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[Page 197]

The Jews of Husna Vyzna and Husna Nyzna

Meir Goldreich- Netanya

Translated by David Clodman

Uncaptioned: Meir Goldreich

 

There were seventeen Jewish families in Husna Vyzna and Husna Nyzna, with approximately four hundred families in the village. The majority, as most, were Ukranian Christians. These seventeen families, in addition to their various regular activities – as farmers, shoemakers, landowners, flour millers, wagon drivers and shopkeepers - also supported themselves through business, and thus managed to supplement the remainder of their needs which they wouldn't otherwise have been able to meet.

Originally, Jewish life unfolded with tranquility and they left their signatures on this place and this I will try to depict.

Sabbath eve, candle lighting time in the Jewish homes announced to the entire village that the Sabbath Day, the day of rest, had arrived. Actually, the Sabbath and the few Jews with their Streimel hats and long black coats awakened such respect that it was as if people passed by on the tips of their toes.

During the Sabbath afternoon, when our parents went to sleep after the prayer and cholent which followed, the youth would go out to the street, where we gathered and would walk to the edge of the village. We made use of Fishel Seeman's house as a way station and from there we would walk to the houses of Fital Fiddler and Isaac Stein. The village was very wide and we traversed it as if we were the rulers over the Jewish people there…Who would disturb all this? Near the Mill we waited for Dvor, a woman who bought the mail from Visotski. Even on Fraknohan Street where most of the mail was supposed to belong to us, next to the mill the mail bag was passed to us empty…

The third meal came and then before we lit the candelabras and the lights in our house, in spite of the fact that most of the Christians had turned on their lights, the village appeared to be covered in darkness; it remained dark until the lighting of the candles and until we heard the words “Here is my Lord, my saviour”.

And for the Days of Awe there was much respect felt in all parts of the village. The birds seemed to chirp in quieter voices than usual so as not to disturb the sanctity of the Festival.

The Christians who comprised 95% of the local population had criticisms and complaints against Jews. For example on Shavuot, during the time of completing the plowing and planting, the soil had a need for rain. If the holiday turned out to be a beautiful day, we the Jews were held responsible for this because our prayers prevented the rain from falling. On the Jewish New Year when the farmers needed nice weather to give them extra time to harvest their crops and it rained, apparently it was the fault of the Jews because in our many prayers we made it worse by bringing more rain. Who could have believed this? The essence of their attitudes was the intense belief in the status of Jewish prayer - an honour and a responsibility of the (Jewish) people. There existed in the power of their prayer the ability to control the falling or cessation of the rain.

And this did not just happen on holidays. Also on days of mourning there was an influence on the entire place. On the fast of Ninth Day of Av there was this absolute sadness as if not just the Jews but all non-believers were conspicuous in their fasting. Everyone conducted themselves with a slowed pace and a fatigue that is fitting for those who fast.

In this climate there also were the beginnings of Zionist activities among the few Jews of the area (in one photograph we see the girls after the Zionist Congress. It appears to me this was in 1933 at the house of B.H. Goldreich, when there was a failed attempt- 49 votes against and 49 uncertain ones that were ?sold?. There were three competing groups. The Mizrachi, Popular Zionists, and Shomer Hatzair). With the conquering of the region by the Nazis, this whole way of life - all the people who lived with us over several generations- those whose lives bent and swayed together with ours- changed their skins and became predatory animals overnight.

My friend from school and our closest neighbour whose father taught us to play the violin/fiddle and with who we lived one beside the other - it seems he had to show me his rifle when he became a Ukranian Legionaire. So with (in spite of ) this type of assistance from these people, we did manage to live and to create, but they liquidated Jewish life in this place.

I hope that my comments will serve as a mitzvah to remember those people who weren't able to see the results of the work of these murderers and the founding of the State of Israel.

I hope these comments will serve, like the light that never extinguishes, as an everlasting memorial to my dear parents, Baruch Hirsh and Rivka Goldreich, to my sister Pseeya and her husband Abraham Reichman, to their children and to my brother's children, to our friends and acquaintances and to all the descendents of the village of Husna Vyzna and Husna Nyzna.


Translator's notes

There are a few lines where I guessed. ie the one about the mail, I wasn't sure what the house or place was related to where the mail was picked up.
I also guessed about the line related to the count of votes re the election for Zionist leaders.
Finally I wasn't sure exactly what this Ukranian neighbour did with his gun to the author- I guessed the author was being sarcastic ……….


[Page 199]

Life and Death in Lomna

by Menachem Rosen and Yechiel Hirt of Haifa

 

 
Uncaptioned. Evidently the two authors, although it is unclear which is which

 

Jews and Gentiles

Lomna was a village between three cities: Turka, Lutewisk and Stary_Sambor. Two rivers flowed around the town – the Dniester and the Chastsiwonia[1]. From the southwest vantage point, one could see endless forested mountains. The Jewish quarter was located in the center, along the Chastsiwonia River. Wooden balustrades served as a barrier along the river. They simultaneously provided a place for loafers or regular citizens to snatch a conversation, while reclining or moving along against them… Three roads spread out in various directions from the center: one road to Turka, the second to Lutewisk, and the third to Stary Sambor.

The houses were situated on both sides of the street – one house inward, and one house outward… The houses were built of wood and covered with shingle roofs. There was a brick house in the center, first built by the wealthy Y. M. Engelmeir. The palace later served as dwellings for the following generation. Near that house was a large Beis Midrash with a gallery for women. The Beis Midrash could accommodate the entire Jewish population. The police station was located near the Beis Midrash. There was a slaughterhouse near the river. A bit farther on was a steam bath with a mikva [ritual bath]. In summary, the Jewish settlement was more or less compact.

[Page 200]

Prior to the First World War, the Jewish population consisted of approximately 80 families or 350 people. There were also a few Polish families, consisting of officials, schoolteachers, tradesmen and police. The majority of the population consisted of Ukrainians and Katzapes[2]. They earned their livelihood from agriculture and lived in the periphery of the town. There was a women's seminary and church in the heart of the town, protected by a fence constructed of four meter high boards. One could barely peek inside through the several cracks. Inside was a closed-in kingdom of women. The personnel consisted of nuns who were also the teachers of the seminary. The seminary conducted its own agriculture in an area of several hundred dunams. The labor was very intensive for that time.

 

Reb Baruch Hirt, Lomna

 

The Development of the Town.

During the second half of the 19th century, Lomna and the entire region belonged to Duke Parma, the father of the woman who later became Empress Zita[3], the wife of the last Austrian Kaiser (Emperor) Karl. Duke Parma build a large paper factory in Lomna, which was

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one of the largest paper factories in Galicia at that time. The raw material came from the surrounding forests.

In the winter, the duke would come to go hunting with his entire family. This would bring a bit of life to the village. Undoubtedly, the paper factory was the foundation of the development of the village. Jewish officials and merchants moved to the town. Various businesses, bakeries, and shops were set up to serve the workers of the factory. The farmers would work part time in the factory, while others would provide the wood from the forests, which served as raw material for the paper, and also would transport the finished paper to the closes train station in Strzylki.

According to legend, the count once said during a winter hunting expedition that if he would not succeed in shooting a wild animal, he would abandon the factory. Thus, one day, the factory was abandoned and, after the passage of time, was destroyed. The foundations of the large millstones that were used to grind the wood in the factory remained until the later years. Those foundations were constructed of lead. Some Jews who knew the secret indeed became wealthy from the lead, which had remained ownerless…

A large, steam-driven sawmill was built on that place in the later years. It remained in action until 1910, when the surrounding forests had been completely exploited.

 

The Beis Midrash and the Studying

The town built up an independent, Jewish community, with a rabbi, shochet [ritual slaughterer], mohel [circumcisor], steam bath, and mikva. It had a large synagogue and slaughterhouse, which also served the surrounding region.

In those days, Jewish cultural life revolved around the Beis Midrash. Almost every youth who concluded

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cheder and the public school transferred over to the Beis Midrash. There, he began to study a page of Gemara with his own efforts. If there was something he did not understand, he would always be assisted by the older scholars. With time, the diligent studiers would reach the level of scholars, and would then assist the weaker ones with a lesson in Talmud or halacha. Thus, the youths of the town would become known as scholars, and seek a marriage partner in the larger cities.

On a winter night, when the Beis Midrash was well heated, all of the tables were occupied by ordinary householders and youths, learning with enthusiasm. The sweet sounds of Gemara studying reverberated through the Beis Midrash. The diligent ones would learn all night twice a week. In the middle of the learning on the long winter nights, they would collect money to purchase seasonal fruit and other refreshments, so that they could cheer themselves up a bit.

 

The rabbi of Lomna

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The side room of the Beis Midrash served as a location for the youths to conduct their own prayer services on Sabbaths and festivals. Thus, it also served as a “seminary” for upcoming Torah readers, prayer leaders and cantors… Those who excelled with cantorial voices served as assistants to the cantor on the festivals and high holidays.

For the most part, the householders would partake of the third Sabbath meal with the rabbi, Mordechai Engelmeir, where they would listen to Torah discussions on the issues of the day. The rabbi was a great expert in Talmud, Rambam and general didactics. For the entire week, the Hassidim would tell over the novel ideas on torah that they had heard.

The youths over the age of thirteen would put a morsel of bread in their pockets, enter the Beis Midrash, sit around the tables and sing Sabbath hymns in the dark. At that time, the Beis Midrash belonged to the youth. Each of the older youths had the rights to lead a certain segment of the hymns, and nobody would encroach upon the rights of his fellow… The newly minted candidates would have to wait for one of the current youths with rights would get married and leave the town… The third Sabbath meal was one of the experiences for the youth. Each one had the opportunity to place his neck in the window, evading the wrath of the congregation.

 

Reb Moshe Hirt (son of Yechiel), Lomna

[Page 204]

The “Plagers”[4] Group

When the youths approached the age of military service, they formed a group that was called “The Plagers”. Their aim was to go on a strange diet, fasting a few days a week, and not sleeping at night. The objective was to become underweight, appear sickly and therefore avoid military service… The cheerful-sorrowful group would come together to the Beis Midrash at night, and sing and dance until they were out of breath. In order to be happy, they had to make sure that there was a bit of drink and a morsel of herring. They would charge the householders a certain sum of money – and woe to the householder who would refuse to pay his portion of the “tikun[5] (that was the name of the fund)… The group would perform some sort of prank upon the recalcitrant people, which would cost a certain sum of money.

In the winter ,the group of “Plagers” would bring in the heating wood for the poor people. They would take the wood from the wealthy householders at night and carry it to the homes of the needy… Indeed, the Plagers served at that time as woodchoppers and water carries, and also served as one of the locations for purchasing drinks. During that era, this group provided an opportunity for the Plagers and ordinary loafers to release their youthful energy, which would be suppressed in normal times. It became an acceptable custom that the Plagers were “permitted” everything, and they were forgiven for the various pranks that they perpetrated…

A musical band of volunteers was set up by the Plagers. The instruments included a fiddle, bass, drum and flute. Of course, during those times, the musicians did not study notes, but they fiddled for an extended period until they learned the skill on their own… The band would play in the Beis Midrash at night, and the Plagers would dance to their accompaniment. The band would also visit homes at various opportunities, such as on Saturday night party prior to a wedding, when they would come

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to help the bride or groom rejoice. They did not differentiate between poor and rich. The same thing would take place at a circumcision ceremony that took place on a weekday, as well as during the ceremony of the redemption of the firstborn [Pidyon Haben]. On Purim they would go from house to house, taking the young people of the town along. The income from the band was used to purchase books for the Beis Midrash.

 

The Friday Steam Bath

On Friday at noontime, one could already feel that the Sabbath was approaching. In the afternoon, the householders went to the bath with their families, with a broom and a towel in their hands. The bathhouse contained a stone steam bath with seven steps, a mikva, and a warm and cold bath. There were three bathtubs for the “intelligentsia”. They would be filled with pails of cold water. The distinguished people would sit in the anteroom to rest. At the same time, this was the first session of the town's naked parliament… There, people talked about general politics and local events. The second session took place on Saturday morning prior to services, and after the immersion in the warm mikva. Then, they would discuss local news mixed with a bit of gossip. At that time, a father would be able to indirectly learn about the “good deeds” of his children. This would on occasion be the cause of a spoiled Sabbath…

On Friday after the steam bath, the wealthy householders would go to a tavern to drink a glass of beer with a plate of piping hot chickpeas. For the poor people, on the other hand, a plate of noodle juice was waiting for them at home. After that, the householders took a nap, cast off their weekday worries, and entered the Sabbath spirit with the additional soul. They felt like the Sabbath angels.

The Sabbaths and festivals were distinguished by their joyous mood. Friends and family visited each other, and talked from the heart.

[Page 206]

 

Livelihood

The chief form of livelihood in town was commerce. This was often a grocery store, or a general store which had a bit of everything, according to the needs of the town and the area. Other sources of livelihood included inns, bakeries and butcher shops. Some people earned their livelihood as peddlers. The visited the villages in the region. They bought, sold, or bartered merchandise with the farmers. Some were brokers for any merchandise that came to their hands. They would visit the fairs in the surrounding towns. They would be happy if they succeeded in bringing home a coin or two for the Sabbath. A small number of people were tradesmen, such as tailors, shoemakers, bricklayers, bookbinders, and wagon drivers. In general, the town was not noted for people of great wealth, but everyone was able to earn a reasonable livelihood, some more some less, in accordance with the notions of the times.

 

Society and Education

There were organizations for charity, visiting the sick, and providing for weddings. All the youth attended the public school, which consisted of four classes. For the most part, that concluded their secular education. In 1911, a teacher with a great deal of general education wandered into the town. The teacher conducted various courses for the youth and grown ups in the German language. The courses lasted for approximately two years. Then, just as the teacher had suddenly appeared, he suddenly disappeared, leaving no trace behind… Later, it became clear that he had been a spy, may Heaven protect us. In time, the course for the older students consisted mainly of German and general literature, with a significant dose of the theory of Karl Marx. This served as the foundation for the brand new Jewish intelligentsia of the town.

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Youth movements and organizations were not popular in town at that time. On the other hand, the youth enjoyed seasonal sports. People would go to the rivers in the summer, for almost everyone knew how to swim. They would go out to the surrounding mountains, hold races, catch fish in the rivers, and also go to the forests to collect raspberries, and – after the rain – mushrooms. In the winter, they would skate on the ice and go sledding on the high mountains. This was often fraught with mortal danger.

 

New Times

During the period of the First World War, after the first Russian invasion, the majority of the Jewish population moved to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Austria. Later, when Galicia was liberated by the Austrian Army, a large portion of the population of the town returned. They were disappointed with their destroyed little houses, and some of them rebuilt them anew.

The returning “worldly folk” brought with them a bit of culture and civilization. A large portion of the youth had already read classical and general world literature. Some have already started to study Hebrew, and these were the first steps of the Zionist movement in town. The Beis Midrash was no longer visited frequently, and free time was spent on societal activities and communal life.

The upcoming generation no longer reclined at their parents' tables. They began to do business in the villages on their own to help the family with livelihood. In that manner, they expressed their independence and became known as youths with worldly experience. This was, however, a life from one day to the next, without a future, which on occasion brought the youth to despair. Some moved to the larger cities, and others to America and Israel.

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The End

In 1940, the Germans, may their names be blotted out, marched into the town from the direction of Ustrzyki Dolne and Lutowisk. They put a German commandant in charge of the Lomna police station, and the police themselves consisted of Volksdeutschen (the so-called Schwabs from Wilcze) and Ukrainians. They knew that they had whom to neglect…

The first beginning was: A truck with ammunition got stuck in the Dniester River. They hauled all of the Jews from the town, and beat them with whips and sticks until the Jews dragged the truck out of the water… Then they were told to bring all of the ammunition to the police station, which was four kilometers away. The Jews fetched a horse and wagon to arrange the transport – but they, may their names be blotted out, answered that this was a pity on the horse… This was the first lesson in forced labor.

A little later, the order came regarding the Star of David insignia. They mobilized all of the men and took them to Boberka. Some worked in the sawmill, and others worked under inhuman conditions in the forests. Women and children remained in the town. The Germans pillaged the homes, as the Ukrainians sat around idly.

*

Thus did the suffering and murdering continue until 1942. Then an order came that all of the Jews, without exception, must move to the Stryjer sawmill in the Turka Ghetto. There, they were forced in to the barracks. Only 40-50 men with work cards for the sawmill remained in town. The old and sick men, as well as the women and children, were shot in ghetto. Those remaining were herded to the train station, loaded on transport wagons, and sent to Belzec, from where nobody returned…

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In Lutowisk

In the town of Lutowisk, where there were no workplaces, the entire Jewish population of the town was driven out in 1941 to the fields of the Rand family. There, the unfortunate Jews dug mass graves for themselves. Approximately 1,500 people were shot there.

In 1942, an ordinance was issued that all of the holders of work cards would be transported to the Sambor Ghetto. The Jews already knew what this meant, so they decided to flee into the Carpathian Mountains. They organized and sent professionals out to the Carpathians, near Gorna Istryk, to build bunkers. Then, they began to bring in stockpiles of dry provisions. Five or six men would go out at night, laden with whatever they could carry. This was a distance of 60-70 kilometers. The undertaking lasted for months. Shortly before the aktion, they succeeded in escaping to the bunkers, which had been prepared with a great deal of superhuman effort.

However, to their ill fortune, a young man from Kryvka was captured as he was bringing his family to the bunker. After great torture, he led them to the bunker… and nobody survived.

The details of that liquidation were told by Yoshe Wolf of Bereszki, the sole survivor.


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. I could not identify this river definitively but I believe it is the Chaszczówka. Return
  2. A nickname for Russians. Return
  3. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_I,_Duke_of_Parma and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zita_of_Bourbon-Parma. Return
  4. Sufferers. Return
  5. “Tikun” literally means “repair”, but is often used as a term for refreshments served in the synagogue. Return

[Page 210]

Krasna – Life and Destruction

by Moshe Schindler of Kiryat Tivon

 

Moshe Schindler

 

The Village

The village of Krasna was situated 30 kilometers from the town of Turka, and was dependent upon it. The area of the village was relatively large relative to its population of 1,200. The population included 15 Jewish families, numbering 70 souls. To its good fortune, the village was located next to the small town of Smozhe, in which a large weekly fair took place on Mondays. On that day, all of the farmers of the region brought in their produce, and of course, Jews came to buy and sell all types of merchandise, as well as horses and various types of animals.

The majority of the population of Smozhe was Jewish. The community was headed by a rabbi, and the most of their livelihood was derived from the fairs. This was a typical Jewish town. On Sabbaths and festivals, quiet pervaded everywhere; and on Simchat Torah, the Jews would go out to the center of the town with the Torah scrolls, singing and dancing in a Hassidic fashion and performing all types of tricks. The gentiles would stand around, some out of honor and others out of plan curiosity. There were those who look upon them with disdain, but nobody was so brazen as to open up a mouth to them.

 

House of Worship

Despite the fact that Krasna was divided in to three sections, and there were areas which were approximately four kilometers from the center, the Jews would gather each Sabbath at the home of my uncle Reb Izik Gissinger for a prayer service. Almost all of the attendees were capable of leading the services in the traditional Hassidic fashion. My brother Avraham and I would often come early with our father, but we never succeeded in coming early than Reb Wolf… Despite the fact that Reb Wolf was already at an advanced age, and that he lived at the other end of the village, he was always first.

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Reb Wolf had a character trait – he loved serving as the prayer leader very much. No cold or rain could prevent him from coming first, let he lose, Heaven forbid, the great opportunity to display his fine, melodic voice. In the home of Rabbi Izik, one would be treated with a cup of hot coffee by Aunt Chava, who was a modest woman and the daughter of the great scholar Reb Lemel Zadilisker.

We, the youth, were happy with chance to get together. In between the prayers we would loaf around a bit in secret, but we would behave respectfully in the presence of the adults. Reb David Hirt, a scholarly man, would serve as the Torah reader. During the reading, we would chat about the teachers. The teacher Teichman, who was not overly diligent in his observance of the commandments, lived in our home for many years and studied various subject with us, including Bible. He would give practical interpretations to most matters… Therefore, people did not especially respect him, and would say that there was a teacher at the home of Berish Schnitzler with regard to whom the following adage can be applied, “it is a pity on the wine that it is situated in that flask.” He was literally a “Deitch” [Germanized Jew]. Nobody wanted to enter into a debate with him, since that man had well-founded answers for everything, and he had his sourced upon which to rely. Those with secular education would say that if Yisrael Teichman had obtained his erudition through the customary means, he would have been a great professor. However, he had amassed his knowledge through his own efforts. Later on, he set up the Achva Zionist group along with his brother Leib, to which most of the youth of the area belonged.

 

Zionist Youth

My brother and I signed up for the nearby chapter in Smozhe. Everyone was surprised – from where do we already know Hebrew songs? They had not yet succeeded in even learning these Zionist songs in Yiddish. At our house, even the gentile maid knew how to sing, for every day, she would hear how we were learning to sing. Since she worked with us for many years, she knew Yiddish and also Yiddish songs. One of them that I remember: she would sing “Frei , Frei, Palestina Frei…” This was the era of Zionist awakening in Poland. We were well organized, and we gathered together at meetings. Many even went on Hachshara [preparations for aliya].

On one occasion, we arranged a get-together with the Slovak Jewish youth, across the border from Poland. We walked several dozen kilometers by foot and slept over in Vysotzko. There, we were divided up into various houses to spend the night. Early the next morning, we set out toward Mount Piko. Along the way, I a girl of about 15 years old. She was blond and thin, but very charming. She mentioned that she was studying in the gymnasium in Turka. This was Ela Gissinger. We arrived at the summit of the mountain, the tallest in the Carpathians, at approximately 10:00 a.m. About 200 of us spent two days there. Of course, we deliberated over aliya to the Land of Israel most of the time.

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We also had family problems with respect to convincing our parents to permit us to make aliya. Of course, we went to the house of worship on the Sabbaths, where there were people who mocked us and asked, “What will you do in Palestine? There is nothing there except for sand and Arabs.” Already on that Sabbath we did not go to the afternoon service, but rather to meet with the youth. There, we found out that a few older youths had decided to make aliya to the Land.

 

Festivals in the Village

Festivals were not celebrated in a mundane fashion in Krasna… Even Purim was a festival. We would read the megilla, dress up and make merry… Festive parties were arranged where people dressed up. However, the festival of Passover was most beloved by every Jew, poor and rich. People prepared all year for it. They prepared goose and turkey fat. Homemade wine would be made in every home. Matzos would be baked two or three weeks before the festival. Machines were brought in from Turka for that purpose. However, matzo shmura[1], was an entirely different matter. Everybody participated in that effort. One person would prepare the dough, and women would make the matzos. Two men would stand next to the over, and command, “Put in a matzo!” Everyone wore clean clothes and wishes each other that they should merit to bake once again the following year along with their families.

The eve of Passover was a joyous day. First of all, we would help Father filter the wine – and there was a “benefit” to this in that along with working with the wine, we would taste it. Then we would enter the kitchen, which was pervaded with the atmosphere of Passover. Everything was new, clean and polished. Mother, wearing a new apron, stood next to the stove and prepared potato pancakes with turkey fat. These pancakes were not simple pancakes, for they had a unique taste and smell, entirely different from the pancakes of the rest of the year… The Passover seder with the entire family did not end before midnight. After the four questions, we would read the Haggadah with interruptions for eating. We would sing between each course. The four cups would somehow greatly expand, and everything was happy…

 

War

In 1939, when the Germans attacked Poland, we were unsure who would be “coming” to us – the Russians or the Germans. When the news spread that the Germans were coming, we gathered on the mountain and prepared an escape. We went through the mountains and reached Tuchulka. There we found out that the Russians were coming… We therefore disbanded the group that had been organized in a

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communal fashion. We did everything in communal fashion since not all the youths had the proper financial means. Now, we each went our own ways and returned to our homes.

The Russians arrived three days later. We were afraid at first, but everyone quickly got settled with work. Our cousins Yitzchak and Avraham (Shlomo did not return from the Polish Army) continued with their agricultural work in which they were strongly established, and Aunt Rachel assisted them. I worked for some time as the secretary of the village. Later, I was transferred by the authorities to Borinia, and from there to Slawsko near Skole. I was looking forward to this, for my brother Avraham worked there at that time. However, to my sorrow, the joy was not long lasting. After a month, the Russians began to vacate the area and turn over their places to the Germans. My brother was drafted into the army, and I was enlisted for work. In accordance with their command, I set out by wagon to the gathering area along with six other Jewish girls. Suddenly, the wagon broke down, we got stuck along the way, and nobody wanted to take the girls on their vehicle. I begged them to run away, and I would do so on a horse, for the Germans were already behind us. However, the girls did not wish to do so, and convinced us not to abandon them. I finally obtained a wagon and we were saved.

 

The Germans in Krasna

During that time, the Germans were already in the villages. The Ukrainians gathered all the Jews to the local council, which was headed by Mikahil Mochko, a well-known anti-Semite. He turned to the Jews and said, “I have a paper upon which is written that you are spies. Therefore, you must be brought to judgment on this.” Of course, everyone was quite confounded and began to swear that they have no idea about the issue. Did the gentile know that none of us was interested in anything other than agricultural work? Several Ukrainian youths wandered around the council room with drawn guns, and it appeared that they were just waiting for the order… Suddenly, Baruch Aharon of Turka, a well known merchant, appeared with a German captain. Baruch Aharon was the wagon driver of the German. After several words, he asked us and we gave him gold and silver objects, which he gave over to the German. Then the German issues a command to free all of us immediately.

After this incident, we attempted with all our might to become involved with public works projects. With great difficulty, we succeeded in obtaining work preparing trees in the forest. The work was very difficult. We worked by quota. I, my brother Avraham, and Malka Hirt succeeded in meeting or exceeding the quota. However Esther Liba Schindler and several other women were unable

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to meet the quota under any circumstances. Therefore, we helped them discharge their obligation. When these jobs ended, everyone dispersed, for the Germans began to perpetrate aktions. Everyone hid as best they could. Mochko took me as a farm worker, meaning as a slave. I worked with all my might, but it was to no avail. After a few days later, he informed me that he could no longer employ me, since there was going to be an aktion – and who knows how it would turn out. Therefore, my brother Avraham and I decided to escape to the forests. We remained in the forests at night, and went into the village in the evening to steal potatoes.

 

Siege

All Jewish property became open for all. We more or less knew who pillaged our property. At times we asked our former neighbors, to whom we had given over a portion of our property, to return some items. At first, we would get something, but later, when Hillel Fisch asked Mochko, to whom he had given over valuables and clothing, for a single shirt, he asked Fisch, “Why do you need it? In any case, you will not live, so why do you need a shirt?” All of those who hid their belongings with their gentile neighbors received such answers. The situation continued to deteriorate. It was completely impossible to approach any of the residents, for it was fraught with the danger of being turned in to the Germans or to those Ukrainians who made efforts to be crueler murderers than the Germans themselves.

The winter was very difficult, so we were forced to remain in the bunker in the forest without food. We were very hungry. We lost our energy and were unable to walk out at night any more. The snow also impeded us. In this difficult situation, we decided to approach one resident whose name was Roman (Hartzendeshen) of Kariw, with whom we had always had excellent relations. When we came to him, we no longer had the form of human beings. He received us well, gave us some food, and told us to come again. We indeed did so, even though we were very afraid that the man might turn us in, which he did not do. He cleared a place fro us and agreed that we can dig a pit in the barn. We sat there during the days, and at night this gentile sent us to fetch what he felt it was possible to steal for him… In this manner, we received food once a day, as well as information as to what was transpiring in the region.

 

Destruction

One day when the gentile returned from church on a Christian holiday, we saw that we were very nervous. He had heard from the priest Marhold Pyoter that if anyone knows of a Jew and does not turn him in –

[Page 215]

all the villages in the area would be destroyed by the government. Among other things, he said that Hirsch Mendel Wolf was found dead and frozen in the forest and that Hillel Fisch escaped to Dolzhok where he was murdered along with his wife. Yehuda Wolf had been murdered by a German near a little river in the brush, and the residents of Muchnacha immediately started pillaging and stripping his clothing… The Ukrainians brought the Germans to Yosef Wolf, who had made a bunker for himself in the Czrena forest. After wild screams, Yosef exited the bunker along with his wife and three children, who were all very beautiful. When Yosef saw that he was surrounded, he jumped upon the German with his bare hands and tried to kill him. However, at that moment, he was shot by another murderer who stood behind Yosef's back. Then they were able to perpetrate the rest of the murderers that they desired. First they killed the children, and then their mother. When they went down to the bunker, there was enough food to sustain the family for three years. At that time, the murderers also liquidated the Hirt family. First they murdered their son Yitzchak, and then shot them.

Yehuda Gissinger was hiding with Mlutach Lorczio. For some reason, Wasyl Krowky, who had been the close neighbor of the family of Yisrael Yosef Gissinger, informed the authorities. From there, they brought him to Smozhe. Along the way, they tortured him and administered endless beatings. When they brought him to the Ukrainian policemen, he already requested that they kill him, for he could no longer take the tortures. He shouted and asked why he was guilty for having been born a Jew. The family of Reb Izik Gissinger, a scholarly observer of the commandments, was hiding in the latter period with Mlutach Lungin. One day, the Ukrainian murders Andrishyn Yasin and his friends came (the secretary of the Krasna council Josef Zovkovich headed this aktion), and removed them all: Izik, his wife Chava, his daughters Feiga and Ethel, and his son Moshe-Yosef. They brought them all to the Zadvorshtasha grove and started to torture them. They first amputated the breasts of the girls. Then they tortured Moshe-Yosef, their uncle Izak and aunt Chava. During the atrocity, the tortured people cried out so much that they were heard in the nearby town of Smozhe. Later they were murdered by blows on the head, since they had no weapons. They were only able to carry out this barbaric murder by using sticks. Since this took a long time, and the victims screamed and screamed, the murderer Zovkovich stood next to them and shouted, “Shut up, Jews, I am telling you to shut up…”

The next day, the Volksdeutche [ethnic German] Ginter, who had heard the screams, came to Krasna from Smozhe. He began to ask people what happened. When they told him, he went to the Gestapo, and asked them, “Why do the authorities permit murders of citizens by the Ukrainians? If the government authorities are able to give directions and ensure that things won't become wanton, the Ukrainians are liable to perpetrate the same thing against the Volksdeutchen in the region…” The Gestapo immediately sent

[Page 216]

its men, who came to the town of Krasna, took the secretary Zovkovich with them, and hung him in the city of Drohobycz. In Krasna itself the authorities hinted that if there was to be any killing, it must be with their agreement… In the meantime, Manes Steininger, who suffered hunger along with his family just like the rest of the Jews, went out and found or purchased an animal carcass. He got sick and died after he cooked and ate it. His children Monek and Avrahamele fled to the mountains, where they apparently met their deaths. His wife and young daughter were taken to the ghetto.

My father Reb Berish Schindler and Aunt Rachel Schindler were apparently taken to the Skula Ghetto. His explanations in the German language, which he knew fluently, that he had served in the Austrian Army for seven years and possessed a rank, were to no avail. They were brought to the Mount Tluste, which was on the route to Skula, where they were murdered one at a time.

*

My cousins Yitzchak and Avraham continue and relate the following:

Since the gentile with whom we were hiding was going to leave the place, we left him. We heard that there was a Volksdeutsche in Smozhe, Lorenz Ginter, who assisted people to cross the Hungarian border in return for payment. When we entered that man's house, he barely recognized us despite the fact that we knew him well. We had beards, were full of lice, and were filthy. He gave us a lot of food and promised to do something for us. He gave us another half loaf of bread for the journey. At his home we found out about other Jews that were still alive: Shmuel Freilich of blessed memory and his family, Moshe Eisenstein of Tuchulka, and others. When we left the house and began to look for the way to the mountain in the direction of the forest, it was very dark, and every bird frightened us… Even though we had eaten a fair amount with Ginter, we began to pine for the half loaf of bread which was in Avraham's hands. When I asked Avraham if there was any bread left, and he answered negatively, I did not believe him and searched his pockets (I regret that to this day)… After a short period of time, we began to steal across the border along with the Freilich family. We walked at night and sat in the forests during the day. We often made a mistake, walked for hours on end, and returned to the same place from where we had set out… When we arrived at the river and had to cross it, the strong dragged along the weak. I, of course, dragged my brother Avraham. The water was very cold, and we sometimes fell together into the water. We got up wet and oppressed, but we continued on…


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Tarnawa Nizna

by Aharon Shefer

Tarnawa Nizna is a village in the Turka region. It is situated along the San River. It borders the village of Tarnawa Vyzna, on the east, the village of Dzvinyach Gurny on the west, mountains on the north, and the high Polonini Mountains on the south, forming the natural border with Czechoslovakia. The population was primarily Ukrainian, with Jewish and Polish minorities. All of the residents were workers of the land. In addition to agriculture, the Jews were also occupied with trade, and the Poles served in government institutions such as the police, the post office, and teaching at school.

There were a total of four grades in the school, in which all of the children of the village studies. The veteran teacher Mrs. Torowska served as principal of the school. The language of instruction was Polish, and from the second year of study, also Ukrainian. The Jewish students also studied in the cheder. There, they studied Chumash with Rashi, as well as Yiddish and German writing. Thus, it turned out that an eight year old Jewish child had already learned to read and write in five languages at once… However, the period of study ended at the age of 11 or 12. From that time, the children had to assist their parents in the farm and in the work at home.

The Jews were Orthodox and pious. They worshipped at home during all the days of the week, and they worshipped as a community on the Sabbath. There was no general synagogue, but rather two minyanim in private homes, where one room was dedicated to communal prayer. One minyan took place at an edge of the village at the home of Shlomo Breier. He was a good Jew, a farmer who owned land, but his main source of pride was his large, fine Torah scroll that he purchased with his own money and was used for reading in the minyan that was conducted at his home. Most of the Jews of the nearby area worshipped there, as well as some of the Jews of the village of Dzvinyach. His son Yosef served as the Torah reader, and Pinchas Neuman served as the gabbai.

The minyan in the home of Binyamin Breier took place in the east side of the village. He was a wealthy Jew with a splendid countenance. He served as the Torah reader. His close neighbor was Leibele Schreiber, a great scholar and fearer of Heaven. He settled in the village as the son-in-law of Yisrael-Leib Pras, and worked all his days at studying Torah and teaching Torah to the children of the village.

[Page 218]

On the High Holidays, the two minyanim merged and jointly hired a prayer leader from the city or the nearby region. The Jews truly celebrated on Simchat Torah. After the serves and the processions in the synagogue, they went out in song and dance from one Jewish house to the next, bringing out the cholent[2] and liquor. The Jews celebrated…

*

There was also a Zionist movement in the city. All of the youth belonged to Hapoel Hamizrachi. On Sabbath and festival afternoons, they gathered together to listened to a Zionist lecture by Hershel Rand, who was active in all the Zionist movements in the region, whether left leaning or right leaning. Everyone aspired to make aliya to the land of Israel, but only very few succeeded in reaching their objective.



Plucking Feathers

by Aharon Shefer

The feather plucking was a cause for a cheerful evening in the village. Every Jew had many geese and ducks. At the beginning of the winter, they would slaughter the geese. They would eat the meat every day, and leave the fat until Passover. However, the feathers had to be plucked. (Every child who left the home would receive two pillows and a featherbed…) This was a boring job… so what could one do?

An evening of feather plucking was organized. They hitched up a pair of horses with a large sled, and road through the length of the village in order to collect the girls for feather plucking. Nobody was absent, for everyone knew that it was going to be a joyous evening… Boys came along with the girls…

The girls sat down in a circle. The women who were in charge of the event fried latkes to treat everyone. The boys sang and told jokes. It was a joyous evening, and the feather plucking event was the cause of more than one match.

By A. Sh.


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. Matzo prepared with extra stringencies for use on the seder nights. Return
  2. A slow-cooked stew generally served on Sabbath afternoons. Return

 

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