Nokhum Teitelman, Haifa
Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD
and from the Hebrew by Howard I. Schwartz PhD and Hanina Epstein
Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD.
Lonely sits the town of Mlynov. Tisha B'Av was postponed to Sunday [on the Sabbath Parasha] Vaetchanan.
Early on a nice morning, the 27th of Sivan 5701 [June 22, 1941], I shook off my sleep, got out of bed, and went out into the street. There was screaming, an uproar; we didn't know what was happening. The Russian landing field had been bombed, and we did not know who did it. The Russians were grabbing people out of their beds to make the repairs; my children were among them. We spoke in whispers. What could this be? We were a little mixed up, and we shivered. This went on until 4:00 p.m. when, suddenly, 18 German airplanes started bombing our shtetl Mlynov. All four sides were burning. It became dark; we wanted to run, but we did not know where. In addition, the children were still not back from work, and only God knew what had happened with them. People ran, but we waited, hoping our children would soon return. And so they did. Our children came running back, barely alive. My Asher was black, his face covered with dirt, because a bomb fell in the place where he labored. With him, in that place, was Shaye the psalm-chanter's son-in-law. A rock tore off one of his hands, and he was saved by a miracle.
We locked up our house with all our possessions inside, and we left for Mervits. We came to my brother-in-law Mendel. The airplanes also targeted Mervits. They flew over the roofs. We went to a village about 3 kilometers away, and we lay there until Tuesday. Then we returned to Mlynov. We entered our house, and we rationed the bread.
Early Wednesday the Germans invaded, and they shot Russians. We left again, going in the same direction, and we stayed there until Friday. We started to ride and walk home. We were a few families, 40 people in all.
A few had horses and carts carrying whatever they had taken with them.
Riding through Nowiny Dobratinsky, we were stopped and assumed to be spies. We were ordered to stand up to get shot. When we were ready for that, an officer came and asked if any of us could speak Czech. My Rokhl responded right away, and so did her sister Khayke. They threw themselves at the officer's feet, and they told him everything, that we were from Mlynov, and we were going home. He freed us right away; he told us to go. We went straight back to Mervits-Mlynov.
On the way we saw how Christians were carrying off Jewish possessions. We even recognized our own things, but we kept silent until we came to our house. When we went inside, it was worse. Everything was broken. We had been robbed, and the house was full of feathers because the thieves shook the feathers out of the pillowcases, and they packed everything that was in the cupboard in them. The store that had been full of grain and some flour was cleaned out. We were left with the four walls.
But that was not enough. Soon several Germans marched into our house. They asked what we were doing there, and who we were. At first they said they were searching for weapons, but they meant something else. They started to bother Shifrele, even though she was still a child. We bought off the villains. We then left our home to go to Yoysef Zelig's, Khayim Berger's son-in-law. We observed Shabbes Parashat Chukat there. It was the third of Tamuz [June 28, 1941].
We returned to our house on Sunday, because that Shabbes the Germans had invaded Rivne, and the front had already moved up. They began to demand forced labor. We registered with a Jakubowski from Mlynov. We did not know him. People said that he was a German spy disguised as a Pole. We worked at various jobs, and we got used to it. Someone who was soft-hearted brought us a little flour from what had been stolen from us. For example, we had a neighbor Ratjewski across from us. He had made off with several meters of flour; he brought me back, out of pity, a few kilos of my own flour.
It was similar with other Christian neighbors up until that tragic Shabbes Parshat Balak, when the killings started.
Shloyme Shister had been captured. He was lame. He was taken to Yoysef Gelberg's mill where he was shot without an explanation.
The Black Sabbath, Parasha Balak, the 17th of Tammuz 5701 [July 12, 1941]
I got up in the morning and saw the gifted Rav, Mr. Yehuda son of Mordechai Gordon, righteous man of blessed memory, passing my house, and walking towards Mervits, so as not to profane the Sabbath. I thought, perhaps I too should try to leave town, and I walked straight to my brother-in-law, Yaakov Schichman, zl. He was living at the end of town and suddenly, when I was already there, I heard shooting, and I went outside with my brother-in-law and we hid among the grain in the field. The grain was already reasonably tall, and that same Shabbat the bitter enemy entered the synagogue of the Trisk Hasidim in Mervits and killed Motel Tesler; He was already close to one hundred [years old]. [They murdered] him and another poor man. Near evening I returned home, and I met older men along the way, among them was my uncle, R. Chaim Meir, which the bitter enemy had reduced to younger men by removing their signature beards…I entered home safely, with great trepidation, because they had already told me what had happened to them that same Shabbat.
The following morning, I got up and took the scissors and cut my own beard and went with all the others to their respective work. By the time I returned in the evening from work, we had already heard about eighteen dead, and among them, the gifted and holy Rav Yehudah Gordon, and thus fulfilled in us [the Scriptural verse]: you shall be in terror, night and day, with no assurance of survival (Deuteronomy 28:66).
For These Things Do I Weep (Lamentations 1:16) 18th of Tammuz (5724) [Sunday, June 2, 1964]
Sunday of Pinchas, the 18th of Tammuz, 5701 [Sunday, July 13, 1941], the day the first martyrs of Mlynov fell at the hands of the Nazis, may the latter names be blotted out. There are images, which are engraved in your memory, and despite the changing of seasons and the passage of time, still stand living and exist before you.
Mlynov sinks into the depths of oblivion, she was and is no longer. In her were rabbis, Hasidim, from the branches of Trisk, Karlin, Stolin, Olyk; merchants, laborers, Zionists, scholars, tailors, shoe makers. They were simple Jews, full of good deeds (mitzvot) like pomegranates, but they are no more. Together with the whole of Polish and European Jewry, they went heavenward, murdered and strangled by the Nazis, may their names be blotted out, and they sanctified the Name of Heaven and name of the People with their blood.
Mlynov was a small and young town, mostly Jews from Ukraine, near the town of Dubno.
The town merited great recognition, when in the year 5632 (18811882) a holy and righteous man (tzaddik) came there, a paragon of the generation, our teacher and rabbi, Aharon Karlin, who wrote Bet Aharon (Aaron's House), grandson of the saintly and holy Aharon HaGadol, and after a few days passed away on the 15th of Sivan and ascended on high. The local Hasidim built him a memorial on his grave there, and annually on his memorial day, thousands upon thousands of men came, and this is how events continued until the Second World War, and I, the writer, after the War merited in 5704 [Sept. 1943Sept. 1944] and 5705 [Sept. 1944Sept. 1945] to prostrate myself on his grave and light candles in the memorial, the building was already broken and destroyed.
The people of the town, Mlynov, were Jews who respected heaven, happy with their lot, and satisfied with little. These Jews enjoyed laboring with their hands, and after a back-breaking day of work would go into the synagogue to study Torah. Some learned Gemara, some learned Chumash and Rashi, and some recited Tehillim [Psalms]. Nuta Dov Berger stood beside the pulpit and studied the holy Zohar, R. Moshe Arelas studied Midrash on Sabbath afternoons, and by his side sat Neta Malar and Chaim Malar and Neta Sosish, with all the artisans and blacksmiths, and R. Yehuda Leib studied Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh [The Light of Life] with the men, as did I. I remember that when Rav Nahman Wulach would stand by the pulpit with his book of Tehilim [palms], and the voices broke through outside, and R. Avraham Moshe-Aharon would sit at the east [wall] with his tallit and tefillin, and R. Mordechai Meir Shrentzel was the gabbai [sexton] in the large synagogue, and last but not least, R. Chanoch Hanich, the kosher slaughterer (shochet), when he began to pray the additional service (musaf), during the Days of Awe, and began to sing the Hineni prayer, Here I am, impoverished in deeds and merit the walls of the study house were trembling from all the people praying.
Decades passed since then, but this town, with its exemplary people, is still standing before my eyes: When R. Hanich went on the eve of the holy Shabbat to the study hall with his long clothing and white socks, a tall conical hat made with the acronym SMVT, that stands for turn away from evil and do good (Sur Mera Veaseh Tov) and he would pass by the shops and call out: Shabbat, Shabbat then all the inattentive persons who were still in the stores, shook from fear, and quickly and immediately all of us closed our stores. And most all of them fulfilled the commandment of charity (tzedakah) and acts of lovingkindness, and when they needed charity, they already knew the places of Shlomo Zeltikis and woman Rachel Shivis, and others. In the latter days, [it was] Tzvi Falik, Chaim-Yitzhak Kipergluz, and no one told another, I'm sorry there is not enough room, because the hands were open for charity, healing, and deeds of lovingkindness. And where are the righteous women of our town, Mlynov? Shaindel, Bluma, Dvora Shrentzel, Mima Eta, Meril the schochet-ke, Batia the shochet-ke, Ronya-Rivka Moshe Leibe's [daughter], Eta Garshynes, and among them my mother, and others. I remember that when all of them walked from the shul, they decided that they needed to travel to Trisk, then all of them unanimously said we will do and we will listen; on Sunday they hired Yosef Garshynes, and they traveled, and among them my mother, may her memory be a blessing.
The review is too short to write about each woman, I will suffice with a few words, and I am not adept with language to describe the Stolin Hasids, R. Yitzchak Leib the mashgiach, Avraham Kholis, Yaakov Shimon Rosenfeld, R. Tzadok Shulman, R. Pesach-Aryeh Chayat [Tailor], and his son Aharon-Asher Berel Barben, R. Yitzchak Staroste and his son Aaron, Shmuel, Asher, Avrumke, Aidah, and so on and so forth. When they began to pray, all my bones shall say…
We got used to it. Early in the morning we ran to the main plaza, and we waited to be taken to various jobs. Soon Germans came for laborers, and they divided us up. One village needed 50 Jews, another needed 100, and so on, until the plaza was emptied. The Christians stood at a distance and laughed. A few even taunted the Jewish merchants.
A Christian came over to me and teased, How expensive is wheat?
Because aristocrats had many fields around Mlynov, the Jews were distributed for fieldwork at harvest time. Some were sent to Arshychyn-Smordva, Berega, Bokiima also to Mlynov, and we became land-workers: cutting, tying, threshing, and cleaning. We were fine with the work, as long as we had our lives.
One evening, having come back tired from work, unable to straighten up from having tied up wheat, a German burst in the door and ordered: Come!
I had to go. To where I did not know. My wife and children were crying, certain that I would be shot, because that was nothing new. The German who took me also took Yoysef Vortsel, Khayim Berger's son-in-law, and Nosi [Natan] Shiper, the son of Yitskhok Ulinik. We marched in threes. We were taken through the town to the house of attorney Revtshinski. There they started to ask us what our occupations were, and many more questions until late at night. Back home they had no doubts that we had been murdered, because practically every day several people were taken to the Nantyn Forest, and they were shot.
After sitting there several hours, I was the first one to be called in. The result: I had until tomorrow 12:00 to deliver 120 cakes of good soap; if not, I would be shot. Nosi: [the obligation of] two kilos of tea. Yoysef Vortsel: 3,000 cigarettes. And we were escorted home since we were not permitted in the streets after 6:00 pm.
When I knocked on the door of the house, those inside thought I had come from the other world.
At night nothing could be done. In the morning, the three wives got together and went through the town to collect the soap, cigarettes, and tea. We put together the products with great effort, because everything had been plundered earlier. For us it was life or death. And God caused the Nazis, may their names be blotted out, to be satisfied with the [effort] of the people. The Germans accepted the goods and ordered us to go home. They took other people right after us: Avraham Gelman, Yankev Golzeker, and Yoysef Gelberg. All curses and calamities came true.[The life you face shall be precarious;] you shall be in terror, night and day, with no assurance of survival. (Deuteronomy 28:66)
So we worked until the harvest was done. On [the fast day of] Tisha B'Av, I was working together with more Jews. For show, we each brought along a bottle of water with a piece of bread, but we did not eat or drink [because of the fast]. We kept spilling out a little water, so that the Germans would think that we were drinking it. We only worried what we would do if work would let out.
Soon after the holiday, around the month of Cheshvan, I searched for work with Christians, because many rich, elderly Christians were permitted to take Jewish workers, since the young people were serving in the war. They were allowed to take a few Jews for hard labor, provided the Jews would not be in the town. I needed the earnings of a piece of bread, because we had to sell what was left for a couple of kilos of flour after hail and locusts destroyed everything. Searched and found: I connected with a very well-known Czech, Pani Nokhum, an old man who was alone. He had permission from the authority to take a Jew for labor. I worked for him. He was very happy with me, and I also was happy with him in that time of doom and gloom. It was not that very far; it was 8 kilometers from Mlynov. Friday after lunch I used to walk home, and early Sunday morning I would walk back to him. It was already known that I work for Guladkin. And so the time went, until the 1st of January 1942, when Mlynov was organized. Everyone had to work for the Germans; just a few worked for Christians with permission from the Germans.
The beginning of January 1942, the Germans started to search for repositories of grain. There was an order that 4-5 meters of grain from every hectare had to be given over for Germany, may its name be blotted out. In addition, effective laborers were needed. Because I had been a grain merchant, and because I had a little Protection, my uncle Mati Liberman zl added me onto the list of the workers at the grain outlet, and I started to work back in the town at the repositories. People were simply jealous of me. The director was a Ukrainian, a big hooligan, an anti-Semite. He was called Flint, but to me he was one of the best. When he felt like it, he sent for the police very early, and whoever came to his office to register was beaten by the police without a reason. Except for me.
He became a good comrade to me. He found out that I was the best worker and also a specialist. He gave me the key to the repositories, and also the receipts from the grain, so that I became an assistant to him. I used to stand alone [without supervision] by the scale intaking the grain, and also at distributing the grain. The day on which the grain had to be given out was a day of reckoning. 10 trucks, sometimes more, used to come for the grain. So an order was given that all trucks had to be loaded in 2-3 hours; if not, the workers would be shot. One can imagine what kind of rush it became. It was hardly possible to gather everything into sacks, tie or sew them up, weigh them, and load them onto the trucks in time. The sweating laborers were filled with terror that they would take too long and be shot.
And so it was the entire time. Before Shavuos, when the German Kommandant Schneider left for a month's furlough to Germany, the Ukrainian Commander Navosad and community official Sovitski created the ghetto. The second day of Shavuos, all Jews from Mlynov, Mervits, and from the surrounding villages had to leave their houses and move into the inner street. 5-6 large families, and more smaller families, were put in one house. We were fenced in with thick barbed wire. Standing at the gates were Ukrainian soldiers.
Nobody could go in or out unless going to and from work, accompanied by guards.
10 days in Sivan, trucks from Dubno came to take grain from the repositories. A German, standing by the scale, said to me that he would not wish to be in Dubno the next day. That same night the first Akcja [Aktion] in Dubno took place. Among the victims were several from Mlynov: Yitskhok Mandlkorn's wife, Mrs. Bershtivke, and another person. That day they had gone to Dubno to settle something, with permission from the Mlynov Committee. They remained there among other martyrs.
This history happened in the middle of August 1942. They took workers from surrounding villages to Studynke, including my Asher. He had returned from Rivne barely alive. The next day he was caught and taken to Studynke. Coming from work at night, I saw two women and several girls in the yard of Hersh Slobodar (I lived there in the ghetto).
I asked: Who are you and where are you going?
They answered me that they were from Ostrozhets, and they were going to Studynke. And as it was already late, they want to stay overnight; the Christians didn't want to drive at night. We were tired, and we were not permitted to use any candles. Full of fear and terror, we fell asleep. The girls also went to sleep in Ayzshe Golzeker's attic.
12:00 midnight I get up from sleep, as though somebody would have woken me and asked, Why are you sleeping?
I went outside. Darkness. I slipped out quietly. I heard crying and begging, Leave me alone.
I listened and I heard that the crying was coming from the attic where the girls were sleeping. I figured that the Christians wanted to rape a few of the girls. I started to scream to the Christians that I will go to the military and report them. It became quieter, so I went back very quietly and lay down. I believe I was informed in my sleep to save a Jewish soul. The thought did not allow me to rest. I went out again, and I heard more cries and pleadings.
So I woke up Rokhl and the rest of the people in the house, and I told them what was happening here. They did not want to leave the house, but I tore out, ran to the gate, and started to scream more. Several soldiers jumped out and started to beat me. Rokhl came over and held me back because I had already fallen like a dead man. Then they started to hit her; both of us were practically killed. They left. It burned their hearts that I had interrupted them. Just then the people in the house came out, and they started to save us, and there was a commotion in the ghetto. They saved us with water. In the morning Dr. Rozental came with a nurse, Esther Vaytser. Dr. Rozental said that Rokhl was in a greater danger than I because they put holes in her head in several places. A few days later, it turned out that I was in greater danger, because my lungs had been punched in. Only God helped us both to recover. It took several weeks. Maybe I earned the privilege because I had saved a Jewish soul, whoever saves a single life in Israel, it is as if he save the whole world.
On a Bitter Day
On the 20th of Tishrei 5703 (Thursday October 1, 1942), on a bitter day, two of my sons were killed, Efraim-Fishel and Shlomo-Bentzion. On Thursday, the 4th day of the Intermediate days of Sukkot, the eve of Hoshana Rabba, as was the custom in the morning, we all went to work, each to his own place, and I to my place of work. I took the keys to the storeroom and entered the storeroom and had already begun to work, when suddenly they came with Job's news [terrible news], that they are preparing too quickly the graves for us and today-tomorrow they will accomplish it. We already expected the tragic day, because in all the surrounding areas they had already finished with the Jews. All of us that worked there knew already. We looked at each other with sorrowful eyes. Everything fell from our hands. In addition, we were forbidden to show sorrowful faces.
And so we arranged with a Pole to hide our children. I got out of the storehouse and ran into the ghetto, because I had a card that gave me permission to go in and out of the ghetto. I wanted to give the good news to Rokhl. I did not have much time, because I had to run back.
Actually, my children Fishl and Shloyme came right into the house. We asked them if they wanted to run out of the ghetto themselves and go straight to the Pole Zarembah, and they said Yes. So I led them out of the ghetto. They went on a side path. After they had gone a short distance, they were captured and shot on the spot.
Soon there was a commotion in the ghetto. People heard that Nokhum's children were shot; the bitter news reached me. My sister Yente wanted to quiet me down, so she told me that she was just informed that my children went straight to Zarembah, and it was not true that they had been shot. So I was mixed up. I went to the director, who was good to me, and I begged him to give me a certificate authorizing me to go to the village magistrate with a letter about prices, and with that letter I went freely. I had been stopped several times; each time I showed the letter, and I was let through. When I got there: the children were no longer, and I, where should I go?
I came back in great pain. Asher was already home from work. I sent him with the same lettermaybe he could save himself; there was nothing to lose. And so it was; he took the letter and he was allowed through, and he arrived at Zarembah's in peace.
The next day was Hoshana Raba. I thought, what more is to be done? We heard very early that one girl from the 12 who used to work for Gorlinski in the yard got sick; so we sent [my daughter] Shifre in her place. We told her that going to Gorlinski, she should turn and head straight to Zarembah's, where Asher was. We also sent [my son] Yosele away with a Christian whom I had given a nice quantity of merchandise. Now I remained with Rokhl. What should we do next? I wanted to send Rokhl away, and I would stay here in the ghetto together with all the Jews. I had a plan: A Christian from home was at the storehouse. I promised him that I will write an order for him to receive several meters of grain. I had the papers on me. For that, he should take Rokhl out of the ghetto. Naturally, she had to disguise herself as a Christian.
And so it was. My wife Rokhl agreed but on one condition, that I should also come to Zarembah's, and if not, she would come back with the children. But how could I come since everybody knew me? All this was going on early in the morning of Hoshana Raba, because just on that day I was in the storage area of the synagogue (the Germans used it for a warehouse), and one side of the synagogue was in the ghetto, and the other side was outside the ghettoso I could accomplish all these difficult things.
Now I remained alone in the ghetto. Rokhl with Asher and Shifre with Yoysef were in the village of Pańska Dolina. And my children zl, my sons, my treasures Efraim-Fishel and Shlome-Bentzion, were lying covered with a little dirt from the Nazis and Ukrainians, may their names be blotted out. It was already 12:00 noon. I closed the storehouse, and I gave the key to the director. I went for an hour to the house in the ghetto where I lived with Fishl-Kritser. His wife wanted to give me something to eat, and I did not want to take it. I sat down and thought about what I should do. If I would go there, I knew that I would certainly be killed; if I did not go there, I was afraid that Rokhl and the children will come back. I could not decide what to do, until a decision came to me, that I should go to the storehouse for the key. I will ask him again to give me a certificate to go to the village magistrate about prices. I will tell him that I am again going to search for my children. And I went and stood in front of him.
He said to me: Take the key and go.
I kept standing.
He asked me: Why are you standing?
I explained that I wanted a certificate, because I was told that my children are in Dolina.
He said to me, Do not talk nonsense. Your children were shot.
He even knew where they were buried.
Seeing that I had no choice, I said to him:
Listen, sir, you want me to stay alive? Then give me a mission to go there, because I see that the end is coming. He thought and thought and said, For you, I will do this. And he gave me a letter for the head of the village with a stamp, indicating I was going on his behalf, and allowing me to come and go without harm. I went with no incident, and we [the members of the family] met there together, already it was the eve of Shemini Atzeret.
Translator's and editor's footnotes:
by Mendel and Sonia Teitelman, Haifa
Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD
and from the Hebrew by Howard I. Schwartz PhD and Hanina Epstein
Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD.
The First 10 Murdered by the State
Our first 10 slaughtered were eight young people zl from Mlynov and Mervits, plus two old Jews zl who were killed the day before them on Shabbes afternoon, 17 Tamuz 5701, in the Trisk synagogue in Mervits. One of them was Reb Motl Grinshpan, called Motl Tesler, over 90 years old, and the shammes [sexton] in the Trisk synagogue. He lived there and he was shot there.
|[This photo without a caption in the original volume is of
Mendel and Sonia TeitelmanHS]
The second old man was killed with him in the same place. He was dumb and poor; nobody ever knew from where he came or to whom he belonged, but he would stay in Mervits longer than in all other surrounding shtetls. After wandering around Mlynov, Trovits, and Demidovka, he would return to Mervits at the end of the week and stay overnight.
His place was always next to the stove in the men's synagogue. Motl, on the other hand, used to sleep and live in the women's synagogue, also next to the stove.
On that perilous day, 17 Tamuz, Shabbes, about noon, when they were both sitting in the synagogue, not a single creature in the shtetl felt cheerful, even though in the early morning hours we still prayed with a minyan, and I still said Kaddish for my mother, may she rest in peace. The Mlynov Rabbi zl had a premonition to not be in Mlynov, although up to then nothing had happened. He came running in the early morning to Mervits and prayed together with us. After praying, he left for Stomorgi to the fleeing Jews there, and he remained with the Keler family zl, thinking that when the situation would stabilize a little, he would return home. During the same early-morning hours, the Mervits village magistrate ordered people to clean up the remains of things abandoned in houses that had been populated with Russian tractor drivers. About 10 of us willingly registered for this work. We had a bad premonition after a few people from Mlynov related that the army with angry Germans, may their names be blotted out, had returned from Dubno that morning. At work, we heard rifles shooting, but we were used to that, because every day we heard rifles shooting here at fish in the river, Mervits, and at Stomorgi Jews.
The first were the two old Jews, Reb Motl Shammes [the Sexton] and the deaf pauper. Everyone in the entire shtetl, without exception, ran out to the fields at the first shots and hid among the tall ears of corn, which were still standing in the field. Not one happy creature remained in the shtetl. As elderly and deaf and dumb people did not orient themselves so quickly as to what was going on, the two victims remained sitting in their places, eating the tiny portion of tsholent that they had prepared the day before. And when the murderers, may their names be blotted out, opened the door and saw them, they shot them both on the spot, leaving them in pools of blood. Then they left to search for more victims.
We first learned about their deaths in the evening when we all, very frightened, returned home. The meaningless death of the two old, poor, innocent people, the first victims, spread terrible fear and great pain throughout the shtetl. All realized that the murderers' goal was to kill people who were in no way guilty of anything, and nobody had to account for the murders.
Sunday, the 18th of Tammuz 5701, we were ordered to gather in Mlynov in the middle of the marketplace. Accompanied with beatings and curses, we were led from there to the Mlynov airfield, not far from the Count's palace. We fixed damages caused by bombs, and at the same time, we helped to shlep assorted means of war out of the mud. We were beaten and abused at work, but who reacted to such things?
2:00 p.m. a murderer came over, dressed only in a bathrobe, holding a revolver in his hand, shooting the entire time in the air, and said that whoever could speak German should report to him. Shloyme Marer zl reported to him (he died two weeks later, when a bandit led him, Khaye Kipergluz zl, and a few others to the gelding place, and without any reason killed them there). The murdering German told him to announce that those who worked at the heavy chests should go with him. The eight young people went in front. They were accompanied by a few others whom he had picked out to stand a little farther away. He ordered the eight young men to stand up to be shot. He killed them all with his own unkosher hands. Afterwards, he called the next group. In the beginning, everyone had to dig his or her own grave, and to cover up graves next to them until their strength gave way before being shot. Those who were accompanying the victims finished everything. When they returned, they were unable to speak until nighttime; they had simply lost their language skills.
The mourning spread to everyone in the environment, even affecting a large number of our murderous neighbors, who at that time were not used to such things. The families who had young children, husbands, sons, and fathers of young infants torn from them, lamented the most. Their cries went up to the sky.
A stone could have melted from their tears and hysterical screams. Even a few Christians were astonished. It moved a few of them to respond that the edict had to be a mistake. If a tractor ran over a field-telephone-wire and tore it, so the suspicion fell on the Jews who worked in that area. Another person had a different explanation. We saw that it made an impression on the Christians mostly because that was still the beginning. Mass murders were still new. Later, of course, they became a routine habit; nobody paid any attention to such slaughters.
Before I will publish the names, I want to note that on that same day, several bandits were brought by Zalevsky to Stomorgi, who at the same time killed a larger number of the Jews there. Among them was the Mlynov Rabbi, Rabbi Gordon zl, and a Jew from Mervits, Zelig Moravitsky zl, a barber. They had hidden there waiting for the rage to pass, and they were killed together with those who had received them.
And these are the names of our first 10 murdered by the state:
Enemies and Murderers Around Us
More victims were killed all the time.
Here the lame shoemaker, zl; here Khaye, zl, the daughter of Khayim Yitskhok Kipergloz, zl; and others. By the way, in Dubno-Lutsk-Rivne, mass slaughters had already taken place. And regarding beatings and tortures, it is unnecessary and difficult to describe them. On a nice Friday morning (before Tisha B'Av 1941) the bandits, as demanded by the Ukrainian population, drove into Trovits and Ostrozhets with tanks and trunks, and captured practically all the young men not far from their shtetls, and simply shot them. At that time my brother Nakhman zl, and my sister Esther zl were in Ostrozhets.
And so enemy ranks came into every Jewish communityRivne, Dubno, Lutsk, and Klevan. The Jewish ear did not reach further. Moving was fraught with danger to our lives, both because of the local population and because of the German criminals, may their names be blotted out.
In the first weeks also came about the events of the refugees from Turka who were in Stomorgi. Tragically, they were denounced by a Christian and murdered. Murdered with them were the Rabbi of Mlynov, Gordon zl, Mendl Lumer zl, Muravitsky the barber zl, and the people from Turka whose names I do not remember, unfortunately, except for a few, such as the Koler family zl, the Zinger family, and two young couples from their group. Also at the same time my brother-in-law Ben-Tzion, son of Yoysef Gruber zl, was killed in Lutsk, where about 2,000 Jewish youths had been murdered. His wife Gitl with her child Yehudis zl came running to us in Mervits, thinking that there it was more protected. They also perished in the general murders of the Mlynov ghetto.
It is difficult, very difficult, quite impossible, to bring out every rotten thing on paper. Between one slaughter and the next there were supposed signs that the situation was improving, and we wanted to thinkmaybe? Maybe this will have been enough? So little by little, about 9-10 months passed, and in that time, in addition to murder, plunder, and deathly fear, the Jewish people were emptied of their gold, jewelry, butter, and everything of value which we had been using the whole time as exchanges for bread. And the mark of Cain, meaning the yellow badge worn in the front and in the back, warned others from far away of every Jew who was seen wearing even clean clothes, not to even think about wearing a fur coat, because that was simply life-endangering.
A Useful Worker
I was lucky. As a former owner of a mill, I was grouped with the six families who were employed in Yisroel Vortsel's [alt. Wurtzel's] mill. There I succeeded in being a useful worker as was Srolik Vortsel zl, his brother Mayer zl, his brother-in-law Fishl zl, and his cousin Yoysef Feldman zl from Berestechko. Gershon Opshteyn [Upstein] zl was a useful carpenter, and Borukh Lokrits zl was a useful blacksmith. And we all, with all kinds of tricks, kept our families in Mervits supposedly for work, even in the time of the closed ghetto. There were plenty of death scares in the mill. We had the burden of supplying the population with bread, as far as we only could, and that was fraught with danger to our lives. And still God protected us, and we succeeded, as much as possible, to feed the ghetto with bread. And even though enemy ranks came from many places, wherever there were Jews, there was still a spark of hope not yet extinguished maybe? Maybe? Maybe God will actually perform a miracle? Because without miracles there was not a single prospect for rescue.
We could see the strong, healthy, bloody beasts who penetrated further and further into the deep woods, and only news of their victories came from the front. Unseen, far from the front, the Germans were already dividing the plundered goods. For example, the Mlynov estate with all its goods was given to a retired German, an old dog, a huge villain. He managed the plundered goods with the palace, having the full assurance that it was his to keep forever, as an acknowledgement for his excellence in the military.
The Jewish population, with its committee at the head, was deadly frightened of him. There were no shootings, because he used up all the labor energy for himself, but the murderous beatings, which the old dog himself gave for every inexactness, were merciless. I do not remember his filthy name.
The only people with whom he had decent relations were the dentist Berman and his wife zl, and someone called Shnayder. We protected ourselves a little with all kinds of bribes.
The local Christian population believed that while Shnayder was in Mlynov, nothing terrible would happen (even that very pleasure they also did not allow us). Maybe there was a small kernel of truth to it, because when Shnayder left Mlynov for a time, the evil edicts worsened. And during the wholesale slaughter he was gone.
Ghetto, Evil Decrees, and Sacrifice
The mixed situation held on until just before Shavuos in May 1942. Then an order suddenly came that the Jews from Mervits and from the surrounding area, meaning from the villages, should all move to Mlynov. Starting in Shul Street until Kisil Yoel's, and until the synagogue near the puddle, the area was fenced off with a heavy barbed wire and isolated from the general population. Only two gates would allow Jews to be taken out for labor. A decent pen cannot in any way describe how the Jews from all the other Mlynov houses had to press themselves together like herrings in houses that had been already emptied of furniture, bedding, and household things; this tragedy I cannot describe in any way. I was also present where my sick brother Yankev-Yoysef zl, with his family, and my old uncle Khayim-Mayer zl, with his children and families, and my uncle Yankev Gruber zl, with his wife, and more people, were forced into the ghetto. Nobody in the world could picture such things.
In front of our eyes, we could see the beautiful days of May in Europe, with their full beauty, where both nature and humanity live and laugh. From the big light our darkness increased.
In the ghetto, the decrees became harsher. The news coming from every neighborhood was bad. And just like the Mlynov kehilla was united with all the surrounding shtetlekh, so it was with the ghettos.
In all the shtetls like Ostrozhets, Trovits, Demidovka and Boromel, ghettos were made on the same days for the Jews. Terrible news from one ghetto to the next came very often. For example, in Boromel, a German dog, may his name be blotted out, demanded something. As it was not quickly enough performed, he took out the leading Jews to the end of the shtetl, and he shot each one with his filthy hands. Among them was my friend Noach Grinberg zl. I do not remember the names of the other martyrs. We heard terrible news all the time.
The horrific situation lasted four months. And this time Motl Litvak zl, Khayim-Yitskhok Kipergluz zl, Moyshe Zider's two sons, and others, would steal out almost every day and go to the mill in Mervits at night, and talk about ways out, which was useless. During the four awful months in the closed ghetto, the edicts got worse every day. It is not possible to paint that picture, not even by someone with the greatest strength, knowing that the end would beextermination. Rosh Hashona 5703 approached. We could see our sentence in front of our eyes. The days from Rosh Hashona until Sukkos went by quickly. The ghetto was totally sealed. For what purpose?
On the last Shabbes, I think Shabbes during Sukkos, people gathered in the synagogue. Women and children came to the last prayer. I did not have the privilege of attending. It was enough for me to hear about it from the Christians, who were supposedly not as murderously purposed towards Jews. From the closed ghetto, on the last night, half the people ran out, loaded up with axes and with pieces of iron in their hands, ready for everything, and ran wherever their eyes carried them. Practically all of them, not being fit for the fields or forests, with the rains and cold, with small children and old people, fending off persecution and murder from local enemiespractically all perished, with very few exceptions, like Kopl Messinger, Ezra Sherman, and a few more, in the Smordva forest.
I alone succeeded the first days of the sealed ghetto to remain outside, with a friendly Pole (Marian Baretsky) in Mervits.
My wife Sonia, knowing that I was there, came running through the fields to me. Also others, from the few who survived, succeeded through various ways to get out at the last minute.
My brother-in-law Nokhum's two sons, Fishl and Shloyme zl, were the first victims who were caught running away. Local Christians beat them to death with sticks. Several days later, on a Friday morning, the martyrs in the ghetto were murdered.
28 Tishrei 5703 [October 9, 1942]
Regarding how the people hidden in mouse holes felt, I would only wish, that the Germans and all the enemies of the Jews would feel that way. The main question standing before us survivors was if we still had a taste to continue living? The thought started to plague us: for what? And with whom?
I understand that more than one of the future generations will judge our behavior, and our treatment of the old and weak, and they would ask: What happened to them?! Why did they not want to understand, that even to die it is better as heroes and not like cowards? Where was their organized strength? And why did it not work?
Future generations will also bring proof in writing of the heroic struggles of the partisans in various occupied enemy areas. So why were we not organized? What was standing in the way?
But the first answer to that horrible question is that all the tragedies did not happen at one time. Between one tragedy and another, there were breaks, with signs of ending, with a suspicion, maybe for good, maybe that would be the last of the evil acts? The extermination work was so refined and organized, that what was happening on the fronts did not interrupt the plan. Additionally, local bandits robbed the Jews before the civil thieves.
Furthermore, partisans began to organize quite later, when all Jews from all nations had better chances to defend themselves. In addition, they were not few, like us in the shtetls, but rather hundreds of villages that had hidden weapons from earlier, that had been tied to the fields and forests for generations. That was unlike the larger part of the Jewish population, which had in its life never been in a forest. Still their resistance came about much later after the Jewish extermination, and after the merciless extermination of the millions of Russian prisoners, in whom the partisans saw brothers of their blood and flesh. Slowly, slowly, first they fought the Ukrainian bandit militia, afterwards village after village. Take, for example, what happened in Malyn! Men and women, young and old, all were burned together with their houses. And more, many more such nice deeds. The resistance then grew. And at the end: about a half of the population of Jews ran out of the ghetto that last night, and what kind of end did the local population make of them?! Did a large part of the Jewish population fare better in the mass graves instead of strict burials?
Where Do We Hide?
And now, after the slaughter: where do we hide today? Yesterday we succeeded in hiding in a haystack at a Pole's. We were three souls: my sister Mamtsi, who knew where we were, stole over to us one evening. Sitting like this Shabbes, 29 Tishrei 5703, in a little forest with the taste of life, not eating until nighttime, we noticed a shine from a farmer's hutch and heard barking from a dog who detected us with his dog sense.
A 12 year-old son of the farmer came over to us and quieted the dog so it would not bark. He understood that we could only be Jews. And with his first words he told us to wait and hide among the trees, because a Ukrainian was visiting in his house. His parents were Polish and their name was Bogdan. We saw him as an angel from heaven. One thing surprised uswho are they? We know the area with its poor farmers so well, like Kozlavsky, Petrovsky, Baranovsky, and othersand who is this Bogdan? None other than an angel from heaven. After a little while passed, Bogdan's boy Zigmund came back to us to announce that the Ukrainian guest left, and we could come in in peace. At the entrance we immediately recognized the farmer and his wife. When he saw us, he crossed himself several times, and swore he would risk his life to save us.
Hungry, we ate hot, cooked potatoes with the skins that had been prepared for the one pig, and we ate them with cooked mushrooms. Unfortunately, Bogdan did not own anything better, like bread. Never in our lives had we eaten anything so delicious. His gifts to us grew when he brought straw inside and told us to rest. At dawn we would go out to his poor barn, dig ourselves in and cover ourselves with the few sheaves. Our contentment had no measure, and we saw godliness in him, as though he were sent from heaven, because a person with such an open heart, at that time, was a rarity.
The sweetness of our sleep on the straw after our rich supper, and the miracle we experienced, is very difficult to write about.
More difficult is describing our gratitude when Bogdan proposed afterwards that we remain in his extremely poor, half-open stable. He wanted to dig a storage space for us underneath the pig pen; that would be well disguised and protected from suspicious strangers. Our joy was very large.
A few days went by which seemed like years. The farmer brought us very sad news about Jewish survivors who had been discovered by Ukrainians after the general slaughter, and how they were subsequently murdered. What will be our end? In the meantime, we started to sense the smell of other remaining Jews in the area. Among them, my brother-in-law Yankev Shekhman, his wife Khayke and their children: Perl, Avraham, Shimeon, Yoysef, Asher, Ezriel; my brother-in-law Note [Gruber] with his wife Maryem [Sherman] and child Shifre; the others remained in the ghetto; Zelig Shekhman and Basye and another sister; Yitskhok Eshes and his wife Khotsl with their son and daughter, and an entire family Koretky from Trovits. In addition, we received word that there was a large group of Jews in the Smordva Forest. Meanwhile, we heard the good news about the large defeat in Stalingrad. Because of suspicions about the Ukrainians, the Germans called together the Ukrainian military on a very good morning, supposedly for exercises, and shot them like dogs. That brought us much satisfaction. All of this gave us even more courage and hope maybe maybe? Maybe God will still help, at least the remnants?
Our good caretaker, our Bogdan, comforted us every time with hope, saying that we will survive our enemies. His words were like a bandage on our wounds. Passover 1943 we had bad news about another group of Jews who were discovered; their own protectors had turned them in: Srolik Zelig's with his wife and children, Note Raykhman and family, my brother-in-law Yankev Shekhman with his family, my brother-in-law Note [Gruber] and wife and child, Yoysef Neli and Motl Feldman from Brestetsky, Zelig Shekhman and his two sisters, Yitskhok Eshes and family, the family Korotke from Trovits, a family from Lutsk, and many more.
And that brought us despair and the constant thoughtand when will it happen to us?
Battles between Poles and Ukrainians
On the first night of Passover there was a sudden, heated struggle between the local Ukrainians and Poles. The Ukrainian bandits, who did not have a smaller share in our tragedy than the German murderers, may their names be blotted out, and many times they even had a larger share, had old accounts with the Poles from the time Poland was the ruling country. As they sensed the retreat of the Germans, they started to prepare a three-pronged battle against the Jews-Poles-Germans. And even though our stay at the Bodgan's was dangerous because of the Ukrainians, sometimes people benefit when two enemies argue. And so it happened with us. The spring came with hope. Many Polish houses in the area were burned down; that drew out Polish sympathy to the oppressed. Opposition started to be heard from the Poles who had not been burned out, who had among themselves many former Polish officers, learned in weaponry. At the head stood the Kozlovsky brothers, the Tsibulsky brothers, and others. And with weapons in their hands, they turned against their attackers. That gave us chances to move around them more freely. The Ukrainians attacked often, but the Poles heroically pushed them out, with losses on the Ukrainian side. So the entire summer of 1943 stretched until Fall. In the meantime, Jews with weapons came to us: those were the cousins Sady, one is in Tel-Yoysef today, and Leybush Vinokur.
Depending a little on them with their weapons, we left for the forest. Because of the frequent attacks by Ukrainians, the Bogdan family came to our shelter more than once for the nightwaiting for the rage to pass.
Shloyme Moliner from Dubno with his wife, son, and daughter joined us in the forest, as did Yudl Shikhman with his two daughters, and Moyshe Neyter. In addition to my wife Sonye and sister Mamtse and me; my niece Sore Shikhman zl, with frozen feet; Basye, Nakhman Goldseker's wife, and her daughter Shoshana, four years old; Razi with her child Temy, four years old; Yudl Shikhman with his two daughters; Feyge Mandelkorn with her husband, Bernshteyn from Boromel; and the Raverman brothers from Trovits, today in Haifa; Yoyne Veyner, today a policeman in Haifa; and another two younger boys from Trovits, were in the forest together.
We started to sense steps towards salvation. At times a small group of partisans would get lost and come to us, and they told us about massive German losses on the fronts. We started to be aware of signs of deliverance.
Our Christian Angel
I have here the privilege of talking about our dear Bogdan, who kept us together. All Jews, without exception, who wandered in that part of the woods, meaning Novyna-Dobryatyns'ka at the Pańska Dolina, had only one address: Bogdan. A secure trustworthy man. When we needed to dig shelters, and for everyone separately so that not all would be discovered together, I was the digger. Where to get a shovel, a saw, a spade? At Bogdan's. And to know exactly where to make the shelter, so that it would not, heaven forbid, be close to a Ukrainian community, whom do we ask? Bogdan. And for provisions, if we wanted to go to a secure farmer in the area at night to get food, and we don't know our way through the forest paths, we took Bogdan with us. He never refused. He did all that not for riches, but because of his kind character and his goodness.
I want to add, that in the course of that time many unfortunate events occurred, and always, Bogdan's help was the first and the most useful.
On a certain early Shabbes morning at the end of February 1944, when we finished breakfast, we saw how both daughters of Yudl Shikhman, who had spent the night in abandoned Polish houses, came running to us in the forest, and fearfully told us that an army of Hungarian troops with German leaders hurried by the main road going to Styr and Trovits!
A puzzle. Is that a retreat? Maybe! Rokhle Kwasgalter, who was with a Czech posing as an aryan, and who knew about us, had permission to come this Shabbes during daylight to Bogdan, also with the same news. It was unbelievable. We were still sleeping in the forest in our shelter. We started to hear more and more such reports until the afternoon. Our joyous assembly was in Bogdan's hutch. Moyshe Neyter came in and announced that the Germans will no longer be here as rulers! We were in a dream. It was unbelievable. We heard distant shootings from artillery, and various flyers who gave the impression of spring birds, and still we did not want to believe it. Three days later, a soldier from the regular Russian army also came to Bogdan's house, and he openly and clearly announced that the Russian army is already headed towards Lutsk.
We made a blessing on the first night that we slept in a house above the ground and not under the ground.
Soon Getsel, Pesia and Bunia Steinberg with their children; Mendel and Sheindel Steinberg with their child, Liza Berger; the Goldreich family and their child; and the Kupenberg brothers and sister, soon appeared. We all greeted each other with bloody tears and joy and mourning. We had a premonition that someone from our family will come out of hiding. And so it happened with the sudden arrival, into Bogdan's hut, of Nokhum, Rokhl, Asher, Shifra and Yoysef. In truth, they crawled, not walked, because the last few days of the liberation they were simply in great danger, and because of that, they had to lie in storage a long time, and had to eat and drink and press tightly together in a small ditch.
It took them a long time until their legs healed, and even now they still feel pain from those days. And then we met Yitskhok Kozak with his surviving family. Also Eli Vaytser's wife and sister, and a few others. We all decided to get to Rivne.
There could not be any talk of turning back to Mlynov. Mlynov was then very thickly occupied with the military and was always being bombarded by the Nazi beast, which was still throwing itself in convulsions. So, therefore, we came to the decision of Rivne. The motives: further from the front, a larger city. In addition, we wanted to escape the very serious danger of the Ukrainian bandits, who even after liberation, more than once, murdered surviving Jews. We understood that in Rivne this danger was smaller.
Getting over to Rivne just with our skinny bones was not difficult, because we absolutely owned no baggage. And so we made it. We arrived in Rivne, met with other survivors like us from Varkovychi, Ozeriany, Klevan, and so on. We hugged each other, and we screamed at what became of us. We cried ourselves out. Then we started to look around at where we were in the world.
And fresh troubles began. There were troubles about mobilization, straight into the fire; there were troubles from heavy bombardments; there were less important troubles of hunger and cold. The last had absolutely no importance with us. I personally, like many others, was exhausted, and I limped on one leg, an inheritance from the forest. I was overgrown like an animal; I made the impression of a Jew in old age. So I aimed to work in Gam's mill in Rivne. And that protected me a little from being drafted and a little from hunger. As much as I could, I shared my piece of bread with another person. So, for example, Moyshe Goltseker's son came to me (Misha with the beard ). He had been mobilized to work in the mill. He was hungry and thirsty, so I provided him with a couple of rolls, and so on.
But what does one do about the bombing? A very serious problem, which doesn't allow for rest during the day or night.
I was accidently made aware, on a certain day, that my sister Mirel's zl two children were found living in Staryi Chortoryisk near Kovel. I immediately sent an old Jew, with quite a white beard to bring them to me. He agreed to do it on one condition, that I should take a third child. Not thinking, I agreed. Said and done. The Jew brought three children the next day: Motel, Lyuba, and Perele. Being reunited with the children was indescribable for my wife Sonia and me. But that same night, the bombing from hundreds of airplanes was so strong, that we meanwhile did not talk about our lives, but strongly regretted that we had brought the children to such danger. And this time God helped; we were saved from that terrible night also.
At dawn in May 1944, we headed to Mlynov, being sure, that as the front was already past Lemberg, they will probably not bomb such small points as Mlynov. We arrived in Mlynov. The excitement was quiet. We met there Berel Rabinovitch, Shloyme Schechman, Toybhse the Rebbe's. Shaulik Halpern, who was with her in hiding, was drafted at liberation. My wife Sonia and I brought with us her sister Mamtse and the three children. Nokhum, Rokhl, Yoysef, and Shifre. Asher had already been mobilized. We also met there Khane Veiner; Yitskhok Mandelkern with his child; Yente-Leye Likhter; Khaye Fisher, today in Kinneret; Feyge and Itke Mandelkern; Leybish Vinokur; and my sister-in-law's daughter, Sore zl; as also Ezra Sherman, the Goldreich family, and a few numbered Jews from the area.
Slowly the nightmare of the long night started to lessen, which so fatally ended for all of us Jews. We could not look around for who was missing, but we could only see who was still there. Hard! Very hard going around to the cemeteries, and all of your dear ones are dead, and they will never be here again.
And the thought is plaguing, if it was appropriate to protect our bones? And maybe flesh will grow on them again? But life is stronger than everything. The Jewish people never suffered such a large catastrophe in its bloody history. We had serious thoughts. And with them we started to think about our Return to Zion.
What we did in Mlynov over the next 15 months after liberation is less important. We put up a monument for our martyrs; God knows if it is still standing there today. Coming to Mlynov from Rivne, with my brother-in-law Nokhum and Itke Mandlkorn, we cleaned up a little the practically broken ohel on the Mlynov cemetery, and observed a yahrtzeit like in the past. The notes were still around the ohel which Jews from Mlynov, and from far, wrote. With hot tears the requests had been thrown on the Karliner holy man's grave. Regarding tombstones, there were practically none left in the cemeteryall were torn out, and spread for sidewalks all throughout Mlynov, wherever they were needed. It made the impression of an act of vengeance to those long dead. To return the monuments to the cemetery was physically impossible for us. Also, the ruling power did not have a need for it. The only monument not ripped out was Yoysef Berger's, may he rest in peace. And we, even though very weak, put it back in its place. How is it today?
In Mervits practically everything remained in the cemetery as it was, practically untouched.
Walking over the streets in Mlynov in that time, when many, many of our dearest dead were like thorns in my eyes, at least I had a little satisfaction. It is still fresh in my memory. The first Shevuos holiday after our return to Mlynov from Rivne, with Nokhum's over-exertions, we used more than our strength to clean out the women's synagogue a little, so that we could remember the souls.
It is not easy to portray the hysterical picture of the few people, and the bloody tears they poured out in the Women's synagogue that first Shevuos since we were freed. The tears surely poured together with those tears of the former kehilla in the ghetto, on the last Shabes during Sukkos, barely two years ago, chanting then the last prayers of an entire condemned people in that same house of worship.
We had to proceed with daily business. The broken, walled-up large synagogue we transformed into a storehouse for grain. It would be easier for survivors to gather there instead of allowing it to be slowly town down for bricks, which the population needed then because of the ruins from the war.
I believe, according to the letters which I often receive from a Mervits farmer, that the synagogue is still standing. Regarding the remaining houses, the best and walled houses were still in order. Good houses were turned into institutions. For example, Shimeon Shekhtman's house became a NKVD. Mayer Kwasgalter's house became an office for mobilization. Deaf people lived in the Rabbi's house. Getsel Steinberg's house had his family; in Moyshe Zider's house was Mendel Steinberg and family. Nokhum and family in his house. In Arke's [Nudler], may he rest in peace, with his daughter [Etke Nudler]; in his house, Shloyme Shekhman. Berel Rabinovitch was with them in their house.
There was no way I could live in Mervits. I thought that in Mervits I would continue to see the terrible pictures always in front of my eyes. Therefore, we cleaned up a room in the ruins of Yankev Tesler's zl house and I lived there with my family.
We knew well, both from the stories of local Christians and from the unearthing which the authorities did then for its own purposes, that practically every Jewish house was a cemetery. And so we went around day and night on a large cemetery. To memorialize everybody with monuments was not possible.
Are there any comforts in life for such a tragedy?
Translator's and editor's footnotes:
by Yechiel Sherman, Haifa
Translated and edited by Howard I. Schwartz PhD, with Hanina Epstein
June 22, 1941. It is 4 am in the morning. I had just begun to dress to head to work. Suddenly I heard a loud, strange noise. It was like the houses were moving from their foundations. I went outside quickly but didn't see a thing. I began walking towards the town center. By the home of Rabinovitch, I already saw several Jews standing and saying that they had bombed airfield on the other side of the Ikva River.
Already by 9 o'clock that same day, talk began about the war that the Germans declared against Russia. Many people were standing and talking about this disaster, even though they couldn't relate any details. But already by 2 o'clock in the afternoon, when I walked in the direction of the general store, which at that time was opposite the house of Aba Grinshpun, I heard and suddenly saw suddenly aircraft approaching from the direction of Dubno and beginning to drop bombs on the airfield and afterwards also on Mlynov itself.
Already, by this time, some people had been killed and the panic had broken out. Tremendous fear pervaded everyone. They began to run from the town in every possible direction. I and my family, my sister Sheindel, my brothers Yosef and Ezra and also grandmother, Hannah, and aunt Tzvia fled to the village of Sloboda. There we had an acquaintance, a gentile, Arsim the tall one.
We entered his hayloft and stayed there. Other people and families from Mlynov gathered there. That same night they all stayed with Arsim. The following day, we began to analyze the situation, but in the morning we still lacked information that could help us with this. We observed only that the [Russian] military quickly made an escape in the direction of Russia. What to do? I was then 18 and it was my opinion that there was no compelling reason to remain here and wait for the Germans to arrive. A clear and decisive sign to me was [the fact that] that same Arsim with whom we stayed the night and in whose whose shade we spent time already in the morning drank vodka to the wellbeing of Germans and the life of Ukrainian independence. We grasped that our end would be bitter.
That same day, the 23rd of June 1941, I bumped into Pinchas Klaper, Moshe and Yehuda Veiner, Gertnich Koftziav and we decided to flee at night towards the Russian border. I alone went back again to Mlynov to convince a few young men to flee together with us, but I was not successful. Among others I met was Icek Kozak and asked him to permit his son Ruben to go with us but he refused. I returned to Sloboda. Along the way, I met Yehezkiel Liberman, who lived along the road to Sloboda, and he asked me, Yechiel, where are you going?
I told him that I and a few other friends were fleeing to Russia. He started persuading me not to flee: The way was full of danger, and we were liable to be killed. I didn't heed him, and I continued to the village of Sloboda. I recounted what had been done in Mlynov and peoples' opinion about our fleeing Only members of my family, among them my father Moshe Sherman, favored my fleeing.
It was Monday, the 23rd of June. We gathered again. I, Yechiel Sherman, Yehuda Veiner and his brother, the teacher Bershetyuvka, Pinhas Klaper, Koftzia Gertnich we got on bikes and began to flee in the direction of Russia. Obviously, we lost track of another along the way ... Only myself and Moshe Veiner persisted fleeing together until we reached the border.
|Home of Dr. Wissotzky in Mlynov|
Only then did the troubles begin and also ... the longings for brothers and sisters whom we left behind. Each day we heard the news, in which the Germans were advancing and destroying everything, killing Jews. In all honesty, we didn't believe it, but indeed this reality came to pass.
While I stayed in Russia much happened to me. Innumerable experiences.
Until March 1942, I was in a collective farm (Kolkhoz), after that in the Red Army and on the front until the end of the War, which ended for me when I was already in Germany near the Elbe River when meeting the American army on May 10th, 1945.
* * *
On March 1944, while I was advancing with the Red Army towards Germany, I was very close to my town Mlynov, and I decided to get home whatever the cost. After three days of travel, I reached the entrance to the Mlynov forest. Even as I entered the town, I witnessed the great destruction the Germans brought about. I first entered the cemetery and saw that they had demolished it all. I looked for the gravestone of my mother, who had died already by 1938, whose burial location I knew but I was not able to find anything; The Germans had taken the tombstones for paving sidewalks.
I started to enter the town, along the way I stopped by each house, and thinking perhaps I'll find someone at home but I found not a soul ...until I came to one Pole, a carpenter named Dimar; he had been living near Moshe Shakrov, the shoemaker. He didn't recognize me since I was in military uniform. He began to tell me the names of those who remained alive. All of them, I found at the home of the town's rabbi [Rav Gordon]. I found Tobeyshe [the rabbi's daughter], Getzel [Steinberg] and his brother [Mendel] from Mervits. And also Berel Rabinovitch and Shlomo Schechman; the other survivors already left for Rovno.
They told me about the great destruction perpetrated by the murderers. Nothing remained for me to do in Mlynov and the next morning I got up and returned to my unit. After a while, I got a letter from Mlynov that my brother Ezra was alive. But I was already far away from the town. Ezra had hidden with a gentile and by a great miracle he remained alive. At the time of the liberation, he entered the Red Army and advanced with it. We were not able to meet until the end of the War; but once we met, we have not been separated again to this very day.
* * *
Let all their wrongdoing come before You,
And deal with them, as You have dealt with me
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