Translated by Sara Mages
Late summer 1942. Rumors circulated in the ghetto. In dark evenings filled with anxiety and fear, it was delivered by word of mouth: Aktzia would be carried out, children and old people will be eliminated, all those who weigh on the Reich 's war budget, all those who eat bread of grace, all those whose lives are useless, whose work does not justify their existence - will be eliminated. The air they breathe is needed for the Aryan people, and in order to make life easier for the frail elderly, infants and toddlers - - they should be killed...
The correct truth, does anyone think that a ghetto is a suitable place for raising children? Would anyone agree that the ghetto is an ideal place for the elderly? Only death can make life easier for these unfortunate. There is therefore no right to prevent the death of those destined for suffering and slow annihilation, and therefore, by the grace of the Reich, all these will be put to death and no one will have to see their suffering and shame.
These words were given in the name of the commissar. He said them to the ghetto's representatives, with a request for cooperation on their part, to eliminate the matter quickly without panic and fear, and they heard them and were silent. I will not know if they were the exact words, I will not know if they were said at all and someone heard them, but I still remember those words that were told by word of mouth. I still remember the fear, the choking cries of infants and children who awaken these words.
Anxiety and terror gripped the ghetto, darkness and the shadow of death. Just like that. Every mother, each family tried to guard their chicks by various means. The older children went to work with their father and mother, and the little ones were hidden, from the evil eye, that daylight would not see them. Tightly closed under lock and key, for the commissar had said that each time he visits the ghetto the children run around like frightened chickens in a chicken coop. In the evenings, without turning on the light, since such a commodity was erased from the list of known concepts in the ghetto, children sat in the lap of their mother, and in the company of their father, and all the other loved ones, and the fear of the night, and the day to come, was seen in their eyes.
We were four children to our father and mother. When the rumor became known, my mother took me to work. I had a sister who was only a year older than me. Unfortunately, I did not grow enough at that time to justify my existence as effective for the Reich. My eldest sister went to work every day. Every day at dawn they went out to work on the road and my sister, who was considered big, among them. But I, with my sister and my little brother, remained in the ghetto and waited for our portion of the bread my father, mother and sister had received. No matter how small the bread was, we divided it equally. Each useful that received it, gave half of it to one of the three of us, the parasites. It certainly did not strengthen the hands of the workers for the Reich. As noted, my mother tried to take me to work so that one less would be at home and the spoil of the day will be another ration. But to no avail, they did not accept me as a laborer, my appearance betrayed me.
Monday, they returned from work. The rumors grew, one oppressive from the other, one disturbing from the other. My sister called me to come home, it was getting dark outside. Around the table sat: my father, my mother, my sister, my grandfather, my grandmother, and other family members who lived in the same room. As I passed through the threshold I heard a strangled sob, a restrained cry that I knew immediately. My mother was crying. I entered, everyone was quite. My father spoke: Come, my son, because we have important things to say to you, and his voice trembled.
The grandfather clock - an old shabby box with two chains and weights at their ends - worn out by time and use, continued its irritating ticking. It is efficient, continues its work all the time and does not need bread. It is too worn out, no one wants it and it is difficult to take it out of the ghetto, otherwise it would have made its way to one of the Ukrainians in exchange for bread or potatoes.
My father gathered courage and continued: -
Go my son, go to one of the villages until the furry passes, go and keep our name alive. The crying turned to a choking whine accompanied by moans. Evening fell and darkness descended suddenly. A lump of darkness was about to swallow me and I did not know what to do. The words fell like axes on my head, but they had not yet reached my mind, I was still a child. Darkness and gloom surrounded me and I did not know what to say and do.
My father continued, with increasing excitement: You are an intelligent big boy. You heard all the rumors spread out in the streets. Escape, hide until the furry passes. Go to one of the villages and save your soul! Tomorrow you will leave at sunrise, and you will come back only when we will let you know. Go, and God will be with you. I will say Tehillim all night and ask God to bless you and protect you from all trouble and calamity.
My father finished, there was no room for argument. They sat silent, full of fear and helplessness. And so they sat silent until I left the house and set off on that long road that lasted years.
by Baruch Gutman
Translated by Martin Jacobs
In the splendid warm days of August 1941, on a Sunday morning, the vanguard of the German army entered Ludvipol, riding on motorcycles and bicycles. I was young, and overcome with feelings of fear and terror upon seeing the murderous faces of the Nazi troops with swastikas decorating their sleeves. Fear fell upon the residents of the town, both young and old. In order to forestall the evil, a meeting was immediately held in the rabbi's home and it was agreed we would somehow meet with the Germans. A delegation was appointed, which included Motl, the rabbi's son, Isaac Hirsh Gutman, Shakhna Shamas (Shemesh), and Motl Frimak. They placed a table at the crossroads, with bread and salt on it, and stood at the post office near Motl Starkman's house. With heavy and fearful hearts they awaited the coming of the German troops, hoping that they might pacify them.
When the first column of soldiers approached, the delegation went to meet them, and Motl Frimak greeted them with words of welcome. Those at the head of the troop thanked them for the welcome and continued on their way to the town. After the first column more columns of soldiers came, one after the other, at a rapid pace, and it was not long before the festive greetings came to an end and the Germans, being animals, showed their claws. First they overturned the table of bread and then they began to beat the members of the delegation, who quickly got out of there while they were still in one piece. After the delegation the rest of the Jews, who happened to be in the street at the time, fled in great confusion.
Birds of a feather quickly flock together. Word of the coming German murderers brought out the Ukrainian murderers from near our town, who swooped down upon their prey with the consent of their leaders. The event developed into a pogrom. The peasants broke into every Jewish house that they wanted to, severely beating the Jews and plundering everything that came to hand. At noon they began to kidnap Jews from their homes and brought them to the square next to the rabbi's house. When I was kidnapped and brought there I found there were already about 150 beaten and frightened Jews. We had little hope of staying alive, once we heard from refugees of the town that the first set of prisoners had been sentenced to execution.
The Volks-Deutscher¹Hering, a teacher in the vilage's Polish school, was a German and immediately became active and accepted the position of mayor. He came to the square accompanied by officers. After whispering amongst themselves for a while, they brought us under guard directly to the gmina (council). There we were detained and divided into groups, and assigned to various tasks. My lot was to work together with Joseph Gluzman, David the Varsovian, Joshua Furshpan, Pinkhas Grafenbaum, Shevakh Grafenbaum, and others. Our task was to harvest the oats from the fields of Mazwieow and bring the produce to the Mazowieow courtyard, where the German army was encamped with their horses. An armed escort was always at our side, watching us and spurring us on to do the work. Other groups of Jews worked at cleaning the horses' harness equipment, as well as cleaning the soldiers' rooms.
And so we worked all day without stopping. Even at nightfall they did not let us go. Joseph Gluzman and I made up our minds to get away, and under the cover of darkness we began to move through the tall crops. Quietly we moved away from the work area. We crossed the river to the other side of the Jewish area and started heading in the direction of home. I reached David Asher Feigelstein's house, where I was greeted with great emotion, as if I had appeared from beyond the grave. I was told that they were very worried about me at home, but I wasn't allowed to run home right away, due to the dangers lurking in the night. I impatiently awaited the light of day. By about 5:30 a.m., I got on the road for home. As I approached the house I saw that the outside of it was surrounded by Germans, while inside the Ukrainians were going wild, stealing all sorts of household equipment.
As soon as I reached the door my brother Zina waived to me from the attic and whispered for me to come up to him. Without any hesitation I leapt up to the attic and stood before my family, who greeted me with great joy. When they calmed down, Zina gathered his courage and decided to go down on his own to unchain the dog, hoping it would punish the rioting Ukrainian. Without notice he slipped away and descended silently from the attic. He freed the dog, which was tied up in the stable, and ordered it explicitly to remove every stranger from the house. Zina stayed to see how things turned out. The dog leapt into the house and furiously jumped on the Ukrainians, biting left and right, until they were all driven from the house. They complained to a German who was patrolling outside. Luckily for us they could not speak German and couldn't explain. However, in this instance, the dog came to their aid by running outside after them. Not being able to distinguish between the Ukrainians and Germans, the dog bound straight for the German's face. When Zina saw what was likely to happen he quickly brought the dog back into the house and then he slipped out the back door, running to Leibl Olawski's house to observe what was happening at home.
Again, the house filled with Germans, who began to search inside the house and the surrounding area, to see if perhaps the members of the household had gone into the bunkers they had prepared while there still was time. Their search turned up nothing.
In the evening it became quieter. The advanced guard began to move forward, and fresh troops arrived who began to bring law and order to the town. We returned home and anxiously awaited whatever was coming next, not daring to leave the house. After Hering was appointed mayor, the Germans set up a police force and Ukrainians were recruited to serve as policemen. The townspeople began to give Hering gifts and asked him to try to see that no harm came to the Jews of Ludvipol, but the mean-spirited Germans did not keep promises. One night they took eight Jews to an unknown location from which they never returned. These are the names of the eight: Elazar Feinman, Akiva Saltzman, Akiva Wasserman, Shulik Walman, Naftalke Walman, Jacob Berman, Sara-Alt Khalmerin. According to a routine announcement, they were taken for labor, but when several weeks had passed it became evident, from the report of a Pole, that the Germans brought seven men and a woman to the other side of the Polish cemetery to be killed. This is how the bitter fate of the eight Jews came to light.
The situation became more and more serious every day. In the autumn, the German authorities began to organize the Ludvipol ghetto. The ghetto boundaries extended in the direction of the Pram beginning at the house of Isaac Kogot and going to the corner of Kuric Street, and from Yokl Reved to after the house of Bazer the baker. They forced all the Jews out of their homes and brought them to the ghetto. They made a camp for only the men in the area of the Tarbuth school buildings, the home of Kleinman the wheelwright. A delegation went to Hering asking him to cancel the separation decree and permit the men to live with their families within the ghetto. The request was accepted and the decree canceled. They erected a high fence around the ghetto which Ukrainian policemen, in special uniforms, were assigned to guard. The first fatal bullet fired within the ghetto struck the tailor Moshe Funt. He had received a goose through the fence as payment from a Gentile for sewing a pair of trousers. A Ukrainian policeman noticed this and shot him, killing him on the spot. Funt expired at the fence.
A great fear fell upon the ghetto residents because men were taken for labor and returned beaten and tortured, or didn't return at all. Once they sent Solomon Roitbord and me to work in the gendarmerie (a military force charged with police duties among civilian populations). There, they tortured us with electrical equipment. We were ordered to hold electrical wires until a current passed through us, and if we let go of the wires we were beaten. After difficult trials and frightful outcries they left us, and we ran away with all our might, like running from the plague. And so, conditions continued to get worse every day.
One day an order came from the German administration to set up a Judenrat to speak for the Jews. Members of the Judenrat were Motl Akhstein, Joseph Gluzman, Yanya Gekhpinbaum, Kalman Zalmen, and Broder the baker. Among the German authorities stationed in the town were the gendarmerie, lodged in Utski's house, German lieutenants staying in Naftali Zalmen's house, and the police, who took over the house of Sholem the butcher. One night, policemen appeared with an order from the local German authorities; they took away Solomon Zamendweiss, Einshel Feinman, Leyzer Feinman, and Asher Feigelstein, who were all my uncles. My father, Isaac Hirsch Gutman, tried, with the help of Joseph Gluzman, to free them, as we knew the fate of the first group of Jews. The next day the prisoners were sent to Kostopol under police escort. My father was unable, despite all his efforts, to bribe the Germans and free the men. Yet, in the end they succeeded. They received a permit and letter of recommendation for the prisoners' freedom from Grische Kot, acting on behalf of the German authorities in Ludvipol. So as not to lose precious time the wives of the prisoners rushed off to Kostopol with the document. Luckily they arrived at the Kostopol police station just before the sentence was to be carried out. The busy official read the letter and promised to consider a new sentence. Three days after leaving Ludvipol the women returned, in the company of their husbands, who were joyfully welcomed in the town.
The history of these abductions served as a warning not to go outside more than necessary. As time went on, life in the ghetto took on a regular pattern of troubles and hardships. This was the constant daily bread of the Jews. They left for all sorts of work, some in the city, some outside. Those who worked outside the city were taken to the woods to cut down trees all week long and on Sunday they returned home.
As the winter of 1941 began, the German commissar arrived in Ludvipol and immediately began to show his power. On the first night he came to the ghetto with his assistants, they ran about striking fear with their shouting, and the Jews came outside immediately. In order to speed up carrying out their orders, they knocked on every door and brought the frightened Jews out by force. The concentration point was in the market place, where several hundred Jews were brought. The commissar came with Hering and several Ukrainians. Immediately he began a speech filled with hatred, insults, and abuse towards the Jews. He said that they were the enemies of the German people, and words to this effect that were provocative and intimidating. In order to lend authority and force to his slanderous words, he fired shots, which, in the darkness of night, did not hit anyone. He gave an order for us to run back to the ghetto.
The true purpose of this enemy was revealed when immediately after dispersing the gathering he called together the Judenrat and ordered them to collect all gold, silver, and copper in the possession of the Jews and to bring it to him. If this was not done, he would bring out all the Jews of Ludvipol to be killed. At nightfall everyone began bringing out the silver and other valuables from their hiding places, in order to deliver them to the Judenrat and save their own lives and that of the entire town. In the morning they called the commissar and gave him what had been collected during the night. But the commissar's greed was not satisfied. From time to time he would order a new search, and not carrying out his order brought with it the great fear that all the Jews of Ludvipol would be killed.
The Jews of Ludvipol were given the responsibility of paving the road to the town of Berezna. Young and old came out for the work. Ukrainians were appointed as overseers over the workmen, and from time to time the commissar would come to see how the work was progressing. As the Jews were used to every trouble, so they were also used to this. They set up a field kitchen and every day at noon some soup made from potatoes and water was on the menu. On one of his visits the commissar saw Leibl Trotsky (of blessed memory Tsirele's son, from Bod) from a distance, coming out of one of the houses. The commissar went up to him, drew his gun, and killed him on the spot. He ordered him buried in the filling material under the roadway and ordered the workers to continue with their work. Leibl was the first victim of this work, and he found his grave under the roadway.
In the evening, after work, we would walk back to the ghetto. On the bridge, by the post office, there were policemen who searched our things to make sure we were not hiding stolen food. If they caught anyone they took them to the gendarmerie and gave them twenty severe lashes. The daily bread ration, after a day of hard work, was 200 grams, and this is what the people of the ghetto lived on.
The situation continued to grow more and more serious. A few weeks later there was another victim, Golda Goldin (of blessed memory). At the routine inspection on the bridge as she returned from work, several potatoes given to her by one of the Gentiles from the village of Salisht, were found in her bags. She was taken to the gendarmerie where she was killed. Judenrat members were then summoned and required to bury her on Ustski's land. The next morning Judenrat members informed her family of the tragedy.
And so life continued. We worked as usual until Tuesday, the twelfth of Elul, 1942. Early in the morning, before we were able to go out to work, Golda Feigman showed up hastily at our house and told us that the Germans had informed the women who cleaned the town that their work was no longer needed. We understood what was about to happen. About a half hour later, Judenrat members came and informed all the ghetto residents that they were not to leave their homes. We all quickly went into the bunkers, which had been prepared long ago. I, Baruch; my father Isaac Hirsh; my sisters Zilda and Mania; and Joseph Eisenstein were in the first bunker. In the second were my brother Zina and my brother-in-law Jacob Feinman. The third held Rachel Gutman with two children; Joseph Eisenstein's wife, Malka Sheyes with her daughter; David Sheikes and his wife and two children, Shaye and Tsivya (living today in Canada); Golda Feinman with her daughter Mattie. In the fourth bunker was Uncle Abba Gutman and Imma-Batya,who left the bunker and returned home to get my sister Manya's daughter. She could not get back and was kidnapped by the commissar, who was still going around the ghetto. With the help of the police and the gendarmerie they were kidnapping all the Jews who were left and bringing them to the barracks in the Polish army camp. Every raid in the city brought another several hundred kidnap victims to the camp.
At nightfall a curfew was imposed on the ghetto, that no one could enter or leave. Only in the morning did the Germans enter, accompanied by a number of Ukrainians. They searched carefully. Everywhere and everyone they found, they killed on the spot. When they reached our house they organized a rigorous search and found our hiding place and brought us all out. Zilda and I succeeded in evading the searchers and went into the second bunker. It was 11 p.m. when they liquidated the first bunker, and in the courtyard of the house my Father, my sister Mania, and Joseph Eisenstein went to their deaths. Several hours later the murderers returned to search our house. When the children in the second bunker began to cry from hunger and thirst the Germans heard them and with the help of additional police they broke down the walls of the bunker and ordered everyone out into the courtyard, where there were already dozens of policemen. Instead of going outside I climbed a ladder to the attic, moved it to the side, and succeeded in getting into the bunker where my brother Zina and my brother-in-law Jacob Feinman were. The bunker had a double ceiling and the Germans were not able to find it. Through cracks in the walls we saw the Germans killing everyone from the bunker and burying them in the courtyard.
Shayka, Tsivya, the children of David Weinstein, and I succeeded in escaping from the bunker where we were. It was on the sixth night that I, my brother Zina, and my brother-in-law Jacob decided to leave the bunker and flee to Slutsh. We asked Abba Gutman to join us, but he did not wish to and remained behind. Each of us left by way of a different street. Zina took the street between Sholem-Wolf and Froika. My brother-in-law and I went down the street between Weiner and Froika. Zina managed to cross the main road and get onto the street between Golda Feinman and Hodia, but there the police discovered him and killed him near the house of Batya Waldman, which is at the Holinica of Haskel Kuplas. When we saw the commissar a few meters in front of us we turned on our heels. We did not go in the direction of home, but to Skut's house. We hoped to escape from there, but a policeman was standing behind the fence who caught Yisrulik Mendelovitz and his two children. As soon as the policeman, followed by Israel holding one child with each hand were gone, we crept back to the bunker in our house.
Again the murderers approached our house, but stopped at the home of Sholem-Wolf, where, in the attic, they found Nunka Farber (I recognized him by his voice when he called out to them Pustite mene ya vas prusho (Let me go, I beg you). These were his last words. Immediately afterwards we heard two shots. Nunka Farber was dead in Sholem-Wolf's house.
It was Jacob Feinman who persuaded me to leave with him that night. We left between Weiner's house and hurried across the main street turning toward the Tarbus school. We continued through the fields and reached Slutsh at dawn. We evaded the shepherds in the field and swam across the river and reached the woods.
In the woods we found three open pits in which people from our town were buried. We then ran from there to the village of Novinas. There we encountered Bolek the shepherd, who was with Lawko the elder, who told us, Wherever you are going, they've already killed everyone. Go back to the ghetto; in any event they will catch you right away. Before we were able to catch him, the villain evaded us and disappeared (questionable translation context).
We turned and went past Stara Huta (a village in Stara Vyzhivka Raion Volyn Oblast) and reached the house of a Gentile who was an acquaintance of my father. We did not go straight into the house but lay down to rest on the threshing floor. Only at noon, when he came to milk the cow, did we meet. We were not able to eat the food which he brought us due to several days of hunger, so we just drank. He took us to the woods and he, himself, went into town in order to find out what was happening. When he came back he told us that my brother Zina had been killed. We stayed with the Gentile for about 10 days. When rumors began to spread that the Germans were coming to search the villages, he asked us to leave and not appear there again.
We left Stara-Huta and went to the village of Stary. There, we also hid in the woods next to the village, and one of Father's acquaintances, also a Gentile, brought us food. He was sorry to tell us that everyone from our town had been killed. He pressed us to leave his house because his neighbors were saying he hid Jews. We returned to the woods and were there several days, not knowing which way to turn. One evening we decided to go over towards Soifa. This was nineteen days after the liquidation of the ghetto.
We left Stary with the help of directions from the Gentile. After four hours of walking we managed to get to the ford. We got into the water and began walking. We reached the middle of the ford when we suddenly heard, Stop, who goes there? We did not answer the policemen but turned on our heels. The police fired two shots at us, but missed. When we reached the bank we found an abandoned boat. We untied it and sailed to the opposite bank. We got out and went through Menashkov's fields, and from there by way of the main road of the village of Salisht by the conduit road to Chmilivka. Towards morning we reached Soifer Smolarnia, where all roads lead to Jacob. First, we went into the woods and lay down to rest. In the morning we went into the village to one of Jacob's acquaintances, where a Gentile told us that we had to leave at once, as the Germans were swarming in the village and they had been killing Jews just the day before. We turned back, but everywhere we went they greeted us with the same story so we returned to the woods.
In the woods we had to separate. Jacob remained in the Soifa woods, while I decided to return to the ford, to Slutsh. I continued alone until I reached the Polish school and from there on the conduit road to Broder's flour mill by the bridge of the village Slisht. The night was dark. A light rain was falling. I lost my way and by mistake went up onto the road leading to Mariwiew's house, by the community office. Only the barking of dogs alerted me to my mistake. I put my ear to the ground to hear the reverberation of the flour mill and that is the direction in which I went, and so again found my way.
That night there was entertainment in Romizia, and the traffic on the road was heavy. I was compelled to crawl all the way. I passed by Abraham-Isaac Gitterman's house and continued through the fields in the direction of the beach and reached Sluch. The night was cool. I went into the woods and covered myself with tree branches. When I woke up, after several hours, I went to the Gentile whom I knew in Stara Huta. He gave me food, and was surprised to hear that I had returned to the Ukrainian villages after I was already beyond Sluch. There I met Hannah Wexler and her daughter, who were not far from there.
I was with these people only a few days. With torrential rains, I was forced to find shelter and we went our separate ways. When the rain had stopped I went back to the Gentile's threshing floor, where I stayed for several weeks. Again, I had to leave, after his neighbors began spreading reports that he was hiding Jews.
With a heavy heart I left the place and went in the direction of Metshulenka , to the Gentile Kika. There, I also did not go into the house but the threshing floor, where I lay for two days, until one morning the Gentile's wife appeared. I told her what had happened to me and asked her permission to stay with them. She promised to ask her husband and I was very happy that they agreed. He led me to the woods, not far from his fields, and there, in a rock, I found a hiding place. He brought me food every day. After several weeks I contracted typhus. I wasn't able to touch food and my only medicine was cold spring water. I was in bad shape and the thirst was oppressive. I left the rock and with my remaining strength crawled to the well itself. There I lay for five days, sipping its water. Everything was quiet when suddenly I heard sounds around me and saw many horses standing not far from me. I wanted to crawl out and run away but my strength would not carry me. The men were dressed in German clothing but were speaking Russian. They turned to me and asked me who I was. I answered Evrei [Jew]. I told them I was suffering from typhus. They asked about other Jews in the area and when I answered that I was alone they told me they were partisans. Among them were many Jews from Rovno, Kerch, and Mezerich. One of them brought me food and whiskey.
At night the partisans left and I was again by myself. Little by little I regained my strength. When I was well I met some of the people from my town in the woods. From them I learned that Uncle Abba Gutman was alive and living in the Pipla woods. I went there with Pesakh Khatshar and met with Uncle Abba Gutman after a full year of wandering. I also met with the family of Werner Abraham, Yoseph and Abraham Shamas (Shemesh), Rosa Goldman (today Ostrovsky), Abraham Shtadlen, Ephraim Shtadlen, Zelig and Michael Shtadlen, and others. I was with them for several weeks and then returned to the Metshulenka forests. There I met with Jews from Kerch, Kostopol, and people from Ludvipol. In the forests we walked around free, because we were among partisans, whose numbers constantly grew from day to day.
The majority of Ludvipol Jews settled in the forests of Levatshes, and I joined Uncle Abba Gutman. They built a wooden house in the forest, and so did the other families.
After the Red Army entered, at the end of 1944, we still remained in the woods for several weeks and then moved to the woods near the village of Zvulutshe. In the village of Metshulenka the Russian administration set up offices, which oversaw the entire region. Ludvipol had been burned to the ground.
I began working in the education office and in the evening I would return to the forest, where I lived until the Ostrovsky family returned from Russia and we rented an apartment in Mokra. The other Jews also moved there and every evening they gathered at our place and we spent time together. Many of the Ludvipol Jews were still scattered. Some went to Rovno and other places, and some remained among the Gentiles.
Even after the Russian army came in, the banderovtsy were still active in the area. The Red Army recruited all the workers in the offices to comb the area for them. I was only 16, but I volunteered to go with them. I wanted to take revenge on those Ukrainians. When I found out from Jacob Kleinman that Samuel Farber was with Gentiles in a village not far from Khotyn, which was serving as a center for the banderovtsy, Pinhas Ostrovsky and I, along with a Gentile, went to that village, where we did indeed find Samuel Farber at the house of a Gentile. We persuaded Samuel to join us, and we even registered him for emigration to Poland. Finally, we reached the Polish city of Lodz. I went to live in a commune and Samuel went to a Jewish Children's Home. We were in Poland about two months, after which we left Poland provided with Greek documents. The Greek we spoke was really Hebrew. Who ever did not know Hebrew chose prayer verses. We did this so that no one would identify us as Jews. After traveling about we reached the Foehrenwald Camp in Germany. I joined the commune; we left some time later in the Aliya B to Italy, where I stayed for half a year. From there I went to Palestine.
When we reached the shores of Palestine we were seized by the English and expelled to camps in Cyprus. We were in the camps for 17 months and then, in 1948, went to Palestine with the children of the Youth Aliya. This was in July and I joined the kibbuts Mishmar HaEmek, where I received hakhshara training. In 1949 I got married and in 1951 left the kibbuts to build a future for myself in the city.
Translated by Sara Mages
A pistol shot pierced the air. The place was near Adamówka, where they worked in paving a road. The workers were a group of Jews, young and old, women and children, dressed in tattered rags. The shooter was none other than the killer commissar whose favorite hobby was murder, not murder for murder, but target practice, the target, of course, was a man, and the man was a Jew.
This time was shot and killed Leibele Kek, who was known in town by the name Leibele Trotsky. The bullet entered his temple and he fell wallowing in his blood and died on the spot without suffering or torture. Those standing next to him heard nothing more than a moan, Oh mame and he closed his eyes forever.
The paving of the road continued as usual. The workers were afraid to look at the victim, because the bloodthirsty killer's eyes were still searching for the next victim. Each of them saw himself as the next candidate. The Nazi murderer took a daily tour of the place of concentration and work of the town's Jews on Adamówka road. His goal was to shoot and kill, and he always found a reason to murder one Jew or another.
When someone's strength failed, and he could not move a stone from its place, the murderer called him, ordered him to stand about one hundred meters away, and shot him. Someone moved a distance away from the work place, he shot him. You drew his attention with your voice, your clothes, with a movement - he sent you a bullet, and sometimes he shot someone indiscriminately in order to get rid of another Jew.
Only a few knew the correct name of Leibele Kek, son of Ziril and Yosef from the public bathhouse. His name was known as Leibele Trotsky. Why did they call him Trotsky? It is not inconceivable that one of the town's clowns added this name because of the resemblance of his first name, but there is no room for the assumption that there was a similarity between him and Trotsky in his external form, in his nose or his character. In any event, the name stuck to him, and in that name he was known in the town.
He was small, and his parents were also small, and you could think of them as brother and sister, since not everyone could imagine that they were husband and wife.
No one knew Leibele's precise age, even not his parents. I remember that in the 1930s it was said that he was between thirty and forty, others claimed that he was only twenty, and he himself did not know his age.
The couple and their son lived a life of poverty and destitution, their home was in a dark den in the town's bathhouse, which was far from being elaborate. The place was near the Great Synagogue, and it was rumored that spirits and demons roam there at night. Anyone who entered their house in the evening was terrified.
Yosef, the old father with his bent back, was a shoemaker. He sat hunched over the shoemaker's bench to patch patches on the shoes of the poor. The mother, Ziril, dealt with the bath business, and cut off the nails of the women who had come to dip. She also served as a guide on matters of kashrut and purity. She was well versed in immersion and instructed brides before their marriage. Leibele helped her, but, heaven forbid, not within the walls of the bathhouse were women were walking around naked, but he stood outside and poured water into the bath with a wooden trough. It was not an easy work
in the winter, especially pumping the water from the well to fill the bathhouse, but little Leibele Trotsky coped with it. Sometimes he chopped wood needed for the heating of the bathhouse, although this work was not according to his strength.
Leibele never studied in the heder, but he learned the alphabet by himself and also knew how to repeat a prayer he had heard from cantors.
Leibele did not see satisfaction in his life. He had not had a good day in his life. He always suffered, suffered from poverty, suffered from lack of knowledge. He did not connect with people, lived alone and lonely, and his chances of building a family were almost nil. But, they say, that he was an understanding young man, he was knowledgeable about various things and even in current affairs. He was polite to others and kindhearted, always willing to help anyone whenever he had the chance.
The shot of the murderer, who cut off the thread of this poor creature miserable life, was a shot at the right time. It was a death with a kiss that not everyone is reworded with. The fluttering between life and death only lasted for a few seconds, and not like the other townspeople who were tormented by terrible torture, when many were thrown alive to the pit of death full of men, women and children.
Leibele's grave was dug in the spot where he fell and killed. They dug his grave between rows of birch trees. Jews said Kaddish but the tears froze in their eyes.
The trees bloom, green grass covers the area, a flock of birds sing in the days of spring and summer, and who knows if they do not say quietly that here lies buried Leibele Trotsky.
May his memory be blessed.
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