by Meir Walkin
Edited by Karen Leon
Not all of the Christian populace participated in the extermination of the Jews. Despite the prohibition against giving Jews shelter or food, there were good-hearted farmers who clandestinely extended assistance to the Jews and shared food with them. The deeply pious Shtundists, in particular, acted in this way. They endangered their own lives to rescue the pursued, and they saved many Jews.
Most of the Christian populace were happy with our misfortune. They looted our possessions, and some actively took part in the torture and killing of Jews. Few Jews remained alive who were able to bear witness to the killing, or to identify the murderers.
During the years 1944-1945, I took part in sorties against the Banderovtsy, the Ukrainian loyalists who longed for an independent Ukraine. Before they captured Ukraine, the Nazis promised them their independence. After the Nazi conquest, when the Ukranians demanded the fulfillment of the promise of independence, the Germans sent Bandera to a concentration camp. To honor Bandera, his admirers set up mounds of rocks crowned with various symbols of honor, in most of the towns. I would take down the mounds and symbols and wreck them, but on the following days, they would all be back in place. It was impossible to find those who did this.
After the German defeat at Stalingrad, the younger Bandera adherents began to train in the tactics of partisan warfare. Because of this, a large amount of arms were distributed among the populace, and an uprising spread across Galicia, Wolhyn and Podolia. From the outset, there were two factions in this uprising, the Balabovtsy and Banderovtsy. In the end, they joined together, and only Banderovtsy remained. The Banderovtsy were the only authority in the villages. They did not recognize Soviet hegemony and did not join the Red Army. They concealed and hid themselves in the forests. Many of them participated in the extermination of Jews and also Poles. Like all Ukrainian liberation movements, this one left behind a trail of blood. If they suspected that someone of the peasantry joined missions with the Soviets, they would kill all members of his family, from the youngest to the oldest. There were no bounds to their cruel barbarity. On occasion they would torture their victims, flaying their skin and burning them alive. Fifteen members of the N.K.V.D. that went out to the villages, among whom were a few Jews, were surrounded and forced to surrender. They were stripped naked, and led through the village, where the children would run after them and assault them. After this, a hole was cut through the ice on the river, and they were drowned in the water under the ice.
I was in the villages around Sarny a few times: Tynne, Snyszyc, Czudlo, Nemovychi, Lyukhcha, Strilsk, Karpylivka. When I saw Jewish property in the house of a peasant, I would destroy everything. I gathered the belongings of the murderers, hid them, and noted it in a folio that I always carried with me. I was suffused with a powerful hatred toward the murderers, who swore to capture me, flay my skin, and roast me. Because of this, I was careful to always guard my arms, even when I slept.
The Banderovtsy especially targeted the Jews, and this continued to be the case even after the war ended. Bunim Handler and his daughter returned from Russia. Without informing anyone, they took up residence in Nemovychi and made their living as shoemakers. One night, as it was told, the Banderovtsy took Bunim out of his house, and from that time on, all trace of him vanished. He had been murdered. Also, Falik Zuliar from the village of Znosychi, and the youth, Edelman from Czudlo, were killed by them.
I knew one of the leaders of the Banderovtsy, the notorious murderer whose name was Nikon Zhuk, from the village of Nemovychi. He served as a policeman in the Sarny ghetto and was one of the exterminators of Sarny Jewry. On the Day of Slaughter, he went from house-to-house, searching for hidden Jews. He found Kantorowicz kz , who offered the gold in his hand in exchange for his life, but the murderer took the gold and killed him. Nikon Zhuk even found the little daughter of Menachem Greiber took her out into the street from the house of a peasant who had shielded her, and killed her in front of everyone. He murdered many Jews, whose names witnesses did not recall. I wanted to kill him. He made use of many aliases, sometimes Yirma, sometimes Stalin. He dressed in the garb of a Soviet colonel with distinguished service medals. He traveled around through the Znosychi forests and Tynne, and also to Nemovychi. I put myself in danger pursuing him among the villages, forests and farmsteads. He would vanish from under your eyes, move through underground tunnels, and disappear.
There were peasants who helped the Germans search for Jews. Some did this out of a lust for murder, and others to plunder Jewish possessions. They received 2 kg. of salt for every Jew they brought in alive. Zvi (Herschel) Maltz, who lived opposite the ORT, was captured by a gentile from his village, who tied him to a wagon and brought him like a calf to slaughter, in Sarny. This peasant was known by two names, and so it was difficult to find him. One day, I accidentally ran into him. I wanted to kill him immediately, but I didn't have the chance to do it. All I did was call after him, telling him I knew he had turned Herschel over to the Germans. I never saw him again, and was therefore unable to carry out an act of vengeance.
There were Jews who refused to assist in the punishment of the murderers. Some were fearful. Others felt that in any event, those who were murdered could not be restored to life. For example, the watchmaker, who knew who had turned his son into the Germans, did not want to name the gentile who fled after the Day of Slaughter.
Sarah Edelstein from Pinsk was hidden by the conductor, Fikhuta, until liberation. Sarah told me a neighbor said that if everyone behaved as she, no Jewish witnesses would remain. One of the daughters of Zindl hid herself on the Day of Slaughter, and was wounded. The neighbor immediately notified the Germans, and they killed her. I asked Sarah to identify this neighbor to me, to make her pay for her deed. However, Sarah did not want to point her out for the sake of the Fikhuta family that had hidden her for so long.
The local Soviet authorities did not help in the prosecution of the murderers. Rather, they attempted to cool tempers and calm spirits rather than arouse them. Even when they actually tried perpetrators, they handed down light sentences.
Before leaving Sarny, I stood at the train station with Pearlstein, a Jewish partisan and Sarny resident. This was before I turned over my arms. Herschel Pearlstein pointed out a peasant there, as one of those who plundered the ghetto. I immediately stopped him, took him to jail, and arranged for a trial with testimony to be given according to the proper procedure. I thought, well, we have gotten rid of one bandit. To my great dismay, I ran into him in the street several days later. I stopped him again, and he showed me a document of release from jail. When I asked the Chief of Police to adjudicate the matter, he replied that this was the ruling of the authorities.
Jonah Glick, who returned to Sarny immediately after the liberation, turned over his brother's murderer to the N.K.V.D. The murderer was jailed and brought to trial. Gurnica, the director of development in Sarny during the Nazi period, was sentenced to a few years of imprisonment for informing on Chaya Lifschitz, and causing her to be seized by the Germans.
Mariniuk, the head of the town of Sarny, and Osigika, the policeman who turned over the daughter of Israel-Ber to the hands of the Germans, fled Sarny.
The word Shtundist is derived from the German word Stunde ('hour'), in reference to the practice of setting aside an hour for bible study. The term was originally used in a derogatory sense, but has also been adopted by many adherents to this tradition. Return
By Abraham Feinberg
Edited by Karen Leon
On one winter day, a group of scouts from the partisan camp, deep in pursuit of the enemy, told us that a division of Germans was moving toward the vicinity of the village of Synkovychi, in order to load a shipment of firewood. The leaders of the partisan camp decided to lay an ambush near the designated location, and to annihilate the murderers.
We were ordered to harness the horses, and about one hundred partisans went out, supplemented by members of the nearby Szacurs camp. To our surprise, as we emerged from the thick of the forest near the village of Topolowa, we saw three peasants from our town loading hay. Among them was the peasant Stapiuk, one of the known murderers of Jews, particularly notorious for the cruelty of his acts.
I was driving a wagon with three others that included Aharon Vlakhiansky, Eizik Lichtenberg, and Kalman Govovitz. We turned our wagon around and hurried to advise the brigade commander, Petrov, about the presence of these peasants, and especially about Stapiuk.
The brigade commander ordered us to bring the peasants to him at the temporary headquarters in the village municipal building in Polisiva. We urged our horses forward and galloped to the stacks of corn stalks to reach the peasants. As we got closer to them, Stapiuk stood above us on a stack. We ordered him to come down immediately. He grew pale as a corpse, nearly toppling off of the stack. Without saying a word, he came to attention in front of us. His entire body trembled in fear. We ordered the three peasants to sit in the wagon, and we speedily brought them to the commander.
The commander, Petrov, conducted a brief investigation, in which Stapiuk confessed all of his misdeeds. The order was given to bring him to the camp. We understood the intention of that order. In the partisan lingo, the phrase, bring him to camp meant to remove him from among the living.
The two peasants, who were Stapiuk's comrades, were left to wait in the command headquarters. I was selected to carry out the deed along with Shlomo Zandweiss, the scout, who was called Sarny after the city of his origin. We tied Stapiuk's hands, dropped him in the rear seat of a sled, and headed out in the direction of the camp.
After traveling for some distance, Sarny asked me, What do you have in mind as a method of killing him? I replied, By one of the simple and accepted partisan procedures: stabbing him with the bayonet of a rifle. Sarny answered, This would be an entirely too easy death for him. Most importantly, it will not be an act of vengeance. Leave the rifle in the wagon and just stab him with the bayonet in the manner adopted by our ancestors, the Hasmoneans, when taking vengeance on their enemies. You should extract his blood one drop at a time.
We stopped in a wooded stand with thick underbrush, threw Stapiuk out of the wagon, took off his clothing, and laid him down face-up. Sarny sensed my hesitation, and hastened to encourage me. He said You are obliged, at this moment, to remember what this Amalek did to us. Memories of the torture he inflicted will free you of any Jewish compassion, and the feeling of vengeance will prevail.
Sarny's words encouraged me. The scenes of the Holocaust flitted past my eyes. The lust for vengeance engulfed me completely. I called out to Sarny, I am ready! Give me the order!
I heard his clear order, Stab him in his left arm. Do not do it quickly! Let the bayonet stay inside! Stab him in his right arm! The face of the murderer became distorted. I asked him, Does it hurt? He mumbled something, sealed his lips and did not let out a scream.
I flipped him on his back, and I was ordered to stab him in the sides of his legs. The murderer's entire body was seized with spasms and his eyes leaped about, insanely. I bent over him and whispered in his ear, if you should encounter my slaughtered parents, give them my regards. He gasped and gave up his polluted soul.
For many weeks, I took satisfaction at the privilege that fell into my hands, to remove this lowlife from the world of the living.
To my surprise, when I returned to the destroyed city at the end of the war in 1945, I saw the two peasants whom we had seized along with the arch-fiend, Stapniuk. For some reason, those who captured them didn't have the sense to end the lives of these murderers, whose hands were also stained with the blood of our beloved martyrs. I suffered from profound sorrow because of this.
by Esther Zolotow-Ivri
Edited by Karen Leon
There were eight people in the Zolotow family. My father, Moshe Leib, worked hard to support his family and provide his children with an education. My mother, Szifra, worried about the entire family like a typical Jewish mother.
In 1933-1934, two daughters made aliyah to the Land of Israel, while the rest of the family remained in their town until the advent of the Holocaust.
My brother, Abraham Zolotow, and his wife and son, lived in Rokitno in the final days. During an aktion, while in the arms of his mother, the two and a half year old son was struck by bullets and was fatally wounded. The mother lost her mind from intense grief, and continued to carry her dead son around in her arms. My brother escaped into the forest where he joined the partisans who were active in that area. My brother participated in all of the dangerous missions in revenge for the tragedy that the Nazi murderers inflicted on his family.
The Germans activated full brigades in order to root out and destroy the partisan nests. The partisan squads sustained heavy losses and only solitary individuals survived, among them, my brother.
I worked with my husband for a Polish peasant who was also being pursued by the Nazis. On Tisha B'Av in 1942 I surprisingly heard a shout in Russian, Where can one find a well here? My husband recognized the voice. It was the voice of my brother.
It is not possible to describe the extent of our emotions at this reunion. We brought our brother into the forest where we lived with a group of Jews. We entreated him to remain with us, but he vehemently refused. He argued that he had to exact vengeance for the entire family. He parted from us, returned to the partisan group, and continued with his beneficial missions.
Once, while in the forest, and close to the village of Rudnia Bobrowska, we heard that many Germans were also in the forest. The partisans mistakenly thought the Germans had surrounded them. However, these were Germans who had fled from the Russian front. The partisans successfully captured many of them. After interrogating the fleeing Germans, the Commander of the partisans gave each Jew the opportunity to shoot the Germans, like dogs. The Commander told my brother, Zolotow, take an accursed German and exact vengeance for the killing of your family. When the German was turned over to my brother, the latter began to plead, Take pity on me! He took out a photograph and showed him, I have a wife and child. I am not SS. My brother screamed to his face, And what did you do to my child? Where is my wife? You killed them in cold blood! And he shot him on the spot.
On that same day, I went to see him before the partisans continued along their way. As we parted, my brother requested that if I remained alive, I should try to find a picture of his wife.
I did not see my brother again after that time. It was only after the liberation that I received a letter from the authorities, informing me that he fell during the retreat from Warsaw to Lublin, and was buried and abandoned, with no marker on his grave.
[Pages 354 - 363]
by Rosa Wachs-Steinberg
Edited by Karen Leon
In the Ghetto Up to the Day of Slaughter
The Nazis issued a decree for us to leave our homes and enter the ghetto before the Festival of Passover, in the year 1942. German oppression grew to be increasingly more burdensome. From time-to-time they issued more decrees against us with harsh demands: new contributions, the order to sew yellow patches on our clothing, prohibitions against walking on the sidewalks, and finally, the requirement to abandon our homes, move to the ghetto, and live surrounded by barbed wire.
My family left our spacious home and moved to the ghetto a week after Passover. We were assigned two small rooms in a house owned by Lerner. I was the oldest child in a large family, that included my father's parents, my parents, and five children.
My brother Shabtai left each morning to work in a sawmill. My younger sister, Rachel, who had just turned fourteen years of age, was also required to work. Despite the fear, hunger, and hard labor, her beautiful delicate face, crowned with golden curls, did not change, nor did her figure which resembled a healthy, radiant pine tree.
My little ten year old brother, Izzie, was also required to wear the yellow patch. He resisted this, and cried bitterly. It was only after our mother suggested to him that it was for only a short time, that he relented and donned this symbol of his Jewishness.
Despite the fact that my grandfather and grandmother were 79 years old, they toiled at hard labor, building the bridge over the Sluch River. Day in and day out, the laborers gathered together beside the Jewish community house in the early mornings and were sent out in groups to perform the work that the Germans demanded. Towards evening they returned from work, feeling tired and oppressed. Yet, despite this, they went out into the street to hear the news.
Simcha Murik served as a source of news for us. He hid a small radio, a perilous act, and passed along the news that he heard among the ghetto's Jews. Through this, Simcha offered encouragement to us, and hope for the days of liberation that were yet to come.
The Jews of Sarny heard about the defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad. On that day, the Germans flew their flags at half-mast and tied a black strip to it as a symbol of mourning. As the Germans continued to suffer one defeat after another, their bestial cruelty intensified against the Jews in the ghetto. And so, at the break of dawn on August 27, 1942, the entire ghetto was surrounded by armed Ukrainian police. All the Jews were taken to be exterminated despite the fact that salvation appeared to be near.
On that terrifying day, my mother divided up the money she had among her children and implored each of us to try and save our lives by whatever means possible. We were already surrounded by armed Ukrainian police, and those few Jews who attempted to escape through the fence were killed by their bullets. The doctor, Cohn, injected his wife, daughter, and himself, with a fatal injection, and the three of them died in their home. The doctor always said that he did not intend to die from a German bullet.
The young people planned to set the ghetto on fire and then flee into the forest, but the community secretary, Neuman, disrupted that plan. He explained that this was an overreaction, and everything would end on a good note. Neuman said that he spoke to the Commissioner who promised him that he would be satisfied by sending only some of the Jews to labor camps.
The Day of Slaughter Through the Bunker Tunnels
As evening approached, the homeowner, Lerner, and his wife, came to our rooms and begged my parents to protect them and their one year-old daughter, Baba. They wanted to flee, but knew it would be impossible to do so with their daughter. My mother took the baby girl in her arms, and with tears in her eyes, she said, Whatever will happen to us, will happen to her. The couple wanted to offer some form of thanks to my parents, and they suggested that my parents permit me to flee with them. My parents agreed. There was not much time remaining for us to say goodbye, as the couple was in a hurry. I needed to quickly prepare to leave with the Lerners. I can recall only a few parting words my mother said as she cried, My daughter, don't forget your mother.
I hid in a small bunker with Lerner, his wife, his fifteen year old sister, a young girl, Paula, and another man. The last two were refugees from Poland and friends of Lerner. I was shoved into a corner and experienced an intense longing for my family. It was already impossible to get out of the bunker so as not to reveal our location. We heard little Baba crying at midnight, and her mother said, sobbing, This is breast-feeding time, and it is why she is crying.
All of the Jews of the ghetto assembled at dawn, beside the gate of the ghetto. Through cracks in our hiding place in the bunker, we saw how the gendarmerie and the Ukrainian militia burst into the ghetto, searched for hidden Jews, and shot them.
Slowly, slowly, the Jews passed through the gate. The elderly and sick were loaded onto wagons. From time to time after the ghetto was emptied, we heard additional shots from the police who were conducting searches for remaining Jews. This went on until noon. Suddenly, we heard the explosion of mortar shells. As we later found out, these were shots that took place when the fence surrounding the gathering field was breached, initiating the escape from the place of extermination. The heavy fire continued for a long time.
I recall that during that terrifying night the skies were red, and the sun set as if it had been dipped in blood. We did not know what fate had befallen our families, and we felt that something awesome and relentless was happening. On the second day, immense searches continued in the ghetto. The gendarmerie and Ukrainian police went from house-to-house. Here and there they found other unfortunate people, and took them to be slaughtered. At the same time, we saw how the Ukrainians plundered Jewish property, first taking valuables, and afterwards, anything they found: sheets, pillows, utensils, everything, everything. We witnessed this ransacking through the holes in our bunker.
In a Search After Refuge
We finished the small amount of food we had with us in the bunker. During the night we fetched water from the well that was in the yard near us. We felt weak and exhausted, as nine, long days had gone by. Lerner and his friend decided to go out at night to locate a way to exit and flee from the ghetto. They were gone an entire day, and we waited for them in great terror. On the second night they returned, and informed us that they had found a path between fences and yards in the direction of the Sluch River, where there were no police. We left the bunker in the dark night, and ran with all the strength we had left. The city remained behind us as we crossed the river and continued on to the Straszow forest, where we finally sat down to rest beside a pond of water.
As dawn broke, Lerner and his friend suggested that we stay at this place while they investigated the area. We remained beside a pond of water, with a small sack of wheat, and waited impatiently for them until sunset, but they did not return. This time, they left us for good. I don't have a clear picture of what happened to them, but news reached us that they had been killed.
The weather changed as night fell. A cold wind blew. The sky was filled with black clouds, and it rained heavily, accompanied by thunder. We gathered underneath a tree. My companions had jackets, but mine was lost during our escape and I was very cold. I asked the group to find a place where we could take shelter from the rain, but they wanted to wait where they were, for the men. As I could no longer stand the cold, I went off alone, and promised to return. We decided I would whistle, as a signal, upon my return.
As I moved further away from the group, it rained more heavily, and the ground shook from thunder. I wandered alone in the unending Straszow forest, not knowing where I was going. I could not find my way back to my companions. My strength was leaving me as I trembled from the cold and fear, and as the storm raged all night.
The night was finally over, and the rain stopped. In the early morning I saw a dot in the distance and I made my way toward the shape. As I drew near, I saw cows and cowherds around a campfire. The men immediately realized that I was a Jewess wandering about. They gave me some bread to eat, and I sat with them, beside the fire, to warm my body. I learned that all of the Jews in Sarny had been exterminated. All of my fears were realized with this information, and I cried. The cowherds did their best to console me at that moment.
My rest beside the campfire was not long-lived. A policeman appeared from among the trees, and ordered me to follow him to the nearby police station. I walked after him, my feet buckling from exhaustion and fear. You know, the Ukrainian policeman turned to me, that all Jews have been condemned to death. We caught all of those who were wandering around in the forest.
I was carrying a leather case in which I had packed some clothing from home. I offered the case to the policeman, and said to him, I no longer have any need for this case. Take it! After he took the case, I pleaded with him to let me live and allow me to go. He replied, Go, but in any event, others will kill you. Tired and exhausted, I walked in the direction of the village beside the forest, without grasping the danger waiting for me there.
When I entered the first house, I asked to be allowed to warm myself. The owner of the house showed me his rifle in the corner and told me that he was a policeman. However, as he had no reason to take my life, he said I should, Make haste and flee. The suffering was too much for me to bear. I choked back my tears and asked him, Where am I to flee? He said, No man in the village will take you into his house, because by doing so, he would place his own life in danger. He gave me matches and a slice of bread and said, Go into the forest, make a fire, and try to survive as best as you can.
A House Opens Its Door
I turned to the road leading to the forest, and saw a wagon drawn by horses coming toward me. In the wagon was an elderly Ukrainian man, and beside him, a young girl from the local area. She saw me from afar, and recognized me. She was my acquaintance, Zuya Litowska, the daughter of the engineer, Litowsky, from Sarny. She quickly explained that they were currently living in the Straszow forest, as her father was the forest manager. Their house was located about 2 kilometers from where we stood. She described the route to the house, and in order that the old man not have any suspicions about her, she asked whether this was the way to Sarny. She continued on her journey to the flour mill, and I picked up my pace for the length of the road in the direction of her house.
As the sun set, I arrived at the house, which to me, looked like it was out of a fairy tale. With a trembling hand I knocked on the door. Mrs. Litowsky opened it, and upon seeing me, she looked all around to verify that nobody else was there, and quickly drew me inside. In a few minutes I was surrounded by the family who asked me how I was rescued. I sat beside the warm stove, looked around, and could not believe that I was among people who actually wanted to help me. They brought me warm food, and dried my wet clothing. And once again, I heard from them, how all of the Jews of Sarny had been exterminated. Mr Litowsky explained that hunters do not stalk animals in the manner in which these defenseless people were pursued.
The Litowsky family feared allowing me to remain with them, and moved me to the lodging place of the forest watchman. They gave me food for three days and a bundle of straw. I lay on the straw and fell asleep feeling relieved that someone was looking after me.
On the following day, the Germans conducted searches in the vicinity, but fortunately, they skipped the area in which I was hiding. I found out about this afterwards, from the Litowsky daughters. I had not known about the German activity at all. I was so numb, faint, and over tired, that I just slept.
On the third evening, the daughters told me that they had decided to move me to a storage facility in their yard, where I would be warm and closer to their house. While hiding there, the daughters visited me and provided me with news about the partisans in the forest, and about German defeats.
Two weeks passed in this manner, while I was under the care of the Litowsky family. They brought me food in a pail so that their neighbor would think they were feeding their fowl. However, it appears that the neighbor sensed that something suspicious was going on. I was compelled to leave that place and was again invited into Litowsky's pleasant, warm house. This time, the feeling that death was hovering over me returned again. I did not know where to turn, or where to go.
Despite Mr. Litowsky's desire to help me, he believed that the matter was really out of his hands due to the risk of danger to his entire family. Mr. Litowsky advised me to cross the river and get closer to Sarny, where perhaps one of our neighbors might consent to hide me. He advised me how to get to Sarny after crossing the river, but warned me not to actually enter Sarny, itself. All of the residents of the town partnered with the Germans in their deeds, and would most certainly kill me. I parted from Mr. Litowsky and his family and went on my way.
In the Hands of the Bestially Cruel Hunters
I needed to cross the road, and not enter Sarny. However, I got lost, and continuously circled the village without making any progress. When the light of dawn appeared, I found myself in a dangerous place in the village, so I looked for a location to hide. I found a granary, quietly opened the door, and hid myself between the bundles of wheat sheaves. Peasants were busy threshing the wheat in this same granary. I lay under the piles that whole day, without eating, and holding my breath in fear. I waited until late that night, when the entire village had nodded off to sleep, to silently slip from the granary. I crossed the railroad tracks and walked until I finally reached Poleska, where I hoped to reach our next-door neighbors.
I heard a gunshot, and a policeman called to me to stand still. I tried to flee, with all of my might, while the policeman chased me. When he caught me, I begged him, Kill me. Don't let me suffer too much. The rifle was aimed at me, but he did not shoot. The seconds that passed literally seemed like hours. I covered my eyes with my hands out of fear. When I opened my eyes and asked the policeman why he had not killed me, he answered that he was only ordered to take me to the Gestapo. Next I was in a German police station. Two Ukrainian police frisked me, looking for valuables. I had a small sac hung around my neck, which contained my birth certificate and school certificate, and the most valuable thing to me of all, was a picture of my mother. The police told me that I no longer had any need for these things, because in any event, I will be going to my death.
In the long corridor where they took me, I encountered a Jew, the husband of Esther Drakh. When he saw me, he groaned, and asked where I had been seized. He told me that it was the night after Yom Kippur. He did not manage to say anymore as a policeman put him into a cell, and I was placed in a second empty cell. With my entire body trembling in fear, I collapsed onto the floor, and murmured to myself, Now the end to all of my suffering will come. I don't know if I slept or fainted, but when I opened my eyes, it was already light, and the jailers distributed soup to the prisoners. I also received a bowl of soup.
I slowly took in my surroundings around the cell. Even under a dim light, I was able to make out writing on the wall, which read, Jews, take revenge for the fourteen-thousand Jews who were murdered in the Sarny ghetto by the Nazis. Leib'l Mucznik.
I didn't have time to dwell on this message. Suddenly the door opened and a Ukrainian policeman brought several people into my cell: the wife of Yaakov Gleky (from the bakery), their little daughter, the wife of Danenberg with her married daughter and two of her grandchildren. Yaakov Glekl, Danenberg, and Danenberg's son-in-law, were put into the second cell for men. They were seized in the bunker of the bakery after their bread ran out. Since they had flour, they decided to bake bread at night. A Christian neighbor smelled the smoke outside, and turned them over to the police. We were now eleven Jews awaiting death. In the mornings we received a bit of soup and a small piece of bread. Three days went by like this.
On the third day, three non-Jewish men were brought into the police station and placed into one cell. These men were Russian partisans. We saw them take out a small mirror and hold it through their door in order to verify that there was no policeman in the corridor. Then, they used a metal bar and successfully forced open the lock on their door and got out into the corridor. They returned to their cell, and closed the door.
One day, the partisans found an opportunity to come in contact with us and to tell us about their plan to escape from the prison. We felt so hopeful with this information, and we impatiently waited for a signal for the operation to begin after nightfall.
That night, Ukrainian police searched Danenberg for gold. Danenberg's screams during the search were terrifying. Finally, in the end, we waited for the critical moment to escape. Hours went by, and nothing happened. By morning, the promise of the partisans did not come to pass. One of them came up to our lattice window and said, We did not succeed in implementing our plan last night because the policeman on guard remained up for the entire night, and was especially alert with his rifle in hand. On that same morning, no food was distributed to the Jewish prisoners. This served as an omen that something bad was afoot.
A few Ukrainian police and two Gestapo agents entered the corridor. The Ukrainians opened the cells and shouted, Get dressed and get outside! It is the end, I thought, and my heart started to pound furiously. I was the first out of the cell, and ran barefoot down the length of the corridor, through the empty detention room, and to the exit staircase. This is where the police guards were engaged with prisoners. I saw the Jewish men were already lined up in pairs with two armed Gestapo men beside them. In the blink of an eye, I slithered under a bench that was on the porch. The rest of the unfortunate prisoners, the women and children, went by me. The crying was deafening and heartbreaking. The police did not notice me under the bench. Everyone else went up the stairs, lined up in two rows, and walked to the street in the direction of the forest.
I felt that I had to flee before the police guard returned. I crawled out from under the bench and ran with all of my strength. I jumped fences and cut across yards. Barbed wire scratched my flesh to the point of drawing blood, and ripped my threadbare clothing. I reached a Christian neighbor's house, opposite a house that had belonged to a Jew. This female neighbor happened to be in her yard. I ran straight into the house, into her bedroom, and curled myself up in a corner. Mrs. Arcziszwoska, the lady of the house, came in, and screamed, You are alive, how were you saved? She calmed me down, fed me, and tried to figure out how to further help me. German officers were all around the area, and to remain in her house would have been dangerous for both of us. She suggested that I head out to a Polish village in which I might find refuge.
I put on a long dress and an ethnic kerchief on my head, pulled down to my eyes. I held a basket with bread and a bottle of milk in one hand, and a shovel across my shoulder. It was the time of the potato harvest in the fields, and in my garb, I looked like a laborer going to work. Mrs. Arcziszkowa made the sign of the cross, parted from me, and sent me on my way.
From One Hiding Place to the Next
I traveled the streets of Sarny in daylight, walking near German guard posts and offices. No one stopped me. I continued in this way and reached the forest and the road that led to Janowka, a distance of about 10 kilometers from Sarny. I hoped that the Zhraczinski family, who lived in Janowka, would help me. I had attended school with their daughter, Irina. However, I had barely opened the door, when Mrs. Zhraczinski recognized me, and shouted, Get out of here. Why are you trying to bring disaster to all of us? There are shepherds here who will inform the Germans. I had no choice but to leave that place.
Once again, I returned to the forest, where I sat behind thickets until evening when It became too cold for me. I returned to the Zhraczinski's yard and hid in a pile of straw beside the house. Irina found me, brought me to the wheat granary, and gave me food, without others knowing.
I spent eight weeks, alone in the granary, without seeing another human being other than Irina, who looked after my welfare. Then, she told me that a German had begun to inspect their homes. She was not sure if he had some knowledge of a hidden Jew. I had to leave my hiding place. Irina provided me with a loaf of bread, and a bottle of water. Once again, I set out to find a new place to hide.
After several days of wandering along the sides of roads in the surrounding villages, I arrived at a small settlement beside the village of Radzyz, most of whose residents were very religious Ukrainian Evangelists. I went into one of the houses and asked for permission to warm myself a bit in their home. They gave me a place to sit, and warm food. I offered to weave something for them if they had any wool thread. They agreed, saying that they trusted in God to look after them, and also protect me from all evil.
After I told them where I came from, and my family name, the head of the household, Zakhar Nikiczuk, said to me, It is possible that the man who is hiding with my brother, Nikolai, here in the settlement, is your brother, Shabtai. I felt my heart starting to pound, as if it was about to burst out of my chest. I cried and thought, Perhaps? Maybe this is just a beautiful dream! The head of household promised me he would visit his brother, and arrange a reunion. In the meantime, I started weaving, but all my thoughts were focused on seeing my brother.
On the following day, Zakhar returned from visiting his brother. He said that despite the secrecy surrounding my brother hiding with Nikolai's family, they agreed to arrange a meeting between us. My brother came to visit me that evening. It is difficult to describe our encounter. We stood in front of each other, with tears streaming from our eyes, without being able to utter a sound because of the depth of the emotion we were feeling. Zakhar and his wife could not look at us during these emotional moments, and left us alone.
After we regained our composure, we spoke about the fate of our parents and the children. My brother did not know what happened to them. He left the killing field at the time the fence was breached. Our parents, however, were seated not far from there, and it is possible that they attempted to flee as well, but it appears that they fell from the bullets of the murderers.
My brother related that Rabbi Hechtman sat and recited verses from Psalms. Yaakov Zandweiss approached our grandfather and said, We are being taken to the Akeda, the binding of Isaac. The young people crowded around the barbed wire fence with the intention of cutting it. When they fled, Margolis rose and shouted, Jews, Flee! Flee! However he did not leave.
My brother asked me if I knew how much time had passed since that Day of Extermination. We both recalled that it had been fourteen weeks, as both of us counted back to those terrifying days with precision.
My brother fled from the killing field and hid in the villages. He suffered a great deal, from hunger, fear, and the freezing cold. Two weeks before we met, he reached this location, called Ostikhovo, and found refuge with Nikolai, the brother of the head of my household. During the day he hid in the granary. At night, he worked at grinding wheat with millstones in the house.
My brother promised that he would not reveal his hiding place even to me, and we parted. He returned to his place, to milling flour, and I remained with the family of Zakhar Nikiczuk, weaving scarves for the family.
The cold was intense as the Christmas holiday approached. The lady of the house spun the woolen thread, and I wove in the evenings. Zakhar read to us from his Evangel Psalter. One time, Zakhar got the idea to convert me to Christianity, but feared that this would reveal my true identity to the Germans, so he decided to leave me alone.
The Christmas holiday passed, and with that, I completed my work at the Zakhars. They moved me to neighbors who also wanted me to weave for them. However, the matter of weaving for the neighbors became a dangerous undertaking for me. One day, Tatiana, the wife of Nikolai, suggested that I come over to her home. I was happy about the proposal of being in the same place with my brother. I stole away, in the dark, without anyone seeing me, to the house of Tatiana and Nikolai.
In the meantime, the farmers experienced very difficult times as well. Conflict and animosity among the Ukranian Banderovtsy, Soviet partisans, and the resident Poles undermined the farmers' security. Those who had cooperated wtih one of these factions or another faced theft and destruction of their properties and outright murder. One day, while we were there, the residents of the village of Ostikhovo were forced to flee for their lives, and found refuge in the larger village of Horodysce.
My brother and I could not move with the others from the village, and we remained alone. Once again we hid in the forest during the day, and we returned to the abandoned house at night. We survived by cooking some potatoes that had been left in the cellar. These were the conditions of our existence in the winter and spring of 1943.
As the fields ripened in the spring, the farmers came home to the village to harvest their grain. Among them was the Nikiczuk family. My brother returned to help Tatiana, and I went back to Zakhar and his wife. Both of us demonstrated our capacity to participate in the harvest. The work went along swiftly. The bundles of harvested sheaves increased, and we were happy to find ourselves among living people.
One day during the harvest, two armed men crossed a trench and approached us in the field. Zakhar ordered us to take the children and flee. I ran with the children over towards the house. There, my brother joined us, and we ran into the forest. After a few minutes had passed we heard a shot. It looks like they killed my father, said Zakhar's ten-year-old son. And, indeed, that was the case. When we returned to the house in the evening, everyone was there except for Zakhar, who did not come home. On the following day, we found him, dead, in the corn field. After this shattering incident, the farmers again abandoned their homes, their harvested crops, and went off to Horodysce. Once again, we were alone.
One morning, as we prepared to leave Tatiana's house for our hiding place in the forest, we saw a man approach us. As was usual in these cases, we quickly fled in the direction of the forest, but then we heard shouts in Yiddish, Children, do not flee. Do not be afraid! We were surprised by this, and we headed toward the man. He was Joseph Sawacznik, a Jew from Sarny. Our joy knew no bounds. He told us there were other Jews in the nearby Polish villages. After the various Ukranian rampages, the Poles were taking a rather good attitude towards the Jews. Jews walked about freely, and worked together with the Poles in the fields. Joseph explained to us that it was dangerous for us to be in our burned out village because the Poles may mistakenly think we are Ukrainians, and attack.
On that same morning, we left the abandoned settlement with Joseph and went to the Polish village of Janowka. There, we found Joseph's twelve year old daughter, Chana, his sister's fifteen year old daughter, another girl named Esther Klass, who was twelve, three Jews from the area of Stepan, and another young woman, Paula. It occurred to me that perhaps this was the same Paula with whom I hid in the bunker in Sarny and from whom I had been separated during the rainy night in the Straszow forest.
Joseph showed me where Paula was living. I found her asleep on her straw pallet in the corner of the house. She was indeed the Paula that I knew. When she woke up and saw me standing before her, she thought she was dreaming. We cried together over our happiness to see each other. Paula told me about her experiences since our separation, and how she came to Janowka. She did not know the fate of Lerner's wife and sister.
I worked with a Polish family, and my brother, with a neighbor, to assist with the potato harvest. As we were busy working all day, we did not have a chance to see each other. We met before going to sleep in the evenings, to talk about the important issues that affected us. The girl, Esther Klass, became very attached to me, and for the entire time I stayed there, she remained at my side.
The Poles gave us a day off from work on the anniversary of the slaughter at Sarny. Joseph Sawacknik had a calendar and knew the exact date. We gathered together and sanctified this first Memorial Day with a fast, to commemorate our martyrs. After days and weeks of hard work in the fields passed, the farmers completed gathering their grains and potatoes and returned to their secure homes in Sarny. Even the family who gave us work were gone as well. We were left behind with no means of sustenance.
In the Thick of the Forests
Two Jews came to the village during the autumn rains. One of them was Mordechai Trachter, and the second, his brother-in-law from Sarny. They suggested that we move to the area of the Byelorussian village of Ovrozh, in which a number of young people were living in their dugout camouflaged hiding places. The men also promised to find work for me, weaving for farmers with whom they came in contact. My brother and I parted from Joseph, little Esther, and went on our way.
The days of tranquility didn't last long there either. One day, the villagers told us that the ruling authorities were aware of our existence, and they were searching for us. We had to leave the area quickly. We gathered up our things and went in the direction of the train station in Nemovychi. After walking about 5 km, we noticed an empty structure covered in blocks of peat. We assumed that this was a hiding place for Jews, and indeed it was. After several minutes, people came out of the nearby bushes, and approached us. These people were Jews from the village of Stepan, including the principal of the school, his wife, and three year-old son. My brother and I built our own dwelling like the principal's, and we managed to survive somehow, until the arrival of the cold days of winter.
Several families from Nemovychi who knew us, tried to offer us encouragement. They told us about German defeats at the front, and the fact that the Red Army was getting closer. We didn't quite believe these reports. Seventeen months had passed since the extermination at Sarny. If this situation persisted, we too would ultimately be seized and killed by the Ukrainians or Poles, who ranged through the region.
With the snow on the ground, our situation became unbearable. We starved. We could not go out to the village to get wool for weaving and a bit of food in exchange for our labor. The snow that covered the ground could reveal our footprints. We went out only on those days in which the snow fell, as the falling snow covered our footprints.
Then a change came suddenly in an unexpected way, as if in a story. My brother and I, and the other men with us, awakened one morning to the sound of explosions of mortars and cannons. My brother and Mordechai Trachter, who stood with him, radiated total joy. The whole group shouted, We have been privileged to be saved, and to see the defeat of Hitler.
We gathered in one of the temporary dwellings and decided that someone would go to the Nemovychi train station to see what was going on. The principal from Stepan and my brother went off together to the station.
After four hours they had not yet returned. The shooting stopped, but we worried that perhaps the shooting was carried out by Ukrainian partisans, and that our scouts had fallen into their hands. However, after a time, my brother and the principal came out of the forest, but not alone. An armed man was with them. We thought that my brother and the principal had been seized by the armed man, and were forced to reveal the rest of the Jews hiding in the forest. As we began to flee, we heard their voices, Do not be afraid. Do not flee. This is a Jewish Red Army soldier, and he has come to see Jews that are alive. We approached them hesitantly. Before us stood a young Jewish sergeant from the Red Army, unable to contain his tears.
The Way Back To Sarny
We sat around with the Sergeant in one of the huts, and he told us that in his travels from Kiev to this point, he had not encountered any Jews until he met us. The Sergeant thought that under the circumstances, with battles still waging in the vicinity, it was dangerous for us to remain where we were, and urged us to leave. We hitched a wagon to some horses and traveled to the train station in Nemovychi. The group of us included the Sergeant, my brother and the principal.
Street battles were still raging in Sarny. We had to wait until the Russian army captured the city in order to return. The Sergeant brought us to one of the houses of the railroad station residents, and saw to it that we were served food. The house into which we were taken was occupied by a Polish family. The yard was full of Russian soldiers.
That same night, the Jewish Sergeant received orders to advance with his unit, and he departed from our company. He gave each of us a teaspoon, which was all he had in his possession, as a souvenir of our meeting.
On the following morning, about one hundred captured German officers and soldiers were brought to the railroad station at Nemovychi. They were imprisoned on a field that was fenced in with barbed wire. These perfect, arrogant, soldiers, who formerly instilled fear and terror in us, now stood miserable and filthy. Their medals were dirty, their hats lacking insignias, their shoes were tied up with straw. They stood pushed up one against the other, while rubbing their frozen hands. We approached the fence, and told them, in rapid-fire German, that despite everything, we were privileged to see their great defeat. All expressions of vengeance were inadequate for us, because at that moment, all we wanted was to see them rolling in their own blood, but the Russian soldiers stood guard over them, and would not let us touch them.
We learned later that evening that Sarny was captured by the Russian army. Regardless of the danger involved, my brother and I decided to make our way to Sarny. We hoped that someone in our family managed to flee along the way and remained alive. We proceeded slowly to Sarny, walking with great difficulty because of all of the snow on the ground. By evening, we reached the city in which we were born, and raised, and in which we suffered so much.
Eighteen months had passed since we left Sarny. Now we walked its desolate streets. Here and there we ran into Russian soldiers and solitary Christian residents.
At last, we reached our home. I held onto the gate with shaking hands, but I did not have the strength to open it. At that moment, I sensed that my parent's house was empty. No one waited for us. With trembling lips, I whispered to my brother, They were all exterminated. Not one person from our family is alive.
by Zvi Olshansky
Edited by Karen Leon
In memory of the partisan Michael from Sechov
And Joseph Olshansky of the village of Karasin
In January 1943, I went to scout out the village of Lida, which was 20 kilometers from Rokitno. When I was about one kilometer away from the village, I spotted a young boy who looked to be about twelve years old, walking around in odd clothing. My eye, and my instinct did not betray me. This was a Jewish boy from the shtetl of Sechow, near Sarny.
I said that this was a boy. Actually, he was a great hero. He not only fought against Hitler, may his name be eradicated, but also against nature. He fought for the existence of his three little sisters, the youngest of whom was barely two years old. He was a father and mother to them. He protected them from the beast that was more dangerous than the wolf and serpent.
I spoke to him in Yiddish, in order not to frighten him. When he told me a little of his plight, I left the partisans, and went to see the condition of the children. I came to a small structure and saw the forms of the children, trembling from the cold and fear. The youngest child, barely two years old, was covered in wounds that looked like the result of an animal attack. Even with today's advanced medicine, one would have given up the hope of healing these wounds. I stood still as a statue, not able to utter a word.
By that time, my entire family and most of Polish Jewry had been lost. I was sentenced to death by the Germans in Stolin, but escaped the slaughter in the village of Berezove. That horrible sight in the makeshift hut superseded all other horrors I encountered. I do not believe that there is a person in the world with the words to describe the tragedy in that hut. I do not recall how long I simply stood there until I awoke from the nightmare and decided what to do. To this day, it pains me that I did not utter any word of comfort to the children at that time.
I ordered my partisans to wait where they were until I returned. I went back into the village, and met with Mr. Solti. I told him about everything I saw. He listened to me and said that he knew about the children, and that the peasants were sustaining them. He held himself to be an upstanding man because he hadn't turned the children over to the Germans.
Naturally, this upset me greatly. I was prepared to subject his children to the same fate, but what would that do for the little boy Suzik (that's what he called himself) and his little sisters? Would Suzik and his sisters become warmer from the house that I would burn down? Or would they sate their hunger with all the goods that would go up in smoke? Solti's death would not give them back their father.
I decided to use force. I said to Mr. Solti, My dear sir! I am not accustomed to speaking with you with a bit of a threat, but when you lack humane feelings toward the children, this is the only way. I offer you two options. The first is that you hide the children, and see to it that they eat and drink, have clothing and all necessities. The second is that I will bring our partisan-staff and will take up residence beside you in the village. Then the children will be near us, and it might become a bit crowded in the village.
I took note of the fact that the color in his face began to change, and he was covered in a cold sweat. He most certainly was thinking, If the Germans had gotten rid of this Jew along with the others, I would not now have these troubles, and Why didn't I kill these small Jewish children who are responsible for my current situation? My life would have been more tranquil without these Zhidkehs. To his misfortune, he could no longer turn back time. He sat for a short while, as if turned into stone, and finally responded, I understand you very well. You are a Jew, and this is the way you have to deal with the few Jews who have remained alive, even at the expense of my entire village of peasants. I must accept the fate that has engulfed us, and accept your first condition.
Time flew by, and I had to move quickly to carry out my missions. I took my leave of him, with a feeling that this entire destruction would be forgotten and that all would be resuscitated at the rising of the dead.
Some time later, the Soltis family came to ask for our help against the Banderovtsy, who had stolen cattle from the village. We helped them recover their animals. During our battle with the Banderovtsy we wiped out many of the murderers who were responsible for killing Jews.
Meanwhile, by that time, Suzik and his little sisters were living under the same conditions as all the other children of the village. They were being taken care of because there were many partisans in the area watching out for them.
I met Suzik in Poland later on, and again after that in Berlin, where I participated in arranging the children's escape to the DP camp. The children and Suzik were settled in an orphanage in the camp.
In 1946, an English-American commission came to the DP camp to make arrangements for the Jews to leave the camp and travel to a chosen destination. Aharon Kanonitz, a veteran of the Polish army from the Sarny area, and I, presented ourselves to the commission, dressed in our uniforms, decorated with the medals from the war.
We showed them the orphanage, and told them that the children wanted to travel to the Land of Israel. The American officer questioned my authority to decide where the children should go. He said that the children could travel to America. I told the officer that in 1943, I took care of the children when it was not clear that they could even survive, and therefore, I had the right of a father.
Suzik also chimed in and said, It was not only us that the partisans rescued from certain death, but also hundreds of others like myself have to thank the partisans for their lives. When the American heard this, he saluted me, shook my hand, and did not utter another word. He turned us over to the Englishman, who probably thought that for the British, it would be better if those like me would not enter the Land of Israel.
By Dr. Chanan Weinberger
Edited by Karen Leon
At the beginning of the Second World War, I came to Sarny from western Poland as a doctor. The Sarny Regional Medical Office then sent me to Karasyn to provide medical care in that town. There were approximately twenty Jews in Karasyn, who managed, economically.
Hard times followed the German invasion of eastern Poland, in June, 1941. When the Germans forced the Jews to leave Karasyn and brought them to the Sarny ghetto, I was required to remain in Karasyn to care for the remaining population. One day, my wife and I and my fourteen year-old son received an order to go to Sarny. I did not understand what they wanted from me, for at the same time, the Germans sent three cartons of various medical items to me in Karasyn. Now, suddenly, they commanded me and my family to the Sarny ghetto. I decided to travel alone to Sarny to find out what was expected of me.
Early in the morning of the day after receiving the order, I set out on the road to Sarny. The horse dragged itself along for a long time. An axle on our wagon broke close to the village of Karpylivka, and we were barely able to drag ourselves into the village. The driver remained to repair the axle. I set out to Sarny on foot, and I walked alone. It was already nightfall when I encountered a Christian from Karasyn, and he asked me where I was going. I replied that I was going to Sarny. He told me the sorrowful news that all the Jews of Sarny and its environs were murdered that day. All I could do at that point was return to Karasyn, but this was not so easy. I was not familiar with the road, and in addition, I looked bad. After a great deal of pleading with the Christian, he decided that I could follow him at a distance. He was afraid to go together with me, because if the Germans encountered us, we would both be killed. Along the way, a bandit from Karpylivka fell upon us, and took all of my clothing, leaving me naked. A little further along, we met up with Shimon Fykov, naked, with a bullet hole shot through his hand, while fleeing the mass graves.
In this way, we dragged ourselves to Karasyn. Shimon received the appropriate medical care from my wife and son, and I attended to him in the night. First thing in the morning, we set out to enter the forest where Jews slowly began to meet together. By the time it was Rosh Hashanah there already were a number of Jews in the forest. We conducted Rosh Hashanah services with a minyan, and said the prayers by heart. A sorrowful echo reverberated from far away in the forest. On the night of Yom Kippur, after prayers, it was frighteningly cold. It became impossible to remain in the forest. We tried to stay warm under a stack of hay. The cold further compelled us to construct temporary huts out of branches, in a deep pit, which we shared with many frogs.
We lived like this for a period of time, and a few of us acquired arms. We organized a small group of partisans, with Shimon Fykov and Joseph Olshansky as the leaders. We provided medical services to the Christian populace in the area, and in this way, were able to obtain food.
One night, Herschel Borko was brought to us in the forest. He was shot through the breast and stomach. The wounds were very serious, and we did not have the required medical supplies to attend to him. However, thanks to the good care given by my wife and son, he remained alive.
We suffered greatly from the cold in the winter, and the unsanitary conditions affected us as well. A typhus epidemic broke out. Seventeen people fell sick with spotted typhus and could no longer remain in the forest. We transferred the sick to an abandoned hut we found away from the forest, which served as a place for shepherds in the summertime. We moved Ber'l Bick, his wife Liv'sheh and her three sons, Kass'l, his wife, Pearl, her three daughters, and others to that hut. Joseph Wolf and Pinia Borko lay in a frightening state of illness in a distant shack in a stable. We had no medical supplies, yet despite this, they all remained alive.
On one particular night, the well-known partisan, Dyadya Misha, brought a very badly wounded Jewish girl to me. Anya - Chana, was shot by the Germans, and the entire underside of her belly was torn. We had nothing with which to heal her. I concocted a salve, which for sure is not found in any pharmacy, and the girl remained alive.
Some time later my wife, my son, and I provided medical help to an Otryad, partisan brigade. My younger son, Tadek, was good at navigating through the forests, and so he served the partisans as a trail scout. They even called him by a special forrester name. He also served as a good assistant in blowing up German trains.
After the Otryad was defeated and dispersed by the Germans, we were able to save ourselves by some miracle. While traveling to Olevsk, we fell into the hands of a band of Banderovtsy, and again, miraculously, we were saved.
That was in the year 1944. Now I am in Israel.
by Dr. Shimon Zweiman
Edited by Karen Leon
On August 27, 1942, on the day of the Great Slaughter of the Jews of Sarny, Dabrowica, and Bereznica, many Jews escaped from the pits. They fled in two directions. Those who fled in the direction of the villages of Lyukhcha and Hlushytsya were killed by the Ukrainian and German murderers. Those who fled in the direction of Karasyn, where partisans were located at that time, were saved. On the Day of the Extermination, the Shammes of the Berezne Synagogue, R' Mensl Furman, fled from the murderers carrying a Torah scroll with him. The murderers ran after him and killed him on Ulica Barmaca, and his blood covered the Torah scroll. Today, that Torah scroll is in the possession of Jews in Sarny. It was returned to the Jews by the refined Polish lady, Anya Studzhinaska. This same woman hid Khilia Zlotogurska, a Jewish nurse, who personally related this to me.
After the Sarny slaughter, the extremely respected and beloved Rabbi Hechtman, hid for six weeks. I heard after that, the Ukrainian murderers caught him and brutally murdered him along with his family.
A Russian woman, Eva Nikitchak, who lived in the hut settlement of Radzhiezh, hid a Jewish boy and girl, children of the Wachs family, from the Polesia side. Also, Mrs. Anaczkiewicz, in Sarny, hid, and thereby saved the life of the woman, Leah Teich, who is now living in Israel.
The remains of the murdered martyrs lie in three mass graves. Most of the Jews of Dabrowica and Bereznica are in two of the graves, one beside the other. The third mass grave is 200-300 meters away from the other two. According to the information I have, only the remains of Jews from Sarny are to be found in this grave. The German and Ukrainian murderers despoiled this holy Jewish resting place, and used the headstones to make a sidewalk by the municipal hospital.
When I returned to Sarny after the evacuation, I transferred these gravestones to the three mass graves, with the help of other Jews in Sarny. Thanks to the great and strenuous work of two partisans, Meir Walkin, and Joseph Wolf, the graves were brought to a level of order and cemented with inscriptions in Hebrew and Russian. Afterwards, with funds raised by a levy on the Jewish community, the three mass graves, and the cemetery itself, were enclosed with an iron fence. We planted trees around the mass graves. To our sorrow the fences have almost entirely been torn down, primarily by the students of the Ukrainian Middle School, with the permission of the Director of the school.
In response to my request that he should not permit the fence around the mass graves to be torn down, Demchenko, the School Director, answered that he does not need sanctified places, only tractors.
An attempt was also made to create a Jewish community, and to take possession of the single Synagogue, but this amounted to nothing. The Jews were unable to reclaim the synagogue, and it was turned into a warehouse. Those who initiated the process of trying to create the Jewish community, were hindered by the authorities. In the years 1952-1953, when all of Russia was strongly convulsed by anti-Semitism, the reverberations also reached Sarny. A group of Jewish employees were fired from their jobs for no reason. I too was removed from my principal position, and was transferred to another less senior position.
By 1957, the once bustling city of Sarny looked desolate. The several remaining Jewish families were without a synagogue, and without a cemetery.
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