The Tragedy of the Jewish Refugees from Hungary
At the end of August, 1941, the Fascist government of Hungary drove out about 50,000 Polish Jews and placed them in Polish territory, which meant delivering them into the hands of the Germans.
These were Jews that had lived for many years in Hungary and many of them were born there, married, had children there but their parents stemmed from Galicia which became part of the Polish Republic after World War I. At the time, those Jews emigrated to Hungary which, prior to World War I, was part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy just as was Galicia. The did not need Hungarian citizenship. Suddenly, these Jews and their children and grandchildren were declared to be aliens.
One cursed late-August night, these Jews were brutally forced into trucks and transported to Poland which was occupied by the Nazi. The Jews were only allowed to take along items which could be carried. Their homes, factories and businesses were confiscated by the Hungarians. But even the few household articles that the Jews took along were grabbed by the Germans. The Nazi tore the shoes off their feet and the clothes off their backs leaving them half-naked and barefoot.
Among the Hungarian Jews who were driven out, were a number of apostates (converts to Christianity) who had married Christian women and had raised their children in a Christian environment. They did not know a single word of Yiddish. These apostates belonged to various Hungarian national organizations and considered themselves as 100% Hungarian patriots.
But even their conversion did not help them. They were torn away by force from their families and property and were treated like all Jews driven out of Hungary and delivered into the Nazi hands. After the Germans used and despoiled them, they dragged most of the victims as far as the Dniester and killed them. One Hungarian Jewish refugee who managed to escape, told me that the Germans had forced the Jews to build bridges over the Dniester. He told how the Hungarian Jews had to carry heavy beams on their bare shoulders. Those who could not carry the load were all hurled into the depths of the river or torn apart by the German guard dogs, or beaten to death with the German rubber whips. The one who got a bullet in the head was already the lucky one. Only a small number of the Hungarian Jews got away and managed to reach our district with the aim of sneaking over the border back into Hungary. What their fate was- whether some of them succeeded in getting back to Hungary- it is not known. But, it is known that certain Jews who had smuggled themselves from Nazi Poland to Hungary were caught by the border patrol and returned to the Polish side. The German border guard would not let them in again and shot them to death on the border.
The surviving remnant of Hungarian Jews who managed to reach the area and district of Kittev were received by their Jewish brethren, quartered in our homes. We shared our last morsel with them. Even in those difficult and fateful days, the Jews of Kittev did not forget the beautiful virtue of hospitality and they took in the Hungarian refugees with a cheerful countenance. (He uses the Hebrew expression from Pirke Avot). There were cases when Kittever Jewish families, who starved all week and lived on a radish and a beet, on the day that a Hungarian refugee was to be their guest,
they risked their lives to sneak out to a village to get a few potatoes or a little milk from a peasant for their last shirt or pair of shoes so that they could see that the Hungarian refugee would not leave their house hungry.
This was the fate of the Jews who were driven out from Hungary. They drank the cup of bitterness until February, 1942, when, on a black and freezing night, the Ukrainian militia of Kittev with their accursed helpers, dragged the Hungarian Jewish refugees from their dwellings, took them to Kolomei and turned them over to the Gestapo who took them out into the Sheperovitz Forest and murdered them en masse! Afterward, they threw the bodies into a large mass grave deep in the forest. Thus, was liquidated the remnant of the Hungarian Jewish refugees.
The German Tax Bureau
In September, 1941, by order of the Nazi occupiers, the tax bureau was organized in Kossev. All former officials of the Polish tax bureau were employed there and their assignment was to collect taxes from the Jews. The other local bureaus were staffed with Ukrainians. Poles were used for the sole purpose of collecting taxes from the Jews.
The tax bureau began demanding from all Jews, taxes on houses, fields and business. They demanded taxes that had already been paid long ago. If a Jew did not have confirmation that he had already paid the tax,
he had to pay it again. The tax collectors evinced an indescribable arrogance (chutzpah) which had one aim: to mock the Jews. They even demanded taxes for fields and houses that the Soviets had taken away from the Jews back in 1939. They also demanded taxes from Jews who were formerly traders.
Kittever Jews understandably began a struggle against this travesty of taxation and complained about the cynical tax orders. Jews attempted to prove with facts and figures that back in 1939, they had stopped getting income from their houses, fields or businesses and that they did not have enough for even their most minimal needs. On the basis of these facts, the Jews requested the tax bureau to leave them alone.
Appeals to conscience and requests for fairness and justice could help very little in this matter. But corruption did help a little. The chief of economy and finances for the district of Kolomei was SS Lorenz. Like all German officials, he was thoroughly corrupt. He and his occupying colleagues made use of wartime and the Jewish disaster to fill their pockets and enrich themselves at the expense of the Jewish misfortune.
When Lorenz came down to Kossev for inspection to review the work of the tax bureau, representatives of the Kittever Judenrat approached him with a request for an audience. They complained to him about the unexpected taxes being demanded from a poverty-stricken population that had been despoiled by the Soviets. He promised to see to it that the tax burden would be lightened a little, but for this promise, he demanded to be provided immediately with a large number of rugs, curtains, woven tablecloths and blankets, fabrics and men's suits. When the Judenrat gave him the requested materials, he requested more and more until he obtained
plenty of loot. He then, finally, ordered the Kossover tax office to cancel the mockery taxes on the Jews.
The Polish chief of the tax bureau took himself an example from his boss, the German chief or overlord, and without shame, presented the Judenrat with a list of orders before he would permit the lower tax officials to cancel the taxes. Naturally, the Judenrat had no alternative and supplied him as well with the merchandise. But the overlords and under lords did not content themselves with this. Every lower official demanded his share of bribe. Even then, only a part of the tax was written off the tax on the nationalized property but the rest of the taxes the Jews were forced to pay.
After this began the second stage of plundering and robbing of the Jewish population of Kittev and its vicinity.
In the first days of the occupation, the Jews, under the pain of death, had to turn over to the German authority al valuable articles such as gold, silver, jewels and diamonds. In the second stage, the Germans began robbing the Jewish homes and beside their Ukrainian helpers, they made themselves new helpers the Judenrat.
The Judenraten (plural of Judenrat) that the Germans set up in every city and town, in every out-of-the-way village, had the task of restoring and setting up for the Germans houses and dwellings. They had to take care of the border guards, the Gestapo, the criminal police, the Ukrainian militia and other species of hangmen and murderers. The Judenrat men had to set up the hospitals for the German Wehrmacht, the homes for the Hitler youth and all convalescent homes and summer villas for the German murderers and their families.
In the first days of the German occupation, the Germans and Ukrainians themselves helped to set up their headquarters. They simply requisitioned the Jewish houses that had the desired furnishings
and three the Jewish owners into the street or pushed them into the ghettos. After there no longer were any Jewish houses for their quarters and offices, the Judenraten that they had established, were forced to supply them with houses and dwellings. As mentioned before, there were no longer any stores where one could buy furniture and other household necessities, materials for refurbishing and furnishing a house. However, the Judenrat had to obtain all these things and provide them on time. If the Jews did not have the needed materials, a money-tax was imposed on them. With this money, the Judenrat purchased the things from the Ukrainians and Poles, naturally at very high prices.
The border guard, Gestapo, Police and Ukrainian militia continually demanded from the Judenrat leather for shoes and boots, leather jackets, canvas, carpets, fabrics, furs, gold watches and rings; various women's dresses, shoes and stockings. Jews did not have these things anymore so the Judenrat had to buy it all for money from the Ukrainians and Poles. When an SS man or a Gestapo man was due to go home on leave, he came into the Judenrat and ordered various gifts for his wife, children and parents. When SS Vachner went on leave, he took with him, besides a large number of packages of valuable things that he had previously robbed from the Jews, also special gifts that the Judenrat provided for him. Among these were diapers for his newly-born heir in Munich. I, myself, witnessed a scene when a Nazi border guard walked into the Judenrat and showed his torn trousers and demanded leather for the seat.
The border guard Pickeisen demanded that the Judenrat provide him, for the Silvester ball, December, 31, 1941, a pretty fraulein to accompany him to the ball. The Judenrat could not obtain this kind of goods in Kittev, so they ordered her in Kolomei. The Judenrat of Kolomei provided this living merchandise
to the Kittever Judenrat and the Overlord was so pleased with his gift that he even forgot to check her descent, whether she was pure Aryan! Before the ball, it turned out that the bride the fraulein did not have a suitable dress to go to the ball with her German cavalier. In a great hurry, the Kittever Judenrat had to rob a Jewish woman of a gown, a pair of shoes and a lace kerchief to deck out the fraulein for Herr Pickeisen .
In March, 1942, the Sturm-Fuhrer Huber came into the Kittever Judenrat and demanded that they get him a lock-maker to clean his machine pistol which he had used to shoot the Jews during the Juden actions in other cities and which he used again, a month later, in April, in Kittev.
I would greatly prefer not to write too much about the Judenrat in general and the role it played during our great national disaster. But I feel that to pass over the matter of the Judenrat entirely in silence, would be to commit a great sin against the memory of my dear friends and comrades of Kittev who perished and against the whole community of the Jewish martyrs in Kittev.
According to the Nazi Gestapo, all Jewish property and all Jewish lives were in the hands of and under the supervision of the Judenrat which could deal with the lives and property as it saw fit. But the Judenraten were, for the most part, no more than a blind, obedient puppet in the hands of the Gestapo.
Thus, the Judenrat members used their authority in favour of the Gestapo and against the unfortunate Jewish victims.
The Gestapo, for its part, spared the Judenrat as long as they served and were useful. At the moment when these Jews, whom the Gestapo designated as the last Jews, ceased to be useful, the Gestapo destroyed them together with the other Jews.
In the first period before the Juden aktions began, responsible Jewish leaders stood at the head of certain Judenraten and tried to do their thankless work sincerely because they still hoped that in this way they would manage to save Jewish lives. As mentioned, it was the task of the Judenraten to collect for the Gestapo the imposed money taxes and to purchase for the Germans various materials and valuable items. During the first period, the leaders of the Judenrat made an effort to have compassion with the poor man when collecting the contributions and requested more money and things from the richer Jew. They also appraised people according to their means and situations. If a certain wealthy Jew did not have that which the Germans demanded, he gave money for which they bought the material and articles from a less wealthy Jew who needed the zlotes to buy potatoes for his family. They acted in the same way in assigning dwellings in the ghettos and in recruiting Jews for forced labour.
When the outlook became darker and darker for the Jews and the Nazi began to extinguish thousands of Jewish lives day-by-day, when this bloody fate descended upon the great Jewish community in Poland and Jewish blood flowed like water, the more decent members of the Judenrat were torn away by the murderers and cut down. Some of them committed suicide, not wanting any longer to serve as tools of the German
cannibals. They realized that they could be of no use by their service and chose death rather than to work with the Germans and be partners in destroying their own sisters and brothers.
Then, out of the dark, crawled all the lizards, snakes, reptiles and crawly things who fear the light of day and appear only in the blackness of night. The new Judenrat was the offal of Jewish society. There, the word of the great prophet Isaiah was fulfilled: They destroyers and they made thee waste shall go forth from thee. (Isaiah XLIX,17) - - your despoilers and destroyers will come from your insides. There then arrived people in the Judenrat who used the great Jewish disaster for their personal egotistic interests. The rich relative or the person who bribed them were spared and the poor man they pressed and squeezed. This is how they conducted themselves during the various Juden-akzions in taxations and in sending Jews to forced labour. The Judenrat members were transformed into beasts in human form, lost their image of God and Jewish life became hefker (a Hebrew word meaning unprotected, but hard to precisely translate).
At the end of October, 1941, the Kittever Judenrat changed and the fate of the plundered and starved Jews became even more tragic. This is how it came about:
The Gestapo in Kolomei demanded the sum of $50,000 from the Jews of that place. Hard to say for sure if the Jews of Kolomei were able to furnish the sum demanded. Possibly the president of the Kolomei Judenrat, Herr Horowitz, simply wanted to use the power he had received from the Gestapo over all the Jews of the Kolomei district and took the opportunity to begin plundering the Jews of nearby smaller towns on behalf of the Gestapo or his own gang. At the end of October of that year, H. Horowitz, with his assistant, H. Jacoby, drove into Kittev in a luxurious automobile which the Gestapo had provided, and
demanded from the then president of the Kittever Judenrat, Dr. Menashe Mandel, to obtain from the Jews of Kittev, by drastic means, the sum of four to five thousand dollars.
Menashe Mandel immediately rejected Horowitz's demand. He argued that the Jewish population of Kittev had been plundered by the Germans and the Ukrainians. He also indicated that Kittever Jews had already paid plenty of money in the forced contributions and that goods had been taken from them. The Kittever people had raised all this in their city and did not approach any other neighbouring city. The District Judenrat President hated to be contradicted so he deposed Dr. Mandel from his post and appointed in his place as President of the Kittever Judenrat, Herr Sigmund Tillinger.
Sigmund Tillinger attempted, as far as possible, to obey the commands and instructions of Herr Horowitz. He organized the Kittever Judenrat on the model of the Kolomei Judenrat. He set up various groups in the Judenrat and each group had a separate assignment. He established a group that dealt with war materials, a group that occupied itself with sending Jews to work and a group for keeping order and similar groups for the cleaning work. Tillinger was a capable and disciplined organizer, and he found suitable people for his work.
The order-keeping group was an unarmed militia which obeyed the commands of the Judenrat. It was supposed to watch that every order of the Judenrat should be carried out. In larger cities, the order-keeping group was forced indirectly to participate in the exterminating Juden-aktions.
The group that had to do with forced labour, led by Zaide Hirsh, had oversight over
all Jews able to work and who were sent to do forced labour for the Germans and Ukrainians.
Tillinger conducted himself on the model of the Kolomei Judenrat. He even set up a special Jewish jail, in a large and empty warehouse, and the order-keeping service locked up the Kittever Jews who could not or would not pay the sum of dollars which the Kolomei Judenrat had demanded from them.
In normal times, Horowitz, President of the Kolomei Judenrat, would certainly have been a candidate for a psychiatrist. He was a dreadful despot in his own wretched Judenratic kingdom within a kingdom. Because he had received certain rights and means to force the Jews to obey his commands, he used those rights in an arrogant manner. His watchword was: you need to give the Germans as much until they will have enough to vomit He would boast that when the Germans requested 100 pair of boots from him, he would send them 200. When the Germans ordered 250 covers for the beds in their hospital, he delivered 500. This is how he dealt with all their demands. Naturally, all of this was robbed from the Jews.
Tillinger told a characteristic fact which bore witness to the mental and psychic status of Horowitz his megalomania and his devilish tricks.
Once, when he, Tillinger, was walking with Horowitz through the streets of Kolomei, they met a former prominent businessman of Kolomei, Herr Bank. Horowitz, who was not liked among the Jews of Kolomei, nevertheless expected that Bank should greet him. But the other man passed him by indifferently. Horowitz could not pass over such an insult, especially in Tillinger's presence. He wished to teach the Jews of Kolomei manners; how they must pay respect to the head of the Judenrat. He called Bank over
and gave him two resounding slaps. He also called over an order-keeper and commanded him to arrest Mr. Bank. They put him into the Jewish jail and he was forced to there on a cement floor for a full two weeks until such time Horowitz consented to release him for an amount of ransom money. The entire duration of his imprisonment in the Jewish jail, Bank had to sleep without a pillow and live on dry bread and water.
The Extermination of the Jewish Intelligentsia in Stanislav
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur of 1941, we lived under great tension. We had a foreboding that something horrible was coming upon us. Jews were not allowed to travel from one city to another so we could not tell what was happening in other cities. Various unclear reports reached us by post and reading them filled us with fear and terror.
The daughter of my neighbour, Shmuel Laub, wrote from Tarnopol that she very much wished to come to Kittev with her child. Her husband, she wrote, was already transferred. This meant that the Germans had already taken him away. The daughter of Moshe Druck wrote from Chortkov that her father (who had died six years before) was her steady visitor. Under the impression of such horrible letters, the Jews of Kittev assembled on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the synagogues. We had no need of Machzors (High Holiday prayer books) because the prayers burst from everyone's heart a single prayer to Heaven: We are perishing, we are cut off, O Lord send us help to redeem us. Pity us and let us not be destroyed.. Ever since the Jewish people were driven out of its own land and scattered
and dispersed in every corner of the Galut (Exile), no generation experienced or could imagine what we felt in the Days of Judgment in that year. Every
Worshipper from the richest to the poorest, children, men and women, among them many Jewish refugees from Hungary were bathed in tears. Every Jew took account of the dreadful situation in which he found himself. We knew well that our lives were in the greatest peril. Not only the individual, but the entire community, the Jewish nation, was hovering between life and death. Only a miracle could save us as we could find no other prospect of saving ourselves.
Regrettably, our heart-rending prayers and pleas did not help. Our calling upon the merits of our fathers also accomplished nothing. No miracles happened. The major portion of the Polish Jewish collective was destroyed. The great and proud Jewish community of Poland along with the small Jewish community of the old city of Kittev was cut down with the greatest brutality.
On Yom Kippur in the Chortkover Klaus, there was a fruit dealer from Stanislav who had come down here to buy fruit for the Stanislav Gestapo. He told the horrible details of the first Juden-akzion in Stanislav, the action against the Jewish intelligentsia.
Shortly after their entry into Stanislav, the German SS and the Gestapo, with the help of the Ukrainian militia and working from a previous prepared list, dragged from their homes, all Jewish doctors, engineers, lawyers, dentists, technicians, teachers, professors and all the more important Jewish merchants and industrialists, intellectual persons and secretly killed them. The families of the Jews who had been dragged away at first had not the slightest idea of what had happened to their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons. Nobody could imagine that even the Germans were capable of dragging out innocent Jews and destroying them just because they were
Jews. They tried, by various ways and means, to find out from the Gestapo what had happened to the arrested Jews, where they had been taken to. But the efforts were in vain. It was impossible to find out from the Gestapo and their assistants what had happened to the Jews.
Several days later, the Gestapo announced that the families could send the Jews who were taken away, packages of food, clothing and money. Understandably, the Jewish mothers and wives hurried and brought the best things they owned for their dear ones because they took the announcement as a sign that they were still alive. But there were no longer living!
Later, a few weeks after the first Juden-akzion in Stanislav, the Jews learned the bitter truth that the Gestapo and SS had murdered these Jews right away and then cheated their families out of packages and money, pretending that it was for the people who had been dragged away.
The First Juden-Akzion in Kolomei
The first Juden-akzion in our district was carried out by the Germans in Kolomei. It was on Hoshana Rabbah, October 12, 1941.
On Simchas Torah, Tuesday, October 14, we received unclear reports about the akzion in Kolomei. Erev Hoshana Rabbah Isaac Grebler came to Kittev on a mission from the Judenrat of Kolomei to obtain boards from the sawmill in Kittev. On Hoshana Rabbah, he drove back. He was riding on a tractor. On the way, between Pistin and Kolomei, he ran out of gas. He tried to contact the Kolomei Judenrat by telephone but the telephone
lines were cut. On the days the Gestapo carried out the Juden-akzions, they would cut the telephone connections between the Judenraten so that the neighbouring cities would not find out about the akzions. But the switchboard girl in Kolomei warned Grebler not to come into Kolomei because the Germans were murdering Jews in the streets, and the Great Synagogue was in flames.
Hoshana Rabbah morning, the time of mercy, the synagogues in Kolomei were full of worshippers. Suddenly, the Gestapo, SS and Ukrainian militia surrounded and blocked all Jewish streets. The Germans and Ukrainians swarmed over the Jewish homes like hunting dogs. They threw the Jews they caught into trucks and took them to the Sheperowitz forest shot them all and threw them into prepared mass graves. The Jews who tried to flee were shot on the spot. The murderers set fire to the Great Synagogue, and the Jews who tried to escape from the fire and flame were shot. In this first Juden-akzion in Kolomei, about 6,000 Jews of Kolomei were burned to death or shot.
The Juden-Akzion in Kossev
The first Juden-akzion in Kossev took place on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th, October, 1941. Although Kossev lies only 10km from Kittev, we Kittever Jews, first found out about the horrible destruction of the Kossover Jews the following morning, the 18th of October.
On Thursday morning, a Kittever Jewish young man came from Kossev and told that on that very morning at about eight o'clock,
there drove into Kossev several autos with Gestapo and SS men from Kolomei and stationed themselves at the Ring Place. The German forces then blocked and occupied all the roads leading to and from Kossev and did not allow any Jew from the city to leave. The boy managed to jump onto a passing truck and thus saved himself.
On Thursday morning, a rumor spread in Kittev that the Germans were putting all the Jews of Kossev into a (concentration) camp. They allowed each person to take along only one small package. Nobody was interested to find out where this rumor had come from. The report made us all depressed. Weeping and wailing was heard from each Jewish house. Everyone said farewell to everybody, hugged and kissed and waited for the Gestapo's destroyers to come and take us all to the camp. We prepared ourselves for certain death. If the Gestapo had come into Kittev then, they would have captured everyone. Not one Jew would have been able to hide or escape. We found ourselves in a state of complete despair and resignation. It is hard to describe our condition. I sat down on the ground and took my little child into my arms. The child did not understand why she was being torn away from her toys, from her little crib and the big doll. I nestled the child, wept and asked the Master of the World: Why? Thus the day passed and dark night crept in. Darker than dark.
Late at night, a Ukrainian youth Tarnovitski came to Kittev. I had paid him, earlier, to ride into Kossev to find out what had actually happened there. He brought the frightful news which sounded unbelievable. He told that the Gestapo was rounding up all the Jews and taking them, en masse, up on the Pistin Mountain where two huge pits had been prepared, shooting them and throwing their bodies into the pits.
On Friday, these reports were confirmed. The slaughter of our unfortunate sisters and brothers in Kossev last two days. We went through this horror and shed rivers of tears.
On Saturday, October 18th, we had direct reports of the bitter fate of the Jews of Kossev. We received brief letters from a few Jews who had miraculously saved themselves from the murderers' hands because they had fled to the forest in time or hid with Christian friends.
Now it became clear to all the Jews of Kittev that the same fate, as that of our Kossever brethren, awaited us. When this would happen, no one could know. We just learned from the Kossever akzion that we must try to hide out in any way possible. We began to work out plans and seek means by which to save the Jews settled in Kittev.
I thought of a plan: In Kossev, everything was over so perhaps it would be a plan to move there and hide and wait till the bitter fate would descend on Kittev. I went in to my neighbour, the Polish Doctor Tustanovski, told him of my plan and asked him to give me a note saying that my little girl is sick in her appendix and that I would need to take her to the Kossev hospital for an operation. With the doctor's note, I went to the Ukrainian community authority and obtained the permit. I hired a horse-and-wagon, took along a little food and, on the third day after the horrible mass-murder, we entered the City of Slaughter. (In Hebrew, this is the title of Bialik's great poem).
A steady rain was falling from the sky in Kossev. The drops fell like hot tears, as if the heavens were mourning the innocent blood that was shed. The streets were empty everything dead. No living soul was to be seen. The houses were in ruins. The doors and windows smashed. The murderers had despoiled everything. From the middle of the city, one could see the great mountain with the two large, swollen
mass-graves, which will remain forever as mutely-screaming witnesses to the greatest murder that the German Huns of the 20th century perpetrated in the very heart of Europe a crime that had no equal even in the dark Middle Ages.
In Kossev, we drove to a sister-in-law who miraculously was saved by accident from the first Kossever Juden-akzion. From her we learned the horrible details of the mass-murder. I will try to relate the particulars in the order in which they occurred:
The Jewish settlement in Kossev would not have been exterminated in that way had it not been for the local Ukrainians. As the Nazi Sturm leaders told later in the Kossov Judenrat, the Ukrainian national committee of the city, led by Vinitski, Mrs. Gardetska, Mrs. Shtepurak and others, submitted a memorandum to the Gestapo in Kolomei in which they talked about the great disaster; that they have in their city such a large Jewish population who are mostly former traders, parasites. Because of them, the Christian population is suffering from such a shortage in food supplies. They requested, therefore, that the Gestapo should free Kossev from this Jewish plague.
In connection with this memorandum on instructions of the Kolomei Gestapo and in line with their understanding with the Kossov national Ukrainian committee, under the command of the Ukrainian district commandant, Dereshitsky, two huge graves were dug on the night of Wednesday, October 15, on the Pistin Mountain just opposite the house of the Kossover Rebbe, which was now the office of the Judenrat. The diggers were all Ukrainians.
On Thursday, October 16, the Kossover Ukrainian committee called together in Kossev a large number of Ukrainians and Hutzuls as well as the Ukrainian militia from nearby cities
and villages. They also lad on a supply of whiskey and other strong liquors. In the morning when the Kolomei Gestapo and SS men arrived and blocked the streets, they started hunting down the Jews.
The Jews of Kossev thought that the Germans had come to take the young men for forced labour so their wives practically forced the men to run away and hide in the woods. The women and children thought that they would manage to remain in their homes and the men would, somehow, hide out in the woods or be hidden by the Christians.
The Jews who were in the homes of gentiles of their acquaintance were mostly turned over to the Gestapo who shot them.
Naturally, Jews ran to hide in the houses of those Ukrainians and Poles with whom they had a long-standing friendship. They had a certain trust in those Christians because had hidden their few remaining possessions with them. These friends now got an opportunity to get rid of the owners of these possessions and a chance to inherit them, so they immediately turned over the Jews to the Gestapo. Also, in places where Jews lived in the same building as the Ukrainians, the Ukrainians drove them out of the houses and delivered them into the hands of the murderers so that they could then rob their remaining property.
Such a case happened with the family of David Joseph Buller of Kittev. In 1939, the Soviets took over David Joseph Buller's business and drove out his family. As a family who had been nationalized, they could not find lodgings anywhere. Having no alternative, they moved in with their daughter in Kossev and roomed in a Ukrainian's house in Maskulivke.
On the day of the Juden-akzion, the Ukrainian landlord
chased the whole family out of the house and put them into the hands of the murderers.
On the day of the Juden-akzion, the Germans were not even in the village of Maskulivke to hunt for Jews. But the Ukrainians, on their own, turned the Jews out and threw them into the mouths of the murderous fire-spitting machine pistols. The Ukrainian owners of the house in which the Buller family had lived, drove them out of the house and turned them over to the commandant of the Kossov Ukrainian militia, Direzshitski, a former clerk of a Jewish attorney who lived for many years in Kittev. Direzshitski was elevated to greatness when the Nazis entered Kittev. They appointed him as head of the Ukrainian militia in Kossev.
Joshua Gertner who was an eye-witness of the scene, told me how Direzshitski, who knew David Joseph Buller well in Kittev, beat them murderously while escorting them to be shot. He didn't even spare the old grandmother and grandchild of the Bullers.
In the morning and afternoon hours of that Thursday, the murderers drove all the captured Jews into the Kossev court building, locked them into the jail cells and the jail courtyard. The leaders of the Kossev Judenrat attempted to ransom Jewish lives. They offered the leaders of the SS and the Sturm groups ransom in the form of valuables. A special delegation of the Judenrat brought, as price for the lives, a large number of men's and women's furs and other items. The murderers took the costly gifts, but not only did they not free one single Jew, but they arrested the mitzvah messengers, the Judenrat delegation who had put their own lives on the line to rescue Jews, and destroyed them together with the community of the Jews of Kossev.
At noon, the Ukrainian national committee set up a regular banquet for the Gestapo, the SS and the Ukrainian
militia. The Ukrainians held venomously anti-Semitic speeches. The whole mob of murderers Germans and Ukrainians, drank and ate voraciously. Provoked and incited by the venomous speeches, they set out after the cannibalistic feast. They led the Jews forth in groups, forced the victims to strip naked, shot bullets into their brains and necks and threw them into the great pits.
Among the first Jewish vicitims of the Kossev Jewish women, was a beautiful young girl, Shimon Letich's daughter. She was wearing a leather jacket. The murderers commanded she take off her jacket. She answered that she would not give up the jacket voluntarily. Let the murderers take it off her bullet-riddled body later. With hard-bitten obduracy and with her head held high, without a word of pleading as befits a proud Jewish daughter, the girl jumped into the grave and a murderous bullet smashed the skull of the blooming young life.
Among the first male victims was a young man, a son of Leizer Gertner of Zshabie. He had come to Kossev together with a few other Jews sent by the Zshabier Judenrat. They were caught and shot. The young Doctor Gertner managed, before jumping into the mass grave, to call the murderers by their name. He asked how the Germans, the nation of poets and thinkers, a nation that spoke the language of Heine, Goethe and Schiller, how could they be capable of extirpating innocent men, women and children? He called out that the German people that would tolerate such barbarism would be responsible and in the Day of Judgment which would come, would be tried by the world's conscience and pay dearly.
The murderers hee-hawed like horses, laughed resoundingly, mocked and accompanied their laughter with bullets which they shot into his brain.
The murderers also saved bullets. They thus did not shoot the children
of five or six years old but grabbed them by the hair with one hand and banged them with the other, or, threw them like a ball or pounded them with their boots and threw them into the pit. The murderers killed and drank, got drunk, slurped and shot and heaped up the large and broad pits. Among the victims in one women's transport was a Jewish woman who was the cook for the German gendarmerie in Kossev her name was Steiner. The commandant asked the Sturm fuhrer to spare her life but the Sturm fuhrer said, sarcastically, that he would give this cook two bullets as a bonus. This was later told by Denk Meiner of the gendarmerie who took part actively in the Juden akzion.
Together with the above-mentioned Ukrainian murderer Direzshitski, two more Kittever Ukrainian militia men participated in the mass murder. During the time the slaughter was in progress and the shots boomed out as the German murderers were throwing Jews into the mass graves, these creatures set up a radio loudspeaker and continuously played lively music. When a German or Ukrainian murderer ran to bring a victim, the president of the Ukrainian national committee called him over and treated him with whiskey and wine. He also shouted that he gave another 100 zlotes for whiskey, a zlote for each Jewish head, 100 zlotes for 100 Jews.
On Friday, October 17, the Germans continued the slaughter. The Ukrainians brought the Jews and the Germans and Ukrainian militia did the shooting. The Kossever Jews did not weep or plead for mercy from the murderers with heads held high they went to the slaughter.
As illustration of the proud behaviour of the Kossever Jewish martyrs, how they acted in the last hours of life facing hideous death, I want to recount the following two examples:
There lived in Kossev a young Jewish doctor Goldstein who was, at that time, the fiancé of Haim Hersh Drucker's daughter. At the pits, the murderers realized that it was worthwhile for them to let the doctor live for now because the city needed him. The doctor laughed at them and declared he chose to die together with his beloved bride rather than live by the grave of the murderers who were killing all his innocent Jewish sisters and brothers.
Moshe'le Feier was considered in Kossev to be a holy Jew a true lamed-vav'nik..(one of the legendary 36 secret righteous people who enable the world to exist). He fasted every Monday and Thursday and sat day-and-night in the Bet Midrash studying Torah. At the time of the Juden akzion, all the Jews ran from the Bet Midrash to hide and called to Reb Moshe'le to flee. He answered that if this was an evil decree from Heaven, he would not hide himself. He put on his white kittel, wrapped himself in his great tallis, opened the Holy Ark, buried his head among the Torah scrolls and said the Confession . . . Whoever witnessed the scene in those minutes, how the holy Jew, wrapped in the tallis, his face white and pale as lime from the constant fasts, how his lips whispered a prayer or perhaps a curse upon the murderers of the Jews that person had to feel that they were not taking an ordinary Jew to the slaughter but a holy figure an Angel of God. The murderers brought Reb Moshe'le up on the hill to the open pits. Everyone expected that a miracle would occur and the holy one would be saved from death. But no miracle occurred. The murderous bullet did not spring back, no angel appeared from Heaven, no thunder or lightning bolt struck the murderers, the earth did not swallow them up. The mouth that recited God's Torah day and night was silenced; the body wasted by fasting until it was more spirit than substance, was together with the bodies of all Kossever Jews, cast into the huge grave and his blood mingled with the blood
of the other holy and pure ones, with the innocent blood of little Jewish children who had never sinned; the blood that boils and will continue to boil like the blood of the Prophet Zachariah, until the great Day of Vengeance will come.
The sum-total of the Juden akzion in Kossev which lasted two days, Thursday 16th and Friday 17th, October, 1942, was 2500 Jewish victims. Of them, some 1700 old people, women and children and 150 refugees from Hungary. There remained in Kossev about 1000 Jews; very few whole families, mostly men without wives and children without parents. The remaining ones were frightened and mixed up, some of them went out of their minds completely. Religious Jews, former Hasidim of the Kossever Rebbe, became the biggest atheists. I don't want to put on paper the words and the blasphemies that fell from their lips, as for example, the eruption of wrath of the former Hasid Biller when he heard someone mention the name God. Another Kossever Hasid, Letich, said that of all the prayers in the service in the Shmoneh Esrai (the Amidah) he understood only the benediction: Thou favourest man with understanding, because after all these experiences, if one retained his understanding (remained sane) it would appear that there is a Higher Providence, but in the rest of the benedictions, he no longer believes.
The Ukrainians torched the Great Synagogue in the city. Some of the Jews who had hidden in the Synagogue attic were unable to escape the flames and were burned to death. Those who ran from the hellish fire into the street were shot and their bodies thrown into the flames, among them many children. Among the martyrs who perished in the flames was the Kittever Jewish woman, Chaya Hosenfratz, a daughter of Elasar Hutterer together with her husband and child.
Juden-Akzions in the Nearby Cities and Towns
Following the slaughter in Kossev, one dark night, the Ukrainians of the village of Ritshka attacked the Jews of that village and murdered them all. The German police came down into the village with bloodhounds to find out if the Ukrainians had used weapons (guns) to murder the Jews. Killing Jews with axes or knives was not punishable; the Ukrainian got the priest's assurance of going to Heaven. But for killing Jews with weapons, the Ukrainian was subject to punishment, not for the murder you understand, but for illegal possession of weapons!
At the same time, dreadful reports reached us about the Juden-akzions in a whole series of cities and towns in our area such as: Delatin, Nodvarne, Tarnopol, Chortkov and others. In Utenieh, the German murderers came in the middle of the night and dragged the sleeping Jews out of their beds and shot them all, naked as they were. In Delatin, the Germans shot about 2000 Jews during the first akzion. In Yarmetshe, Varachte, Yablonitse, Mikultshin and Tatarov, the German and Ukrainian murderers cleared the whole area of Jews. The few Jews who managed to flee into the woods were slaughtered by the Hutzuls who hacked them with axes and slaughtered them with knives.
In every city, the Germans carried out the akzion in a different way. In Horodenka, for example, they summoned the Jews to be vaccinated. When the Jews gathered, they took them all to the previously prepared mass graves.
After shooting the Jews, they came to the Judenrat and demanded to be paid 10,000 zlotes for the bullets they had used up in the Juden-akzion. They treated the defenseless Jewish victims with blatant cynicism and mockery.
In the smaller towns, the Germans, with the help of the Ukrainians, liquidated the Jews all at once and made the whole town Judenrein. In the cities with a larger Jewish population, they employed a different tactic. First they robbed the Jews completely, then they started to carry out various akzions: First, second, third until they reduced the Jewish population to a minimum. Finally, they imprisoned the small number of Jews in the ghetto and, at their appointed time, destroyed them with no difficulty.
In Kolomei, the murderers established the Jewish ghetto after the first Juden akzion. They appointed a certain time by which all Jews had to be in the ghetto. On the way to the ghetto, they also shot many Jews and if a Jew was caught outside the ghetto, he was murdered immediately.
But the whole ghetto consisting of a few streets, could not take in all the Jews. In every small and crowded room, ten persons were pressed together. In every attic, closet and stable, the unfortunate Jewish souls were squeezed like herrings. But still, many Jews remained outside and had no place to put themselves.
The Germans solved the matter of living-space in their own way. They did not add a couple of streets to the ghetto but every few days, they carried out more actions and day-by-day reduced the number of Jews in Kolomei. They would carry out intellectual akzions, i.e. take the Jewish intelligentsia and people of the free professions and shoot them. Another time they would start to clear out street-by-street such as the Ghetto street, the Makara Street. Among the martyrs of the Makara Street there were the Kossever Rebbe with his beautiful daughter. The Nazis
also carried out Shmeltz-akzions. After the men had left for their work, the murderers would descend on the ghetto and take away the old people, the women and the children.
In Lemberg, the Germans demanded that the Judenrat provide them, for a special purpose, 35,000 Jews. Because the Judenrat refused to deliver the Jews, the Germans, again with the help of the Ukrainians, dragged out 50,00 Jews and killed them in various ways. In the years 1940-1941, some 500,000 Jews lived in Lemberg. In October, 1942, when the Germans liquidated the Lemberg ghetto, there were only around 15,000 Jews there. Upon liquidating the ghetto, they shot all the Jews to death with machine guns. The Germans and Ukrainians kept shooting until, literally, every Jew had fallen.
Better-off were those slain by the sword than those slain by hunger. (Lamentations 4:9) (This is my translation: You will see different wording in English bibles).
After the Juden-akzion in Kossev, the Gestapo and SS officers became frequent and constant guests in Kittev. Every other day they would come to the Kittever Judenrat with various orders. (For goods).
Every time they came into the city there was a great commotion among the Jews. We thought that the final hour was at hand. When a relative from Kolomei warned that on a given day the in-laws were coming to the wedding in Kittev, not a single Jew was to be found out of doors on that day. All, big and small, ran to hide. A few hid with Christian neighbours who were well paid for their hospitality. Most ran to hide out in the surrounding woods.
In early November, the season of rains and frosts began. In the cold, wet and dark nights, the Kittever Jews who were hiding in the woods had to lie on the
wet and frozen ground with their little ones and with no food. More than one Jew collapsed and expired from hunger.
With the arrival of the cold winter, starvation became unbearable. There were cases when Jews wished the Gestapo would come as quickly as possible and release them from the dreadful torture of hunger.
At that time, it was impossible to barter with a peasant for food. After the Juden-akzion in Kossev, the nearby peasants had looted so much Jewish property that for the offer of a man's good suit of clothes, they would not give more than 10 or 15kg of grain. I, myself, saw a Ukrainian in Kossev sell a Jew's Persian fur coat and ask $10 for it. Most of the Jews already had nothing to trade for and hunger increased. People walked around like living corpses. Whoever did not experience such dreadful starvation, could in no way imagine it. When we, as Cheder boys studied the verse in Lamentations: Better-off were those slain by the sword than those slain by hunger, we simply could not comprehend it. What does it mean that those who died by the sword were better off than those who died of hunger? Now we understood it perfectly. We saw Jews wandering about the streets with emaciated faces, with big bulging eyes. For those people, nothing mattered. Even hunger did not affect them anymore. They body was so weak that the organism could no longer digest food. I saw how one such living corpse swallowed a spoonful of soup and gave it back; his stomach simply did not function any longer. Many Kittever Jews died of hunger at that time. The candidates for death by starvation, awaiting their horrible end, envied the murdered Jews who were resting in the mass graves on the Pistin Mountain.
The price of grain on the black market rose from day-to-day.
They paid more than $100 for 100kg of grain. It became impossible to bring grain in from the villages because the Ukrainian militia and the Germans guarded all the roads and confiscated every bit of grain that they caught. The black marketers then began to smuggle grain in from Romania. They also smuggled kerosene and were paid $3 a liter for it.
As a way of starving the barely breathing Jew even further, the Ukrainian city management ordered the mills to take 20% for the community every time they ground any grain. If a Jew managed to get a few kilos of grain from somewhere, he could not bring it to the mill. Beside this, there was the danger that the first Ukrainian or German who came across a Jew with a little grain, would immediately take it away. Wishing to avoid these highway-robbers, Jews ground the grain themselves in coffee-grinders or other types of small mills.
I myself, for example, set up a meat-grinder and together with my family, I would, during a whole week, grind the flour for bread. Grinding the grain on this mill took a long time - 1 kilo took a whole hour. The work was hard and one lost one's health at it. Until you saw a little flour for a small loaf of bread, you were bathed in sweat. Upon us was fulfilled the curse in the Chumash against Adam the first man: By sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread.
The Juden-Aktion in Zablatov
At the end of November, 1941, we were terrified by the dreadful report which came from Zablatov, some 40km from Kittev, about the Juden-akzion there.
In the morning of November 25th, there suddenly and unexpectedly arrived from Kolomei a row of trucks with Gestapo and SS men and also a gang of Polish students. With the help of the local Ukrainians, they blocked all the streets and fanned out over the Jewish homes driving the Jews en masse outside the town where the Ukrainian murderers had already prepared mass graves. The Germans, as in other cities, shot the Jews and threw them into the pits. The Polish students helped them in this mass murder.
Just one fact will suffice to allow one to comprehend the great tragedy of the Jewish Holocaust in Zablatov. On the day of the Juden-akzion in Zablatov, many Jewish men were doing forced labour building a bridge. Over this bridge, the murderers drove the victims on their final journey. The Jewish husbands, fathers and brothers who were doing slave labour at the bridge had to look on as their dearest and most beloved were taken to the slaughter and with tightly closed lips and fainting countenance and extinguished eyes, they sent their last glances towards these martyrs.
In Zablatov, the murderers spared the Jews who were working for them, for the time being. In other cities, including Kittev, they even took the Jewish workers and shot them all.
The number of Jews killed during the first Juden-akzion in Zablatov was comparatively small, about 50%. This is because the Jews expected the disaster and many hid themselves.
After the akzion in Zablatov, the Jews of Kittev expected the coming of the murderers. They could no longer flee to the woods because snow had fallen and the footsteps would betray. Very few Jews had the necessary sums to pay Christians of their acquaintance to conceal them. So the Jews began to dig stealthily, in secret, various hiding places in their own dwellings. Neighbours and
acquaintances told one another their plans and helped each other in digging pits and holes. The work was mainly done at night when the Ukrainian militia men and the Judenrat representatives left the Jew alone and did not visit him at home.
The Juden-Akzion in Zshabieh
On December 15, 1941, the Ukrainian community leadership of Zshabieh informed the Jews of Zshabieh that, by command of the German forces, they had to set up a ghetto for them. They commanded that all the Jews should, during one day, move to Krasnik a village near Zshabien. When the Jews went to Krasnik, their possessions were immediately looted by the Ukrainian Hutzuls because the Ukrainians only allowed the Jews of Zhabieh to take along portable items. They also guarded the Jews so that no one could flee.
The Jews of Zshabieh immediately sensed the arrival of their end. Many of them were strong mountain Jews who knew no fear and they broke through the ring of Ukrainian and Hutzul guards and fled into the forests. But only some of them succeeded in saving themselves in the forests. Many of them were caught by the Hutzuls and brutally murdered with axes and knives.
When the Ukrainian militia had driven all the Jews into Krasnik and imprisoned them in the villa of the Jew, Kamill, they phoned the Gestapo in Kolomei and reported that they could now come and do their work.
On the night of the fearsome murder of the Jews of Zshabieh,
Feige Shpigel of Krasnik, a brave and beautiful girl, asked permission of the murderers to let the Jewish men, who were separated from the women, bid farewell to their wives and children. At dawn, before they jumped into the pits where they were murdered, the women put white kerchiefs on their heads. Feige Shpigel, who led the column of women, encouraged them and asked them not to weep or scream. Feige was the first to jump into the pit and to fall from the
Among the Jewish women in Zshabieh was the old Jewish mother, Pelzel. She asked to be surrounded by her five daughters and thus, lying in their midst, the mother and her daughters perished.
The Zshabieh Juden-akzion took place on Thursday the 4th day of Hanukkah, 1941. After the Juden-akzion in Zshabieh, the burgomaster of the surrounding villages got together, drove their Jews to Kolomei and turned them over to the Gestapo who shot all of them to death in the Sheperovitz forest.
The Final Weeks Before
the Juden-Akzion in Kittev
After the Juden-akzion in Zshabieh and after all the surrounding villages became Judenrein, the Kittever Jews sensed that their turn was coming. No miracles would prevent the Holocaust; they would have to share the fate of the other Jewish communities.
Remarkable how, under the shadow of death and those horrible days and nights, part of the Jews of Kittev, especially the religious classes, were ruled by some mystical feeling a religious psychosis and started to believe and hope for a miracle. In the very fact that the murderers had spared Kittev
thus far, they saw God's hand. Jews began to refer to various dreams and signs which supposedly hinted that our city would be saved from the Nazi Angel of Death.
Every Monday and Thursday, the grave of Reb Moshe'le in the cemetery was besieged by Jews who prayed the Tsaddik to be an intercessor for them and save them from the horrible death. Kittever Jews told one another a bizarre dream that the Kittever Llui (prodigy of Torah study) Shmuelik ben Reb Rafael Shochet had dreamed. Shmuelik dreamt that Reb Moshe'le Feier, the Lamed-Vovnik, appeared to him and gave him the message that the Jews of Kittev should prepare for a great Simchah which would take place on the Chamishah Asar B'-Shevat (15th of Shevat, the New Year of the Trees). Even the Christians had heard about this dream and were awaiting the day along with the Jews.
However, the majority of the Kittever Jews were not carried along by the dream and understood that we were not favourites to the Master of the Universe. And that is what happened to Polish Jewry as whole, would happen to us all. We started to prepare ourselves; to stand guard so that the murderers at least would not catch us by surprise. We built and fortified underground hideaways to hide in when the dreadful hour would strike.
In my dwelling, I dug a pit two cubit square and made wooden benches to seat ten to twelve persons. I prepared a full pail of water and food for two or three days. The pit could be entered through a cupboard which stood above. When the cupboard doors opened and the bottom removed, there was an opening through which one person could squeeze. Under the cover of the opening there was a small ladder by which one could descend into the living grave. Once inside, standing on the ladder, one could close the cupboard from inside. The bottom was then replaced and thus we could secure ourselves. Air for breathing was obtained through a small hole which was hollowed out in the wall and was covered by a prisbe.. This was our place of rescue. When the fortress was completed, I timed, with a clock in hand, how long it took for a person to climb down into the pit. This was done at night. We tested several times how long it took our whole family of twelve persons to crawl into the pit and close the floor and the cupboard doors after us.
We then started to keep watch every night. In daylight, one could see if the murderers were arriving, but at dark when it was forbidden for a Jew to go outside, it was hard to keep watch. Every two hours, a different man posted himself at the window and checked what was going on outside. In this way, we could, at a few minutes' notice, hide in the pit. In this way and in similar ways, the Jews of Kittev made plans for hiding from the murderers.
But, as mentioned before in those horrible winter months of 1941-1942, not all the Jews of Kittev were bound so tightly to life as to look for every means of hiding and saving their lives. There were many Jews who completely despaired of life, who in their great suffering of hunger and cold were waiting for the murderers to come and release them from starvation and suffering. The dreadful hunger and merciless cold cut down lives every day. The fields lay covered with a thick layer of snow and a starving Jew could not even dig up a beet or a radish to fill his empty stomach. From the dwellings, everything had been robbed. There was nothing that could be bartered for with a peasant, for bread or a couple of potatoes. The few pieces of furniture, a table, a bench, a wooden bedstead, a noddle board all had been burned long ago to warm the emaciated, frozen body and limbs. Of a population of 2500 Jews,
in those dreadful winter days, five or six Jews expired daily from hunger and cold.
As in other cities, the Judenrat in Kittev attempted to alleviate the need of the starving mass of Jews. They established a public kitchen which gave a free meal once a day. The meal consisted of boiled water with a small potato and a sprinkling of flour. The public kitchen was located in the High Bet Midrash because of the fifteen prayer-houses, people davened secretly only in two. The others were deserted because the Germans did not allow Jews to assemble in public places. The Judenrat of Kolomei was the first to send in a few bags of potatoes to Kittev and a few Kittever Jews who still possessed something, contributed to the public kitchen.
In February, 1942, the Germans proclaimed a campaign (akzion) for wool. Representatives of the Judenrat went from house-to-house and demanded a certain amount of wool from every Jew. From the gathered wool, the Jewish women and girls who were doing forced labour for the Germans, knitted gloves and socks for the German Wehrmacht. Besides this, the women had to do the hardest and dirtiest service for the Germans and haul boards from the Kittever saw mills to Kossev on wheelbarrows.
The Kossev Judenrat fixed up several large villas for the Gestapo and its headman, the 26-year-old Falkman, several large villas in which the executioner settled his mother and bride who had come from Germany for their summer vacation. Falkman showed them around the city, took them to the huge mass graves on the Pistin Mountain and bragged to them on how thoroughly he had solved the Juden problem.
The material for the villas was provided by the Kittever saw mills. Since all horses and wagons had been taken away from the Jews by the Germans in August, 1941, and they did not want to hire a Christian wagon-driver
for money, the Kittev Judenrat borrowed wheelbarrows from the Ukrainian militia and harnessed the Jewish women and girls to haul the loads of boards from Kittev to Kossev.
The attitude of the Ukrainian population of Kittev toward the Kittever Jews was inhuman and treacherous. Not only did the young Ukrainian nationalists collaborate and help the Germans to rob and murder the Jews, but even the older Ukrainians who had lived as close neighbours with the Jews for many years and did business with them, betrayed the Jews in those fateful days to their deadly enemy.
At first, when the Germans separated the Jews and forbade them to come in contact with non-Jews, the Ukrainians secretly sold grain and other products to the Jews for exorbitant prices. But later, when the Germans began their plundering and Jews entrusted their possessions to the Ukrainians and Poles, they happily took it with the objective of inheriting it. When the bloody Juden-akzions began and the Jews ran to those same Ukrainians and Poles to hide, they would not let the Jews into the house and those whom they did admit, they later betrayed into the murderers' hands. In September, 1942, when the Germans had made the whole area Judenrein and a few Jews were hiding out or trying to slip into Romania, the Ukrainians themselves liquidated them.
It is important to relate how the three priests of Kittev acted toward the Jewish population at the time that the Ukrainians wanted to make certain that not one living Jewish witness should remain.
The Polish priest, Samuel, was a big anti-Semite all his life. The Jews knew that they could not expect anything good from him.
He had not even one good word for Jews and never tried to influence his obedient Poles to show sympathy to their Jewish fellow citizens.
The Ukrainian priest, Mikitiuk was known before the war as a decent person. Until the invasion by the Nazis, he lived in amity with the Jews of Kittev. He even had good friends among Jews. In the spring of 1941, when the Soviets wanted to send him to Siberia as a Ukrainian nationalist leader, a Jewish neighbour of his, Zaide Mandel, saved him. Risking his own life, he hid and fed Mikitiuk for three months until the Soviets left.
In the dreadful winter months of 1941-1942, when Kittever Jews were dying of hunger and cold, this same Mikitiuk priest shamelessly sermonized in the Ukrainian church every Sunday and warned his listeners not to dare sell food to a Jew or hide Jews. The Jews, he said are a cursed people. God Himself doesn't want to help them. You see, he concluded how the German murder them en masse and God doesn't take their part. On the contrary, the Germans win one victory after another.
The only priest in Kittev who not only acted with sympathy and feeling toward the Jews but also had the courage to solidarize himself with the Jews was the Armenian priest, S. Maniugevitch. He spoke at every opportunity in the Armenian church and called on the Christians to help the Jews in their struggle for their lives. He called on his Armenians (Timches) (this is a nickname for Armenians used in Galicia) to sell food to the Jews and give them all possible support. The priest himself risked his life and hid Jews and fed them. He also hid, in his own place, a large number of Torah scrolls and saved them from the fire. To this day, the Torah scrolls must be in the house of the Armenian priest in Kittev.
The Timchech priest, S. Maniugevitch, was the only Christian leader in Kittev who truly and with his whole heart and soul, wished to help the Jews of Kittev. None other than the Amalekite of Kittev, truly and legitimately deserved to be named as one of the Righteous Among the Gentiles.
The Last Bloody Final Day of Passover
(Achron shel Pesach) in Kittev
In the history of the Jewish community of Kittev, the Achron Shel Pesach (last day of Passover) of the year 1942, will remain a day of remembrance engraved in blood; the city's day of mourning when all the houses of prayer were destroyed. The Torah scrolls were burned, and 950 Jews were murdered by the German and Ukrainian murderers.
Prior to that Pesach when the fearsome famine raged and people died of hunger and cold, the Kittever Rabbi permitted us to eat flat rolls of maize on Pesach and permitted the grinding and baking of the rolls even during Chol Hamoed (the intermediate days of Passover). Any Jew who still possessed a garment or other valuable which he could, at risk of his life, barter with a peasant for a couple of kilos of wheat, the Rabbi permitted him (declared it permissible under Jewish law) to grind the wheat even in a coffee mill and bake a few matzos. But many Jews conducted the Seder with just a few potatoes and a beet. One's heart was torn from grief and pity seeing how elderly Jews, former businessmen, artisans, wagon drivers, emaciated and pale little Jewish children, knocked on doors and pleaded for a piece of matzo, a potato or even some potato peel.
Still, despite all the tragic conditions, large numbers of Kittev Jews exhibited a remarkable religious devotion. Such was the religious zeal that it was reminiscent of our ancestors of the dark Middle Ages, in the shadow of the Inquisition
and the Pyres, when they jumped into the flames with Shema Yisrael on their lips.
These pious Kittever Jews, whose lives hung by a hair, who were more enslaved than their ancestors in ancient Egypt these same Jews in the Seder night of 1942, sat behind chained doors and like prices: over goblets of borsht and matzos of bran, recited the old-new Haggadah and sang the ancient Jewish Marsellaise: Avodim hayinu - - once we were slaves and we were liberated from slavery - -
When the Nazi fiends entered the Vizshnitzer Klaus on the morning of Achron shel Pesach, they found Jews who looked more of the spirit than of the flesh, reciting Hallel with great ardour and much pathos. With heads held high, the Kittever Jews went to their death. A congregation of Sabbath-Yom Tov Jews, their eyes sparkling with fire and their souls beaming rays of light, and on their lips hovered the Shema Yisrael!
I want to record here the disputation that I had with the last Kittever Rabbi, Reb Yehuda Leib Yentshes, may God avenge his blood. He was yet a young man, a great scholar and he sympathized with Zionism. I brought him a few potatoes for his family, and I expressed the opinion that we, the Jews of Kittev, should be more sinful than the Jews of Kossev and Kolomei who were now at rest in mass graves while we, whom the same fate awaited us, would still have to suffer the seven fires of Hell through slave labour and starvation. Is not death better than to witness the women, children and old people walk about like shadows? I asked the Rabbi. If this was called life, then how bad would death be?
It is a great sin to speak thus so the last Rabbi answered me: One must not even think about it. We must thank and praise the One above for every hour of life. This is not the first time
in Jewish history that various Hamans want to destroy the Jewish people. But it always ended with the defeat of the evil ones. We too must believe and hope that we will merit to live to see Hitler's downfall. Even if not all Jews will survive until the day of victory, some of us will surely survive. We Jews, the young Rabbi said as a prophecy, will come out of the Hitler fire and the ghettos and the death camps, purified and strengthened and will be worthy to witness the return of the children to their domain. Jews will return to Zion and will again live as free people in their own homeland.
The prophecy of the last Kittever Rabbi was fulfilled only partially. Israel was established after the victory over Hitler, but he himself, the Rabbi, did not live to see it. The Rabbi accepted all sufferings with love. After the Juden akzion in Kittev in which he was miraculously saved, he cut off his beard and went to break rocks in the streets so that he could stay in Kittev and live to see the day of victory. In September, 1942, the Rabbi was murdered together with his congregation.
During the first days of Pesach, reports reached us about renewed Juden akzions that the German murderers carried out intensively in the neighbouring larger cities. In Stanislav, the murderers surrounded the public kitchen in broad daylight and set it on fire burning to death hundreds, maybe thousands of Jews. Those who ran from the flames were shot. In Kolomei, they set fire to part of the ghetto and burned to death a few thousand Jews.
The first day of Chol Hamoed Pesach, the Kossev Judenrat invited the chairman of the Kittev Judenrat, Mr. Tillinger, to an urgent conference. What happened at the conference remained a secret. The Kittever representatives returned from Kossev dejected and would not say anything. The president, Tillinger, took the register of all the Kittever Jews and studied the names carefully. This was a bad sign which called forth various conjectures.
Each Jew warned the other to be alert and expect the worst.
The 4th day of Chol Hamoed, April 8th, the Germans carried out Juden akzions in Pistin and Yablonov. Kittev remained the only city in the entire region that was left alone by the mass murderers up until then. Until the horrible and bloody Achron shel Pesach arrived.
On Thursday, April 10th, on a sunny spring day, the darkness of Egypt descended on the Jews of Kittev. On the streets, it was dreadfully still, the quiet before the storm. The older Jews went to daven in the Beth-Midrash and the younger ones went to their forced labour, to the border defence, to bridge building, repairing streets or to the saw mills.
At eight o'clock in the morning, the great commotion began. Via the road from Kossev, there arrived from Kolomei, four trucks filled with Gestapo and SS men. They drove to the market square. On arriving, they shot from machine guns at the passing Jews on the streets. As soon as the Gestapo appeared, there suddenly popped up as though from under the ground, a lot of Ukrainian militia from Kittev and from the area who had secretly been mobilized for the akzion.
Through all the roads, highways and paths, Ukrainians and Hutzuls streamed in. Also, the German border guard from the surrounding villages were hurriedly mobilized for the akzion. Like the black crows that come in flocks when they smell blood, so did the rabble of sadistic murderers' rush together for the rob-feast and the slaughter of the defenseless Jews of Kittev.
The Gestapo knew well about the various bunkers and holes where the Jews were hiding. They understood that shouting Jew come out! would not bring one Jew into their bloody paws. So, they set fire with hand grenades to all the Jewish houses in the ghetto streets and to the Great Synagogue and the prayer houses.
They only spared the Jewish houses that bordered on the center of town and those that were close to Christians.
In just a few minutes, a sea of fire and clouds of smoke covered the Jewish streets. From the burning houses and crashing walls, screams and cries for help were heard from the choking and burning victims. The reports of the gunfire mixed together with the bestial roaring and wild shouts of the sadistic murderers who, on seeing their victims hooked, grew even wilder and more feral and brayed like stallions, yelling with furious joyful murderousness. They hurled living children into the flames of the blazing synagogues and prayer houses. They tortured Jewish women before killing them. Mocked and derided the Jews and blasphemed the Jewish God. They defiled and violated the Torah scrolls and trod on the holy books with their filthy boots.
The fire and flame this hell for the Jewish population of Kittev and the devilish dance of the Gestapo, the SS and the Ukrainians, lasted a whole day. Many Kittever Jews who had hidden in their dug-outs were burned and buried under the ruins. Those who tried to save themselves from the burning fires by jumping off roofs, were shot by the Nazi or else dragged to Kolomei and sent from there to the gas chambers.
Those directing the destruction akzion were the chief of the district, Gestapo Leitritz and the sturm-fuhrers, Huber and Shmeler.
Among the Ukrainian militia, those especially excelling in brutality were the commander of the Kittev militia - the sadist, Matveyov from Brod and the head of the Ukrainian militia in Kossev, the Kittever Ukrainian, Derezshitski. They murdered many Jews with their own hands.
The total of the blood Achron shel Pesach in Kittev was about 950 victims.
We buried, in two huge mass graves in the Kittev cemetery, 190 men, 148 women and 82 children who were shot or burned to death. The rest remained buried under the ruins. On that Achron shel Pesach, the Jewish Kittev was utterly destroyed. Generations of effort and creativity, the Germans and Ukrainians destroyed and burned together with the productive folk and builders of the city.
The Death March
On Friday, the day after the Juden akzion, the remaining Kittever Jews came out into the streets and gathered the corpses of the holy martyrs in order to bring them to Jewish burial. It is impossible to describe the scenes that played out on to the streets, running with Jewish blood and among the sunken ruins. Parents were gathering up the burned and charred limbs and body parts of their children. Kittever Jews lamented aloud and clung to the dead bodies of their former friends and relatives. I am not able to describe even a small part of the tragic horror. Today, sixteen years later, my whole body falls into a tremble if I just recall the final day of the holiday in the spring of 1942. I am certain that the other Kittever landsleit who witnessed these horrors will also never in their lives forget them.
Wandering on the blood-spattered streets where lamentations and wailing came from all sides, I met my neighbour, Moshe Neiman, carrying his 22-year-old son, Hershele, to the cemetery on a wheel barrow. He had been shot. I met the girl, Ruth Olesker, who was bringing the bodies
of her shot-to-death parents, the well-known Zionist activist, Doctor Marcus Olesker and his wife. Jewish young men were carrying in sacks and on stretchers, the half-burned bodies of their friends and neighbours. I saw in the middle of the street, Meshulam Landwehr, lying opposite his house, shot. He lay face up. His eyes bulging with fear. I was afraid to close his eyes. His Ukrainian neighbours, the Uraks, were watching and laughing loudly. I also came across Shlomo Breger of Yablonitse, carrying the crippled body of his brother-in-law, Israel Dermer, whom the Ukrainians had beaten murderously before shooting him. In a gutter there were 3 bodies lying there, children of Yankel the carrier. The pool of blood in which they lay stuck them together so that they appeared as one body! I helped wrap in sacks and carry out the bodies of Zaide Fisher and his wife and children. They had been burned in their hiding place. I met the wife of my good friend Arthur Locker. When I asked where Arthur was, she led me to their burnt-out dwelling and showed me the bodies of her husband and her mother. To write down all the names, to describe the appearance of the holy martyrs and to tell how each one perished, would take up an entire book. Such a book would horrify every reader just as I am shuddering now on recalling these sights. Because of this, alone, I must limit myself and mention only a few cases from memory.
I am not capable of describing even a small part of my experiences and my feelings of that day when I wandered around the ruins, among the burnt-down homes and prayer houses. I walked through the unforgettable Jewish streets and lanes of Kittev where I once went to Cheder, to Synagogue and where I spent the best years of my life. Some of the houses were still smouldering
and the walls were spattered with blood. I stopped near the Great Synagogue and the Hasidic Bet-Midrash where, as a child, I davened with my father, may he rest in peace. Strew about here were torn and burnt holy books and prayer books. Across the Bet-Midrash, in a gutter, lay the bodies of the Shamess' wife and her children. But as I have said, my vocabulary is limited and I can't describe my experiences of that day. To do that, one has to be a Lamenter such as the prophet Jeremiah or a Bialik.
On Friday, April 11th, the Gestapo ordered that all remaining Jews in Kittev had to go to the Kolomei ghetto within 24 hours. But the Gestapo had to postpone for a few months its plan for the complete liquidation of the Jews in Kittev because there was still a lot of menial labour in the city which the Jews had to do. First of all, it was necessary to clear away the collapsed ruins and bring the dead to Jewish burial. All of these things the Jews had to complete before being liquidated.
Therefore, on Saturday, April 12th, the Gestapo commanded that there may remain in Kittev only those Jews whose work permit was confirmed by the German labour office in Kossev and by the Gestapo.
The business of the work permits (cards) is a sad chapter. I will not dwell too much on the politics that various groups played with regards to this matter. The Kittev Judenrat made up its lists of work permits. The community council had its own lists and the other places where Jews did forced labour did the same. A regular commerce developed with work permits. Naturally, the names of the Jews who paid off were placed on the list first. Only after this, names of the other Jews who were able to work were entered.
In connection with the work permits, there also arose fictitious weddings. A single man or a widower whose wife had perished during the Juden akzion was permitted to register a girl or
another Jewish woman as his wife, and as his wife, she was allowed to remain in Kittev. Parents could not remain on the basis that their children were working, however, under-age children (minors) could remain with their parents.
Until the second black day for the Jews of Kittev came, the day of April 24th, 1942. On that day, on all roads leading to Kolomei from Kittev and the surrounding towns, there moved long columns of the death-sentenced Jews. That was the death-march the march of the living dead.
In these death-caravans, there mostly were old people, sick women and children and also young men who, for various reasons, could not get permission to remain at work.
Some of the sick were carried in wheel-barrows which the Judenrat supplied. The rest dragged along on their weak and ailing feat. They took nothing with them because they had nothing left and anyhow, this was their final trip. The death-sentenced Jews had given up all hope. They knew that there was no way back. A few older Jews committed suicide because they didn't want their old bones to be buried in a strange place. They preferred to lie in the cemetery in Kittev rather than undergo torture in the Kolomei ghetto and then be gassed or buried in some pit deep in the forest.
Among those who committed suicide before the death-march to Kolomei were Reb Nissen Krumholtz and Reb Wolf Steinbrecher who hanged themselves. Reb Leizer Weiss fulfilled the wish of his old sick mother and poisoned her.
The Final Road
Even before the Juden akzion in Kittev took place, a small group of Kittever Jews, considering the hopeless situation and witnessing the systematic extermination campaigns of the Nazi, decided that there was no chance of rescue for Jews under the German occupation. This group began to seek other ways to save their own and other Jewish lives.
From the Ukrainian blackmarket operators, the Jews learned that in Chernovitz, Romania, about 80km from Kittev, nearly 40,000 Jews were living. The Jews of Chernovitz had to wear the yellow patch, had to go to the market in certain set hours to buy supplies but were living in their own homes and living 'normally'. Acting on this information, a small group of Kittever Jews, young men and two days after the Juden-akzion, set out on the dangerous path of escaping to Romania. These young men were followed by a number of other Kittever Jews and were saved.
The trip to Romania was, understandably, extremely difficult and risky. Romania was Germany's ally. Not all the Jews who set out on this dangerous path succeeded in reaching Chernovitz. Some were killed by those who were guiding them across the border after they had robbed them. Others were caught by the Romanians and sent to the camps in Transnistria
But, despite the danger, a small number of Jews managed to get to Chernovitz, survive the War and be saved
from the Nazi death. Regrettably, only a few Jews seized the opportunity to smuggle themselves in Romania. The greater part of the Kittever Jews, especially those who remained in the city after April 24th, on the basis of their work certificates, were lulled by the respite hoping that the murderers would now leave them alone. Some even received letters from those who were saved in Chernovitz, warning them to get over to Romania. But the Kittever Jews responded that for now they were not being bothered and if the situation were to change for the worse, they would flee at the last minute. However, not the Jews but the German murderers decided when the last hour would strike against the Jews. When the final hour came, it was too late and there no longer was any rescue for the Jews.
As previously mentioned, after April 24th, 1942, only Jews who had work certificates remained in Kittev. From time-to-time, the German labour supervisor would conduct new registrations. Then, the Jews had to assemble at the appointed time in the market square and have their certificates checked. This is how it went on until September 7th, 1942.
On Monday, September 7th, the history of the Jewish community in Kittev really ended. On that day, the remaining Jews were driven out and walked their final road. Kittev became Judenrein. The 18 Jewish artisans whom the Germans had left in the city were liquidated two months later. Only three of these managed to save themselves: the tinsmith, Aaron Goldshmidt; the tailor, Moshe Elenbogen and the apothecary, Pavel Remmer.
The Germans made Kittev Judenrein in the following manner: On the appointed Monday, the murderers ordered a new registration for the Jews of Kittev. The Judenrat requested the Jews to come to the registration and come decently dressed in order to find favour in the eyes of the overlord . . . But not all the Jews of Kittev
trusted this: 250 Jews crossed the Romanian border that night toward Vizshnitz and turned themselves in to the Romanian border guard. A number of Jews hid themselves. By the way, the Germans carried out this kind of 'final' registration in every city on one same day so that the Jews would not be able to communicate with each other.
When the Jews assembled on that Monday with their families in the Kittev market square, the Gestapo and SS with the Ukrainian militia surrounded the place and drove the Jews like cattle to the slaughter, to the courtyard of the Pole Tustanovski on the Kossev road and locked them into the attic. 564 Jews came to the registration. A few elderly Jews who attempted to run away were shot.
Monday afternoon, the Germans also drove into the same courtyard the 250 Jews who had fled to Romania and the Romanian border guard had turned them over into the murderers' hands. The head of the final extermination action was the well-known sadist and murderer, Frost.
After penning the Jews into the big house, the whole mob Germans and Ukrainians set out among the houses to look for hidden Jews. In the dwelling of my brother-in-law, Meshik Liebergall, they found his 4-week old baby lying in the crib. The mother who had run to hide, had left the infant in its cradle so that the child would not give away the hiding place by crying. The man-beasts forced the miserable Jewish father to take the child along on the final trip to the dark abyss. The Germans and the Ukrainians arranged the last Jews of Kittev in rows: the men in the middle and the women and children at the sides and kept watch that no one could escape. Upwards to 800 Jews were driven out of Kittev on that September 7th.
In that last transport of the Kittev Jewish community, there were the Baal Tefillah (prayer-leader) and sweet singer, Yakir Knall, the son-in-law of Rafael Shochet.
His father-in-law and mother-in-law, his wife Batiah and her brother Shmulik had perished during the first Juden akzion on April 10th. The only thing which Yakir took along on the final trip was a Machzor (High Holiday prayer book). The SS executioner asked him what he was carrying under his arm and he answered a prayer book. The executioner then commanded him to sing so as to make the death march interesting. Yakir turned to the prayers of the Yom Kippur Neilah and began singing with such cries that could make the heavens tremble. He sang and keened all the way. If it is true that stones can weep, they must have been moved by the heart-rending and heaven-splitting cries. Nevertheless, the whole community of Kittever Jews were not saved by the merit of the prayer. Only two were saved: Yakir Knall and Zelig Tillinger. The entire community was murdered.
On September 8th, the Germans and Ukrainians drove the remaining Jews of the Kossev district into Kossev and the following day, took them to Kolomei where they were locked up in the prison courtyard. On September 10th, the sadist and murderer, Wiessman, posted himself with a rubber whip and sorted all the Jews. The weaker ones he commanded to be shot and the younger and stronger ones to be sent to the forced labour camp in Lemberg. The remaining Jews were packed into railroad cars 250 to 300 per car and transported to Belz. In the cars, many were suffocated or expired from hunger such as Mordecai Preminger and my cousin, Joseph Meltzer. The rest of the Jews were forced into the slaughter houses where they were killed by an electric current.
The Kittever young men whom the Germans had sent to the Yanover labour camp near Lemberg, died one-by-one, some from hunger, some from beatings and some from hard labour. Every morning before work, the murderers commanded them to run and whoever was too weak to run, they drew them down onto the sand and fired a bullet into his head. In November, 1943, the Nazis liquidated
the Yanover camp and thus, the last Jews of Kittev perished along with the remaining Jews of the neighbouring cities.
September 7th was also the last day for the Jews of Sniatin. They were also loaded into freight cars and transferred to Belz. A month later, the Nazi liquidated the Jews of Kolomei. On October 11th, the Germans and Ukrainians surrounded the Kolomei ghetto, took the Jews out and locked them into railroad cars en route to Belz. After the Jews of Kolomei were on their way to Belz, the Sturm-fuhrer Weissmann and the head of the security police, Hertel, demanded from the Judenrat 100 more Jews to shoot. They explained they had not seen any blood! Their helpers caught a hundred Jews and turned them over to the sadists who led them out to the chicken farm, made them lie on the ground and shot bullets into their throats.
The remaining 250 Jewish artisans in Kolomei were liquidated by the Germans on November 6th, 1942. On that day they also torched the entire ghetto, shot the Jews and threw them into the flames. Some they also took into the woods.
Thus the entire Jewish settlement of the whole region was destroyed. Thus, the Germans destroyed the largest Jewish community in Poland.
The Dead City Kittev Without Jews
In April, 1944, I was in Kittev for the last time after the Germans had left.
Before setting out into the great world to look for a place of rest for me and my family, I wanted to see my birthplace
and say farewell to the old home. I wanted, for the last time, to inscribe in my memory the ghastly destruction of Kittev. I looked at the burned Jewish homes and prayer-houses, trod on the dear Jewish streets and alleys where, as a boy I had played, and where my buddies and I spun the most beautiful dreams of youth. The last Jew of Kittev was taking leave of the holy martyrs.
I came into the city at three in the afternoon and did not meet a living soul. Kittev without Jews looked like a dead city. Even the center, which had always been lively and noisy, was now still, dead as a cemetery.
The burned-out Jewish houses lay in ruins as they did two years ago except that now, they were overgrown with grass and weeds. The Jewish streets were covered with green wild grasses which grew so tall that they completely covered and screened everything. It was obvious that in the last two years, the Ukrainian bandits who had participated in the murder and plundering of the Jews, had not set foot in a Jewish street. They had feared the dead Jews more than the living. I tried to recollect who had lived in the houses and it seemed to me that I heard the spirits moving and their wings hovering among the ruins. I recalled the scene in I.L. Peretz's: A Night on the Old Marketplace where the spirits come out and sing: The paths where we went walking have long been overgrown. I myself, one Jew in the dead city, appeared like a ghost who came back from the other world and could find no rest. There were moments when I could not be sure if I were alive or if it were my ghost that wandered in search of purification.
On my way to the Kittever cemetery, I met Kittever Ukrainians with their murderous faces. They saw me and stood petrified. The Ukrainian, called Trishchuk, even came up to me
and touched me as if to convince himself that it was I. He crossed himself and ran away.
At the cemetery, I found out that the Ukrainian murderers did not content themselves with helping to murder the living Jews, but they did not even leave the dead alone. They tore out many of the monuments from the graves and used the stones to fortify the banks of the Mlunubke (a small stream which drove the Kittever mills and sawmills).
I came to two mass graves, took off my shoes not wanting to tread on the soft green grasses and fresh white spring flowers which looked like a beautiful carpet over the two huge graves of the holy martyrs. I held my breath, that the rapid rhythm of my heartbeat should not disturb the holy peace of the place. Thus, I took leave of the martyrs with bowed head and trembling knees. I revived in my memory the names of all my family members and comrades who were in these holy mass graves and bade farewell to each one. It was a quiet farewell. I did not hear my own voice, only felt the whisper of my lips which moved silently. A light breeze bent the thin young trees to the earth and it seemed to me as if the holy souls were hovering in their branches and saying to me: farewell!
With a pained and heavy heart, I took leave of the holy ones. I wished to leave a sign that I, Yitzchak Eisig ben Chaim, the last Kittever Jew, had been there. But I soon noticed that the temporary tombstone that we had erected over the mass graves in April 1942 had also vanished. My heart sank within me with pain, and my hands curled into fists at this murderous infamy, but I was helpless to act. In a nearby garden, I tore out a white-painted board from a fence and
dug it into the earth like a tombstone. On this board I wrote with black charcoal:
Here Rest the Kittever Holy Martyrs
Men, Women and Children
Who on April Tenth, 1942
Were by the German and Ukrainian Murderers
Cruelly Done to Death.
May Their Souls Be Bound in the Bond of Life
With this ended the history of the Jews in Kittev. Jewish Kittev lies in ruins. The Jews were murderously destroyed. The voices of Torah of the famous Rabbis and Rebbes of Kittev, of the Yeshivos and Cheders, of teachers and pupils, Cantors and Baalei Tefillah (non-cantorial prayer leaders), were silenced for eternity.
There remains only the dear memory of the holy martyrs and the mass graves and the remaining violated tombstones which were torn out and used to pave the roads of Kittev.
We swear that we will never forget them and ever keep their remembrance holy.
Upon the remaining murderers, Ukrainians and others who remained in Kittev, one wishes to invoke the words of the great prophet and eulogiser, Jeremiah:
Repay them according to the deeds of their hands. Give them sorrow of heart; thy curse unto them. Pursue them in wrath and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord. (Quoted from Lamentations 3:64-66).
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Kuty, Ukraine Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2023 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 16 Jan 2023 by LA