Translated by Ruth Yoseffa Erez
With awe and reverence, with a feeling of responsibility and with the knowledge of the task that I took upon myself, I approach the writing of this chapter. The most difficult chapter of my life, the last and final chapter in the life of the Jews in our town.
This is the story of twelve thousand Jews, the story of their suffering, their battle and their death in our town Brzezany, during the three years of the Nazi occupation.
Before I approach the Holocaust chapter I would like to answer in short words, to the extent that I can, the hurtful question: How did it happen?
It is a difficult question, it will take years and generations until the researchers and historians in the universities will answer the question upon checking and reading the documents: who is to blame?
Neither you nor I are entitled to set a verdict on everything that happened at that period.
As for me, I am standing here today as a witness representing the Jews who found their death in our town whether they were actually from our town or happened to arrive here as refugees and this is where they died. God forbid that I judge or blame anyone in my testimony, I am only a witness, not a judge and in this position as a witness I must tell the truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth.
Dr. Eliezer Shaklai
by Dr. Eliezer Shaklai
Translated by Ruth Yoseffa Erez
The Germans entered our town with lots of splendor and with great force.
First were the motorcyclists and then soldiers on buses and trucks followed by the artillery.
There was a short battle by Zlota Lipa Lake in which a few German were killed and the Soviet army withdrew to the east. Throughout that day lots of German army passed by and surrounded part of the Soviet army, a cavalry unit that was not able to withdraw.
The battle started, the German artillery corps was shooting all day long-it was on Wednesday- they were shooting towards the Soviet army in order to weaken them till shortly before the evening.
Towards the night, the Germans prepared an ambush inside the town. They knew that the Soviets will try and break through and try to run away eastward. During the night a harsh face to face battle took place in town in which many Soviet cavalry were killed.
On Thursday morning we woke up and before our eyes was a terrible sight: the city, in its Jewish part, was destroyed. Many burnt houses, hundreds of dead were scattered around town with horses' corpses lying next to them. And over all of it, blood stains, stains that were not erased for a long time, until the rain washed them away.
Between the dead, people were running, mostly women and children, and each had an important matter to take care of: to look for food, get water, find a relative or child that went missing. Some were trying to leave town, to flee before it's too late, before the sun rises and wakes everyone.
The German town officer assigned a temporary Ukrainian body that will govern the town. They had an order from the German officer to clean up the town in one day from all the dead and horses' corpses. Of course they took the Jews for this job. On top of the hard job, the curses and the whipping-we got three more victims: Just before the evening, a German officer caught three Jews among the workers, whom he did not like for some reason, he made them enter the Ritchula by the public garden, he took out his gun and shot them. One of them was Chaim David Liblin, son of Idly (Idaly) Kozovar, the second one was Booksbaum and the third-a Jew from western Galicia. This event shocked all of us, but also made everyone working on this job work faster and by evening they finished the job.
The news about the three dead Jews spread throughout the city, but our people's troubles were huge.
Even though they received these news with bitter disappointment they didn't think back then that it was a sign of what was yet to come, of what will be done later on a many times bigger scale.
To the Ukrainians who helped the Germans watch over the Jews, this incident of killing Jews, gave lots of confidence and encouragement with the passion to make the Jews' lives miserable. They saw that Jewish lives are meaningless and they can be treated with no inhibitions and no mercy.
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