Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
As soon as the Germans entered Glubokie, they immediately impelled the Jews to work for them. Men, women and even children were forced to labor like slaves. During their work, for no reason whatsoever, the Germans would torment and torture the Jews. There were cases that people returned home so beaten and mutilated that they lost consciousness upon arriving. Among such people were the Advocate, Slonimsky, Buchhalter, Nalanzokn, Pintzov, Aztinsky, Kravitz and others. During hours of hard labor, The Jews also had to fulfill all kinds of whims of their guards or employers. The Germans would want to be entertained
during work hours, and would force the Jews to sing songs, imitate various animals, creep on all fours, dance, jump, kiss their boots and so on.
Here is an image that was repeated almost every day: During hot summer day the Jews stand all hunched over on the road, digging a deep sewer channel. They've been digging like this already for many hours, laboring with fading strength, drenched in their sweat. Their oppressors do not permit even a little rest. If someone faints, he is rolled aside and no one is permitted to go to him or bring him a sip of water. In the midst of this, a German overseer with a puffed out red face, wants to make fun of his Jews, who are completely wretched. With a sarcastic smile, he picks out several Jews, but only the intellectuals amongst them, such as lawyers, engineers, teachers, etc. The German already knows the professions of his Jews. He tells them sing, dance, do gymnastics and then he tells them to make all kinds of expression, line up to kiss his boots, undress, and while naked, do their wild tricks. In order to give a greater effect to these scenes, and to make the Jews do their tricks in a livelier manner, he beat the Jews with his whip. The Germans and the local Christians who are standing about, laugh, enjoying the beautiful entertainment and praised the lovely German for his clever themes.
The outcome of the arduous labor above and beyond their strength, the overwhelming weariness and because of physical exhaustion and the debilitation of their bodies from the beatings, and the tremendous moral degradation, the consciousness of the Jews was greatly weakened, to some degree they became anesthetized. The Jews of Glubokie were also taken by the Germans to work in Krolevshtzine, a central train station, about 14 kilometers from the town. There, very often, the Germans and their local helpers would during work hours, make the Jews stand under the water pump and even though they (the Jews) were fully clothed, would turn a stream of cold water on them. Very often, they would also drive the exhausted, sweaty fully clothed Jews, into the lake to bathe themselves. Afterwards they would force them to lie down in their wet clothes on the sand beach. The Germans would often tease the Jews, telling them that Germany already occupied Moscow and the Red Army was completely beaten. As a result they said, the Jews would never get help from anywhere or anyone!
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
Approximately two to three weeks after entering Glubokie, the Germans issued an order that the Jews must put white armbands on the sleeves of their shirts, to detect them from the rest of the citizenry. At the same time announcements were posted. They were signed by the German Governor of the District of White Russia. The posters announced the Restrictions concerning Jews. It was stated in the announcement: Jews are not allowed to be greeted, and they are not to be answered by anyone who is greeted by them. No business at all is to be conducted with Jews. Jews are forbidden to walk on the sidewalks, and so forth! .. Also included in the same ordinances were Jewish converts to Christianity going back as far as four generations. They were without any rights, the same as all other Jews.
The military divisions that were stationed in town replaced very often. Each division had its own commandant, who would issue new orders to the inhabitants. The more orders, the harsher it was for the Jews. At the beginning during market day the Jews were permitted to go to the market for two hours. This was until the decree, and then it was entirely forbidden. To use butter, eggs, milk, meat, fruits, etc. was also forbidden for Jews. Bread was rationed - 125 grams a day per person. All the restrictions, the isolation of the Jews from the outside world ( they were not to take any form of transportation or leave town), made the Jewish community despondent and severely depressed. Anti-Semitic slogans in Russian and Polished were posted on the streets: Beat the Jews! Annihilate the Jews! Death to the Jews! Cleanse the town of Jews and Communists! And so forth! The sanctions brought immediate results. Local hooligans attacked and beat Jews. Christian children ran after Jews in the street, cursing them and throwing rocks at them. At the beginning, when the Jews did not completely grasp what their situation was, they would run, bloodied and beaten, to the German Commandant for protection. However there they were laughed at and immediately thrown out. As time passed the Jews realized how forsaken and defenseless they were!
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
The regional police was composed of native inhabitants of Christian background, who organized themselves
during the first days of the occupation. They were very scrupulous about carrying out the orders of the Germans. Many times the police was no less vengeful than the Germans. They robbed, beat, tortured and murdered without any pity! The following people served as policemen: Levandovski (Commandant), Pobalski, Zablotzki, Lenkevitch, Vaitzechovski, Yaramek, Yotzkevitch, Berniakovitch, Bok, Baravak, Targanski, Volov, Krivitchanin, Sergei Lavanak, Sodenkovitch, Zakrevski, Dubrovski, Kolie the shoemaker (family name no known), Toimkovitch, Butchko (later sentenced by the Soviet authorities to 10 years) Dambrovski and Kozlovski. The police became quite polished and insidious, in carrying out their tasks. They endeared themselves to the Germans, winning their complete sympathy. As a result they would seek out enemies of the nazis, skillfully luring them into a trap. They would dress in civilian clothing and send their agents to win the confidence of the inhabitants. People would drop their guard and speak ill of the German occupier. In this way the victim fell into their hands. They would attribute to their victims, anti-government activities, hostility towards the Germans, and so forth. With this they (the police) found favor in the eyes of their bosses, the Nazi beast. Besides this the police would kill victims accused of robbery. The police would carry of these murders and take everything they confiscated for themselves: money, watches, jewelry, from the women they would take earrings, rings, and strip them of their clothing, shoes, etc. Most of the members of the police force started their job as poor Christians. In a short time they became quite rich. They became so cruel and greedy that they would also remove gold and platinum teeth, in order to torture their victims. It would never have occurred to anyone, that local inhabitants, with whom we had lived together for many, many years, would be capable of such behavior. We didn't know, and for all of those years, we couldn't imagine among what kind of people we lived. Who are our devoted good friends? It is therefore no wonder that the Germans trusted them so much!
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
The method that Jews were seized for forced labor, from the very first days, brought about a terrible pandemonium. It caused Jews to tremble.
People were grabbed from the streets, from courtyards from their houses, from the houses of study, (during the early days Jews still went to worship in the houses of study.) and from any place they would be found . The police and the Germans didn't take into consideration whether the person was elderly, a child, sick, weak or even a pregnant woman. They snatched anyone who was available. They would take a doctor visiting an ill person, a sick person on the way to the infirmary, a midwife rushing to a pregnant woman, a mother going to the pharmacy for medicine for her sick child, whom she had left alone at home. In the case of the mother; the father had already been seized long before by the Germans - all these and others were captured on the ghetto streets for forced labor. To protest, speak up or plead was to no avail. As soon as a German would see a Jew from a distance he would motion with his finger and in his brutal voice call out: Jew, come over here!. Then you were lost! Frightened and disturbed the Jew would run towards this wild animal, not knowing what else he could do and disregarding all else. He only wanted to escape with his life, to return home and once again see his loved ones. Even hiding at home was not a better solution. Before dawn the police would invade Jewish homes, and brutally remove men, women and even children, from their beds. They would beat and slap their faces, and drive them away to God knows where. If they encountered a very sick person who could not be dragged out of bed, he would be beaten and left to die.
The circumstances became unbearable, much below par to slavery, worse than horses that would at list be fed and would be allowed some rest from their toil. Jews began to think of ways and means to improve the situation and alleviate conditions, to find a way to negotiate with the Germans. They knew they had to let the forced labor continue, but in an organized fashion. Jews were ready to serve, to do everything, but they want that the matter at least be normalized and done in an orderly fashion. The Jews were willing and ready to assign people, as many as necessary and where ever they were needed, at any time and for all kinds of work, provided that the seizures of people would come to an end. Towards this end, all men, up to age 60, and all women to age 50 were registered in the city. (This was at first. Later on age didn't matter at all.) The Jews chose from among their own ranks a number of people. Some of the people were; Rabbi Katz, of blessed memory, Max Ostrovsky, Moshe Shulheiser, Gershon Lederman, David Yechiltzik, Zalman Sparber, Zalman Rubashkin, David Munbaz, Yaakov Almer, Yosef Meyerovitch Chana Pintzov, Zundel Musiz and others, who were responsible for
providing Jewish labor to the Germans. They saw to it that all Jews except the sick should go out to work. They would be punctual, go to where ever they were assigned, be devoted and diligent workers no matter how arduous the task was. They attempted to accomplish the above mentioned tasks, precisely. The Jews thought that by behaving in this way they could appease the beast. By petting it, they figured it might be less inclined to torture them. maybe they would not resort to beating and torturing Jews if they taken to heart that the Jews were good workers. The chaos brought by seizing Jews for forced labor was now somewhat stall. Nevertheless it did not lessen the beatings and tortures. The cruelty was immense, and as time passed the Jews were tortured even more.
In addition to assigning people to work places, the so-called committee had to regulate issues like; stealing. This meant that instead of Germans and police going to Jewish homes and upsetting everyone, the Jews now provided things on their own. The demands for bribes did not cease. Every passing German unit had to be provided with the nicest and best things the Jews had to offer. The committee couldn't refuse to provide anything that was requested, because if they did not provide it, or even if they didn't provide it time to the exact minute, their lives were in danger. How much misery, agitation and blood all of this cost! Jewish homes were successively empty by the hour. Insufficiency and destituteness grew; the abyss became ever deeper... After a set period of time, one of the commanders appointed the above mentioned persons as the official Jewish governing body. It was called the Judenrat Two Jews from every street as well as the above mentioned individuals had to assemble and a gendarme would read the instructions for the Judenrat, which bore the responsibility for carrying out all kinds of demands that the Germans made upon the Jews. It is interesting to note that the gendarme ordered that a stool be brought for the Rabbi, and as a sign of respect he requested that the Herr Rabbi be seated. Everyone else stood! He indicated that if the Jews would work and be loyal the Germans, carry out exactly the demands placed on them, go to where they would be sent, then no harm would befall upon the Jews. For a time the Jews breathed a bit easier. They still didn't recognize the German mentality, and their hypocritical nature.
Sometime after installation of the Judenrat, the predicament became most terrible.
The demands exceedingly increased; very often it became unfeasible to carry them out. They demanded such precious articles, that the Jews did not even have, and could not possibly get anywhere, even for huge sums of money. These included such things as special furniture, large amount of silk lingerie, musical instruments and other rare things. In many instances, the Jews bought things secretly from Christians (the very things that had earlier were stolen from Jews). There was no price to large for such purchases in these circumstances. They paid what the sellers fantasy would come up with. And their fantasies did not miscalculate, because they knew that the Jews had to have that particular in order to save themselves from death at the hand of the Germans. For a diamond that the Jews had to have for the provincial commandant, Hochmann, the Judenraat paid a railroad official 72,000 Ruble, when the price was actually between 15,000 a 30,000 Ruble. Every demand had to be met in order to see to it that there were fewer victims.
The plight of the Jews became irremediable and the entire community absorbed what a deep, dark Inferno they had fallen into.
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
The German Gestapo became active in Glubokie during the month of August of 1941. As soon as they took over, they instilled an entirely new approach. Almost immediately this particular institution became quite prevalent. The Jews felt its rule in all their limbs.
At first the Gestapo, with the help of the local police and some other local Christians, began to search for communists and their cohorts who had worked for the Soviet occupation forces, or served them in some capacity. Almost immediately, 42 persons were arrested. Among them: Yehoshua Geller - a barber-surgeon, who had dozens of years of practice in his profession. He had healed non-Jews as well as Jews; Shimon Budov - a baker; Levi-Yitzhak Drizenshtok - who had a large crockery business; Merim Vant - iron-monger; Rachel Glass, Malka Kozliner and others. There were also a few Christians amongst the arrested: Chachalka, Sivka and Korolenka. All of those arrested, except for the above-mentioned merchants, were officials of the Communist regime during the Soviet occupation.
What became of those who were accused, we didn't know for a long time. All sorts of stories were told. It was said that they were taken somewhere for forced labor.
Others had seen them in the vicinity of Plotsk, Vitebsk, and alike Others knew that they would soon return, and so forth. Later we found out that on the very same day that they were apprehended, they were shot to death without a trial or any investigation.
When the wives and close relatives of the victims turned to the German authorities and pleaded to at least release to them the bodies for burial, the Germans laughed, and mockingly added that they should wait till the War ends...
Approximately in November, after two months wait , a few families with the aid of a huge bribe, were able to recover the bodies and bring them to Jewish burial. At the time the entire city gathered at the Jewish cemetery. There was no funeral at the time. The bodies were brought on a cart. The living sneaked to the cemetery by various secret routes, and little known streets and byways.
During the burial there were heart-breaking scenes. We choked back our tears. Some were seized with spasms, and tore their clothing. Some even fainted, and so on. We were afraid to cry out loud, fearing that the Germans would detect our presence in the cemetery. Those gathered, the mourners and undertakers, did not comprehend yet that the fate of those being buried at the moment was a better one than their own fate . They at least received a Jewish burial. But what was in store for those participating in this unofficial funeral? What will happen to them? Where will they end up?
For a long time the community members found themselves affected by those events. The deeds of the Germans were not yet fathomed; the inexplicable murder of innocent victims was new to us still. It is easy to imagine with what terror and fear the Jews strained themselves to carry out all of the whims of the Gestapo. They provided them with all sorts of things and also people to serve them. This was in addition to the demands of passing military units, about which we've already wrote.
And the demands were not for simple things. We had to provide items that were truly great luxuries. Death was constantly before our eyes. The sword hovered over us, and under this great fear all of their demands were met.
How tragic for us was the feat of providing these bandits with everything that they ordered! It seemed just like entering a lion's den. We could never be sure we would ever come out. We would cast lots to determine who would
bring the items to the Gestapo. The wives and children of those men whose turn it was to go to the Gestapo to bring them the gifts, cried bitterly and bade them farewell... Also the Judenrat members would bade them farewell and wished them a safe return.
And how great the joy, when the messengers returned alive and well from Gestapo headquarters. Expressing their thanks that this time they escaped with no more then a beating... Once the messengers were so honored (with a beating) that they had to be brought home in cart but at least they survived.. (They were Zack, Almer and Meierovitch. This was the state of affair after the first Gestapo visits..
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
There were clear differences of opinion Amongst the Jews. Some said that with the arrival of a civil administration the situation would improve. They rationalized that with the stabilization of the administration, the anarchy would cease and every individual German or a German unit would not be able to do as they pleased. The pillage would come to an end. At least there would be only one official body to answer to and to provide with what they would demand. Even the physical abuse would abate. The Jews toil with all their might and are enslaved to their German masters just like the black slaves of former times. Maybe they'll no longer be beaten. It will be an administration that will maintain order in its German tradition...
Others had just the opposite opinion. They maintained that with the arrival of a civil administration, Hitler's program would be carried out to the letter. Exactly what Hitler's program consisted of? No one knew as yet. But they maintained that it wouldn't get better. Hopefully it wouldn't get any worse. But even the most pessimistic amongst us, could not conceive that the monstrous German program for the Jews, however horrible, included the complete annihilation of the Jewish people. That in other places, thousands and tens of thousands of Jews had already been slaughtered, we didn't know any of that as yet. We didn't even know what was happening in neighboring villages and shtetls (interaction with others was not permitted). We thought that they killing only who they conceive as criminals (and the bar was low).They are punishing who ever was not carrying out German orders or demands in regard to the rationing of food items.
But innocent Jews who hadn't transgressed any of the rules of the Hitler program?! Jews who wouldn't eat or go or stand without being told to do so? Such Jews could not and would not be harmed by the Germans, they told us so .. But even most extreme pessimists were, unfortunately, greatly disappoint With the arrival of the civil administration there began, for the Jews, a new page of troubles - new in every sense. The civil administration begins to incorporate in our lives the German program. A very deliberate and definite program for new world order.
A district commandant arrived, accompanied by a large staff. For the Jews who had already been relieved of most of their possessions, a new sequence of supplying the officials with nicely furnished and comfortable apartments began. Good furniture, luxury items, jewelry and alike., had to be obtained. Everything had to be of regal quality and appear elegant. Jews ran to and from home to home. They became disturbed and upset. Where is all of this to be satisfied? How can it be assembled? From Jewish homes there were dragged out and loaded on carts mirrored vanities, buffets, divans, beds, tables, chairs, good wall clocks, pianos, violins, mandolins, all sorts of cutlery sets, dishes of all kinds, window door draperies and other items that could be found. Also they chose the very best suits, dresses, footwear, lingerie and all kinds of ladies wear. They ran secretly to Christians to buy at inflated prices, because among the Jews everything was just about gone. A few would hide their things and preferred to give money instead. The families of the German officials were also provided with household help, and the fine, modest Jewish maidens, the genteel Jewish daughters became maids, simple servants in the German and police homes. They did the simplest and lowliest jobs. How superior they were to their German mistresses! But their fate was unfortunately a lowly one.
The civil administration announced that Jewish obligations in all matters must be fulfilled. All the demands placed upon Jews must be consign only to one person, the Jewish Elder. They're to report to him about everything that involves Jews. No Jew may cross the threshold of any German official except him. They may not speak to any German, not come in contact with any German under any circumstances. The Jews are obligated to take off their caps
before every German that they meet, and only replace the cap after the German has already passed by, leaving the Jew at least 5 meters behind. To greet a German with words or pleasant demeanor was forbidden!
In this matter too, there were great sufferings inflicted on the Jews. Jews were only permitted to walk in the middle of the roadway. Only Germans and other kosher Aryans walked on the sidewalk. Many times the tired Jews did not notice the fast walking Germans on the sidewalk. They would not tip off their caps. Suddenly e a hail of blows would fall upon the Jew who had transgressed in this way and he couldn't even fathom from where or why they came. Jews became bloodied because they hadn't doffed their caps. The more humanitarian Germans would simply reprimand the Jew for his chutzpah and not beat him. But these were few in number!
A Jew passing through a street, did not know what to look out for first - a passing vehicle which might run him down (since they would not blow their horns for a Jew, and there were cases in which Jews were run over - see further on) or whether or not he should look out for a German official, running along, to whom he must doff his cap, and then replace it on his head at the proper time.
Prior to the time that the Jews became totally acclimated to the German instituted customs and regulations, they attempted to bring their problems to some regarding the new rules to some of the public offices. They would, under the best of circumstances, be driven out by being mocked. But very often the German officials got themselves involved in debates with the Jews and they would bombard them with any object that was handy. Once the local lady, Dr. Helena Rajak, had to tend to a Christian patient, whom she had always taken care of. Even though she was in doubt about whether or not a Jewish doctor has the right, under Hitler's decree, to continue caring for her Christian patient, and being fearful of taking the responsibility upon herself, she wanted to refer the matter the local commissioner. When the duty guard at the entrance referred the matter to the one in charge of Jewish affairs, Gebell, indicating that a Jewish female doctor was making an inquiry, she was given entrance. As soon as she entered and crossed the threshold, Gebell (who later conducted all of the slaughter in the neighborhood), grabbed an inkwell from his desk and threw it at the doctor's face. She stood stunned for a moment,
not understanding what had occurred. Her face and clothes were covered with ink and when she exited into the corridor there was an outburst of joyful laughter from the Germans, who were pleased with the clever act of their chief!. This welcome which was accorded to the best known doctor in the area made a fearful impression on everyone, including Christians. It was sensed that Jews had become the object of humiliation and mockery, the lowest of all beings. But what was to come later, the surprises in store, were to make us forget these earlier events. Further German acts paled previous ones.
As the Jewish elder, the Germans appointed the former local businessman, Gershon Lederman. He became the go-between the enslaved Jews of the entire area, and the Germans. All the German demands were put to Lederman, and then, the members of the Judenrat, at his bequest, would track all the Jewish homes and literally suck the marrow from their Jewish bones. All of the capricious demands of the civil authorities had to be met, and the military authorities, for their part, sucked Jewish blood on their own.
The unbearable situation was meant to oppress and demeaned the Jews. There was no escape. The Judenrat, for its part, tried to demonstrate to Jews that with dutiful labor, with carrying out all of the demands made, the Germans would soften their attitude towards Jews, and tame their bestiality towards them. But the facts, the daily torture and the torment, the beatings for no excuse, the organized murder of individuals and groups, did not allow the hapless Jews to overlook with whom they were dealing. They were too conscious of the horrible Abyss into which they had fallen.
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
The Jewish Police represented a peculiar chapter in the Ghetto story. The setting up of such a sinister power device, made up exclusively of Jews, was yet another shrewd German ploy by which to demoralize and extract all things from Jews. Design to suck out the last bit of juice and completely demean and shatter the destitute souls, physically and spiritually. Set against and rule, who could better accomplish the looting of Jewish wealth, either willingly or by force (of death punishment), than Jews themselves? Who could know better than other Jews where Jewish treasures were hidden?
And by the sinister ploy, Jewish young men of respectable Jewish homes, who only yesterday were dignified and composed, overnight turned into co- oppressors and persecutors assisting the Germans. Unfortunately, the members of the Jewish Police suffered from the same delusional thinking that prevailed in the ghetto. The more we satisfy the Germans, the more we give them their way, the better they would insure our own lives, and in particular the lives of our families. Some were drawn into the police because of the privileges that were accorded them. They didn't have to report for forced labor and had a source of income... They were in contact with the local Christian Police and local Christian population. It must also be pointed out that a definite proportion of those who enlisted did so with the best of intentions, thinking that in this way they could do some good by preventing even greater atrocities and blood-letting against Jews. There is no doubt about this. But, to our great misfortune, they were mistaken in their assessment of the situation. They did not understand the political background of the Germans who meant only to milk the cow as long as it could be milked and then to slaughter it. The Germans knew that the Jews had hidden assets, buried fortunes, and they looked for ways to obtain these treasures before they murdered them, they assumed that after the killings the treasures would remain hidden and be lost to them.
The Police helped the Jewish Elder, Lederman, carry out all of the German demands. The Jewish Police saw to it that Jews went out to their forced labor assignments on time. That they gave to the athurities everything that they possessed, and even when it came to choosing those who were to be murdered, the Police came to the moral conclusion that by sacrificing certain individuals they could somehow save the masses... They didn't understand (some did not want to understand), the lowly, evil intentions of the Germans, that after extorting everything from the Jews, they will finally exterminate them all... One of the greatest errors of the Jewish Elder and the Jewish Police must be pointed out. It was that in this most unfortunate and critical situation they did everything on their own, not consulting or soliciting any advice. The old Rabbi and communal activist, who was a more of a practical thinker, Rabbi Katz, of blessed memory, Lederman called him senile. When the Rabbi's young daughter, Shprintze, with her astute and efficient expression, attempted to tell the Jews that they should not let everything be taken from them, but better that they should keep some possessions. As long as they still had something they should flee to the forest, where, maybe there would be some chance to save oneself. Why should they give everything to the German, and
then die? The Jewish Elder wanted simply to ostracize her... They did not ask anyone's advice, nor did they listen to anybody who came to them with a suggestion even when he was in dire straits.
While assembling Jews for forced labor, or when carrying out changes in homes, the Police learned from their German masters, they would quite often beat Jews. In the Ghetto it was rumored that there were Jewish policemen who personally benefited from confiscated Jewish fortunes.
It must be pointed out here that a portion of the original Jewish Police force recognizing immidiatly that they couldn't relieve Jewish suffering by serving the Germans. In order to carry out the German demands, on the contrary, they are causing Jews even more pain and suffering. They soon left the Police force. Some of them later fled to the forest, joined the partisan groups and distinguished themselves in the struggle against the Germans. Among the latter were Yitzhak Blatt, Lyusye Pintzov (both of whom died a heroes death), Israel Shparber, Zalman-Ber Kotz and others.
Utilizing such evil methods as setting their victims one against the others, the German degraded the Jews into the lowest depths and placed them in a persistent pall of gloom and despondency. The formation of the Jewish Police in the Glubokie Ghetto was as follows (including people who later resigned from the force): Yude Blant, Commandant; Chaim-Ber Gordon; Yude Gilevitch; Arke Sheindlin (Leibe Toibe'son); Chaim Sheinkman; Isaac Weinstein; David Friedman; Ziske Kotz; Lusye Pintzov (who later perished as a partisan in the struggle against the Germans); Zalman Yungelman; Michael Shapira; Israel Shparber (later an outstanding partisan); Shloimke Zimmer (from Sharkavshtsizne); Israel Ichiltsik; Abba Sragavitch (who perished as a partisan); Leibl Shapiro; Budniov (a brother-in-law of Zatsepitzke); Zalman-Ber Kotz (later distinguished himself in the Red Army); and Yitzhak Blatt (a heroic partisan who fell in the struggle against the Germans).
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
Until that time the plunder of Jews occurred unofficially, without the benefit of a governmental decree. The Germans and their assistants simply came and took, or ordered the Judenrat to bring it to them certain items. With the arrival of the civil administration, there came an official letter from the ministry in which it stated that, according to German law, Jews were no longer permitted to possess any
personal property whatsoever. Accordingly, everything that the Jews owned; from a thread to a shoe lace, is to be confiscated, and within a 24 hour period the Jews are obligated to turn in everything of value, be it gold, silver, earnings, diamonds, candelabra, cups, watches, sets of dinnerware and so forth. Also all paper made money of any label and sort.
In a long line at the ministry, stood hundreds of Jews, holding their most precious possessions. Items they inherited from their parents, grandfathers, great grandfathers, and who knows how many generations' back. They now came and waited for the evil enemy to take their possessions, believing the promise that there would be no charges or beatings if they complied. They turned over the beautiful Passover goblets, the silverware, which used to enhance the Passover Seder table only once a year. And who knows how many
Seders these precious utensils remembered, how many memories we engraved in the minds of the owners of these most fine items. Even engagement rings were brought. The fear was indescribable. People arrived to a state of mind that they only desired to remain alive. They thought that these gifts, together with the forced labor for the Germans, would help to show the Germans that the Jews are needed to be kept alive...
On the second day came a fresh decree. All Jews must bring all their linens, quilts covers, etc, as well as materials no yet sewn. The previous day's shameful exhibition wass repeated once more. Once more Jews stood in long lines with the nicest of linens, apparel, outer garments, and alike. They waited for the hangmen to take these. People worried, cried, and even fainted. The arduous winter was soon to come and they would remain bare and naked. The fright of the Jews of their new masters reached the point where they brought children's clothing, not thinking about the morrow. Certain manufacturers, who had hidden supplies of merchandise, now brought them in wagons.
Others reconsidered what is best and speedily brought their things to Christian acquaintances. Among the latter there were later to be found some good people that restored some of the items to their original owners, or at least gave a small sum, in produce, to the Jews. But there were more then a few criminal elements, which remained full inheritors of Jewish merchandise, and fearing that perhaps someday the Jew will claim his fortune, they made sure to bring about the speedy demise of the particular Jew.
There were also those who during the night buried their valuables. Everything of course had to be done very carefully. The Germans, and even more so, the local police, investigated and sniffed out whether or not the Jews were turning everything in. They staked out all places where Jews went, what they did, and so forth. It's clear that without victims this did not pass. (Berl Zeldin, Berkowitz and others)
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
Ignoring the fact that the Jews had already turned over their entire fortunes - gold, jewelry, precious things, clothing, etc. - the Judenrat, at the end of September, 1941, once again received an urgent decree to provide a large sum of money. If they don't carry
out the terms of the decree immediately and exactly, the decree stated that all Jews would be shot. The Germans and the police clearly understood that a number of Jews had riot yet turned over their entire fortunes.
The Judenrat began calling emergency meetings, speaking and influencing those who might still have something hidden away, to come forward with it, because the entire Glubokie Jewish population was in terrible danger. The Judenrat especially approached those elements who were suspected of having some hidden money or possessions.
Not all were able to withstand the torture and suffering of the demands and there were some victims of suicide. The 60 year old Mendl Kliot hanged himself, because he couldn't raise the sum that the Judenrat had assessed upon him.
Finally a solid sum was raised, and it was presented to the Commissar. It clearly demonstrated that the Jews had not yet been completely cleaned out. They obviously have even more... And the actions to confiscate even more clothes, underwear, shoes, utensils and cash, did not cease.
The Jews, as time passed were much less able to fulfil the beastly demands of the Germans. From this point of time every subsequent action carried out by the Germans transpired with casualties..
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
At the beginning of the occupation, they would bring to the city Christians from the villages. They were arrested, These people belonged to elements,
exposed through German espionage, as having participated in underground, anti-German activities. The Christians were brought to town either in smaller or larger groups, mostly at 4:00 A.-M. when the local population was still asleep. Large masses were not eyewitnesses to the phenomena but it could not remain hidden from the citizenry for long. People would silently sneak about very early in the morning,, and from corner houses, behind fences and through the open cracks of doors and windows, they would peek out and see how through Bialistoker and Lomzsher Streets they are leading men, women and children in the direction of the Boroker Forest, about half a kilometer from the city where they were all shot.
In the early days this had a horrible effect on the Jews. They couldn't get over it. They couldn't eat, drink or sleep. They couldn't reconcile themselves to the idea that people could be taken out and shot without any recourse to justice or a trial. The women and children were certainly innocent! Afterwards they became used to it. They became indifferent! They would simply tell about it, passing it on from mouth to mouth, that before dawn so many and so many people were taken into the Borok to be shot. Quite often they would lead Christians, who were familiar to us, through the streets. It depressed the Jews greatly, and eventually the apathy in which they viewed life greatly increased.
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
If some of the village peasants were punished for specific crimes the neighboring gypsies, just like the Jews, suffered simply because of the fact that they were gypsies, and not for any crimes. It was because their skin color did not suit the super race. They were also exterminated wholesale in the closing months of 1941. The local police would find them in the surrounding area, in the neighboring woods and villages, bring them into the city, and murder them.
Once, in December, 1941, they brought in a group of more than 100 gypsy men. before shooting them they were stripped naked and kept that way for a long while in the bitter winter cold. Their children were seated naked on the ice. They turned blue. Their faces froze so they couldn't cry. The cold froze them and they stiffened. Soon thereafter
most died. Other children held on longer but that only prolonged their suffering.
The parents of the children, especially the mothers, cried, screamed, wailed, tore their hair from their heads, fell in a faint and pleaded with the executioners to shoot the children rather than make them watch the suffering of their children, who were expiring from cold lying naked in the snow! One gypsy mother became insane from the torture and began laughing, singing, dancing and doing other odd things.
A chill passed through the body and the blood froze in the veins as we watched the horrors, the terrible scenes. Also those onlookers murmured and pleaded. It was beyond human strength to endure. Those who were more mild mannered were ill for a long time afterwards. It just didn't seem to affect at all the Aryan light complexion, so called noble, civilized European race , who made merry with the dark complexioned gypsies.
After mocking the victims, and filling themselves with satisfaction, the Germans drove the gypsies into the Borok. They were naked, forced to drag along their frozen, dead children. There, at the open pits near their dead children, the murderers ordered them to sing, dance, jump, clap and so on. As they performed they were beaten with whips to make them dance better, sing louder and the young gypsies were forced to laugh...
The strains of the original, sad gypsy songs, combined with their crying, yammering, and screaming cut through the air and were carried through the entire forest and rolled far beyond the forest to the peasants of the villages and farms. The peasants shuddered in their small, impoverished homes, listening to what was taking place in the nearby forest.
The Germans photographed this macabre sight. When they completed the entreating part of the scene, the murderers pushed the unfortunate gypsies into the pits, where they had previously thrown their dead children, and there, they shot them. It is characteristic that not only the Germans could satiate themselves with pleasure from the horrible pictures, but also the policemen,
local Christians, and German lackeys such as Levendovski, Dombrovski, Krivitshanin, Yaremek, Zakravski, Targonski, Sudinkovitsh and others. They stood by joyfully and had a good time. They carried on an animated conversation, joked, laughed, and with great satisfaction observed it all. Their faces weren't any less inflamed than the faces of the Germans. They all looked like those beasts of prey who steal a carcass from some other animal and devour it after tearing it to pieces.
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
The story of the Jewish Ghetto is well covered, when one studies the History of the Middle Ages, as well as that of later times. We have some idea of what life there was like. We know of the servitude of the Jews, the dread they felt toward the immoral political system, and so forth. Before the German-Russian War began, we heard that the Jews under German occupation in Poland, became segregated in special peripheral sealed quarters in cities and villages, which were named Ghettos But the true taste of Ghetto we only knew, when we found ourselves encased in one. When we experienced the daily living in such place. We are certain that those prior generations which experienced Ghetto life in the Middle Ages, with all of the restrictions, with all the strife, with the suffering and pain, could not possibly imagined the despicable Ghetto of the 20th century. Ghettos packed with millions of Jews, which the Germans expelled and drove there. Those Jews of the middle ages, suffering so much at the time, could not have imagined the Purgatory of the modern Ghetto. Such Hades mankind never experienced or witnessed yet.
After civilian rule was reestablished in Glubokie (in the summer of 1941), all sorts of commissions headed by the Burgomeister, Naumov and other members of the Council started to go around the city, And began inspecting the neighborhoods, especially the section of back streets, making all sorts of plans, combinations and so forth.
At first no one knew what it was all about. We thought of different things and commented about them. The governing body kept it a secret from us. Later on we became aware of the fact that the Germans set up a separate area at the edge of the city, which was to be a Ghetto for the Jews. The Christian families
who resided in those Streets, will have to move to the center of the city, in order to vacate their homes for the Jews.
A good portion of the peasants did not want to make the exchange. They would prefer to remain in their own homes, near their fields, their gardens, orchards, barns and stables. To live where they were born, grew up and lived their lives, rather than go into the more expensive, beautiful apartments in the center of the city. On the other hand, some were pleased at the prospect of living the good city life in the Jewish homes. Whatever people felt, neither the Christians nor the Jews knew of the true harmful intentions of the Germans. The Nazis objectives were to gather all of the Jews into one isolated place, cram them all into a cage, weaken them and squeeze the last bit of juice out of them and lead them to a state of despair and resignation. Subsequently, when time comes to exterminate them, it would Be done with out any resistance. The Jews all along thought that the Ghetto would be no worse than the Ghettos of the Middle Ages, where Jews had suffered greatly, but were not subjected to planed mass murders.
On the 22nd of October 1941, the Minister of Information ordered that all Jews must, within an hour, move into their new dwelling places. At the same time they were told that they weren't to take any of their better things out of their homes. (You can imagine what kind of better things still remained in their homes!) And for some things which they wanted to take they had to have special permits from the Magistrate.
A number of Jews had cleverly foreseen what was about to be taken place. They found out in various ways where the Ghetto was going to be located, and they secretly transported some of their things. They were able to transfer clothing, utensils and even bigger things. The more courageous ones were even able to transfer furniture. It was all done during the evening or before dawn. Some even carried possessions over in the middle of the night, when it was truly a danger to be outdoors (curfew time). They knew which policemen would be the easiest to bribe, they would watch to see when these good police were on duty at their posts.
On that 22nd of October, the resettling of the Jews in the Ghetto, set the city boiling like a noisy kettle. The police chased the Jews from their homes similarly to livestock being chased from their barns and stables. The streets were filled with large masses of unnerved, frightened people, carrying heavy packs on their backs. Pandemonium of the old, children, women
and the handicapped who were just pulled out of their homes. People, who couldn't move on their own, were pulled along by others. Women with suckling babes in their arms, could barely move along sighing. Infants cry and scream. When they heard their children, the mothers also cried. The noise was enormous. They were shouting and pushing each other. Others fall under the weight of their bundles and were trampled by the masses of people, pushing and being pushed. The police was keeping order. They were beating people mercilessly with their whips, with their clubs and guns - on peoples' heads and wherever else they could reach. People were moving along bleeding profusely. Long trails of blood Were visible on the streets mixed with broken, battered furniture, valises, broken utensils, footwear, torn lingerie and bed linens. The air was filled with feathers. From afar they appeared like small white snowflakes floating in space.
People left their homes, the rooms where they had first seen the light of day, where they grew up, loved and lived. Homes were they had moments satiated with joy and moments of suffering. Children were born here, children were raised and married off here. There, in those homes, they became grandparents. Now they must leave it all in one hour, in the time it takes to blink the eyes, they must go, go to unknown barren places. No one knows if they will ever return...
Of the possessions and fortunes that were accumulated with sweat and blood over the generations, their inheritances, there only remains the backpack, which the enemy allowed them to take along. The exceptions were only those Jews, who had secretly stashed earlier a number of things in the Ghetto, as was mentioned above.
Like black crows, when they sense the smell of death, the aroma of blood, so, in the same fashion, during the above mentioned commotion, did the defiled, undeserving, low life individuals throw themselves upon the Jewish homes. Old men and good looking young Christians, their faces flaming and eyes bulging, ran with outstretched arms to seize Jewish loot. A strange sort of frankness and largesse could be seen in their demeanor: Today we may take everything from the Dzid (Jew). They cannot prevent it! The Police only allowed the young and good looking Christian girls to drag thing from Jewish homes. Maybe these were their sweethearts! The Christian men were not permitted by the Police to go near Jewish possessions.
Even earlier, before the Jews knew that they would have to leave their homes with everything in them behind, it was typical that Christian acquaintances, would come to the Jews and ask that they would give to them, their
old good friends, their possessions and fortunes, in any case you, the Jews would no longer need these things... These Christians, the old good friends, could not hide their impatience concerning the removal of Jews. They wanted to inherit promptly. They competed with each other to grab the last bite from the mouths of the Jews and they knew that he who would be the early bird, would catch the worm!
A number of Jews, out of disappointment and despair, secretly took their possessions and destroyed them. They would break them, tear them, burn them and so forth; as long as they didn't fall into the hands of the Germans, their lackeys, or even into the hands of our own good old friends...
The Ghetto was laid out in the side and out of the way streets of the city: Lomzher, old and new Kishelike, Dubrove, Polne and one side of Vilna Street. Nobody could imagine where and how, in these few crowded and narrow streets everyone could be accommodated. The fact that we were being isolated, torn away from the free world, set into a prison, robbed of all our humanity, our elementary rights, no one thought about any longer. We didn't indulge in deep thought. The will to live was being dulled. Everything was done mechanically, without will, without understanding, without sensations... No desire or strong will was displayed by anybody. Just getting some corner to lay one's head! was on our mind. In one small peasants cottage a number of families would have to be accommodated. In a low ceiling, small hut dozens of souls, men, women, old folks and small children, resided all together. It was a blessing that the Germans and the Police did not allow any possessions to be taken into the Ghetto, because those that had been brought in were scattered in the streets, on roofs, in stalls, in gardens and so on. It took a long time before everyone found some place for themselves..
In order to sleep we had to spread ourselves out on the floor by families. We pressed one against the other. If one had the good fortune of finding a bed, 5 or 6 people would lie on its width. Cooking in the Ghetto was extremely hard. One stove would accommodate 8 to 10 housewives. The curse mentioned in the Bible, that 10 women would cook on one stove, actually came to pass. Men and women would have to leave for their forced labor very early each morning, so there really wasn't a problem of cooking something. People would leave without having eaten anything, or anything to drink. In the evening, when they returned from their labor, they were thoroughly exhausted, broken in spirit, and often beaten, so that there was no energy to occupy oneself with cooking.
Those, who still in their homes had left someone elderly (This was only in the early days before all of the old folks were murdered.), who did not go out to forced labor, would, during the day prepare something warm. The food was entirely pareve ( non meat). Jews couldn't use any meat products, or any dairy product, no fish, no eggs, no fruit, berries and so forth. The domestic animals had long since been taken away, and not a bit of milk was available, even for the little ones.
The heating problem caused a huge amount of bitterness for the Jews in the Ghetto. To buy wood was forbidden to Jews, and getting wood from the forest was out of the question. If someone, returning home in the evening from labor, was carrying a stick of wood that he had somehow obtained, it was usually taken from him and he would be badly beaten. On occasion, when a kinder guard, who had been bribed by the Judenrat, stood at the Ghetto gate, he would permit a Jew carrying some wood on his back, to pass through. Whoever had brought furniture into the Ghetto used it for firewood. Others would take the risk and during the night tear planks from roofs and stalls, which they would use for heating. With all of this the Jews still froze in their houses. There was also no lighting in the Ghetto. The electricity had been turned off. There was no kerosene available either, and Jews sat mostly in the dark. Quite tragic was the situation in those homes where there were ailing people.
The sanitary situation was bearable., except for the extreme crowding and atrocious conditions in general. The Jewish inhabitants were extremely alert about keeping the Ghetto clean, and maintaining the health standards of the Jews. In this effort the following were most active and self-sacrificing: Dr. Helena Rajack, Dr. Moshe Chaves, Dr. Haradishz, Dr. Schwartz, and also the nurses, Rachel Rappaport, Mire Zinger and others. Almost every day they would go through the Ghetto, through the all the houses, and carry on among the Jews active propaganda about the importance of cleanliness in the Ghetto. They would emphasize the fact of the danger posed by the Germans to everyone in case someone came down with a contagious disease. (The Germans used to murder entire communities if it became known that someone there had come down with a contagious disease.) This was done to keep the enemy from having a pretext to shoot Jews.
In the homes where elderly men and women still remained, they would (when the younger ones were away at labor) wash the floors, clean up around the houses and dig deep pits in which they dumped the filth. There were more outhouses than apartments in the Ghetto, and everyone was very concerned about keeping them clean.
Medical help for the Jews in the Ghetto was provided by the above mentioned four doctors. But the situation with medicines was a lot worse, because they couldn't be obtained from the city pharmacists with the prescriptions written by the Jewish doctors. It was forbidden to the Christian doctors to treat the Jewish sick, just as it was forbidden to Jewish doctors to treat the Christians who were ill. The only fortunate thing was that the Jewish doctors and pharmacists had smuggled a supply of medicines into the Ghetto at the time that we were moved into the Ghetto. It is obviously understandable that these did not suffice for any length of time to satisfy the demand placed upon them by the Jews of the Ghetto.
In a set period of time, when the Jews had settled in and accustomed themselves to the new living conditions, a hospital with an out-patient infirmary was organized in the Ghetto. This undertaking was also done thanks to the self-sacrifice of the doctors and nurses. It must be mentioned here that even the Germans and their Police used to secretly seek medical advice from the Jewish doctors.
The restrictions on seeking medical help from Jews, imposed hardships on the Christians. They trusted the Jewish doctors and wanted desperately to be healed by them. A specific category of Christians, who were used to their Jewish doctors over a period of many years, suffered greatly after the decree that forbade them from using Jewish doctors. At first there were those ill Christians who, in individual cases with a great deal of effort and trouble, managed to get a permit from the Germans to continue being treated by Jewish doctors. Later, such permits were not given under any circumstances. And in spite of all of this the Jewish doctors would secretly continue to serve their old Christian patients with advice as much as was possible. This was accompanied by great risk, and involved a great deal of care, alertness and agility.
The Christians couldn't appear in the pharmacies with prescriptions written by Jewish doctors. With a substantial bribe the pharmacists would give the medicine without taking the prescription. This could only happen if the patient was well acquainted with the pharmacist.
In the city hospital there worked, during the early days of the occupation, the young Jewish surgeon, Dr. Nachum Lekach. He was an excellent
specialist, and there was no one who could substitute for him. He suffered there a great deal, because the attitude towards him was exactly as it was towards all Jews. The Christian populace loved him dearly and the village peasants used to bring him food products, which he could not use, according to the German decrees. In spite of the fact that no one else was appointed in his place he was fired two months later. The hospital remained without a surgeon. The Germans sent Dr. Lekach later to a hospital in Luzshki and from there he escaped and joined the Partisans.
Jews were forbidden to leave the Ghetto. At first they could go freely to their forced labor. Each one had only to report to his designated place of work every morning. the Judenrat and the Jewish Police supervised the labor force. Later there came an order that Jews could not report for labor individually. They must appear in large groups, staying close together, not talking while walking and not looking to the sides, and other such regulations! If someone transgressed and went alone, either to work or from work, he was detained, brought to a barrack and, like a criminal, shot.
Each day, at 6:00 A. M., all Jews had to assemble at the Judenrat, from where they were, under Police guard, taken to their set work-places. The German Police also guarded diligently to see to it that no products of any kind were brought into the Ghetto. At night, when the Jews returned from their labor, the Police at the Ghetto gate would search everyone. If they would discover someone with a bottle of milk, a slab of butter, a few eggs, fish, a bit of flour, berries, and so forth, the criminal was immediately taken to the Police Station, from where he would never be seen again..
The number of victims accused of such crimes was quite large. It was indeed rare when someone could save himself with a bribe of a gold watch, a diamond or a large amount of cash. This was only possible if only one Policeman had been involved in the incident and it was worth his while, because if the guilty Jew was caught and shot, he would have to share his loot with other comrades. It paid for him to take everything from the Jew and let him go alive and well. (By David Hazan, of Szarkowszczyzna; when he was entering the
Ghetto, they found, in his trousers two beets and a radish. He saved himself with a bribe, a large sum of money, and at that moment they let him go.)
Those who had nothing for a bribe, a precious object, or money, had no chance to remain alive. This was an opportunity for the Police to turn over even more Jews to be shot. Other Policemen figured that everything the Jews had would eventually be theirs anyway, so why let them live?,- In spite of all of the vexations, these restrictions, and the victims, there was no great starvation in the Ghetto. People took risks, and products were brought in at any price. Also the village peasants used to bring in products such as: Potatoes, milk, flour, chick peas, barley and more. In the workshops, which were located outside of the Ghetto, and where only Jews worked, the products would be left. There was also an incident, whereby an Aryan woman put on the Jewish badge (the yellow star of David), went into the Ghetto and brought products to one of her Jewish friends. (Botvinick from Dokshitz)
Up to the time that the Ghetto was sealed off, many Christians would provide products for a good price. Naturally, everything had to be done secretly and very carefully. The Christian neighbors would set up during the night, on the grass in a set corner, a bottle of milk, a piece of butter and so forth. The Jew would come quietly to take it away. We, for example, living in neighborly terms with the Christian family Shebeka near by-, (from the other side of the Ghetto fence) every day we would obtain a bottle of milk for our sick mother. there would also be transferred through us products from someone named Grishkevitsh to the family of Leizer Gitelzon and for the tailor, Shamash. That Christian would either at dawn, or in the evening, throw over the fence into our yard; potatoes, cabbage and other things, which would later be picked up from us by the others.
Albeit, the Christians in many cases would take from the Jews their possessions which were to pay for food products, and would deceive them. These Christians would give the Jews nothing. Jews were later even afraid to remind these Christians of what they had done. They were afraid that because of these stolen things the Christians would want to get rid of them even sooner. This was, at the time, one of the easiest things... The Jewish fortunes were the frequent cause of a speedy death to their rightful owners. Because the local Christians knew who were the prosperous Jews in most cases, and they would always seek ways in which to obtain their possessions
and their fortunes, promising that they would help and save them in their time of trouble. But, in most cases it brought tragedy upon these Jews even sooner. The majority of these thieves approached the unfortunate and unprotected Jews in a sly way, and as they drank together, they would reach for their knives. The Jews had no choice. Maybe! Maybe Ivan, Stephan, or Frank be honest and not want them dead in order to obtain their fortunes.
But in vain! The atrocity of those local Christians was immense. They would try with all their might to eliminate those Jews who had left any possessions with them. In this way, Labanak inherited the engineer, Max Ostrovsky, who was shot, thanks to Labanak's denunciation, Philipak inherited Treister's things, and so on.
Occasionally, Jews would return to the Ghetto without their outer garments and barefoot without their shoes. It would occur that during their labor or at the gate of the Ghetto, the Police would remove their clothes, and if someone had money in his possession or some other object, it would certainly be stolen, and the result would almost always result in the Jews being shot. It became clear that Jewish life was altogether worthless. It had nothing to do anymore with clothing, food or possessions. The problem became much more serious: How to prevent physical extermination, a complete annihilation, a final solution? The Glubokie Jews thought that maybe they could prevent it by becoming a needed element, by being productive so that the enemy could utilize them and in this way leave them alive.
The Jews began to establish in Glubokie various enterprises and workshops to help the Germans. They established a large leather factory, mechanical workshops, knitting mills, fur factory, shoe shops, tailor shops, joiner's workshops, brush factory, chimney factory, wheel factory, sweater factory, sock and handkerchief factory, hat factories, boot factory, shoe polish workshops, spinning workshops, wool cleaning workshops, a candy factory, a marmalade factory, quilt factories and others. In a short time the Jews turned Glubokie into an industrial city
The Jews would rush off every morning to the above mentioned enterprises, to the holy work. Every morning there would march off from the Judenrat
large groups of workers, under police guard, as if they were arrested. In the evening they would return tired, hungry, overheated and dispirited to their cold, dark homes.
Quite often there used to wait at the Ghetto entrance a German who would take the tired, tortured Jews to some new, fresh work, where they were kept until late at night. At home the family would be beside itself, not knowing what had happened. They would think that they would never see him again. It was not at all unusual for someone not to return home after work.
There were occurrences where people were held at the Ghetto entrance for no reason at all, when they came back from their labor. The fate of those who were held in this way was well known. - They would no longer be found among the living...
There was no trial, no investigation for Jews. A group of Jews would be rounded up and shipped off to the barracks.
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