[Page 88]

A Gentile Who is Remembered For Good

by Yechezkel Potasher of blessed memory

During the time of the holocaust, I hid in Lizhensk. After escapes, wanderings, frights, and torture, I found a hiding place in a storage pit for potatoes.

This pit was narrow. My clothes became worn out and fell off of me in tatters. My naked body became food for mites. Who could imagine that in this age of technology and human ability, the human body would suddenly be given over to the mercy of these insects and mites, without any means of defense.

Much has been said about the holocaust and its horrors, however nobody has written about the day-to-day sufferings of a person. Every moment of the long day was filled with small but irritating aches and pains, wounds and humiliation that would reduce one to tears. Nobody can imagine this human pain, that the conditions would be such for a human being that there was no protection against worms, insects, mosquitoes and flies. There was no possibility of defending oneself and fighting the “enemy”.

This situation lasted for two years. The narrow pit was stuck to my body like clothing. On certain days I was afraid to move and change my position, lest it would cave in and I would lose my hiding place. The cold, moss, heat, and stifling conditions that pervaded in the pit were transferred directly to my limbs and wore them out. My body became pitted with holes that served as living places for a multitude of insects. Reddish brown blood dripped from my pitted body. I was scratched and twisted to the point of tears, which then froze. The holes in my body plugged up, and then again began to itch and hurt to the point where the heart might stop and the chest become choked, due to the pressure on the heart.

Above my head, the steel birds of the Nazi invaders flew and threatened death from the skies, over and above the slow death which was creeping up on me from the ground and its insects. There were times when I wished for death and saw it as the only possible redemption. There were times which I thought were my last moments, and therefore the best moments of my life; and there were times when I saw no possibility of death, and these were the most frightful times of this period.

All of these things joined together into one era of suffering, which wearied the spirit and killed all desire to live.

I do not remember during these two years one moment when the will to live and continue on was awakened in me. I lived, for there was also no possibility to bring upon a pleasant death to myself. My strength dwindled to nothing, and when I remember this period I see myself as a weak bundle, woven together into a muddy form, devoid of any will and ambition. It seemed as if I stood on the side looking on to my body, a brown spectacle of a creature, which did not have any signs of existence nor means of life, reminding me of a white, frightening tapeworm, devoid of blood and soul.

Thus did I exist for two years.

One day, my eyes dimmed from weakness and I fell into a swoon. Everything became blurry and unclear as if it was a house of mist and darkness.

Suddenly, before my eyes stood my town Lizhensk before the destruction, and it was all a dream. We Jews were no longer Jews, but rather gentiles and human beings, normal people like members of any other nation. The yellow patches were removed from our backs, the rusty barbed wire and locked gates were thrown to the side, and there were many openings to freedom – there was no longer a ghetto. The gas chambers and crematoria were destroyed and the route was open to freedom, to family, to a Sabbath table, and to the pleasantness of the extra soul[1] as previously existed.

In this dreamlike swoon it was good for me. Myriads of family members marched by slowly, without pausing, as people who were marching confidently to their home, our home in Lizhensk, in order to welcome the Sabbath together with father, mother, grandfather and grandmother. My family members were great in number in my dream – there were too many of them; but nevertheless many were missing, particularly those who were bound to my soul in my childhood. For example, father was missing. The Kiddush cup was sitting on the white tablecloth, full of wine, but father's hand was not there to reach out and take it in his hands, to close his eyes and make the blessing, to sanctify the day. The polished silver candlesticks were there waiting for mother's hands to cover her eyes and recite the blessing on the candles. Mother also was not there. There were many family members in my dream, but those that I longed for were not there.

The orphaned Kiddush cups turned about, as if they were waiting for someone. They also were searching for father. The candlesticks were burning with a cold flame, and a wind was blowing the flame. Mother was not there to light the flame, and they gave off no light at all.

Suddenly from somewhere, a wind blew and brought the smell of blood to my nostrils. From the corners of the house, a holy page of the Shema prayer blew in, soaked with the lifeblood of my dearest family members.

Apparently, this was a daydream, for I stood upon my thin legs and was astonished at the goodness in the dream, as well as the horror in it.

The rattle of a thundering motorcycle uprooted the last remnants of the dream from my eyelids. In the midst of the dream, I knew what tidings this search motorcycle of the steel dogs would bring. As the German motorcycle passed by, I slunk and retreated to my hiding place, and the dream faded away.

I then decided in my heart to die, and whatever will be will be.

All night, my eyes stared into the darkness, thinking of the path to death. I did not realize that dawn broke. The thought of my ability to die filled me with a strange hope, the meaning of which I did not understand.

When morning came, he arrived and brought the thin, hot, watery soup that he withheld from his own mouth in order to give to me. For many days, I requested that he help me, that he sustain my starving body with some small morsel that would be brought to the hiding place at great risk to his life. He placed down the plate and left.

I remember that several times, I pleaded to former friends, good neighbors so to speak; and they mocked me and my naked, pitted and pock marked body. They took from me whatever remnants of my property that I gave them as ransom of my soul, and they later chased me as a dog and mocked my desire to live. They mocked the breath of a Jew who was excess in the world, who wished to remain alive. Of what use, and for what purpose, was life to him?

He was the only one, and no other. It was only he, the postman from Siedlanka, who was known to be a Jew hater. He and only he endangered his life to save me, a human soul who required his assistance, even though he had no special connection to me.

I thought that he would understand me. I explained him of my desire to die. I showed him my body covered with a sticky armor of layers of clotted blood, dirty, filthy and bloated from hunger. I thought that he also would be tired of me and of the danger that threatened him, and that he would understand me and assist me in my death.

However he sat down beside me, and slowly, patiently, began to encourage me greatly and requested that I preserve my life.

I will never forget those moments. I had made up my mind to turn myself over to the Nazis who would decapitate me as a dog and put me out of my misery, which was slowly draining me. I sat and explained to him that this was the only route in my desperate circumstances, and I requested his help in this matter. I wanted him to remove me from the hiding place and take me directly to the enemy, and thereby put an end to the suffering of both of us.

He sat and explained to me that the end of the enemy is nearing, and then the sun will yet shine, and quickly we will see comfort. He spoke to me at length in this manner, and instilled his comfort to me.

He even went further. He promised me to strengthen my ability to live, and help me even more.

Thus did I remain alive.

To the shame of humankind in general, and the people of nationalist Poland, I cannot reveal the name of this person who stood up to the test of a human being, lest I endanger his existence in his country. I cannot reveal his name, however the people from Lizhensk know about whom I am referring.

May we remember him for good at all times.

{Photo page 91-92 – Yechezkel Potasher's Nazi identification certificate. (His birth date is noted as
Dec 28, 1900.)}

[Page 93]

What I Saw and Heard in Lizhensk after the Holocaust

by Minia Ribenfeld

(From the mouth of a Christian woman, a friend of Minia Ribenfeld.)

{Photo page 93 – parents of Sender and Mattel Shank.}

  1. Sender Shank hid in the cemetery. Obiszczak recognized him, chased after him, caught him, and murdered him with his knife. The Russians later captured Obiszczak and shot him dead.

  2. A German captured Mattel Shank and dragged him on he roads until he died. Nobody was able to save him.

  3. Reb Nechemia Hoff spent the war in the forests. He heard the news of the victory and returned to Lizhensk healthy and whole. He lived for some time in Potasher's house. Some soldiers of the army passed by and threw a bomb, killing him.

  4. Yosha (Yosef) Zeivel and Itzi Shaar hid in the former home of Zwilski on Reisha Street. Tosiek Krasinski and Zygmunt Paszibilski brought him bread to eat. They were not careful enough, and the Gestapo discovered them and captured them. Itzi Shaar was handcuffed, and a piece of bread was tied the to the handcuffs in front of his face in order to incite his appetite and increase the suffering. However he was very strong, and during the entire journey he spoke to the Gestapo agents and told them: “Don't gloat, for your time will come also.” They shot both of them. Ludwik Maroszek, who was behind the Catholic church, assisted in their murder.
    The partisans later captured Maroszek and shot him dead.
    Russians also killed Kalwowitz

  5. The Christian baker Slabinski and his daughter endangered themselves daily by bringing bread to the ghetto without any expectation of payment.

  6. Josek Obiszczak led the effort of destroying the gravesite of Rebbe Elimelech.

  7. Sczczepanek, who was formerly the bus driver, murdered many Jews with his own hands. The Zwita guard buried them. Later, Szczepanek hid in Kolbaszow, however the Russian militia followed after him, and he committed suicide by hanging himself.

  8. Fredik and Johan Keifer pursued Jews to death.

  9. Edek Keifer, his wife Marina, and their sister Krystyna behaved entirely differently. They aided Jews at every opportunity.

  10. Leibel Katz would fearlessly run, without horses, to bring food to those who were imprisoned in the ghetto. He also buried many of the murdered Jews. At the end, he dug his own grave. The Germans shot him, but they did not finish their work. They left him in his grave while he was still alive. Josek Obiszczak killed him as the grave was covered.

  11. Nachman Katz from Orzechow was ordered by the Nazis to dig himself a grave. Then they killed him.

  12. Moshe Katz of Orzechow was shoot and killed in Korolowka.

  13. Nachman Katz' wife and the two daughters of Mendel the gingi (the red) from Hodniki were killed by the Germans in Siniwa, under the bridge.

  14. Chamil Bogatz was killed in Lemberg.

  15. Yaakov (Yankel) Katz and his family from Orzechow were murdered by Frank Borkowski and Marian Kowalszyk of the Wodniks. To this day, they wander about Lizhensk without any fear, in complete freedom.

  16. Avraham Grinfeld from Orzechow was thrown into the San. Later they placed him on a sandbank and shot him dead. His children were murdered in the Uchrana of Orzechow.

  17. The Polish policeman from Lizhensk, Nawazszani, collaborated with the Nazis and killed many Jews with his own hands.

  18. The policeman Glabale was a police supervisor in the Roza district. He killed many Jews of our region. Today, he is in jail.

  19. The following homes were destroyed by the Germans:
    The homes of Leibele Roitman, Avraham Spergel, Asher Shif, Wolf Wachs, Ber Strauch, Zalman Naritzenfeld, Kalman Kirschenbaum, Zisha Grinberg, Pesach Strauch, Rabbi Menashe Frankel, Naftali Roth, Leib Goldstein, Petachia Wachtel, Moshe Chaim Bach, Yosef Kraus, Bunim Laub, Chaim Eizen, the Mizrachi School, Ozer Rosenblatt (on Churba Street), Yosef Ausebel, Hirsch Ader, Moshe Kaufman, Meir Strauch (on Reisha Street). The bulk of the work of destruction was done by the Christian residents, who sold the building materials.

  20. The hill of the cemetery was razed and the valley was closed off. It was all turned into one plain that served as a source of fertilizer for the region. Near the side near the Christian bakery stood wagons. Cows grazed in the cemetery area itself. Wladek Zukredej annexed the other side of the cemetery, near the slaughterhouse, to his garden. A Christian who had purchased a field behind the cemetery received a plot of land from the cemetery, which served as a pathway.

  21. The teacher Josef Dafowski, the writer Ozinczowa, Francizek Urbanski of the pig field, and Zdzislaw Zwilski all helped the Jews.

  22. When the Polish A. K. men threw the bomb into Potasher's home, forty Jews who had survived up to that time lived there, including some Lizhensk residents. Fifteen of them were killed. According to what we heard, they were buried in a communal grave near the magistrate.

  23. Mottel Shpring captured the Volkes Deutsch (native German) Mathius Falus of Koenigsberg in the forest near Wola, and chopped of his head with an axe.

  24. Chana Shtiler of Brozie and her brothers Eliahu and Tovia Shpring hid with farmers. Some Polish guards searched them out, found them, and killed them when they were asleep. They then killed the farmers who hid them. This was in 1943.

  25. Jewish women and girls dressed in white in order to appear as Christians and worked in harvesting vegetables in the fields. The Germans did not suspect anything and they were saved, however the Christians detained them. Leibish Shwamfeld succeeded in saving the girls, however he himself was shot by those Christians.

  26. On the next day, a Christian by the name of Kaszik searched for the girls. However, they hid in a water pit and he did not find them, even with the assistance of dogs

  27. The Germans always conducted searched for hidden Jews with the help of the local Christians.

  28. At the beginning, the gentiles of Brozie helped the Jews, however when Glabale arrived, they changed their conduct.

  29. The Germans of Koenigsberg pillaged the property of the Jews of Wola.

  30. They plucked out Strauch's beard in his tavern.

  31. Sheindel of Brozie and her children were turned in by a gentile. They were brought to the Gestapo and shot.

  32. Zushka of Wola hid the children of Shpring until the end of the war.

  33. The Jews of Bircza were hidden in the ghetto of Sieniawa

  34. The ninety year old mother-in-law of Juszi Laufer was harnessed by the Germans to a wagon along with a horse, and forced to drag the wagon. She dragged the wagon to the town. In the town, they unhitched her and put her in the home of Avromchele Rokach. The poor old woman sat there in the house drained of all energy, happy that they gave her a chance to rest a bit. What did the Germans do? They stood there and practiced their marksmanship toward her through the window, and slowly killed her.

  35. Manek Laufer, the son of Juszi Laufer, was met by Josek Avszik in the marketplace. He shot him and killed him in the center of the marketplace.

  36. The son of Yitzchak and Golda Westrik, a young child, was hidden in cramped quarters in a village near Jaroslaw. There were other Jews together with him. On one occasion, the child forgot to be careful, and he was discovered. They captured him and killed him along with the other Jews.

[Page 96]

Lizhensk – Russia – Lizhensk

by M. N. Yarut

It was the Sabbath. The Beis Midrash was filled to the brim. The prayers were supplicatory, and gloom was prevalent. The full force of the war was arriving, and blowing towards everyone. Representatives of the government entered the Beis Midrash. They called out the decree of the government to the Jewish citizens: “The Jews should donate whatever they can in order to purchase a tank for the Polish army…”

Rabbi Yoel Moshe Landau, Reb Moshe Karp, the Polish representatives and others addressed the congregation. The situation was tense. Everyone wanted to know what was happening here. What was the situation? What would happen to the remnants of the Jewish people?

… The havdalah candles were flickering in the windows, as if they were winking to each other from the windows in the Jewish street. The pots flashed from the flames of secret candles.

In the window of Yosef Guzak that faced the marketplace was the radio from which everyone could hear the news. In the middle of the night, light was could be seen from the windows of the town. The tension grew. The rumor spread of an enlistment, so far not universal. About ten or twenty Jews already received their draft call. Hirsch Shank and Dov Reichenthal received their draft papers, as did Asher Roitman, this writer, Yosef Reichenthal, and others.

In those days, Jews avoided army service. They did not wish to defile themselves by eating non-kosher food and by violating the Sabbath. They did not wish to lose the opportunity to put on their tefillin, and fulfill their other religious duties. Things were different now. We were now in a war against Nazi Germany whose slogan was “the murder of the Jews”. Every Jew was willing to fight against the barbaric Hitler. We were prepared; a different spirit pervaded us now.

That night was a night of watching for us. At 9 AM, the train to Jaroslaw left, on its way toward the conscription camp that was specified in the draft order. Sad Jews and gentiles went on this train. At one time, these gentiles would go to the army in joy, gladness, songs and rejoicing; however now they were all silent, somber, with tears gathering in their eyes. We knew why they were so sad – they had no desire to fight against Hitler. This was also are reason for our sadness. We carried out tefillin bags in our pockets with the knowledge that we were in need of great mercy, for there would be war against us from the front and the rear.

We parted from our families with tears and anguish, for very few believed that we would return. We were stuffed into the transport trains. The journey was not long, and in Jaroslaw we found several Jews from Lizhensk. These were Jewish youths from the regular army, including: Butzi Bakon, Leibele Reichenthal, Hirsch Leventhal, and others. There was confusion all over, and lack of organization. Several of the Christian conscripts returned home immediately, however all the Jews remained.

{Photo page 97 – Moshe Drillman and his wife when they were about to make aliya.}

We fought against the enemy from the dugouts. Many fell in battle and many others were taken prisoner by the Germans. However almost all of the conscripts of Lizhensk returned home alive.

The war was a blitzkrieg. They bombed the army barracks of Jaroslaw, and we were transferred to villages. On the route, caravans of tanks and cannons, damaged by bombs and grenades, passed by.

Several days passed and we were brought to the front on the other side of the San. In Jaroslaw, on the route to Lubaczow, every soldier received his canister of death, his number for use after his death that was to be tied from the neck.

It was the eve of the Sabbath, the Sabbath eve prior to Rosh Hashanah. Jews gathered together and took council together in Yiddish. The Christian soldiers were not able to tolerate this. The atmosphere was tense, and we were between the hammer and the anvil.

They showed us the maps of our trenches. Those who understood military matters immediately recognized the chaos and the treachery. Our trenches were on the high banks of the San, with embankments of earth molded on top. When the Germans arrived and reached the San, we Jews would be their first targets. We recognized that we were in danger if we were to remain on the heights. We took our own initiative and went to the lower areas, with every two people digging for themselves pillars to stand on. One sergeant explained to us in very plain language that if we were to remain at the original post we would meet with certain death, as we would be an obvious target for German bullets.

We did not see any tanks, cannons, or airplanes in our camp. A few thousand soldiers armed with only outdated personal weapons were expected to stop an enemy armed with the best of modern equipment.

When we rested a bit from digging the posts, we entered a nearby field and sat down. We had not eaten a morsel for two days. We took out our tin can rations and ate them with the clear knowledge that it was very possible that the next day there would be nobody to eat them.

In this matter there was no difference between Christians and Jews – everyone recited his confessional prayers prior to death in his own manner. During such serious, somber moments, various episodes from one's past life, filled with pleasant moments, pass by one's eyes. Now it would be time to part from a wife, from a child, from a father, from a grandparent, to forget all the dear relatives, and prepare for a frightful and certain death.

We concluded. We separated from each other with kisses and weeping. The Christians made the sign of the cross, and we returned to our digging. Everyone received a hand grenade, which we were supposed to throw as the Germans approached and came into close contact with us.

In my unit there was also a youth from Lancut, a blacksmith by profession. At night we were asked if there was any volunteer to go to lay mines on the bridge over the San. The youth volunteered. I begged him not to volunteer, and I pleaded with him. He did not listen to me. Until this day, I am pained with the knowledge that he went and did not return.

I remained the only Jew in the regiment. To my surprise, a mounted cannon was granted to each unit. It was brought on a horse pulled wagon, and came along with a staff of workers. Among the workmen that arrived to our unit was Asher Roitman. It became easier for me, it became easier for my heart, we rejoiced as we met; however he stood by the wagon in the field without any defense, open to the enemy attack. I was afraid for him, and I helped him to dig a trench. I remained with him at his guard post.

The drawn out retreat of the Polish army that took place that entire Sabbath was dreadful. From afar, we saw the road crowded with the retreating army. We could only imagine that within a few hours we would also be with them, and their lot would be our lot. They ran in confusion, torn and pursued, barefoot and naked, silent and defeated. Their wounded arms were hanging from bloodstained bandages bound together with hair. They shouted distraught shouts of anger. These people had at one time been an army. Some of them had weapons, and others did not.

We could not imagine how this could have happened. At the beginning of the night, we heard German convoys entering Jaroslaw, followed by heavy military equipment. However our cannons attacked them violently, without mercy, and they retreated. It was told, and now verified, that they had surrounded the city from three directions. On the next morning, Sunday morning, they approached the San in the area where we had been digging. I was together with Rothman and another Jew, as well as other soldiers. Beside us, we saw trenches from the previous war. We sat and waited, to see what would happen, what would develop.

At 5:00 AM, the Germans began to attack in their conquest San. Airplanes flew literally over our heads and rained fire down upon us from their guns. It was a miracle that we were not shot to death. Our soldiers were killed or fled. Near our place of refuge there stood a lone house in the field. It was surrounded by a fence and there was a well there. It was a one-story home, and it was locked. We broke the heavy lock and burst in. We found a basket full of eggs. The residents had fled and left them behind. There were many pots of fats, as this was the home of a sausage maker. We saw the Germans through the window. They had captured out post and were nearing our house of refuge. Behind the house there stood a camouflaged cannon, which shot rocks at the Germans. We left our weapons outside. The Germans were certain that a battalion of Polish soldiers was hidden there. The house was all plastered with concrete. They approached it cautiously and threw in several hand grenades. The house started to burn. We had no choice, so we went out with our hands up. The captured us and took us with fixed bayonets. Of the thousands of soldiers, only a few remained. Only two Germans were commanded to watch over us.

They brought us to the main street, and organized us into two rows. The German captain immediately appeared, very tall and gray. He ordered a search of all of us, and I showed him my tefillin. I explained to him that they were holy articles for the purpose of prayer. I told him that I had taken them with me as a Jew, and they were not radios or transmitters.

He told me to hide them in my pocket and he commanded that we be brought to Jaroslaw.

At this point, they separated me from Asher Roitman. They did not want us to be in large groups. My group was led again by two Germans. On the route, we found a Polish sergeant who had been severely wounded. He was a Christian from Lublin. Since he saw me talking with the German soldiers, he requested that I save him. We laid him down on a stretcher in order to transport him to Jaroslaw. The bridge over the San had been bombed, but to our good fortune that water was shallow. The Germans requested a volunteer to enter the river and show the way. There was one gentile there who had lived in the area, and he wanted to show us the crossing; however I volunteered. I thought that after I crossed to the other side I would be able to escape under the cover of night. However, when I got to the other bank I saw that there were thousands of Germans there, and there was no possibility of escape. Our two German guards also figured out my intention. They shouted to me to return, but they did not shoot me.

Thus, I remained a prisoner on the opposite bank. They began to tend to the wounded person. They wanted to leave him in one of the houses there, however all around there was complete darkness. Suddenly, from one house a light of a flashlight began to shine, so we entered. This was the home of a Jew with a long white beard. The Polish 'shkotzim' immediately began to mock this person and shout Zhid after him, in order to find favor in the eyes of their captors. The Jew was very frightened, and I saw that these animals were liable to hurt him, so I told them in the names of the Germans that only I would enter. The Germans did not understand Polish and I, as the translator, twisted the words according to my will. I said that the Jew did not wish to hide a wounded captive lest they report that he hides captives. What could I do – for this was the order.

From there were taken to Munina to build a temporary bridge. Along the way we saw the slaughter that they had perpetrated upon our soldiers. We were given over to a German captain who was the area commander. He was ordered to take us to Jaroslaw. The captain ordered us to work. We begged him to free us. We told him that we were war captives, that we had not eaten for two days, and that we were tired and hungry, pressed to death. This did not help, and we were organized into work groups. After a half an hour he had second thoughts for some reason, and ordered that we be transported to Jaroslaw.

We were brought to a large hotel in Jaroslaw, and later to the town hall in the marketplace in the center of town. A Jew guarded the gate to the town hall. We were arranged into two lines. A tall Gestapo captain came out of the office. He informed us that from this point we were in his command. He ordered us to remove everything from our pockets. Once again I removed my tefillin, and he again treated them with respect. When I put them back in my pockets he asked me if, as a Jew, I knew how to write German and would be able to prepare a list of all of the captives, including their religious affiliation and place of army duty.

He set a place for me in his office near his desk, and he offered me a tin of sardines.

After this, they imprisoned us in the cellar of the town hall. The cellar served as a jail for all of those who were captured for any reason. The next day, they freed them all with the exception of the prisoners and the Jewish guards. When a German army captain or a Gestapo member entered, I was required to stand up, salute, and inform them that “there are war captives here”. He would answer with a salute and leave. A Jewish lawyer was responsible for all of the Jewish prisoners. He also saluted, stood up and made his announcements. However instead of being responded to with a salute, he was slapped on the face and kicked in the belly.

Within a few days, the number of captives increased from 25 to 100. The cellar was too small to house us all, so we were transferred to offices. On the morning of Shabbat Shuva[2] they organized us, and German trucks arrived in order to transfer us to Germany. We had grown beards, since we had not had the opportunity to shave for several days. Our hair was unkempt and we were dirty. We few Jews always attempted to be at the end, as perhaps we might have an opportunity to escape and remain in the city. However our turn arrived on the last trucks. There were 25 prisoners on each truck. The guard sat in the cabin with the driver. There were no guards in the transport chamber. The roads were damaged and potholed from the bombardment. Frequently the truck had to driver very slowly. This would not be sudden, but rather the slow driving would have to commence a reasonable distance before the pothole. Many took such an opportunity to jump from the truck and disappear into the surrounding gardens. As we approached the entrance to Przeworsk, near the sugar and wine factories, there was a high gate, and once again, several people jumped out and disappeared. We Jews were frightened, and continued to travel with them. At 5:00 PM, we arrived in Lancut, at the plaza of the old market. Many Jews stood in the marketplace, as they would have done in previous times, as if the world was running as normal. Among those congregated, I noticed Peretz Zonenwilik, and I requested that he inform my family that I remained alive. We arrived at the Potocki stables near the Great Synagogue. A Jewish woman stood at the entrance with a German captain and distributed loaves of bread to the captured soldiers. I asked her if she could help me. I was from Lizhensk, and I told her my name, and explained to her that my grandfather was known in Lancut. She immediately approached the captain and said that I was her brother, and requested that he free me. He agreed, but I was in my army fatigues, and it was difficult to free a soldier. We were in a courtyard surrounded by a hedge. Jews stood around us and chatted with us. I asked one of them to send one of the children of my uncle Melech or Ethel Kasztecher, the granddaughter of Berele Henies to me.

They arrived, and promised to bring me civilian clothing. Night had already fallen, and it was forbidden to walk around outside. I remained a prisoner for one more night. In the morning, they brought me clothes. They threw them over the hedge as if they were bringing me food. I entered the stable and changed clothes. In the meantime, various Christians also came to find their relatives from among the prisoners. They brought civilian clothing and if they did not find relatives, they gave them to others. Already many of us had changed clothing, but we were all afraid to escape and flee. I endangered myself, did not think very hard, saw farmers going out, and I joined along with my face toward the Germans. I lit a cigarette for myself near a German soldier with my back to the farmers. I puffed the cigarette and tarried a bit with my back toward the Christians. I stood near them, as someone who was not pressed for time, and I joined along with them and left through the narrow opening in the hedge.

There was a German soldier every two meters with a sub-machinegun in his hands. They did not notice that I was different than the rest, even though my spiked boots made noise and thus gave evidence that they were military boots. Near the opening, the woman who yesterday was distributing loaves of bread to the soldiers met me and uttered to me secretly “be careful and do not stay here”. I went to Ethel Kasztecher in order to give her my thanks, and I set forth toward Lizhensk.

As I passed through the city on the way to Lizhensk, when I was near the town, some German soldiers stared at me. I attempted not to make noise with my spiked boots, but it was impossible. My feet were wounded from the itching of the heavy boots. There were no German soldiers visible in the town itself. It was Sunday, and apparently they were at church. The town was full of Jews who wandered around, forlorn and with sacks in their hands. There were those who traveled in wagons without any specific destination in mind. They went in all directions. Some were going toward their homes and others were going quickly away from their homes. Everyone was afraid, and the fear was great.

A certain gentile stood outside the town, near the Christian cemetery. He recognized me, for we had enlisted into the defeated army together. He warned me not to walk on Reisha Street, for there the Germans were beating the Jews. I went onto a side alley opposite the house of Abba Kain. The woman who was there did not notice me. She had gone to draw water from the well that was net to the bathhouse. I passed by the burnt synagogue. Two soldiers stood on the steps checking identity papers. I passed behind them, toward the house of Yosef Ausubel. I was afraid to enter. As I went further I saw Yankel the tailor standing. He lit my cigarette with his large iron. He recognized me only by my voice. He put down his iron, brought me into a nearby house. He then ran to my parents to inform them that I was alive, for rumor had it in town that nobody remained alive of all the conscripts of Lizhensk. It was told that all those who were part of the Jaroslaw brigade were sent to the front lines, and all fell at the front.

The joy was too great to describe.

The first days in Lizhensk, up to the time of the expulsion, were full of fear, threats of beatings and shootings. Jews hid behind the closets and beds, in back rooms in cellars and attics, until the day of the expulsion came.

That day, the Germans did not haul out people to work. It was possible to roam about freely in the streets for several hours that day

Near our house, about thirty young people gathered together to take council regarding what to do. Everyone gave his opinion about where to go after they left Lizhensk. Confusion prevailed.

The game began. Parting from a town that is close to you, your own town – such long moments will never be forgotten. Within a few minutes, they had brought everyone out of their homes. Everyone went to the other side of the market with bundles and packages in their hands, and as many articles of clothing as was possible to wear on their bodies. The few articles of jewelry and other valuables were hidden near the belly. Shoes, hats, and shawls were taken. People also took some food. Many people no longer had much to take, and things that were forbidden to take.

Thus began the “march” toward the San.

There were some people who hired horses and wagons, and took suitcases with them. The houses were locked on all sides with heavy locks, and the keys were given to good Christian neighbors who would guard their property, the fruits of lifetimes of work. They were promised large gifts when they returned.

The Jews traveled with their heads down, their eyes toward the ground, as if they were guilty of some terrible deed. An oppressive gloom pervaded everywhere, the town stood silent without any sign of movement or life. Everyone was streaming outward toward the crossing of the San. The Jews walked with heavy and hesitating steps. One could see the despair in their pace. They were surrounded by German murderers armed with live weapons. The gentile residents of Lizhensk stood along the routes so as not to miss the opportunity to behold the spectacle. Many of them could not hide their joy at the calamity that had befallen their neighbors of many years. A few expressed anguish at what was happening, but the general feeling was: it is good that this is happening.

The journey to the San exhausted us, and we were under constant fear lest they shoot at us from behind. We also bore the pressure of the suspicion that we were being taken to be slaughtered. We did not realize that the intention was to transfer us to the Russian side, which was on the other side of the San.

The mournful procession continued on. At times, additional refugees joined us. There were some who did not want to leave the city before taking leave of their dear ones in the cemetery, as well as of the grave of Rebbe Elimelech, may his holy memory be for a blessing. Their hearts prophesied to them that the separation was to be for a long time, perhaps forever.

When we arrived at the river, we received the command to remove our jewelry and valuables, and to place everything on a blanket that was spread out for that purpose. The objects were heaped up. There were those who gave over their last coins. The young gentiles stood around and surveyed the Jews, figuring out from whom it is possible to extort something of value. The time seemed like an eternity, and the thought gnawed at us that perhaps this was the removal of valuables that was to precede the slaughter. Perhaps they would toss us into the river or shoot us in the water before we would reach the opposite bank.

When we arrived at the opposite bank of the river the oppression in our hearts lightened. We were freed from the visages of the Germans and their assistants, who had become fattened from our goods. Everyone ran to the village that was near Koroliwka, some went to the houses of the Jews and others went to their gentile acquaintances. A few continued on to villages that were farther away. Everyone wondered in their hearts: What had happened, where to go from here?

In the meantime, family members became separated. Families were divided up and lost contact with each other as they crossed the San in separate groups for various reasons. Some lost the last of their belongings when, due to weariness, they threw their packages onto any wagon that was crossing the river, and they could not find them on the other side. We began to hear sighs and gentle weeping as people dragged along their young children, carrying their youngest ones in their arms. There was no food to assuage their hunger. Some people looked for objects to sell in order to obtain food for the children, but none could be found. At sunset, the sorrow increased. The crying of the children, the wailing of the mothers, and the unanswered screams of the fathers joined together and added to the pain and despair. At night, added to the worry was the worry about where to rest the tired heads? Who would grant us shelter from the cold of the night? Men of ability and status were reduced to despair and destitution. It is hard to forget those first few evenings of the tragedy that was going to develop into such a great calamity that even the Satan himself would be embarrassed.

There was a small house near the San, the house of Mirele. Everyone from Lizhensk knows to whom I am referring. She opened her entire house to the desperate refugees, so that at least they could put their children to bed. She invited everyone to enter, however the small house was not large enough. We laid the children to sleep in the rooms and in the attic, and the adults were forced to sleep outside. The sky dripped rains of tears over our desolation, without letup, for the entire night.

Toward morning on the second day of the sorrowful journey, we had to continue on traveling further away from Lizhensk, yet there was no will to do so. There were those who did not want to leave their property there. There were those who, after having tasted the first day of exile, suspected that the days to follow would be worse, and were frightened. Many decided to return across the border, to return to Lizhensk, to their homes, their property and their normal lives. Some paid with their lives, and were swept away by the river or were shot by the German soldiers who found them.

A few reached the town, and their eyes were darkened. Within one day, Lizhensk was taken over by anarchy. Farmers and Christian residents of the city pillaged the loot – they broke down the doors of the houses and stores and took anything that they were able. The riotousness increased, and they began to engage in wanton destruction for the sake of pleasure. These people wished to cross the San again, but they were not able to. The route was closed and death was spread around it. Some were shot as they fled, and were unable to save themselves. Those that returned and joined up with the wanderers told horrifying stories about what had happened to the property with the Jews in a single day. From there mouths, we heard about the first despicable Nazi style murder that was perpetrated in Lizhensk: the lawyer Dr. Sheinbach, whose German Christian wife had hidden him, was discovered suddenly. The Germans placed him along with Moshe Reichenthal into a wagon and drove them through the streets of the city. They amused themselves with them to the applause of the Christian crowd, and later shot them in the center of the marketplace.

The wandering commenced again. We arrived in Sienawa, the closest town to us. As soon as I arrived, I was employed by the Russians in the government offices. There I found Manek Gadola, one of the prime founders of the anti-Semitic Andak movement. I took a bit of revenge on him when I assigned him to the task of cleaning the streets of the town.

When we arrived at the village of Orzechow, we found all of the Jews there. They immediately organized assistance activities for the refugees of Lizhensk, with great enthusiasm. One woman by the name of Mrs. Katz distributed food and warm drink to anyone who asked her. We will not forget this

As the wandering continued, most of the people of Lizhensk realized that they did not wish to see again the visage of Satan of the Nazis and their murderous Polish helpers. They decided to continue on further. Bands of robbers were organized on the roads in the meantime. They were armed with abandoned Polish weapons. They robbed property and threatened people with death. We reached Lemberg (Lvov).

There we stopped. We began to worry about our sustenance. It was hard to earn a livelihood. Many became merchants, a few worked, but it was hard to find work. The markets were filled with refugees. Housing and food prices increased. Enmity developed between the residents and the strangers, and even between the Jews. There were refugees who were not able to acclimatize to the new living conditions. They continued to live in the past, and dreamt about the property that they left behind, and about taking a final chance to attempt to return to Lizhensk in order to save what was possible.

There were those who succeeded in arriving in Lizhensk during the days of the Nazi police rule in order to salvage their jewelry, gold, diamonds and money from the hiding places that they made in the walls and under the floors. The scenes that they witnessed were horrifying. They told again about “good neighborly” Poles who went through the homes of their former friends and banged with hammers in the walls and floors. They removed whatever they could find. Sometimes, it had been a Christian who in the first place had constructed the hiding places in the plaster or the floors. In such cases, they went directly to the places that they knew and took as much as possible, without impediment.

Among this “third wave” who were bold enough to return to Lizhensk, a few were pushed into the ghetto, which was already in existence, and they died along with the rest.

Business in Lemberg was difficult. During the early morning hours, we had to stand in line for a long time in order to obtain something as simple as soap. Times were tough, however the brothers in tragedy did help each other. Girls who worked in the government stores attempted to help a fellow native when they recognized them. They tried to shorten his wait in order to save his time, and they also tried to add something extra.

In a roundabout manner it became known that in certain places, girls from our town worked, and a bit more soap could be obtained, or it was possible to obtain bread without a lineup. Everyone would then go to such a store.

Once I met a friend of my youth on Zolkow Street. He was standing on the street with a broom in his hand, sweeping the streets and cleaning the sewers. I requested that he abandon this work, and told him that I would help him to get set up in business, as others did. He was afraid of the police, and chose a life of difficult toil. Later, he disappeared. We never saw him again.

We conducted business with any products, particularly with tobacco and cigarettes, which we purchased and “exported” to the neighboring towns. From there we “imported” foul, meat, or sacks of bread. The wagons with shattered windows were filled with merchandise from such merchants. Due to a shortage of room inside, they endangered themselves and traveled on the stairs at the doors of the speeding wagons. Investigations into this business of smuggling were conducted frequently. There were Jews who would place their merchandise on the side and stand off at a distance to see whether the merchandise would be discovered by the police, in which case they would hide from it in order to save themselves from imprisonment and exile to Siberia. They forsook their merchandise in order to save themselves. There were cases where the fruits of the labors of various suspects were lost in a single search. Life was difficult, but there was no choice. Whoever could not get used to this was in danger of starvation and annihilation.

The situation was odious to many people. When the order was issued to registered as a citizen of the Soviet Union or to return home, many returned home. At that time, letters arrived from people in the area of German occupation telling of an easing of the living situation of the Jews.

We do not know who was behind these letters. A miracle occurred in that the Russians suspected those who wished to return home as being Nazi spies, and exiled them to Siberia. Had this not occurred, the number of those who were to be killed in the ghetto of Lizhensk would have multiplied.

The exile to Siberia caused despair and sorrow among the distraught Lizhensk natives. On the Sabbath of the 23rd of Sivan, 5701 (1941), their lives were cheapened again. Ukrainian police found now the chance to express their hatred for the Jews, and their desire for revenge. When they were appointed over the community of refugees they tightened the yoke around them. They did not allow them to take winter clothing along with them, under the pretext that it was currently summertime and there would be no need for warm clothing. They answered every request of a Jew with the mocking comment: “You are going home, and you have no need of anything”. Trucks were prepared, and the pretexts against the Jews were severe. This was an independent effort of the Ukrainians. The Russians commanded them to treat the refugees with finesse. The spirit of these people, who were being exiled for the third time, was very poor, and the thought again came to mind: whether to stay, to feign illness, to hide, and to somehow avoid the exile to Siberia. There were differences of opinion within families, and families divided up. I remember some families, such as those of Bashele Spergel, Shabtai Zeisel, Leibka Aberteiler and others, where one of them became ill, and the others remained behind with them. Their end is known. We were again witnesses of heartbreaking scenes near the covered trucks that were filled with dear family members, who were about to set out for mysterious, far-away places.

{Photo page 105 top – Shabtai Zeisel.}

{Photo page 105 bottom – Mottel Shtasfugel of blessed memory, the organizer of Betar in the town.}

Life was unbearable inside the trucks. These were trucks meant for the transport of cattle, and were now transformed for human transport. They were too small to accommodate the multitudes of travelers. There was no place to rest in the trucks. In the middle of the floor they made a hole to serve as a toilet. The small windows were held together with wire. The heat was unbearable. The suffering of the people in the transport was extremely great. There were stops when the cruel guards did not permit people outside to give so much as a drop of water to the besieged people. Indeed, the people did not even know to where they were been taken. Only after several days did it become known that the destination was Siberia

The trip lasted from three to six weeks. When we arrived in Siberia the cold was great, and the elderly people, who were weary from the trip, with its lack of food, water, a place to rest and proper air to breath, died as they came out of the trucks. We dug many graves in the plains of Siberia. Sometimes we were not even able to erect a monument or marker, and often we had to bury the dead among gentiles.

The situation in the new place was difficult. The situation was particularly difficult for people who did not have relatives with them. Those people lost their human form, and withered away from neglect. I remember the suffering of Leibel Potasher, Mottek Shtasfugel, Pini Engelberg, Moshe Rosenbluth, and others whose names I do not remember.

When we returned to Poland from the depths of Russia, from the ends of the earth, from the hell of life, we already knew the bitter truth. Many told us about the great destruction which the Nazis perpetrated on the remnants of our brethren. Nevertheless, everyone believed that they would be able to still find at least somebody from their family. People searched, investigated, and inquired. There was not even a memory left, all the dear ones of Lizhensk had been killed. Even those that remained in Lemberg and did not return to Lizhensk ended up being imprisoned in various ghettos in the area and were annihilated.

The Jews of the villages of Bircza, Orzechow, and Buszkowice, who were like brothers to us, were concentrated in Jazowa and murdered, or were murdered in their respective places of residence. The Jews of the villages that were close to the San were drowned in the San, and the rest were brought to Brozie where there was a concentration camp for all the Jews in the area of Lizhensk. Slowly, they were brought out to be murdered, and they were all killed.

{Photo page 106 Pini Engelberg of blessed memory.}

The ghetto extended along the street of the Beis Midrash, from the house of Moshe Neuman, along the alley that was nearby, until the house of Dovidel Rothman and the Polish bakery. There were a few that continued to live in their own houses, such as Leici Kihel, who hosted a German captain in her house. That captain later brought her to the cemetery and murdered her there. A second captain brought the daughter of Pinia Goler and another girl to the cemetery. They gave him a sack of gold so that they would have mercy upon their lives, however he showed no mercy to them. When they saw that it had not helped them, they stood up, spat in front of him and shouted to him: “Your comeuppance will yet come.” He killed them.

At first they worshipped in the house of Mendel Rothman, however the minyan was broken up and the prayers ceased. This was because the Germans stood and ambushed the Jews, and each time they caught one of those leaving and murdered him.

The members of the Judenrat that they appointed included: the son-in-law of Shaul Ber Wegner, Shmuel Ozer, and Leibele Katz. The head was Feivel Wegner. It is difficult to be specific about the details of the behavior of the members of the Judenrat. In general, we have heard no bad reports about them. A Christian woman, who was a friend of the brother-in-law of Feivel Wegner writes that Feivel did a great deal for the good of the Jews. He used to host parties for the Nazis so that they would not shoot Jews. He would always bring her to these parties, so that she could help prepare and serve. They would not taste anything until Feivel tasted first, as they suspected that he might have intended to poison them.

They later murdered him.

The Jews of the Lizhensk ghetto were murdered one by one. Once in a while, one of them was taken outside the ghetto. A grave was dug and that person would be shot in front of the open pit.

Many graves are scattered in various yards.

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Translator's Footnotes :
  1. On the Sabbath, tradition has it that a Jew is granted an extra soul. Back

  2. The Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Back

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