second sister, Batya, and her husband, were saved. My little sister, Mentzi, and my brother Label, were also alive. They survived in Transnistria, which was occupied by the Romanians.
After many hardships, we decided to leave Europe but could not manage to immigrate
to Israel. Gershon Hezenpertz, my cousin, arranged visas for us to enter Australia. Sabina and her husband Rafi live in Haifa since 1969. Their children, Shimshon Wolf (Bill), his wife Susan and their children, are in Australia. Unfortunately, my husband, the late Moshe Klinger, passed away after a serious illness, and did not get to enjoy the joy of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. May his memory be blessed.
by Atela Rigler (from the Zvibach family)
Translated by Mira Eckhaus
In September 1939, with the outbreak of World War II, my family lived in Poland, in the town of Kuty. With the Poles fleeing, the Ukrainians ruled for several days, then the Russians came in, and ruled for about two years. In June 1941, the Germans advanced eastward and occupied the areas along the way and the town of Kuty. The Ukrainians received the control and they immediately ordered all the Jews to wear yellow ribbons.
The Ukrainians started to murder Jews in the Carpathian towns such as Zjebya Rostocky, Yablonetz and more. Every day corpses of drowned Jews were taken out of the Chermosh River.
Two weeks later, the Hungarians took control of the area. The Hungarians treated the Jews well. Three weeks later, the control passed to the Germans.
Always after the change of rule, the Jews suffered from abuse and looting. Even the Romanians, who just passed through the town, abused the Jews. They looted and trimmed the beards of the Jews.
The suffering of the Jews began even before the German occupation. Even during the rule of the Ukrainians, respectable people were sent to menial jobs. They ordered the physician Dr. Bartel to smash the statue of Lenin, which was placed in front of the city hall. They beat the Jews mercilessly. The orders for the menial jobs were administered by the Ukrainians Holbatzuk and Alivtzuk. The Germans demanded from the Jews money, fur coats and jewelry. At the end of 1941, rumors about a mass killing of Jews by the Germans were heard. But the people did not believe the rumors. The majority believed that they would be taken to work, so they prepared bundles and waited for the call. Some went to the forest and some built shelters under their houses.
On the last day of Passover 1942, the Germans, together with the Ukrainians, surrounded our city, Kuty, and were shooting in the streets. We hid in a shelter, in Isaac Shaar's house. The shelter was large and reached as far as Fishel Fleischer's house (the shelter could contain
eighteen people). My father saw through the small window how they killed Isaac Shaar's brother-in-law and Yakeli Zeidman, who begged the Ukrainians to release him. They then took out about six hundred Jews. Gitsia Zaidez was caught at the entrance to his house, and he was led along with the other Jews.
We slept in the shelter, I, my brothers, Motzia and Yankel and my sister Pepi and Esther Goldschmidt. Pina Fleischer was also with us. Right after we hid, the supporting beams started to fall. The Germans set fire to all the houses, as well as ours. Nothing happened to the house and the shelter where we hid because it was new and strong, and that's how we stayed alive.
After the Aktziya, we stayed alive thanks to Yaakov Altman and Ovadia Moshkowitz. They re-dug our entrance that was blocked by the fire. When we went outside, we saw the devastation. We saw how those who survived the fire searched for and collected the corpses and their parts, in order to bury them in a Jewish burial. Many of the Jews suffocated from the gases and smoke of the fire, among them were Neta Moshkowitz and his family, Mendel Moshkowitz and his family, Yosel Schwartz and his family, Yosel Feldhamer and his family, who perished in their shelter. Yetta Kavner and Sarah Bantzer with their daughter Feige, died in another shelter that was set on fire. About a thousand Jews were exterminated in this Aktziya. The Germans threw off the roof Herschel Cohen's children. The Germans filmed them wallowing in their blood. After the Aktziya, the Germans ordered the remaining ones to move to the ghetto Kolomyia.
A large number of Jews committed suicide and some of the remaining moved to the ghetto. Young people paid large sums of money and stayed to work in the camp. My family remained intact and we were sent to work in Zaborish (a field on the way to Kosov), at Zeida Mendel. German supervisors came after two weeks to check our work cards. It was just a pretense. They ordered us to present ourselves in the city, we knew what was the real reason. We knew death was waiting for us, but there was no other choice. A large number of Jews moved to Wiesnitz and its surroundings. The Jews of Wiesnitz were transferred to Transnistria (occupied Soviet Ukraine). A number of Jews tried to cross the Romanian border, but the German border guards returned them back. Several people committed suicide. The Germans threw their bodies to the dogs. My parents, my brother Yankel and my sister Pepi went to register (they had work cards). Me, my brother Motzia and my sister Shlomit hid in the shelter. Haim Zackler and his wife, Esther Goldschmidt, were also there. We were told that the Germans collected them and transported them to Kolomyia, to the ghetto. Some of them were put in the death wagons and were suffocated on the way to Belzec. We heard about it by Docia Feldhamer's sister, who jumped off the wagon on its way to Belzec, returned and stayed with us at the shelter. The younger people were transferred by the Germans to the Janowska camp in Lviv. Dr. Bartel's son was there too. The Germans took revenge on the detainees there, they treated them as if they were a dartboard. They put them on trees and shot them. We heard about the horrors of the Janowska camp (Lega - in German) in Lviv, from Bartel's
son. He managed to slip away, reach Kuty and tell us the sights he saw.
Aaron Goldschmidt was among the twenty people the Germans left in the town to work. Yaakov Altman was the man who transferred me, my brother and sister to a shelter and hid us in a toilet. He brought some clean wheat to the cellar and everyone ate one spoon per day, to satiate the hunger a little.
The people were required to show up for registration. Fortunately, the Germans required two women, one for the police, and the other - to serve twenty Jews. I worked in the police. Pepi Orenstein was the secretary of the foreman. All the other Jews, who were hiding, went on their own will to register with the Germans, because they could no longer stand the hunger.
Being in the police force, I saw horrible things. People bloated with hunger that came to ask for their death. The Germans returned Wiesnitz Jews who tried to escape. One cut his throat but unfortunately did not die, one cut his hand and bled. Dr. Bartel bandaged him, and the Germans transferred them to Kosov. Zelig Drexler and his wife also appeared in the police after the aforementioned case. The foreman left, and Pepi Orenstein and I were arrested. Dr. Bartel gave a bribe and we were released. The next day, when I arrived to work, they arrested me again and transferred me to Kosov. They also arrested my brother Yankale and my sister.
At that time, Yaakov Altman was hiding in old Kosov with a gentile. The chairman of the Judenrat in Kosov, Steiner, intervened and released me from prison. In the prison were Ephraim Druk, his wife and their child. They were all shot dead that day. I hid in Stari Kosov and the gentile transferred me to Stari Kuty. We thought of crossing the border to Romania. In the meantime, we lived with Zeida Mendel. The police were looking for us. My brother, sister and I ran to hide in the yard, when the young priest, Stepanawitz, passed by with a policeman and arrested us. The Germans gathered more detainees in the dairy barn. There were children who begged the Germans to let them go, but to no avail. In the police station were Yitzhak Feiner and his little son and four other children from Kovki. We were led to Kosov and I escaped on the way, after we passed through the forest, in order to save the prisoners.
On August 19, 1942, before the holidays, I went to the gentile to ask him to save my relatives, my brother and sister, but it was already too late. The Germans moved them to a village near Kolomyia, where, along with sixty other Jews, they were buried alive.
I stayed with the gentile from Stari Kuty, who was smuggling Jews to Romania. Jews from Lviv and the surrounding area came to him. The Keller family, Tillinger and his wife, perished during the smuggling. I stayed with a gentile together with another girl from Lviv. Someone informed about the gentile, and the police came to check his house. The gentile did not tell them about us. He received an order to transfer us to the Germans if we happened to come to him. When we heard that they were looking for us, we went to the field and hid inside a stack of straw. The gentile moved us to the forest in Kovki at night and brought us food every day.
It was Christmas. They brought us back at night, me and the girl from Lviv. The girl,
who had a nurse's certificate, went to Stanislavov and after three months she was executed because they discovered that the photo on the certificate was fake. They looked for me afterwards but they couldn't find me.
When they couldn't find me to hand me over to the Germans, Mirki the smuggler said that it is probably God's will. Then he hid me at his place, in the attic of the dairy barn, and made me a straw shelter there. When the straw ran out, he made me a hiding place out of thin branches. That's how I hid. No one was allowed to know about me. I suffered hunger and wetness from the rains. Then he hid me under his bed. From there I heard how the Germans took Zeida Mendel and his family out.
I hid at Mirki's place for twenty-two months. Three months before the liberation by the Russians, Mirki's wife revealed to the neighbors that a Jewess was being hidden with her. That same night I ran away to Petro the smuggler. They accepted me, and after a fight with his wife, he wanted to kill me and his wife. So, I broke the window, and full of blood I ran back to Mirki. Since they were also afraid, I returned to Petro, and from there I fled into the forest, through the fields. At night I saw a light and arrived again in Petro. His wife moved me to the city, to Boitzuk. I stayed with him for several days, and after that I was expelled. I walked until I reached the burnt houses in the town. I entered into a basement, and hid there for three days. At night, when my hunger tormented me, I went back to Boitzuk to ask for a slice of bread. They refused to give me food, and put me in the barn. At night Boitzuk brought gentiles with tools, they broke down the door and expelled me. I hid in the cemetery. Afterwards I moved to Todiov, where I hid in a pigsty, until the Russians entered. I joined the Russian soldiers, and I was with them for three months at the front, because the Germans occupied Kuty again.
by Yitzhak Mendel Reiser
Translated by Mira Eckhaus
I learned about this only after I was released from the Russian army, when the war was over. I was drafted into the Russian army on June 19, 1941, and was released on June 28, 1945. My first decision then was to return home. I thought maybe someone from my extensive family survived.
I arrived in Czernowitz and met the daughter of Motel, the butcher. She told me the truth about the town. I didn't dare to believe it, and I went myself to my home town, Kuty.
I went to my house, where I spent half of my life. I cried. I found strangers in it. A neighbor of ours lived there. Her first question was in Ukrainian: Are you still alive? Everything in the house was left just as it was before, only the real owners of the house were missing. I had a gun in my possession, because I was an officer in the army, and I thought of killing everyone and finally myself. For me, my life lost its value, but then I remembered what I went through during the war years, and the many months that I laid in the hospital. Tears flowed from my eyes, and I ran to the campus border guards. I spent the night on the campus. The next morning, I went to the cemetery hoping that maybe someone would show up. I looked in all directions, so that no malicious hand would try to kill me, maybe one of the ‘brandrovets’[a] who wandered around, killed the local people and burned houses. The danger was great.
I was left without parents. My father, Haim Meir, my dear mother Frida and my three brothers: Avraham Leib, Alter and Yaakov, as well as the aunts and their families, everyone perished. Today I am sick and old. The sad times when my loved ones were perished are always on my thoughts.
by Menashe Steinbracher
Translated by Mira Eckhaus
Our city, Kuty, was very beautiful. The people were full of humor and grace. Most of the Jewish residents were merchants, and in the city center most of the shops were owned by Jews.
The city had neighborhoods of professionals, and the streets were named after the profession of the people who lived in them. However, there was also a division into areas: the area of the bathhouses was called ‘Bodgas’, the area of the synagogues, the number of which was quite large, was called ‘Shilgas’, the area where the tailors lived was called ‘Schnadergas’. In the center of the city, where the shops were, there was a large and empty area called ‘Markplatz’. The gentiles who lived around the city would come there with their goods, sell them, and also buy from the Jews. Life was peaceful, and we never imagined that most Ukrainians hated us. Our city was, in fact, the last city in the area to be cleansed of Jews, perhaps because of the ransom paid to the Nazis by the wealthy Jews in the city. This extended our life for a while.
At the end of Passover 1942, while the Jews were returning from the synagogues, the Gestapo broke into the city and opened fire on the Jews. This attack was also joined by the hot-tempered among the Ukrainians in the city. The Jews in the city, who had previously built hiding places under their houses, rushed to enter them when they heard the shooting of the Gestapo. The Gestapo men, who saw that the Jews were not in their homes, began to spray flammable material on the Jewish homes, and burned most of the homes. The residents of the houses were found later on in their hiding places, under the houses, burned after being suffocated there alive.
My family and I were on our way back from the synagogue with the other Jews. When we heard the shooting, we ran away, and managed to reach the courtyard of my married sister's house. This house was owned by a Ukrainian landlord named Rudky, who had many children, including a son
named Tuske. He saved our lives when he stood at the gate of the courtyard of the house, and did not let anyone enter.
After the Gestapo men carried out their plan, they left the city. The next day, the funeral procession for the victims of the disaster, who were burned alive, began. After a while, the Germans began to recruit young Jews, who remained alive, to dismantle the ruins of the houses, and to sort from them the materials that were essential to them, such as iron. These young men were given permits to stay in the city, and the rest of the Jews were taken to the central ghetto in Kolomyia. Among the recruits were my wife and I, my brother, my little sister and my married sister with her family. We stayed in the city. The situation was very difficult. There was no money and no food. Fortunately, I was in contact with Ukrainians, from whom I received some food.
At the same time, the escape to Romania began. Those who had relatives in Romania infiltrated to the border and from there into Romania. My wife and I were among the infiltrators, hoping that the rest of the family will follow us. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. A few weeks after our arrival in Romania, we learned that all the Jews from the area were exterminated, and they were sent by train to an unknown location. We haven't heard anything about them since.
In 1950, we received an immigration permit to Israel. Since then, we live in Israel and cherished memories accompany us wherever we go. May they be of blessed memory.
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