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by Dr.Y. Gilson
Dedicated to the executed Jews of the city of Podwolocyska
Stars glowed there and the sun shined its light
A full moon sailed over the Dinor River in the sky at night
A child laughed there, he knew no fear
With an angelic smile he wove his dreams.
And amidst the greenery in its serpentine form
Flowed the river, reflecting the sky's brightness
Covered by the shadows among the thickness of the forest
Drawing its mysteries into its depths with its whispers
And hills surround the city, enveloped in greenery
A secret is murmured in the breeze of the branches,
And flowers in the gardens in seductive shades
Changing their colors after the light has burst forth.
The flowers decorated the wheat fields
The buzz of the bees in the wild flower meadow
A rooster disrupts their buzzing by calling
A man has cast his shadow over the green of the poppies.
Quiet and serenity, a man's longing
Carried across a horizon, touching the mountains,
Healing the soul like the morning dew,
The soul is at peace; attained salvation.
This is a thriving border town,
Filled up by its settlers, generation after generation-
Friendship; extending a hand to one another-
And labor, each man bringing home his prey.
Young and old toiled from dawn-
Lights and shadows in the gardens, in the homes-
Working to create, and for money.
Hatred and resulting quarrels and so forth.
One world opposite another in the houses, the wide streets
Since paved with granite.
A church opposite a synagogue, both looking to the heavens-
One world opposite the other in the houses, the streets
All believing in the same God,
Some through Moses, some through Christ.
And neither baited Moses nor Christ
To bring ruin upon the other side.
There were wars as the generations passed
Between vengeful peoples and between states,
And there were peaceful years, void of quarrels among peoples,
And the waters of the rivers flowed peacefully.
The candle light on the holy Sabbath eve
Lit the streets from the homes of the Jews,
There a child and mother sat at the table,
And a father made kiddush facing the street.
His neighbor- be he worker or peasant-
Wished him a hearty "Good Shabbos"
Wished him and his household a "Happy Holiday".
Without deceit, living together in truth.
They believed in mankind, and the belief, like fresh air
Filled the lungs of the believers in Moses
And the believers in Christ. The fire of dispute did not erupt
Even if there was a small spark once in a while.
There was no antagonism there, they did not demand our blood,
There was no trouble or instigation, we knew not of murders.
When a man left his home in the morning to earn his bread
He was secure that he may labor undisturbed.
No one was troubled by thoughts of murder
No one feared the day.
Until the arch-murderer arrived
No one dreamed the nightmare of death.
Profound thoughts enveloped the culture
Directing silent prayers above
Writing "Love one another" on its banner
Only Good and Beauty were its source.
This world belongs to those of the past,
A world of great ones, and lesser ones as well,
A world filled with the spirit of the family of nations
Enveloping a rainbow of cultures.
Between wars, innocence reigned,
They knew respect, dignity and nobility.
Demons and murder belonged to the foulness of the front-
Those behind the lines never dreamed of them.
Except for the Ghengis Khans and the Chmielniskis
Ahashderpani-Persians and the Inquisition,
Except for the arrogant Egyptian Pharaohs-
There were no predators there, no wild beasts,
The likes of those who pierced our generation,
Turned into the jungle of human civilization,
Their face had been hiding the face of the beast for generations
To nurture the most heinous of criminals the world has known.
Who could ever had imagined
Such a powerful thirst, buried in hearts,
Such a thirst for blood pushing upward like a volcano
Erupting into a devouring inferno.
Erupting and devouring lands near and far,
Imprinting a passion for cruelty in the blood of men,
Losing its human face in the shadows of the crematorium-
His own and that of his sons forever more.
Who could ever imagine
That the nation of Goethe, Shiller and Kant- the German people,
Who will go down in infamy
As a nation of criminals, and gang of murderers.
Who could have imagined
That the language of Heine would be loathed
That the German people would force others to their knees
While following the Fuhrer.
Who could have imagined
That no language could find the words
To describe the atrocities
To describe the victims' pain, the echo of his screams.
The pain of a helpless mother, the pain of a child,
The choking pain of the German Cyklon B gas,
The pain of a man's body burning, while he is alive
The pain of corpses strewn about.
Who could have imagined
That the winds would carry their ashes throughout the world
Who could detect in the breeze
The stench of the corpses it carries.
Torture of prisoners, death from torture-
These are the symbols of Hitler's rule.
People standing naked in the frost.
Their picture turning into the symbol of repression.
Who could imagine a Gestapo officer
Murdering innocent unarmed people in the heat of the day
Changing his colors when amongst his own,
Playing Mozart with blood on his hands.
Who could imagine that railroad cars
Cattle cars- would transport to ruin,
Transport a person to a horrible death, to choking;
So that his blood will drench the pages of history.
Who could imagine that that they would find refuge
Among men of the cloth and ministers,
Eating holy bread among their own,
Without revealing that they murdered, had anything to do with it.
They will be silent, covering the human blood stains,
Harboring heinous murderers
Making music and teaching song
Or proudly wearing the scientists' robes.
Who could imagine that a river of human blood
With agony that no words could describe,
Had not been heard of by the rulers of Paraguay
In defense of all mankind in the world.
Who could imagine that in the home of a daughter of Hungary
The criminal Mengele would hide in peace
Living off of gold he stole wildly
From Jews who were his victims, among Jews in Brazil.
Who could imagine that in this deceitful world
The life of a human being would be worthless,
His agony as trivial as a garlic peel.
Only brute force will prevail.
Your day will yet come, your day of terror,
Despair will descend upon your peaceful home,
As our mothers cry an eternal cry of despair
Your proud nation will collapse, the vain will go asunder.
In the land where crime raised its head
Your children will seek protection
In their mothers' breasts, refuge from their fathers
On God's day, the day of vengeance, which has yet to come.
Remain in Europe, for tomorrow he will come to you
The judge of all the earth will judge you,
The Defender of men who remembers our misdeeds
Will obliterate your evil and destroy you by flood.
I am no prophet, I believe in G-d's vengeance
Utinam falsus vates-ich-sim
The sinful city of Rome also fell
And since then the sword of Damacles still hangs
Above the head of those who extended their hands to crime
Against a nation of the world to obliterate it completely
Ramming forth from the devastation to the summit of evil
They stood as saints, protesting their innocence.
They lifted up their eyes, in their home they laughed,
They cheered their victory over Russia,
They bowed down before the altar of Allah
When they fell, they extended their hand to crime.
The hand of G-d determined the fate of Israel
To bring upon it indescribable suffering
To leave but a remnant, of the chosen people,
To save the remnant from the Nimrod of its generation.
On the Judgement Day he will strike them,
For they spilled human blood, which cried out to the heavens,
Damned from the earth, which opened up
To take the blood from their hands, believe in G-d's vengeance.
What is their life after war
In which they sinned, they now wander in a strange world
Sleep escapes them as they lie at night,
They will be afraid of their shadows as they live their daily lives.
Hiding in fear they will cry bitterly,
For skeletons will march in the night behind them,
Looking at them with their eye sockets,
They will not let them alone, they will prove their guilt.
The fate of man out there will be determined,
Out there the map of nations will certainly be illuminated,
Out there the rafters will calculate the power of the earth
Each day, another spark will be granted.
Luck will determine a man's future
For nation's it will be determined over generations.
Nothing can abolish the decrees of the stars in secret.
The wise man will believe in it, the ignorant will believe it false.
Compare it to a couple living together,
Out there, some time a man was meant for a certain woman,
They formerly did not know each other,
They did not know that as things seem
On earth, their meeting was by chance,
Joined by an idea or a feeling.
She had dreamed a dream that was an idea of his,
They knew each other's secrets by glancing into their eyes.
How great is the strength of the Almighty,
He determines the strength of all, the life of man,
The hand of G-d works in far off galaxies,
In the whole universe as it does on earth.
And now I bid you farewell, those who lie in the pits,
Those riddled by bullets of murderers by the river,
At the close of a night's slumber my eyes burn,
I think of myself: am I alive?
When I saw the bodies fall one by one,
The eyes looking helpless, in despair,
Their eyes shining with life for the last time;
Seeing people who are lost, although they are innocent.
Each day, each night in a night mare
I see the murderers with a skull,
Chasing us in the field and in the city
Not tiring of the chase, fearing no retribution
We were the prisoners of the death camps
We are the refugees of the ghetto surrounded by barbed wire,
You must answer our charge
Replete with terror and the desire for revenge and reckoning-
We went into the forests to pay you your dues,
We joined the army starved and worn down,
We went to act, retaining our honor,
"To die with the Philistines", and not alone.
We marched with arms as others do,
Our arms strong and our hearts heroic,
We reached Berlin thirsty
For the vengeance of our relatives, and their suffering.
We went as one, ready
To sacrifice our souls as explosives,
To obliterate Hitlerism from the map of tomorrow,
To spill his last drop of blood.
To ignite in the heat of the battle in the hearts of our allies
The fire of vengeance that would burn undaunted
To heal their frazzled nerves
With an enemy's defeat in bloody battle.
Blind and deaf to what was happening behind us
Forging onward to the borders of the land of evil
Until the bombs and the last bullet will force out
The rule of wickedness and rot its creations.
Forging onward for the death of millions
Of my people and of other peoples
Innocent, yet painfully tortured;
Because they were human to an inhumane death.
For the heroic deaths of the sons of Russia and Poland,
Like the sons of Denmark who fought bravely
Like the sons of America, France and Britain,
Like the death of the partisans carrying many different flags
For the deaths of the tortured in the prisons
For the death of the executed in the jails,
For the death which reached every corner
I see them finally licking their boots
When their masses were taken prisoner,
At the gates of Berlin freezing cold,
Trembling with the question, "What will the day bring them?"
It is a pity that we took them prisoner
It is a pity that we did not kill every last one of them
How can one share human rights
With someone who feels no pain at the death of a human being?
These criminals should have been judged without a trial
For crimes against humanity in front of the whole world,
Sentenced to a bullet or a noose
To be tied around the defendant's neck.
For those who evaded punishment
And in exchange for the gold teeth which they extracted
Wander among the known hypocrites of the world,
Bearing the brand of "wanderer"
Until the day will come that their stench will make them tremble
Too shoot the sinful agate head they would not dare
A German head. Each one of them whispering
From his mouse-hole hiding place, with no poison.
The world must build them a giant tombstone
To remind the world how they murdered innocent people,
Their children will learn from the first steps
To rectify in the future the horrors of the past.
They will learn of human rights and the sanctity of life,
The torturers will be presented to them
With the eye sockets burned by their hand.
To root out the evil for tomorrow.
We look forward to a future that is all good...
The waters of the Zbroch River flowed quietly on
its winding path, dividing the land of Poland and the Soviet Union to its east.
They flowed southward until they reached the Danister and then onward,
ultimately, until they reached the Black Sea. That was how it was until
September 1939. On the eastern bank of the Zbroch River, on the Soviet side,
lay the town of Volocysk. And opposite this town, on the western side, in
Poland was the town of Podwolocysk.
These two border towns were joined by railroad
tracks. The wide Russian tracks ended in Polish Podwolocyska and the regular
Polish tracks ended in Russian Volocyska. Twice a week passenger trains
crossed the river, two trains, three cars to a train. They came from Poland to
Volocyska. This was the connection between Western Europe and Eastern Europe
on the Lvov-Kiev route through Podwolocyska-Volocyska.
When World War II broke out there were about
7,000 inhabitants in the town of Podwolocyska and its environs, including the
town of Zdanishovka. They consisted of 20% Poles, 20% Ukrainians and 60% Jews.
The villages surrounding Podwolocyska were
comprised mostly of Poles and Ukrainians, but there were also some Jewish
farmers and merchants living in the villages.
In the village of Zdanishovka, whose houses
touched Podwolocyska on the west, there lived mostly Poles with a few Jewish
households such as the Reiter family, who were wheat merchants, the two Katz
families who were cattle merchants and butchers, the Horowitz family which
traded in various merchandise, and the Feldman family, which were printers and
The majority of the population of the town of
Mislova, which was about 3 kilometers away from Podlowocyska, were Ukrainians.
But the estate was owned by a Polish family. The local school was also run by
a Pole. Moshe Delogatch, a grain trader and agriculturist lived there.
In the village of Sopranovka, which lay north of
the Podwolocyska- Tarnopol portion of the railroad tracks, there lived Polish
and Ukrainian families with only a few Jewish families. Among these were the
Nakchi family, which traded dairy products and fowl, and the Thorn family, who
were agriculturists and grain traders.
The village of Staromyshchizna, which lay about 2
kilometers from town on the
west bank of the Zbroch River, was populated mainly by Ukrainian nationalists
who were hostile to Jews and Poles alike. The Ukrainian priest Biluk, who
collaborated with the Nazis in the establishment of an independent Ukrainian
homeland, was from this town. There were a few Jewish families living in this
town as well, farmers, and grain traders.
The town of Podwolocyska lay about 18 kilometers
from the town of Skalat and about 50 kilometers from the county seat, Tarnopol.
As was previously mentioned, the town numbered
about 4200 Jews, which comprised about 60% of the population. Most of the
people were engaged primarily in the trade of textiles and haberdashery,
leather (Shlomo Berkenlau), petroleum products (Biller, Joseph Marder), dry
goods (Bilbitz), steel (Madpas, Silberman), wheat (Hahn, Tirhaus, Joisch,
Kastenbaum, Naftali Greenspan, Moshku Feldman), and various other merchandise.
There were jewelers and watchmakers (Marntz, Weigler), blacksmiths, tailors,
furriers, carpenters, and glaziers. There were restaurant owners (Veigler,
Feldman, Zeidan), and kiosk owners (Fogelbaum, Diamant, Greenspan, Landman).
There were also industrialists, flour mill owners (Greenhaut-Pohorils and
partners) owners of a seltzer factory (the Berlin family), owners of a soap
products factory (Lerner family), of bakeries (Shenker, Luftig). Let us
mention the Hendel family which dealt in trade and egg export.
In charge of the religious life in the town was
Rabbi Leibush Babad who came from one of the most important rabbinical
families in Poland. However, the cultural life was determined primarily by the
various Zionist parties, the Bund, the professional intelligentsia and the
The young people studied, after they finished the
local grammar school, in the county seat at Tarnopol. They would travel there
daily, although some stayed with local Jewish families. There were three high
schools for boys, the Vincent Paul Public Gymnasia on May 3 St., which
specialized in classical studies, Public Gymnasia B on Kunarsky St., which
specialized in neo-classical studies, and Public Gymnasia C on Kupernic St.,
which specialized in practical studies. The girls attended the public Gymnasia
on Koskiewsko St., or the public gymnasia on Koliova St. Some students attended
the Trade Gymnasia, which allowed males and females, on Mizkivitz St.
Jewish girls with appropriate academic
credentials were accepted to the gymnasia without limitation. However, the
number of places at the teaching seminary was limited and only three women from
our town were accepted, the sisters Ida and Mania Tabak and a woman from the
Clara Neuman and Rottenberg's daughter studied at
the Trade Gymnasia.
Let us mention some of the graduates of the above
gymnasias (high schools), and tell what has happened to them.
Isio Eisenberg, Menash Gross' brother-in-law, was
a lecturer at the University of Lvov and died in the Soviet Union.
Of the Ulinger brothers, who both finished their
medical studies in Italy, one emigrated to Cuba and the other practiced
medicine in Poland and later moved to Israel where he apparently passed away.
The brothers Yanchu and Nunio Diener studied at
the Polytechnic Institute in Lvov and were killed in the war.
Moshe Jorisch, Shimon Neuman and Avraham Baras
moved to Israel where they completed their studies at the Technion in Haifa.
They became engineers.
Munye Katz finished his medical studies in
Germany and died in the U.S.
Matchik Greenberg completed a course of studies
at the Polytechnic Institute in Lvov and was killed in the war.
Yaacov Jarchover finished his medical and
veterinary studies in Czechoslovakia and committed suicide by swallowing poison
in the Podwolocyska camp in 1943.
Jan Landesburg, the son of the local notary
finished at the Polytechnic Institute in Gdansk and was killed in the war.
Yaacov Gilson completed his medical studies in
Munich, Germany, was an assistant at the university clinic in Gissen and
practices medicine in Israel.
Clara Marder studied philosophy and mathematics
and lives in the U.S.
The sisters Chake and Betke Bilbitz died in the
The attorneys Shaul Greenberg and Bernhaut
finished their law studies and were killed in the war.
The magistrate Isidore Nytter, attorney at law, a
former prisoner of the Kamiunki B' camp moved to Israel after the war, where he
became the first secretary of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem. He filled this
post until his death.
The magistrates Lina Liebling and Kozimer,
attorneys, were killed in the war.
David Tirhaus studied in Vienna and lives in
The magistrate Clara Tabac completed her studies
in philosophy and lives in the United States.
The Doctor of Philosophy, Anna Kozimer, died in
Magistrate David Hyman (Kadetenburg) studied
pharmaceutical studies in Prague, and moved to Israel where he worked in his
own pharmacy until his death.
Nunio Bilbitz, who studied classical philology
and literature taught in Jewish high schools and was killed int he war.
Shevah Brayer studied art and music in Paris and
Vienna and played first violin in the Lvov Philharmonic Orchestra for many
years. He was killed in the war.
Shunyu Marder died in battle near Lanino.
Alexander Rosensweig, the son of Dr. Rosensweig
from Haifa, died in battle, apparently near Stalingrad.
Sidonia and Julia Friedman, Paula and Lilly
Greenhaut, and the sisters Sophia and Sarah Fogelman were killed in the
Of the Zionist youth groups which were grouped
according to political affiliation were "Unity (Ehud)",
"Gordonia", and the "Hashomer Hatzair", the outstanding
intellectuals either self-educated or high school graduates included:
Eliezer Tibon (Starro-Weiss), lives in Tel Aviv,
and is a teacher in a seminary and author of textbooks.
Moshe Vishniak, of the "Shomer Hatzair"
volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War and was killed there.
Of the "Mizrahi" there was Yaacov
Birnklau and Isaac Pollak, who was the secretary of the Jewish National Fund.
Of the general Zionists there were Dr. Leon
Rosensweig, the Deputy Mayor and his wife Dr. Helena Rosensweig, both of them
There was Dr. Gabriel Finkelstein, an attorney;
Magistrate Yitzhak Nyter, Dr. Bruno Berchip (a reservist Lieutenant), physician
and engineer in the city of Erdheim.
Of the professionals from the older generations
there were: Dr. Orbach and his son, attorneys' Dr. Kohan, attorney (his
son Emanuel later became an attorney in Tel Aviv. He died there); the
physician Dr. Gabreil Freidman; the notary public Landesburg; Magistrate
shuler, who worked as an attorney in the office of the Ukrainian Dr. Zhokovsky,
the mayor (he appointed him to be the head of the Judenraat during the
occupation), the pharmacist Weinberg, who, until his pharmacy was taken from
him and given to the Ukrainian Gregorchik, provided medicine for the residents
of the town and later the camp; the drugstore owner Shore, who also provided
medicines for the town residents until he and his fourteen year old son were
murdered behind the cemetery at the beginning of the war; Rabbi Leibush Babad,
one of the three head rabbis who represented the Jews of Poland, who was
murdered, along with his entire household.
The town had a thriving cultural life. A theater
company of amateur performers put on a number of plays a year, including Sholom
Aleichem's "Tevya the Milkman", Anskay's "The Dibbuk" and
plays written by Goldfadden and others. The most notable of the young actors
was Yanchu Gizzenburg (who later became an officer in the Israel Police's dug
squad), the Feldman sisters, the Shpeiser actresses and the Landman brothers.
The intellectuals of the town, whether formally
educated or self-taught, would lecture in the meeting places of the various
parties on subjects such as politics, literature, philosophy, and science.
Worthy of mention is Mundik Kleiner, a poet who
wrote in Yiddish. As a journalist he had pieces published in "Chwilla
(The Moment)" in Lvov, and in "Echo" edited by Dr. Rosenswig in
Stanislavov, and in the Lvov University bulletin edited by Professor Ganshintz.
He was a member of the Bund and was arrested before the war for committing
communist activities. He sat in jail for three years until he was freed when
the Russians occupied the town. Before the Germans came into the town he fled
to the Soviet Union where he died.
Yaacov Gilson published articles in
Israel;"An Kaminska Officer on the Defendent's Bench" (Kurier Nowiny
i No. 301 from 12.21.62) "At the trial of the S.S. General Wolf - A
Terrible Wolf in an Innocent Sheep's Skin" (as above no. 222 8.24.64),
"Back in Munich" (as above no. 219 8.20.72), "An Open Letter to
72 Anti-Zionist States" (as above no.274 11.24.75), "Do Not Remain
Silent, Submit an Accounting" (as above no. 49 2.26.76), "A Man with
No Help" and interview wtih Oscar Schindler who saved 1200 Jews and is
buried in Israel (as above 6.16. 68), "An Example from Above- Follow
Me" (as above no.150 6.29.70).
Zionist congresses provided a forum for
organizing lectures on Zionism and Jewish history. At the Bund library in the
Kokun house there would be lectures on the writings of Ahad Haam and the poetry
of Bialik, the works of Sholom Aleichm, Peretz, Ansky, Aptashaw and Ash. The
Zionist youth movements would hold lectures on Theodore Herzl, Sokolov,
Balaban, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Weitzman, and the great Jewish thinkers such as
Professor Einstein and his theory of relativity, and the philosophy of the
Jewish philosopher Dr. Bergson; about Poiktvanger, the Tweig brothers, Freud
and his theories, and others; about the various schools of classical art such
as expressionism, impressionism and more.
Of special interest was the Yiddish theater,
directed by Ida, which would come to town a number of times during the year.
The Jewish audience would attend en mass the plays which were held in the Sokol
auditorium which was rented for that purpose. They always enjoyed them greatly.
Sports was not neglected during the years between
the world wars. There were two soccer times in town at the time: Maccabi A'
and Maccabi B'. On the Maccabi A' team there were Sallo Wallach, Leon Wallach,
Sunyu Farber, Honchu Jorisch, Tuviash Gottlieb, Landsman and Itzik Wallach.
They played against the "Polonia" team, led by Dumarsky and the
Ukrainian "Sokol" team.
During the years preceding World War II some of
the local youth succeeded in obtaining immigration certificates to Palestine
after undergoing some training. Shlomo Zeiler (Weisnicht), Vilu Wallach, Asher
Shenker, Luckman, Vishniak, Avraham Barer, Michael Weisser, and others. Some
of the college students continued their studies at the Hebrew University in
Jerusalem: Max Marder and Eliezer Tibon (Starro-Weiss). Among the women, those
who moved to Israel were Rosa and Sophia Zigman, Starro-Weiss, Zeidman and
With sweat and tears, joy and sorrow, ups and
downs, the bitter cold of winter and the burning heat of summer, the Jewish
community thrived in the town. Despite economic hardship, parents helped their
children ascend a rung on the social ladder, to be cultured individuals in the
environment in which they had lived for many years. The pulse of the Jewish
community beat at the same pace as that of the Polish and Ukrainian communities
around it. There was no hint, aside from rumors of fascism in Germany, of the
total desolation and destruction to come. That homes which had been full of
life would become a mockery, standing abandoned in the abandoned streets,
through which would pass a violent storm which would batter the window shades
and doors. That sadness and terror and death would be exalted above the town
of the murdered Jews.
On September 1, 1939, World War II broke out.
Fear descended upon the Jews of Poland and the Jews of Europe in general.
Rumors of what the Nazis had done in Germany, such as "Kristalnacht",
the repression of Jewish culture, both spiritual and material, and the murder
of Jews by the S.S. was enough to instill fear of what the Jews might expect
from Hitler's messengers. They were familiar with the practices of the murder
squads which bore the symbol of the skull on their hats and uniforms.
Armed to the teeth, equipped with the most modern
weapons and tanks, protected by a cover of warplanes, Hitler's brigades came
into Poland from the west. The armored brigades met practically no resistance
from the poorly equipped Polish army led by Ridz Smigli, and it moved eastward
quickly. The bravery of the Polish soldiers was not enough to fend off the
German armored and air attacks, since they did not have viable weapons. In a
few days virtually all of western Poland was occupied by Hitler's army. The
advance slowed only in order to allow the Soviet army to occupy eastern Poland,
according to the terms of a secret agreement signed between Germany and the
Soviet Union. Soviet army units, after crossing the Zbroch border into
Podwolocyska, easily captured the Tarnopol-Lvov area and made their way towards
Peshmishel. Sixty-ton tanks advanced effortlessly, meeting no resistance from
the unraveled Polish army.
On September 17, 1939, all of eastern Poland,
from Latvia and eastern Prussia in the north to the Carpatian Mountains in the
south, was under Soviet occupation. The demarcation line separating the two
armies, the German and Soviet, went from Carpatian Mountains, through the city
of Peshmishel, to the Baltic Sea in the north. This border remained until June
June 22, 1941 the war between Germany and the Soviet Union began. The German
army, whose fire power and air capabilities were greater than that of the
Soviets, surprised the Soviet Union and moved toward the former Polish-Soviet
border encountering no effective resistance. On July 5, 1941, the Germans
occupied the town of Podwolocyska. They continued onward, crossing the Zbroch
River heading eastward in the Soviet Union.
The Jews of the town were gripped in fear and
terror. However, their nationalist Ukrainian neighbors rejoiced. The saw in
Germany an ally in achieving their age-long dream of national independence for
Ukraine. They immediately began cooperating with the German army, the S.S. and
the Gestapo, as soon as they entered the town.
All the jobs which had been held by retreating
Soviets were immediately filled by German - army personnel and S.S. officers.
Many Jews, who had already fled from western
Poland, managed to flee into Soviet territory in trains, cars, on horseback,
and even on foot, heading as far eastward as possible. Some of the Jews who
escaped and were not murdered by Germans or Ukrainian nationalists along the
way, later returned to Poland, either as civilians or wearing Soviet army
uniforms. Since they did not find any surviving relatives, they later left
Poland, which did not welcome them (remember the Kilza pogrom). They went
legally or illegally to Israel, western Europe, and America.
On July 5, the S.S. units entered the town. Two
days later, they began to systematically murder the Jews of the town.
The residents of Dr. David Street, where Rabbi
Leibish Babad lived with his family, were the first to be killed. The street
was located about 500 meters from the Christian cemetery. That is were they
rounded up and murdered the first victims. That is when Magister Shore, the
pharmacist and his thirteen year-old son Joseph were killed as were Yitzhak
Luckman and his son Feibush, Velorver, Gross, Meir Zeidman and his
fourteen-year-old son Shunia, the banker Marder and other Jewish refugees from
western Poland who I did not know personally.
On that day they took Rabbi Babad and his two
sons Asher and Haim from their home, along with the kosher butcher Shalom
Schwartz and his two sons. They cut off their beards and forced them to dance
naked in front of a Ukrainian mob and criminals. One of mob, Grashko Schore
hung Jewish refugees on hooks in the town square and looted their possessions
along with his partners in crime. This same Schore is apparently hiding out in
Canada today along with many other Ukrainians who fled there, according to the
late Mishko Rosenberg who died in Canada. Since Rosenberg's death, it has been
difficult to locate this murderer. The Ukrainians also aided the S.S. and
Gestapo officers by providing information about Jews, who had been their
neighbors for many years.
During the months of August and September, the
Germans established the administrative rules in the town. The Ukrainian lawyer
Zhokovsky was appointed mayor and he in turn appointed the Jewish lawyer
Shuller, with whom he had worked before the war, to head the Judenraat, with
his friend, the lawyer Fleshner as Secretary. Some of the town residents were
appointed to the Judenraat including Teitelbaum, a refugee from western Poland.
An "Ordenungs-Dinst", a Jewish police squad, was established to help
the Judenraat carry out its tasks.
It was the Judenraat's job to coordinate all
activities regarding the Jews with the German civil and military authorities.
There were Capt. Kissel and Capt. Miller in the military command, with Hula,
Rusk, Land, Landberger and Geller in the military police, with Geshapstfurer
Sternberg, with the medic Brook, with the Shutz-polizei Wagner, and with the
Gestapo authorities in Tarnopol and the S.S. officers.
The Gestapo commander in Tarnopol was
Stormbandfurer Hermann Miller, and his subordinates Hermann Wolks, and his S.S.
counterparts under General Katzmann of Lvov, the Optstormfurer Paul Ravel and
the S.S. officers Michel Vitomnik of the Sudetenland, Fritz and Paul Mellar.
All these men were the terror of the Jews of Podwolocyska, Tarnopol and the
The Judenraat's first job was to supply workers
to rebuild the bridge over the Zbroch River, which connected Lvov and Tarnopol,
by way of Podwolocyska and Volocyska to Kiev.
Afterwards the Judenraat was first to supply
people for the two hard labor camps, actually concentration camps, Kamiunki A'
and Kamiunki B'. The camps were built at the end of September. The people
were put to work in the quarry and in building the Tarnopol-Podwolocyska-
Volocyska-Kiev road. The road was built by the "Otto Heil" company
of Bad Kissingen under the supervision of S.S. officers and Ukrainian police.
In addition, the Judenraat had to provide
occasional bribes to the Gestapo and S.S.
In March 1942, the Judenraat was forced to supply
laborers to repave the railroad tracks for the Tarnopol-Masimovka- Bogdanovka-
Podwolocyska route, under the direction of the German engineers Bragga and
Hilmer, who were staying in the Oest-Bahn cars in Podwolocyska. The work,
which consisted of surveying and changing the tracks was being carried out
about 20 or 30 kilometers from Podwolocyska in the direction of Tarnopol. The
people had to walk this entire distance while they were starving.
By the beginning of October 1941, between 1500 to
2000 Jews were brought to the Kaiunki A' and B' camps from the Tarnopol and
Stanislvov districts. From Podwolocyska Kleiner, the father of five children
was brought there. He fell ill and was then murdered there. There was Eisen,
a merchant who was murdered in the camp, Beckerman the barber, the two Gedoldig
brothers (shoemakers), The merchant Bernklau, the glazier Tauber, Yaacov
Gilson, Wilhelm Fogel, Millek Furman (The son of Zalman the porter), the barber
Reich, the merchant Bazlinsky, and others. From Tarnopol there came
Magistrate Koenigsburg, the physician Dr. Wachman, Magistrate Fell, Wilhelm
Berman and other Jews whose names I cannot recall. The Jews of Skalat were
supplied by the head of the local Judenraat, Meir Nirler. The Jews from the
town of Gazhimlov included Magistrate Yitzhak Neiter (who later became the
General Secretary of the Supreme Court in Israel). From the town of Zbaraj
there came the veterinarian Dr. Rodek Jarchower and his wife Nina (who later
worked as a nurse in the Podwolocyska C' camp), and Bruchstain who was later
the chief of the Jewish police in the Podwolocyska C' camp. From the town of
Bazhizian: Srulik Rosenblatt (a well-known murderer in the Kamiunki A' and B'
camps. He died in the camps of an intestinal infection). From Zlochov: Dr.
Mayblum (the camp doctor). From Charnovitz: Greenberg with the Ellmen group.
From Berlin: Koltz(the head of the A' camp.
From Budapest: Dr. Bella Blum. From Lodz:
Schwartz, labor director and later on the the head of the C' camp, and
Teitelbaum, his wife and two children. From Katowitz: Dr. Kleiner, a dentist,
with his wife and two children. From Warsaw, Tepper and his wife, and
Walladovsky who was Opstrumfurer Ravel's driver. He later testified against
him in the trial at Stuttgart. I do not know the names of the Jews who were
brought in from the towns of Khorostkov, Kopicznitz, Jaglonitza,
BochatzPodahitz, Stanislovov. Jews were brought in from other towns which I do
The Kamiunki A' and B' camps were surrounded by
barbed wire with guard towers in every corner by the S.S. and Ukrainian police.
The barracks of the Kamiunki A" camp stood
on a hill about one kilometer from the village of Kamiunki and 500 meters from
the Tarnopol-Podwolocyska road. The barracks contained wooden bunk beds.
There were no lavatories or washing up areas nor even minimal conditions for
the maintenance of personal hygiene. The people brought in from all over were
crammed into the crowded beds. Thirty or forty people would be crammed into a
spot meant for twenty. After a short time all of the inmates were infested
with lice. There was no water for washing, not even for drinking. Hastily dug
pits were used as toilets. Within a few days, as a result of malnutrition and
lack of warm food, dysentery spread throughout the camp.
October 1, 1941, 5:00 a.m.: The wakeup call is
announced with whips and screams. The mass of laborers gather on the slope of
the hill in the camp. The camp director Koltz and the labor foremen stand
opposite the rows of laborers. They are all awaiting the arrival of the S.S.
Opsturmfurer Paul Ravel. He arrives at 6:00 a.m. with a German shepherd dog and
a whip. His assistants Tomnek and Michel, S.S. men, accompany him. The camp
director, Koltz, informs him that his men are ready to go to work.
From the first day the people would go out to
work in two groups under the supervision of the Ukrainian police, under the
command of Korol. One group would leave at 5:00 a.m. for the quarries, which
were about five kilometers from the main camp. The second group would leave at
six for work blasting stones and paving the Tarnopol- Kamiunki- Podwolocyska
road. They were guarded by Ukrainian police who accompanied them to and from
the work area. S.S. officers would come every so often to inspect the work.
All the stone blasting and paving work was run by professionals from the Otto
Heil Co. of Bad Kissingen.
From the first days, the work paving the road and
life in the camp were hell. The Ukrainian police, working under Korol and
under S.S. supervision, would check the productivity of the stone blasting and
the paving. When they would determine that most of the laborers were not being
productive enough because they were unfit, they were struck by rifle butts and
As a result of an especially harsh autumn, with
winds and storms, and as a result of malnutrition, many laborers fell ill.
However, the sick went out to work, even with a temperature of 104 degrees.
They would pass out while working, because they could not go on. They would
have to be carried by the other prisoners to the sort of sick room in the camp.
The prisoners were afraid to leave that room for fear of being shot. The camp
doctor, Dr. Mayblum was helpless because he had no medicines at his disposal.
He was unable to convince the authorities to allow him to help the sick.
Anyway, it was their goal to torture the people until they died.
A prisoner's daily food portion consisted of a
slice of bread weighing 100 grams and black coffee or tea, which he received
before he went out to work. When he returned from his hard day of labor he
received a portion of soup and a piece of horse or rabbit meat which was often
rotten. In the evening he got some more black coffee.
It is noteworthy that at the Kamiunki B' camp
there were prisoners of that camp and others who came in from the main camp,
who were working in rock blasting.
Srulik Rosenblatt of Bjezan, who was notorious
for being an S.S. collaborator, was first a work foreman and then later became
the camp director. He lived with Rosa Halperin, who was later made the
director of the women's camp in Podwolocyska (Camp C' had both men and women),
and a particularly repulsive character from among the S.S. collaborators.
The veterinarian Dr. Rodek Jarchower was a medic
in the camp (He was lucky enough to survive the war with his wife, who was a
sanitary worker in the Podwolocyska camp. He moved to Israel after the war and
lives in Rehovot and works in his profession.) Cruel methods of torture were
used on the prisoners upon their return from work in the evenings. While they
were standing on line to get their food rations they would be struck with rifle
butts and whips for no reason and even shot with machine guns. When the
victims would fall, the other prisoners would scurry back to their barracks,
but the S.S. officers and Ukrainian police would come there too and beat them.
Drained of all strength, the prisoners would fall on their beds. That was the
Germans' method of torturing people. Another method: they would detain
prisoners upon their return from the camp and shoot into the crowd with a
machine gun. Who fell, how many fell- was either known or it was not. The
bodies were thrown into ditches behind the camp. During the winter, a new
method of torture was introduced. Using the excuse that they were searching
for valuable goods, they would wake the prisoners at 4:00 a.m. and make them
stand outside in freezing weather and do body searches. If they would happen
to find a watch on somebody, they would give him 50 lashes. Eighty per cent of
them would die painful deaths afterwards. This punishment of 50 lashes,
delivered either by cane or by whip, was standard punishment for any
"crime", be it ever so slight. It would result in death, whether the
prisoner was on his way to or from work, or lying on his torture bed.
There were those who despaired of the beatings
and shootings and starvation and dysentery and weakness, and risked escape.
They would take of advantage of a momentary distraction at work or en route,
and escape toward the village. If the Ukrainian villagers would return a
prisoner to his guards, he would be brought back and either hanged or shot.
People died daily in the camp and their bodies
were dumped in the ditch behind it. New prisoners were brought in to replace
the dead, either from Skalat, where they were supplied by the head of the
Judenraat, Nirler, or from Zhimlov, where they were supplied by the head of the
Judenraat, Roller. Prisoners were also brought in from other cities and were
brought in to replace the dead, or the nearly dead.
The bribery system was first run by the camp
commandant the S.S.Opsturmfurer Ravel. He was given carriages and cars and gold
and diamonds for his mistress, Aidi Lukovska from Lublin. His lieutenants, S.S.
officers, also benefited from the bribes.
The bribes eased the conditions in the camp in
one respect. The Jews from the surrounding areas would send food parcels to the
prisoners, and because of the bribes, the authorities looked the other way.
The food parcels were the major source of sustenance for the prisoners, and if
they survived, it was thanks to this. The refugee prisoners who hid not have
relatives in surrounding cities, were given food by the prisoners who did.
The camp commandant, S.S. Optsturmfurer Ravel,
lived in a separate house in the village of Kamiunki, which was guarded by
Ukrainian police under the command of the S.S. He would often hold parties
there and prisoner musicians would play music while the guests danced naked on
the tables. From there, the party would move to the Shigger house, which was
previously the Havokin family's home, in Podwolocyska. The Ukrainian, Shigger,
apparently finished three years of medical school in Italy and posed as a
doctor in Podwolocyska, where he cavorted with the Germans. His wife, the
daughter of a tailor from Podwolocyska was the one who held the parties and
receptions for the honored guests- S.S. and Gestapo people who came in from
Kamionki and even Tarnopol. Fourteen-year-old Basha Rosenstrauch was a servant
in their home (Despite this, she did not escape the fate of the Jews of
Podwolocyska on the day that the Podwolocyska camp was eliminated, June 29,
1943. Mr. and Mrs. Shigger handed her over to the murderers where she was shot
into a ditch which became a mass grave.)
When the party would be finished, at night, they
would go into the Kamiunki C' camp in Podwolocyska, and by the light of a
kerosene lantern, carried by a prisoner, they would tour the camp. If they
happened to meet a prisoner, they would beat him with whips until he bled, as
they screamed and laughed wildly. Or else they would lead him into the
neighboring Christian cemetery and shoot him there.
Another favorite occupation of the S.S. and the
Gestapo on the morning after a banquet, was to demand that the Judenraat supply
them with Jews for the camps and bribes of gold and other valuables, foreign
currency and expensive silk fabrics. (A sweat shop was set up in the
Podwolocyska C' camp, which was run by the three Turtletaub brothers, refugees
from Tarnov, whose job it was to sew coats, furs and suits for the S.S. people
in Kamiunki and the Gestapo in Tarnopol.)
One of the Judenraat's most difficult tasks was
to supply the Germans with furs (which they needed for the front lines). The
penalty for disobeying this order was death. In fact David Chrain (the brother
of Etke, who lives in the U.S.) refused to hand over his fur coat and was taken
to the Gestapo in Tarnopol and murdered there.
Regardless of the fact that many of the Jews of
Podwolocyska were taken to the Kamiunki camps, the Judenraat was forced to
supply additional people to work on repairing the train tracks. This is what
they did. Beaten, under guard, the people worked from a height of twenty
meters over the river to repair the tracks. any careless move could result in
death. Some people did in fact fall from the high bridge and were lost. Who
cared? Human life had no value for that group of murderers, meaning a Jewish
life, of course, not their own. Among those sent by the Judenraat to work on
the bridge was Yaacov Gilson (who survived the war by escaping from the
Kamiunki C' camp. After a difficult illness, he moved to Israel where he
worked as an army civilian), and Shmuel Katz (who lives in Germany today).
The military commander of Podwolocyska was
Captain Kissel. His lieutenant was Captain Miller. The command center was
comprised of the gendarmes: Landburger, Fladfavel Hula, Russik, Lang,
Geshaftsfurer Sternberg, the medic Brook, and Geller. The command center was
not concerned with persecuting Jews, so that those who worked, although forced
labor, were neither beaten nor tortured.
Jews were forced to work daily in laying down the
railroad tracks for the Maximovka- Bogdanovka- Rosokovacitz- Podwolocyska-
Volocyska leg. Another group of Jews was sent to work in the Richmann Company
blasting rocks. The people would leave for work at dawn, frantic about the
fate of the loved ones they left at home. When they returned in the evening,
they may or may not have them at home, for they may have been taken away by the
S.S. or the Gestapo.
Daily life in the town became hell. There were
wars over a slice of bread, people lived in terror. They were concerned for
their loved ones who could be caught and sent G-d knows where, they were afraid
of approaching footsteps in the day or night, they were afraid of the unknown.
They were aware of the fact that they were unprotected, that a house pet was
more protected than they were. They were afraid of being beaten and tortured
to death by a murderer wearing an S.S. or Gestapo uniform. They were victims
of the fear itself. (Dr. Gabriel Friedman, the only doctor left in the town
before the expulsion, died of a heart attack.)
Deep sadness was reflected in the eyes of those
walking through the town, and unbearable pain. People would avoid meeting
their neighbor, who had lived beside him for so many years. Their suffering,
both physical and spiritual, had been hereto unknown to man with the possible
exception of the Tartar Wars, the Spanish Inquisition, and the pogroms that
Chmilnitsky's gangs perpetrated in Ukraine and Zforozha.
Anyone who walked out of his house wearing a
yellow star could expect to be ridiculed and cursed not only by the nationalist
Ukrainian thugs who fed off of the persecuted and murdered Jews like hyenas,
but also to be abused by the soldiers in the convoys heading eastward to Kiev
and the eastern front. The convoy passed through the center of the town and was
accompanied by greetings of "May you never return".
remaining in their homes did not know from which direction the S.S. people
would break in, in order to loot their property, take the men and women outside
and abuse them and shoot them. (That is how the Segal and Gross families,
Herman Jarchover and his wife, the veterinarian's parents, Zeidler, and other
Jews were killed.)
The Nazi beasts would seize the life of any Jew,
who was helpless and hopeless of any salvation, and would execute a barbaric
verdict which had been hereto unwritten in the annals of man. The Germans, the
sons of the cultured, the creators of European culture! If Shiller would have
lived during our time, probably instead of "Die Rauber" he would have
written "Die SS Morder von Deutchland."
Here is a description of "life" in that
Dina Zeidman, after the murder of her husband,
Meir and her 14 year old son Shunya (they were murdered when the Germans came
into the town), wandered about like a sleepwalker, looking at all the
passers-by, searching for her executed loved ones. She was indifferent to her
own fate, and was capable of fighting with any German who dared touch her.
With searching eyes she looked ahead, recognizing no one she met, unaware of
her surroundings. The Jews felt her pain and thought: Whose turn is it going
to be tomorrow to become like her? Of the pharmacist Shore's family, only
remnants remained. He and his 13 year old son were killed at the same time.
His wife and their daughter, Manya, could not remain in their devastated home
so they wandered about the streets hallucinating and searching for their dead
thinking: perhaps it was all a nightmare. But the reality was worse than a
nightmare and the murdered never returned. Their empty home became stifling
and only the walls heard the agony of the mother and daughter. (A second
daughter, Irena, left Poland years before and together with her husband, Moshe
Jorisch, moved to Israel. They live in Haifa.) Later on 16-year -old Manya
left her home, got hold of papers stating that she was Aryan (which were
supplied to her by Avraham Weisbrod of Skalat), and survived. However, her
mother's fate was the same as many others in the town. She died in during one
of the expulsions, being shot by the Gestapo in Tarnopol.
Of the two Luckman families, the father Yitzhak
and his son Leibush, the two widows and the daughter Salla survived. (their
son Yosef moved to Israel before the war and lives in Ramat Gan. Salla's
husband was drafted into the Soviet army and worked as a dentist. Now he lives
in Leningrad.) They, too, wandered about, like the other widows of the town,
hugging each other when they met, yet refusing to be comforted. Who could have
comforted them in their horrible pain in such a hostile world on the outside
and such terrible sadness at home?
After Lorver, the Luckman family's neighbor was
killed, his widow was left desperately alone with her 17 year old son. The
son, Ludik Lorver, was drafted into the Judenraat police and later on to the
Kamiunki C' police. The mother was killed in one of the mass executions that
the Gestapo conducted in Tarnopol. After the Kamiunki C' camp was liquidated,
the son was transferred to the Kamiunki A' camp where he was killed, along with
others from shots fired by the S.S. officer, Hildebrand and his cronies on
October 7, 1943. He was buried there in a mass grave.
After the banker Yisrael Marder of David Street
was murdered (the mass murder began on that street), his lonely wife wandered
about among her friends until the expulsion to Skalat in 1942, and until she
was taken from there to the spot where she was executed. Their only son Shunya
was drafted into the Soviet Army upon completion of his high school studies.
He is believed to have died in battle against the Germans near Lanino.
Millek, a high school graduate and the son of
Shneiderman the tailor, was murdered by local Ukrainians, Hitler's assistants,
while on his way to work. His brother-in-law, Delugach, and his younger brother
were hidden by Poles and thus were saved. After the war they moved to the U.
S. Shiko Shneiderman and his wife, Adreich live in Canada.
The merchant, Kleiner, who was taken to the
Kamiunki A' camp and fell ill there (he worked in stone blasting for the Otto
Heil Co.), was taken out of the sick room in the camp and shot. His wife and
five children (one daughter was handicapped), remained in Podwolocyska until
their expulsion in 1942. Then they were all murdered.
The mother of the poet Mundik Kleiner of
Tarnopolska Street, remained alone in her home after her son fled to the Soviet
Union. She was expelled to Skalat, where she was shot into a ditch and by the
S.S.and Gestapo and Ukrainian thugs.
Of the family of Simha and Haim Chwekun, which
was expelled from the town in 1942, only the house across from the church
remained. It was later occupied by the Ukrainian "doctor" Shigger,
who married the Polish woman Danka Ovoraska, the daughter of a tailor. Their
home was famous for its orgies, attended by the Opsturmfurer Ravel,
S.S.officers, Gestapo people from Tarnopol and their cronies. Shigger fled to
the U.S. after the war. There, according to information provided by the late
Munya Katz, he is hiding for fear of being found out.
Of the family of Isaac Pollak, only his wife Etka
survived (She strangled her child with her own hands while in hiding in a
cellar, in order to save the other Jews there.) After the war she moved to the
U.S. where she died.
Etka Pollak's second husband was Isio Jarchower
(he married her after losing his family). (Isio Jarchower caused the S.S.
officer Maller, a commander in the Kamiunki A' and C' camps, to receive a light
sentence in the Stuttgart trial in which he was accused of abetting to murder.
Thanks to Jarchower's help, Maller was sentenced to only six months in prison.
After the first execution at the Kamiunki C' camp on the night of June 29,
1943, Maller came to the site to finish off the execution. On the way he met
some Jews who were not killed, among them was Yaacov Gilson. he asked
sarcastically, "Du lebst noch?" (Are you still alive?). And yet that
Jarchower had the nerve to testify in court that Maller took no part in the
execution and killing of Jews in the camps! Maybe he saved Jarchower from that
execution in exchange for money or maybe he had some dirty dealings with him.
Only G-d knows what lies buried inside the souls of lowly men, who are willing
to degrade themselves entirely in order to save their skin, just as Isio
Jarchower did with his false testimony.
The Chrain families were driven from town in
1942. The two parents were killed in the Gestapo mass execution in 1942. The
daughter, Etke, survived the Kamiunki D' camp in Skalat and together with ther
husband, Shaike Birnbaum, emigrated to the U.S.
Each man has his fate. Thus Shaike Birnbaum, a
Hebrew teacher in Podwolocyska was brought to the Kamiunki D' camp as a
quarryman. The labor proved too difficult for him. One day he was able to get
a letter to Vilu Gilson, who worked in the kitchen of the Kamiunki C' camp in
Podwolocyska, begging him to get him out of the D' camp if he could. This he
did because the assistant director of the Kamiunki A' camp was Zuckerman, a
former Jew, who once went to school with Vilu, and a former officer in the
Polish army. He was the camp supervisor, by Opsturmfurer Ravel's
recommendation. Therefore, during an inspection of the Kamiunki C' camp in
Podwolocyska, Vilu Gilson requested that he help his friend the teacher.
Zuckerman promised and kept his word. He arranged a job for him in the kitchen
storeroom. Later on he and his wife hid with farmers until the arrival of the
Red Army. Afterward they moved to the U.S. where he worked as a merchant until
he died of a heart attack in 1982. His wife lives in the U.S.
Alas, each person and his fate. The Goldstein
family, which lived next to the Chrain family were expelled from the town and
The Berger family lived opposite the Goldstein
family. Of the entire family, only his wife Nakche survived in the Kamiunki C'
camp in Podwolocyska. This section of the camp, the women's section, was run
by Rosa Halperin, the wife of Srulik Rosenblatt, who ran the Kamiunki B' camp-
When there was an outbreak of typhoid fever in
the C' camp, Vilu Gilson would bring food and drink to the sick. Then Nakch
Berger said that if anyone survived the hell of the camps, and if Vilu Gilson
were among those, he had to tell the world what happened in that horrible
place. He did, in fact, miraculously survive the C' camp execution. As fate
would have it, he served as a judge in a series of trials of Gestapo agents and
S.S. officers who were at the Kamiunki camps (A,B,C,D). More about that later
Of the few Jews who lived in Kamiunki before the
war, let us mention the Kalman Imbar family, which owned the flour mill. David
Imbar and his wife Rachel (nee Birnklau) were killed in Skalat. Of their three
children, Mundik Imbar survived and lives in Russia.
Of the Fogelman family, a tobacco wholesaler,
after the husband went to Russia, the wife remained with her three children.
They, too, were shot and buried in a mass grave in Podwolocyska.
Of the Shmuel Jorisch family, two children
survived: the son who came to Israel to study at the Technion, and the eldest
daughter. The rest of the family, the parents and two daughters, were murdered
in one of the mass executions in either Skalat, Zbaraj or Beljitz.
Of the Gilson family, two parents and six
children, only three sons survived. The daughter, Regina, died in the camp.
The rest of the family was taken to Zbaraj in 1942 and died in Beljitz. The
sons were prisoners of the Kamiunki A' And C' camps and miraculously survived.
Benjamin, aged 14, who worked at the Rickmann company, was taken to work one
night at 3 a.m. and upon his return he found that his sister Regina had been
murdered. Sigmund, the middle son, who had worked at the headquarters, fled on
the day that the camp was liquidated. The eldest son, Yaacov, fled during the
execution but was caught by the border patrol and returned to the camp. There
he met his two brothers. He was able to get his brothers to some Polish
peasants he knew in a remote village, while he, himself, remained in the camp,
intending to meet up with them afterward. On July 10, he probably fled from
the camp, but was caught and brought back to Kamiunki A' to be executed. He
miraculously was left alive after the Hildebrand execution. The three brothers
moved to Israel. Yaacov is a doctor, Sigmund is a civilian employee of the
army, and Benjamin is a hospital nurse.
The entire family of the refugee from central
Poland, the dentist Dr. Kleiner were murdered on June 29, 1943.
Of the families of the brothers Herman and Berel
Jorisch, carpenters, one son, Hunchu, who was drafted into the Soviet army,
survived. After the war, he moved to Israel where he died. The granddaughter
of Herman Jorisch, the daughter of Rosenstrauch the librarian, Basha, age
fourteen, was a maid at the Shigger home on the day that the Jews of the town
were eliminated. She was handed over to the S.S. and murdered into a ditch
just like all the others. Her parents, brother and her grandfather all died in
Of the family of Pinhas Levi and Basha Rosenblum,
the director of the municipal baths, two of his four children, Moshe and Clara
survived. His daughter Temma was killed in one of the executions. His youngest
son, Yankel was killed after being discovered in their hiding place. Before he
was shot, Yankel killed a German soldier. Moshe, who had been drafted into the
Soviet Army, spent the war years in the Soviet Union. Clara and her husband,
Jack (Yankel) Landman, the son of the carpenter, fled to the Soviet Union
before the Germans entered the town. They all emigrated to the U.S. and
together became industrialists. Moshe died in July 1987.
Of the Landman family, carpenters, everyone
survived. The parents, Hirsh and Sarah fled to the Soviet Union with their
daughter Zosha, her son Valerik, their son Jack (Yankel) and his wife Clara
(nee Rosenblum), and their two granddaughters Paula and Laura. Their son,
Peishe, was drafted into the Soviet army and emigrated to Argentina after the
war. Their eldest son, Duje, who was married to Haiche Shenker, the daughter
of the baker, emigrated to Argentina before the war. Haiche and their
daughter, Basha, survived the war in the Soviet Union and joined Duje when it
ended. Zoshe and her son Valerik emigrated to Israel where Zosha died in 1984.
Valerik and his family now live in the U.S. Jack and Clara Landman have two
daughters, Bea, a psychologist, and Sharon, who lives in Israel and is the
translator of this book.
Leib Segal and his family were murdered in
Podwolocyska. It has been said that he carried his little boy in a bag on his
back because he thought that he could save him that way. His oldest son,
Moshe, lives in the United States.
Who would have believed the depths to which the
cruelty of the cultural elite of Germany could sink? To abuse defenseless Jews
with weapons, to act as heroes against naked women, old men and women.
However, their valor deserted them when faced with partisans, or in the battle
of Stalingrad. The commander of the Gestapo in Tarnopol would shoot children,
women, any Jew he would chance upon, like one might shoot rabbits. That was
the testimony of Dr. Yaacov Gilson in the Stuttgart trials, and the defendent
admitted to this. The following is an excerpt from the testimony.(Zeitung No.
26, 2.2.66): [German not translated]
This was the testimony of the Gestapo commander
Hermann Maller given on February 2, 1966 during his trial and this is an
article written by Eerhard Frey in the neo-Nazi newspaeper "National
Zeitung und Soldaten Zeitung" from January 21, 1966, only twelve days
before the Stuttgart trial. The title of the article is "Ermordeten Juden
Eie Luge von 6 milionen". The title of the article already implies that
the murder of six million Jews is a lie. If this is true, then where are they?
How did they disappear from Europe? There were Jews living and working in
every corner, every village, every town, every city. They are now void of Jews
because they were either killed at home or transported to concentration camps
such as Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sovivor, Meidanek Beljiz, Zackenhausen,
Rabensbrick, or put to death in the ghettos, and labor camps which were in
essence also death camps.
There was no corner in all of Europe under German
occupation where Jews were not murdered. Only a few Jews from any given town
who were hidden by morally exalted Poles, French, Danes, Dutch, etc., survived.
Only a small number of those who fled into the forests to the partisans
returned alive after the war. The small number who fled along with the Red
Army into the depths of the Soviet Union, or who endured the war in labor camps
or fighting against fascism on the long eastern front, which saved Europe and
human culture and the entire world from the horrible barbarism. And here some
doctor dares to write about the supposed "lie" about the murder of
millions! And here their blood has been absorbed into the soil of Europe!
Would they choose to revive the ideal of genocide? If this is true, then it is
better that some atomic bomb should revert the world back to chaos.
At times, history does, indeed, repeat itself.
However, there are no longer enough Jews in Europe to be the object of
genocide. But there are Germans who no less carry the banner of the ideals of
Who speaks the truth about the murder of six
million Jews? Is it the commandant of Auschwitz, and the commandant of the
Gestapo in the Tarnopol district, who admitted to murder, or is the neo-Nazi
intelligentsia of the "National Zeitung"?
During the Tarnopol trial, which was held during
the months of January and February of 1966 in Stuttgart, Germany, the mass
destruction of the masses of Jews of eastern Galicia was proven. Sentences of
life imprisonment or dozens of years of imprisonment were passes on Gestapo and
S.S. officers who were found guilty at this trial.
Dozens of former prisoners from the Kamiunki
camps, including Dr.Yaacov Gilson, who was interned there from 1941 until its
liquidation on July 10, 1943, proved through their testimony just how guilty
these murderers were. However their testimony was not trustworthy enough for
the "Stuttgarter Zeitung". They relied on the testimony of a former
police man, who probably should have been brought to trial in Israel for
collaborating with the S.S. His testimony caused them to receive light
sentences of 2 to 3 years in prison! Of the Jewish policemen who cooperated
with the Gestapo, the S.S., and the police, only a few were unable to take Jews
out to be shot. These people usually lost sight of themselves completely. The
majority of them would do anything in order to save their skins. They could
sacrifice their closest relatives, their wives, children and parents. However,
they were not able to escape the fate of the other Jews, for they too found
themselves standing over the open pit, except for Jarchower, and others like
him who were able to save their skins.
Six million died in the Holocaust. A few survived
and they bear witness to the destruction of the the Jewish people in Europe by
the German thugs and their helpers.
Here it is important to mention the German, Oscar
Schindler who saved 1,200 Jews from destruction. Dr. Gilson wrote about him in
"Nowiny i Kurier" on June 16, 1968 in an article entitled, "A
man with no Help". This man is buried in Israel, in accordance with his
Here let us also mention the commandant of the
Gestapo in Tarnopol, Sturmbandfurer Hermann Muller who was brave enough to
admit his guilt during the Stuttgart trial. See the "Stuttgarter
Zeitung" from February 2, 1966. We already mentioned this before. Also
see the "Stuttgarter Zeitung" from February 3, 1966, "SS
Fruherer Vergebung um Zeugen judishen bittet." Similar statements were
quoted in the "Suddeutsche Zeitung" from February 4, 1966 and the
"Nowiny i Kurier" of February 3, 1966.:"Former S.S. officer,
Hermann Muller, one of ten defendants on trial in Stuttgart for the murder of
the Jews of Tarnopol, broke down in court yesterday and asked forgiveness for
his crimes, turning to the witness from Israel, Dr. Gilson , whose parents were
killed in the gas chambers in Beljiz saying, "I feel a need to ask
forgiveness from the gentleman for what I perpetrated against the gentleman and
his family. I confess my guilt and express deepest regret for my actions."
The procession of 128 witnesses who testified in
the Tarnopol trial, people who were personally burned in that hell, was only
partially successful in convincing the court of the terrible guilt of these
murderers whose actions were unparalleled in the course of history. Before the
verdict was handed down, the head of the court, Peter Pracht read a statement
by the court which confirmed that the testimonies given were not dictated by
hatred or vengeance, but constituted a relevant and bold presentation of harsh
experience and was worthy of appreciation and admiration.
The criminal Dr. Mengele found a hideout in South
America, aided by gold looted in Auschwitz. He and other murderers like him.
The few calls made by the German intellectuals
such as the Mann brothers, Professor Marcionini, Professor Leibrandt and others
who tried to shock public opinion in the world in light of the crime
perpetrated against the Jewish people, and other peoples in Europe went
unheeded. The world did not believe in the veracity of these crimes until the
war was over and the proof emerged as the Red Army crossed through Europe in
the East, and the Allied forces crossed through in the West. Just the opening
of the gates of the concentration camps proved to the world the horror of their
The world watched and remained quiet,
unbelieving. As the Allied forces marched across Europe, they discovered the
truth. And when the big criminals were brought to trial in the Nurenberg
trials, the world's conscience became shocked. However, at the same time the
"small-time criminals" managed to take refuge in various countries,
especially in South America and in the Middle East, usually aided by various
people and institutions.
In 1942, the Jewish community in Podwolocyska was
eliminated by the expulsion of most Jews to Skalat and Zbaraj. Some of them
were put to death where they were and some were transferred to Beljiz and other
concentration camps. The Kamiunki C' camp was built for the remaining Jews.
The camp was located in 8 houses on Dr. David Street and was surrounded by
The director of the Kamiunki A' camp was
Schwartz, a refugee from Lodz. He was appointed by Opstrumfurer Ravel. The
other members of the directorship were members of the Judenraat who remained in
Podwolocyska: Magistrate Shuller, Teitelbaum form Lodz, Jonas Pfeffer, and
more. The Jew Bruchstein from Zbaraj was made head of the Jewish police. The
camp police also had former Judenraat police in it, such as Yitzhak Jarchower,
Solomon Berlin, Ludik Lorver and more.
Dr. Crystal, a refugee from Lodz and the husband
of Tina Greenhaut, was the camp doctor. Nina Jarchower, the wife of the
veterinarian Dr. Rodek Jarchower, was the camp nurse. Her husband was a
prisoner in the Kamiunki B' camp in the quarry, where he worked as a medic. He
testified at the Stuttgart trial against Ravel and Miller (Stuttgarter Zeitung
May 5, 1966).
Honest people ran the camp kitchen. Jonas Pfeffer
was responsible for the food, which was distributed to the prisoners in an
organized manner. Additional food, bread, four, salami, fruits and vegetables
was purchased illegally from the peasant population of the area. Thanks to this
additional food, the prisoners were able to withstand the difficult labor on
the railroad tracks, paving the roads and blasting the rocks until the final
liquidation of the camp on the night of June 29, 1943.
Hold on... but typhoid fever struck down many in
the camp. They would shoot those sick with typhoid, and some healthy people
were taken out and executed suddenly when S.S. officers would visit the camp.
Because of the appalling sanitary conditions,
about 80 people contracted typhoid fever. The S.S. concealed this fact so that
the camp would not be liquidated prematurely, since they used the camp as a
hideout. Over ten people died of the disease and some were shot to death.
There was no medicine in the camps, nor were there conditions for healing the
sick. The camp doctor, Dr. Crystal, fell ill himself and died of his illness.
Benjamin Gilson testified regarding the outbreak of typhoid fever in the camp
on the fiftieth day of the Stuttgat trial. (He was fourteen when he fell ill.
Because he was afraid of the S.S. inspections in the camp, he would go out to
work for the Rickmann Company even when he was sick.) See the article on this
in the "Stuttgarter Zeitung", No. 53.
On the eve of the liquidation of the camp in
Podwolocyska the S.S., with the help of the "Bau-dienst", the
Christian slave laborers, a huge ditch to be used as a mass grave for the
When we tell of the night of June 29, 1943, the
final night of the remnants of the Jews of the town, young people aged 15-45,
who collapsed riddled by the bullets of the murderers, S.S. and Gestapo,
Ukrainians and special death squads, who collapsed into the depths of pits
which were prepared for this purpose on Feitel Hill, not far from the Zbroch
River.. when we tell of these, we will truly understand the town of
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