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[Page 380]

In Those Times

Rokhl Teitelman, Haifa[1]

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD.

©

Even though my head is not working too well, I want to describe a few memories of what we, and mostly I myself, survived. One night a German policeman came in and took my son Asher[2] out of bed. The Germans did not even allow us to go along to see where they were going. When it became daylight, we went out into the street, and we heard that many young people had been taken, but to where—nobody knew. It took a longer time until we learned that they were in Rivne at forced labor for the Germans.

Sometime later I learned that Yankev Goltseker z”l[3] went to Rivne, and after a couple of days he brought home his son Dovid; but his son-in-law was still there. I went to him and begged him to tell me the secret as to how he managed it, but without success. However, he promised me that if he would succeed in getting his son-in-law out, then he would tell me everything.

And so he did. The following week he brought his son-in-law home. He also gave me a note from Asher saying that we should save him if possible. I started to research possible ways to travel to Rivne. It took several days until I was able to get a Christian driver, but he could only go on Shabbes. Understandably, this was a very big problem for me and for my sister Khayke—her son was there too.[4] So I ran to Mervits to Uncle Khayim-Mayer z”l for advice.[5] He affirmed that to save a person one could travel even on Shabbes. Yankev Goltseker explained everything to me, told me with whom I needed to meet, and how to handle everything.

[Page 381]

Going to Rivne was extremely dangerous. We met Avraham Khayke's [son][6] who had been freed because he was very sick. But as to my son Asher—there were no excuses to free him because, very unfortunately, he was completely healthy. I additionally wanted to do a good deed by rescuing Lipe Halperin,[7] who was there too. His family begged me to do whatever I could for him, and I told them I would do whatever was possible. I could free them only via a Jewish woman who lived with the German Commander. I had her address, and I had to arrange everything through her.[8]

When I found her, she informed me that I needed a red ticket from Dr. Tsaytlin, an older person. I had enough money for everything, but, sadly, I could not accomplish anything with money. The doctor said that money is worthless when a person faces death every minute, and he lived under circumstances that were worse than anything faced by the poorest pauper in our town. So I started to beg him and I explained that by saving a young child from death, he will also be saved from death. I told him that to accomplish everything, we needed a mediator. I reminded him that when I had been very sick, really very, very sick, Sheyntse Maizlish led me to him, because she was his patient, and he saved me. He was, thus, the intermediator, and I wanted him to be our good facilitator now too, by giving Asher a red ticket. I do not remember how much money was involved.

With tears in his eyes he gave me the ticket, and I took it to the woman. That was Monday. She told me that everything would be done the next day. That cost thousands, but I had enough money. Tuesday I again went to the doctor and begged him to give me a ticket for Lipe. I explained that his mother was a widow, and he supported the family. He gave me the ticket, and I went again to the woman. She had to wait for Wednesday.

I was staying then at Khayim Nakanyetshkin's daughter's place. I was in danger the entire time.

[Page 382]

Every day people said there would be an akcje[9] that night against the remaining Jews. I barely survived Wednesday. I took out the two tickets to free Asher and Lipe, and I gave Lipe his ticket and Asher his. I was ready to go home, but Asher lost his ticket! Lipe went home, and I remained with nothing! So I ran again to the woman and told her she must go to the same office so I could get another ticket for freedom. But as it was already late, and there was nobody to write it up, I had to wait until the next day. Meanwhile I reported the loss to the police, hoping maybe somebody would appear with that ticket. And actually, Thursday, I did receive that same ticket. A Jew had found it and he had brought it to the office.

This is how we, meaning Asher and I, were saved from our deaths for the first time. That same night all those who had been with Asher were murdered. Among them were many from Mlynov. Unfortunately, Lipe was murdered later.


Editor's footnotes:

  1. Rachel Teitelman was born Rachel Gruber, daughter of Yosef Gruber and Shifra (Teitelman). She married her first cousin, Nahum Teitelman, who is also a contributor to this volume. See more on the background of the Teitelman family.--HS Return
  2. Asher Teitelman is one of the other contributors to this volume.--HS Return
  3. Refers to Yankel Holtzeker son of Moishe Goldseker, one of the five Goldseker brothers. Yankel married Risia (or Ritzia) and they had 12 children, one of whom is the Dovid mentioned here. A photo of the large family appears on p. 245 of this volume and of their home on p. 79. Most of the family did not survive. Two daughters and a son made aliyah before the War. Tzipporah Sulovsky-Holtzeker (1910–1986), the second oldest, made aliyah in 1933. Her sister, Baila (Holtzeker) Wildikan (1914–1990) followed in 1941. They were joined by a brother, Nahman, whose story is not known. A young brother Hanoch was nine when the War broke out and during the German occupation fled to the forest with his brothers. He survived and joined his sisters after the War in Kibbutz Negba. He was tragically killed in May 25, 1948 in the Negev by an Egyptian shell. The names of the children in the list of martyrs (p. 432) are: David, Abraham, Menanshe, Khona, Mindl, Batia, Libe and Hanoch.--HS Return
  4. Rachel's sister, Chaika (Gruber) had married Yankel Shichman. They had four sons. It becomes clear in the narrative her son Avraham was the one in slave labor in Rivne.--HS Return
  5. Referring to Chaim Meir Teitelman, her mother's brother.--HS Return
  6. Referring to her sister, Chaika's son, Avraham.--HS Return
  7. Probably refers to Lipa Halpern, son of Yosel and Tzipa (Riwiec), who was the brother of survivor Shaul Halpern. The Lipa Halperin who survived and contributed to this volume was a first cousin who had left Mlynov and made aliyah in 1937.--HS Return
  8. Asher Teitelman in his in his memoire indicates he was the one who coordinated the escape.--HS Return
  9. (Pol.) Murderous campaign--HBF Return

 

[Page 382]

In Fear and Pain

by Leye Veyner-Likhter[1] ,Haifa

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD

©

When the Germans took over our shtetl Mervits, my brother was in the Soviet army. Yet, he managed to come home to his wife the next day; he had succeeded in running away from captivity. They were expecting a baby. However, their joy did not last long.

Hard times started. Besides being subjected to forced labor, people were murdered for no reason. Every day there were tragedies. The enraged, drunken Ukrainians and Germans used to go around at night with revolvers in their hands and they would rob houses.

[Page 383]

* * *

We were forced into the Mlyniv ghetto. It was very crowded. We were all enveloped in the fear that someone would shoot us any minute. Every night someone would be on watch to learn when the S.S. was coming.

29 November 1940,[2] at dawn, we heard the Germans scream, “Lauz!”[3] Then we knew that they were coming to get us. When they entered my house, I hid behind the door. I wanted them to shoot me in the back. I had heard them take out the dearest person I had in the world, my mother. They also removed the other people. It is hard to describe those terrible minutes.

I came out of hiding at night. The tall gates of the ghetto were open, and I left for the fields. As the grain had already been cut, I hid among the potatoes. I do not know how many days I was lying there, but hunger and cold drove me into the villages, of course only at night.

I made myself dumb so that my language would not betray me. I went from place to place. It was very dangerous because German and Ukrainian policemen were around. When I came to the Czech village of Malyn,[4] I went to the hospital since they needed workers. I started to weep when I saw the doctor because I felt I could trust him. The doctor asked me, in Polish, if I were pregnant. I answered him that my problem was even worse–I am a Jew. He advised me to get away from that neighborhood. Actually the next day, after I left the village, the Germans burnt down the town completely. Not a single person had been allowed out. This was revenge because a German had been killed earlier near that village.[5]

I worked as a Christian in various places. When the war ended, I could not travel to our shtetl to witness the destruction. My family and I arrived in Israel via Georgia [in the Soviet Union].


Editor's footnotes:

  1. Leah Likhter was born in Mervits probably around 1917-1920. In this essay, she describes how her family was taken into the Mlynov ghetto and gives a brief account of how she managed to hide and escape while her mother was taken away. She mentions only the existence of brother and a mother in this essay, perhaps the Ida Likhter and her son Boruch listed in the Mervits martyr list (p. 442). After surviving the War, Leah met and married Mlynov-born Yehuda Veiner (alternative spellings Weiner/ Veyner/ Vainer) in Dubno.
    Yehuda Veiner was the son of Yitzhak Veiner (mother's name unknown). He had left town with other Beitar members shortly after Germans had started their invasion the week of June 22, 1941, a story also recounted by Yechiel Sherman later in this volume (pp. 344-246). Yehuda tried but failed to get his family to leave with him. As a young refugee, Yehuda wandered around Russia eventually staying somewhere in Kazakhstan until after the War when he returned to Dubno and met and married Leah. Yehuda's two younger siblings Hana Veiner (born ~1913/1913) and Moshe Veiner (born ~1915) also survived.
    After the War, Yehuda and Leah remained in Dubno and in 1947 had a son Yitzhak (Vasha) Vainer and a second son, Baruch in about 1950. Around 1962, they moved to Tbilisi, Georgia and then managed to make aliyah in 1967. In Israel, they stayed initially with the family of Sunny Vainer, a cousin and another contributor to this volume (see page 251). In the army in Israel, Yitzhak eventually adopted the surname Einav.--HS Return
  2. The writer appears to be misremembering the date or a mistake was made. The Germans didn't enter Mlynov until the week of June 22, 1941, when they invaded the Russian occupied parts of Poland. The ghetto liquidation was recalled by others as occurring on October 9, 1942 which was the 28th of Tishrei 5703. Perhaps the writer or editors converted the Hebrew date to the wrong date on the Gregorian calendar.--HS Return
  3. [Louse]. The Germans always screamed “Raus!” [out!]--HBF Return
  4. Malyn is due north of Mlynov today and 28 km (17 mi) via indirect roads.--HS Return
  5. The author is describing the massacre at Malyn which took place 13 July 1943. The adult Jewish population had already been shot and the children buried alive in 1941. --HBF Return

 

[Page 384]

Murder of the Sokoliki Refugees

by Frida Kupferberg[1] ,Haifa

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD

©

Here is a short report of the terrible suffering and the murder of the Jewish farmers who came from the village Sokoliki near Turka.[2] They were killed in the villages around Mlynov as well as in the Mlynov ghetto.

Jewish farmers lived in the villages of Stomorhy[3] and Hintsharekhe[4] near Mlynov. In April 1940 they were deported by the Soviets from their hometown Sokoliki near Turka to the Mlynov region where other farmers had been taken.

Instructed by the Pole Zalewski,[5] the Germans entered Stomorhy from Dubno three weeks after the outbreak of the German-Russian war; that was Sunday, the 13th of July 1941, the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day for Jews.[6] It was a double day of sorrow because the Germans had taken over. They attacked a Jewish house where two families were living. With screams and violence, the Germans forced everybody out into the garden, and then they shot the Jews one by one. The last one shot was Moyshe Fayler's young, very pregnant wife. Moyshe Fayler with his wife and mother; Ester and Shuel Zinger, Royze Zinger, Leyb Fram, and another boy were murdered.

After that the Gestapo ran into the house of Volf Keler. Volf Keler[7] was a learned Jew who sat and studied Gomorrah. His four sons followed the same path as their father. The Gestapo forced Volf Keler, his four sons, Moyshe Gelmakher, Mudil Frab, as well as Mlynov Rabbi Gordon, who had spent Shabbes with Volf Keler, to the house where those who had been killed were lying. Relatives and neighbors were ordered to put the bodies in a wagon and take them to a ditch. Afterwards they followed the corpses in the wagon up until the heaps of excrement before Mervits.

[Page 385]

There had been an open ditch in that place for a long time. The Jews were ordered to dump the murdered bodies into that ditch. Afterwards the Germans also shot the Mlynov Rabbi, and he fell into the ditch. The Gestapo took Volf Keler with his four sons Berish, Moyshe, Hirsh, and Shimeon, and another two victims, Moyshe Gelmakher and Moydl Frab, to Dubno. They were thrown into prison, where they were all killed. The rest of the Stomorhy Jews were beaten and forced by another division to Mlynov, where they were distributed for various labor assignments. The horrible events of the 13th of July remained in my soul. A year later, the rest of the Jews from Stomorhy and Hintsharekhe were murdered in the Mlynov ghetto.

* * *

I want to report here a second instance, which happened at that time in the village Hantsharekhe near Mlynov to the family Gelobter, consisting of a father, a mother, and two frightened little sons. Shortly after the Germans took over, the Gestapo went to the Gelobters. They led the two boys into the garden, told them to dig a grave, positioned them in front of the grave, and shot them. The bodies fell in. In the evening, when their father went to pour dirt in the grave, he heard the voice of a son: "Father, I am still alive!"

He pulled his son Yoysef out of the ditch. The boy was wounded very badly. His father took him to the hospital in Dubno, where he had a bullet removed from his throat; he still had a bullet stuck in his back. Yoysef Gelobter lived for more than a year after that. I saw him in the Mlynov ghetto, where he was killed together with his parents.

I want to mention here, that among the surviving Jews, Shloyme Breyer, with a child of six years, died from tuberculosis four months after the liberation. Father and son had gotten sick in their bunker where they were hiding. And Leon Kupferberg also survived to be liberated. He was recruited by the Soviets, and he fell as a hero in Libave,[8] Latvia, the 23rd of January 1945.


Editor's footnotes:

  1. There were a number of Kupferbergs from Turka and the nearby town of Sokoliki who died in the hamlet of Stomohy and/or in the Mlynov ghetto. Several Kupferbergs are included in the list of martyrs from Sokoliki in this volume, p. 445. Yad Vashem records indicate Yitzhak (Icik) Kupferberg (1886-1942) married Tzvia (Trieber) and were brought to Stomohy or Mlynov during the War where they were killed. Another Kupferberg family from Turka in the area was Yoel and Sara (1912-1942) with two children, one age 7, and Dzunia age 4. It is unknown how the author is related to these families.--HS Return
  2. Sokoliki is currently in Poland close to the Ukrainian border and close to Turka, Ukraine. Alternative names for Turka are Turka al nehar Stry [Hebrew], Turka and Stryjem. On current maps, it is 315 km (196 mi) to Mlynov. Like Mlynov, Turka was under Russian control from 1939-1941. When Germany attacked Russia in June 1941, some of the Jews from Sokoliki and Turka managed to flee East. --HS Return
  3. A town 6.2 km north of Mlynov on the road to Lutsk. Alternate name: Stomorgi.--HS Return
  4. Possibly Arshychyn which is 4.3 km south from Mlynov.--HS Return
  5. Erich von dem Bach-Zalewski, high-ranking SS commander. Among his other crimes leading to the murder of millions, he oversaw the extermination of Jews in Belarus from July-September 1941.--HBF Return
  6. See Mendel and Sonia Teitelman's account in this volume of similar events in Stomorhy as well as Nachum Teitelman's account of the same day. Return
  7. See Mendel and Sonia's account also mentions the Keler family. Return
  8. Today Liepāja, Latvia--HBF Return

 

[Page 386]

During the Shoah

by Gedalia Lahav[1] , [Kibbutz] Mizra

Translated and edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD, with Hanina Epstein

©

 

It was the beginning of December 1942, when that I fled from my town Aleksandriya, [Russia] near Rivne and came to Dubno. Volyn was at that time “cleansed” of Jews, and displayed on the town buildings were placards with shining white letters: “Whoever finds a Jews must bring him [or her] to the police and will receive a reward[”]; the reward – sugar, schnapps so forth. Horror overcame me. Indeed, in my pocket was a forged identity document — but even so, what should I do and where should I turn? I was aware that in Mlynov there a large estate that needed workers. So I traveled to Mlynov and obtained work there and stayed working until the liberation of the city. Already by the time I got there, not a single Jew remined. Through contact with the population, I became aware that all of them had been shot and thrown in pits which were outside the town (by the slaughterhouse). Truly, after some time, I saw the place with my own eyes. Two mounds of dirt 2-3 meters high covered the pits. What could I do but secretly shed tears, lest someone see me.

During the month of January 1943, when I was sitting by a barber (opposite the Catholic Church) I saw an image that made all of me shake. I saw myself [in the barber's mirror] white as lime and I made a gargantuan effort not to arouse any suspicious that I was a Jew. I saw a family of Jews being transported by armed Ukrainian police. The barber let loose with the words, “Hell, these Jews are like ants. The more you eliminate them, the more they spring forth from the cracks.” I didn't respond; I sat in silence. That same winter I also heard that in one village (the name is gone from my memory) they discovered 7 more Jews and their fate was like the rest of the Jews.

I personally did not come across any Jew. Most of the Jewish homes stood on their foundation and only a few were destroyed. The homes were occupied, especially by poor Poles and survivors, who fled for fear of their annihilation by the Ukrainian gangs.

* * *
Do not forget. Breath in our death. Remember to live with the knowledge of the martyrdom
(Avraham Sutzkever)[2]


Editor's footnotes:

  1. Gedalyia Lahav (1919–1995) was born originally with the surname Schleifstein in Aleksandriya, Russia, now Oleksandriia, Ukraine. He made aliyah in 1947 but was retained in Cypress by the British before finally reaching Israel in 1949. Lahav published a book about his experiences. Return
  2. One of the most important Yiddish poets of the second half of the 20th century (1913–2010), Sutzkever has been called “the greatest poet of the Holocaust.” During the Shoah, he led the Paper Brigade, rescuing a large number of cultural items from destruction. He wrote poetry that was rescued and later left a deep impression on the public. He survived and later in 1947 made aliyah to the Land of Israel. Return

 

[Page 387]

Wandering During the Terrible Catastrophe
(Excerpt from witness testimony in Yad-Vashem)

by Bunia Epstein[1] ,Haifa

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD

©

 

In the Mlynov Ghetto

I had been home the entire winter. After Passover I saw that the times were bad. Jews had to foresee the future and make plans to save themselves.

Every year we used to have business dealings with a nobleman, Vasko Poholuk Nikolayev. My brothers Yukal and Hershl and I went to him now and established ourselves as field laborers. More Jews were there in addition to us.

The first or second day of Shavuot (I don't remember which), we were ordered to go straight to the ghetto in Mlynov.[2]

(Interviewer: “How many Jews were in Mervits?”

“I don't remember exactly. It was a small shtetl. There were about 100 families. Mlynov was a larger shtetl with more Jewish families.”)

We were forced into the ghetto. Our family–my mother, two brothers and I–were housed together with the Judenrat; we in one room and the Judenrat in the second room. When first entering the ghetto, the Germans robbed the Jews of whatever they had: potatoes, flour, oil, clothes. They tried to rob us too, but I resisted them and did not allow it. These were Hungarian soldiers; they did not take anything from us.

My mother remained in the ghetto while my two brothers and I continued to work outside of the ghetto for the nobleman Vasko Poholuk. Shabbes I would come home to my mother. One time I felt like seeing my mother in the middle of the week, so I came home. My two brothers remained working in the village of Pobredov.[3]

* * *

[Page 388]

The Judenrat had bribed the Ukrainians to inform them when the slaughter will take place. That was Rosh Chodesh Elul.[4] Trials were made to see where the Jews would run. In the middle of the night, 12:00 midnight-1:00 a.m., the Ukrainians came and reported to the Judenrat that the entire shtetl would be massacred that night, and whoever wanted could flee. The gates would be open.

I took my mother and we fled. My grandmother lived at the edge of the ghetto, right at the fence that was very high. She used to have a very large orchard. A whole night we were lying hidden among the trees. We planned that if we would hear something, we would jump over the fence and run away. At the end: daylight came, and nothing had happened. The Jews returned to their residences in the ghetto. As stated, the Christians wanted to see where the Jews would run. They made fun of the Jews.

I continued to work in Pereveediv. The first day of Rosh Hashana I worked; it was a Shabbes.[5] As the next day was the Christian Sunday, I was sent home. I went home for Yom Kippur.[6] I also came home the second day of Sukkot.[7] That was the last Sukkot that I was together with my mother and brothers. GRAVES WERE BEING DUG…

After Sukkot I left for work and my mother remained alone. That was on the second day of Chol Hamoed Sukkot.[8] While I was laboring in the field, my heart was embittered, wounded. I took a look–my mother had come! She was very frightened.

“Mama, why did you come?” I asked her.

“My child,” she said, “they are already digging our graves…”

She had taken nothing with her. She made leaven to be able to bake, because this was the eve of Hoshana Rabbah.[9] She had left it and ran away. People are foolish; while they live, they want to eat.

I asked her: “Mama, why did you not bring anything with you?”

I got up and went to the ghetto before evening. I did not go straight to the ghetto. First I went to Mervits; I slept in a Christian's house.

[Page 389]

In the morning I went to the Mlynov ghetto. I came into our room, and I started to bake. As I was baking, I was told that that people had already been murdered. Whoever had tried running out of the ghetto had been killed on the spot. Among the murdered were the Teitelman's two boys.[10]

Women asked me why I came back into the ghetto now, when the whole time I was out of it. I answered that it was probably fated that I should be slaughtered together with all the Jews. I continued to bake, but I was very nervous. Whatever food there was in the room, I put into the oven and baked.

I got out of the ghetto. I saw and heard a loud commotion. The people were petrified; they complained and cried. Khatskl Liber came to me and said:

“Bunia, you have a permit. Take it and go. Pretend you don't know anything.”

I understood what he meant very well. In any case, I was sentenced to death. Why did I need to die together with everyone, to stand in a row and wait to be shot? I thought I would go to the gate so I would be shot right away and save myself from having to see how they shoot others. I packed up two bags of food. I put on a yellow sweater with two patches (I put on a yellow sweater so that the two yellow patches would not be visible) and a scarf on my head. I put my shoes over my shoulders. I went out of the ghetto like that. The Germans and Ukrainians were standing around and did not recognize me. They thought I was a Christian.

And that is how I got out of the ghetto. When I came to the bridge behind Mlynov, a Pole came and took me into his wagon. He asked me where I needed to go. I answered that I needed to get to Pereveediv. He told me that I should ride with him to Smordva because all the Jews were being shot there [in Pereveediv]. The graves were being dug. But my mother was in Pereveediv, and I had arranged places in which to hide, so I did not want to ride with him to Smordva. He took me to Pereveediv.

[Page 390]

When I arrived, I met with my mother and two of my brothers. We waited until night-time. We had arranged to stay with a Christian in Dobryatyn. My older brother Hershl remained with a Christian in Pereveediv (naturally, he paid the Christian). My mother remained there too because she could not swim; to get to Dobryatyn one had to swim across a river. We said goodbye, and Yukal and I swam across the river at night.

 

We Search for Hiding Places Among Christians

The Christians cried over our great catastrophe.

We put our clothes on our heads and swam across the river. Coming out of the water, we got dressed and went to the Christian who had agreed to give us a place to stay. He had prepared a place for us in a haystack. We both crawled into it and slept there that night.

Before dawn, my brother Yukal got up and went to Pereveediv to bring my mother. That was the first day of Simchat Torah.[11] Yukal took her at night. They needed to go around a stretch of 15 km from Pereveediv.[12]

Yukal and my mother arrived in Dobryatyn [on] Simchat Torah at night. The next day, the Christians announced to us that we must leave. They didn't have room and they were afraid. My mother, during these couple of days, became half a corpse. When she arrived, I came out of the underground hideout. I looked at her and she at me, but she could not speak a word. After the Christians told us that they do not have a place for us, my brother Yukal took my mother back to Pereveediv, where she had been earlier. My brother Getzel with his wife Pesia and their four-year-old child were in another burrow in the village of Dobryatyn.

At night we went to look for another place. My brother found one with Ritsawjuk,[13] a very good gentile and a rich one. He took us in. However, he did not know about me. He only knew about three people hiding.

[Page 391]

He took us into his earthen hut. That is where we lay down. I was covered with straw, so that when the food was brought up, I would not be seen.

(Interviewer: “What was the name of the village?”

“Pańska Dolina.”)[14]

The Christian kept us several days, up until the slaughter. Friday would be the slaughter. All the Christians traveled to Mlynov to see how the Jews were being killed. It was a big holiday for them.

Wednesday night my brother Yukal came and spent the night with us. We begged him to stay. He did not want to because he already had a place to hide. His place was at Votka Pahaluk's, where there were another 20 Jews.

As stated, Friday [Oct. 9, 1942] was the massacre of the Jews in two shtetls, Mervits and Mlynov, and the gentiles went to see the wonderful festival. Ivan, the son-in-law of our Christian Ritsawjuk[15] also went (his family I do not remember). While travelling, he saw how my brother Hershl, who had been hidden in a cellar, was being led to the slaughter. My brother said hello to him. When Ivan came home, he told us about it. He himself was a very fine person.

Saturday morning people came to the house, and they all started laughing about how the Jews had been shot: [they were saying] this one was lying with his legs up, and that one with the legs down. We were silently listening to what the Christians were saying. We were not permitted to cry or sigh, because we ourselves had been sentenced to death.

Saturday afternoon, Ritsawjuk's daughter came up to us and told us that they can no longer keep us. We must go, because in the village an official held a speech that whoever was hiding Jews would get shot together with the Jews.

 

Further wandering

We had no choice. My brother Getzel picked the baby[16] up in his arms and we left. It was raining. We kept walking. Getzel begged many Christians to let us in, but not one agreed. It was almost dawn. Seeing that we had no other option, my sister-in-law, the baby, and I went to another Christian's dirt hut.

[Page 392]

Getzel went further to a village searching for a place for us.

After wandering the entire night, we were exhausted. It was pouring. We fell asleep in the hut. 15 Jews were hiding at this Christian's place. Among them were my sister-in-law Pesye's brother Srolik Vortsel [Wurtzel],[17] his wife Ite, and their three children–Pete (the oldest), Leye, and Zelik. The other family was Ite's sister Frida with her fiancé Peysakh Litsman; there was Note Raykhman[18] with his daughter Brokhe and son Mordkhe, and the oldest daughter Memtsi.

We did not see each other. We spent the night and the entire day in the hut. At night my brother came and said he found a place. We took the baby and started to go further. We came into the village, which was not far from Dobryatyn. The Christian houseowner there was named Dymytry. He made a burrow for us in the haystack where even a single person could not enter, and yet we four people squeezed in. We were lying all crowded together. Anyway, we older people knew that we needed to suffer, but the baby wanted to eat. He wanted to see how the birds fly, so he started to cry. When he was crying the Christian came in and said my brother and his family must leave, but he wanted to keep me.

My brother had no choice. If he was told to go, he had to go. So he, his wife, and the baby left. I remained.

The Christian took me to the attic where the pigs were. I had a fur coat with me, so I was lying wrapped up in the fur coat. My job consisted of crying. I cried by day and by night. The Christian woman used to come several times to give me something to eat. She did not come up; she used to throw the food up.

I was there two weeks. I had the appearance of a dead person, half a corpse. Sunday the Christian woman came upstairs and told me to leave because a speech was held in Dobryatyn that if a Jew would be found, the Christian would be burned together with the Jew.

[Page 393]

Therefore, the family was frightened. I was not familiar with the villages, and I did not know where to go. I begged them to give me at least one more day, as though my heart had a premonition…

The nephew of the Christian where there were 15 Jews hiding proposed to take me, but only on the condition that I live with him. My brother Getzel agreed. But I said that it would be better for me to be struck dead than to live with a Christian.

That Sunday night when Dmytry told me to go, I heard that the Christian was there. I was alone in the attic, so I became very frightened that he would come up to me. I could not scream, and in his arms I am [completely powerless] - so he could do whatever he wanted with me. I remained lying in terror. I do not know if I was sleeping, or if I had fainted. I heard someone screaming “Bunia!” I thought that the Christian was calling me. I awoke, either from sleep or from a faint, and I saw my brother Getzel standing in front of me. I started to cry. My brother told me to come with him because he had found a place for everyone.

My brother went to the previous place at Ritsawjuk, where he was with his wife and child. Afterwards he found a place in Pańska Dolina with the Pole Poljak Sharek, whom he paid very well. We went back to Ritsawjuk to get his wife and child. Together we went to Sharek.

We arrived at Sharek's on Rosh Chodesh Kislev.[19] It was already terribly cold. Sharek had made a place for us, also in a haystack. This place was large. We were freezing cold. We were immediately given a tea kettle with tea, and we warmed up.

The second night my brother and I left for Kutsys[20] where we had taken our things out. We brought bedding–padded blankets and pillows. We were lying in the haystack under our bedding. But it was still freezing. We held a bottle of water for the child under the covers; it froze. Then Sharek said he would make an underground hideout for us.

[Page 394]

At night my brother Getzel and Sharek's boys made a hideout for us. Where was it? In the stall where the animals were kept. They dug a ditch which they covered with boards topped with hay and then dirt. The animals were standing on that. The entrance was through the trough where the animals were fed. It was very good there for us. They fed us very well. They were very good people, and they were very sympathetic to us. The woman of the house, Sharek's wife, said that we were sitting all the time in a ditch without air, so therefore we needed to eat well. Twice a day she gave us meat, pork, milk, and cream–the best food. But we paid them well. I had taken practically my entire fortune to Voske Pahaluk; I had also given a little to other Christians.

 

Terrible News

As stated, we had it good. The food was very good. But what came of it? We mourned a great deal. We had heard Yukal was murdered with another 20 Jews. We were even told that the Ukrainian Commander of Mlynov undressed Yukal. Yukal had been wearing a pair of officer's boots. He had gold with him. The commander took everything away from him and then shot him.

One night my brother Getzel said that he was going to another Christian to get a few things. His wife Pesia went with him. I remained with the child. By nighttime, Getzel and Pesia had not come back. I lay and cried and prayed to God that the parents should return to their baby. They returned just before dawn, but they gave me a bitter report.

When they came to the Christian, they received very bad news. 15 Jews had been killed, about whom I already spoke. Srolik Vortsel [Wurtzel][21] with his wife Ite were murdered on the spot with their three children. Note Raykhman started to run, so they shot and wounded him. His son Mordkhe carried him on his back. The Ukrainians took Memtsi to headquarters, where she was kept for three days and then shot.

[Page 395]

All of them were taken to Mlynov, where they are buried.

After eight days we heard more grim news about Yosel Feldman,[22] his wife Anyela, his daughter Aviva, 2 ½, and his brother Motl who had run away from the slaughter. Understandably, the child caused difficulties. She wanted to run around on the street, and she wanted to eat, so she cried. They were afraid that they would be killed because of her. So they paid a lot of money to the Pole Zarembo[23] to take the child to Kivrets,[24] where he had family. Afterwards Zarembo ordered them to leave because someone came to search for Jews. They were not found. The three people left and went near Dobryatyn to a Christian woman, a widow, who took them in. They paid her a lot of money. She took them to a box-like annex behind the oven. She said that she would make an underground hideout for them. Days went by and the woman did not make a hideout. They started to ask her why. She answered that she would do it that day.

She brought them food that consisted of a barley cereal.[25] She went away. That was at night. It did not take long until Ukrainians and police came. They hacked down the door, threw it down in the middle of the room, took a sheaf of straw, and lit it. They went to our spot behind the oven and told the Jews to climb up. The room was already besieged with Ukrainian police. The Feldmans did not want to come up. Yosel jumped out of the window; they immediately split his head open. His wife, Anyele, and Motl were brought up. It turned out that Ivan, Ritsowjuk's son-in-law, was ordered to take them to Mlynov.

On the way Anyele took out a kerchief and wound it around Yosel's head because it was bleeding heavily (Ivan told us later). Ivan knew the child was not with them, and he knew where she was. He was smart, not an antisemite. Through gestures, he understood what Anyela expressed. She had taken out a photograph and a kerchief and gave it to him, as if to say: if the war will end, give it to my child as a remembrance. They were shot in Mlynov.

[Page 396]

They were buried with their Vortsel [Wurtzel] family (from the 15 Jews).

* * *

We, in the ditch, lived only with dreams. What we dreamed at night we related in the morning. One time the Mervits Rabbi came to me holding a Torah in my dream. The Torah had golden letters.

The Rabbi screamed out loud: “Bunia, pick a letter, I will make a promise.” (Interviewer: “What was the name of the Rabbi?” --“Don't remember.”)

In the morning I narrated my dream to my brother and sister-in-law.

I added: “Master of the universe, I do not know if I will remain alive. But, if I will survive, I vow to save the child of Yosel Feldman, so that she should not remain among Christians.”

 

Polish-Ukrainian Quarrels

We stayed at Sharek's for nine months. After that very bad times started for us. The Ukrainians and the Poles started to burn each other's property, so the Poles from Pańska Dolina left for Lutsk. We remained in the ditch, not having where else to go. Sharek and his Christians remained also.

Every evening my brother Getzel would go up to the attic as a look-out, because if someone would set fire to Sharek's house we would have to run to save ourselves.

One night after Shavuot, Getzel came running and screaming: “Children, we are burning! Give me the baby!”

We were sleeping. We grabbed the naked child and gave it to my brother. My sister-in-law was sick just then and could not move. Her back was hurting her; she suffered from lumbago.[26] I was young then. I packed up my bag and climbed down. I saw Sharek's house was already burning.

I ran to the hideout and started to scream: “Pesy, come quickly, we are on fire!”

With all my strength, I shlepped my sister-in-law out of the ditch. We could not walk. With great difficulties we crawled out of the burning house. There was shooting too.

[Page 397]

Had they known that we were Jews, they would certainly have shot us, but they did not know. We crept over to the fields. The evening was horrific. The entire village was burning. We were lying hidden in the field together with Sharek and his boys. My sister-in-law was crying pitifully because she did not know where her husband my brother was, nor the child. She said she did not want to live, because she did not have her husband and child.

We looked: someone was walking [towards us]. Vladek (one of Sharek's boys) wanted to shoot. My sister-in-law said: “Maybe it is Getzel?” And it was Getzel with the baby. What the child looked like is indescribable. My brother was half dead from fright.

We did not have anywhere to stay. At night we left for the fields because we could not stay here longer. We were lying in the grains eight days. During the day it was burning hot and at night it was cold. It also used to rain. We ate grain from the fields. We drank the green, stinking water from the puddles that were full of frogs.

 

Further Events

We realized that we could not take it anymore. I remained in a faint.

I said, “What will be, will be. Let them kill me.”

We picked ourselves up and crawled to a Christian's attic. The Ukrainians had left. We were lying in the attic. Before dawn I would gather green cherries and come back. We used to eat them and drink from a pitcher of water. Meanwhile the Christians returned home, including the person in whose attic we were lying. He made a ditch for us and continued to hide us.

* * *

In the winter of 1943 (I don't remember the month), after the big frosts, it started to get bad for the Ukrainians. There was a raid in Dobryatyn. The Christians made larger hideouts. The entrance and exit were on the field. They were lying in the same ditches as we were.

[Page 398]

Ivan's wife came down to lie with us in the ditch. The Germans had taken Ivan. Underneath, in the ditch, we did not know what was going on above ground. All of a sudden we heard axing. We thought that our hideout was being axed. It turned out that the Germans had caught chickens and they chopped off their heads in the trough. We thought that they had found our ditch and were searching for us. My brother Getzel had already said goodbye to us, and he said that he wanted to be shot before his child. A while passed and thank God, the ditch was not discovered. It was already night-time. The Germans left the houseowner alone. He came down to us and informed us that we had to leave, because he did not want to keep us any longer.

“I held you for six months; I am afraid to hide you more. If the hiding place would be opened and they would find you together with my wife, she would be shot with you.”

What do we do now? The snow is high, we are barefoot, we have no warm clothes. We picked ourselves up in the night and went further. That was already the end of 1943. My brother led me to a Christian who was the German secretary. The German wanted to save himself. The end of the Germans was coming. They suffered losses on all sides. So this Christian thought that he would be able to save himself through me. He kept me behind the oven. He gave me very good food.

Getzel with his wife and child went to another Christian also called Ivan.

I want to add, that before I separated from my brother Getzel, we went one night to beg food from another Christian, because we had very little to eat when we were staying together. We knew that we could go to this person because he was a Communist. When we came into his place, he ordered us to hide, because somebody was there. He led us out to the earthen hut. At the hut somebody came over; Getzel recognized him. He was a Russian soldier with whom Getzel had worked for the Russians. Now the soldier was a partisan.

[Page 399]

When he saw us, he started to kiss Getzel. Getzel was very overgrown with hair. The partisan gave him a razor knife and Getzel shaved himself and fixed himself up a little. The partisan also brought us food–pork, bread, radishes. He sat with us an entire day and told news, what was going on at the front.

Getzel announced: “I do not know if we will survive. But you will surely live, so I want one thing from you. You need to know that Voske Pahaluk killed 22 Jews; among them was my brother Yukal. I want you to take revenge on him.”

The partisan promised and wrote it down. There was another Christian in whom we needed to take revenge. It did not take long. The next day, we heard that unknown people came to Voske Pahaluk at night. They captured and took him, nobody knew where. They also took Tsanyuk and a third Christian whose name I do not remember.

As said, I was with one Christian and Getzel was with another. We were not far from each other, about 5 km from Mervits. The Christian took very good care of me; gave me the best things to eat. My work consisted of sitting behind the oven, crying, and plucking feathers for the woman.

One time there was a raid on Kutsys. The German secretary took me down into the hideout (all the Christians already had hideouts); he himself was not afraid as he was the Secretary. But if someone would find a Jew with him, he would be shot. I lay in that ditch an entire day; I was buried alive. I thought: why do I need to suffer more? I wanted to end my life, but I had nothing to kill myself with. I tore my hair from my head; I bit myself.

He came back at night to take me out. He crossed himself a few times and asked me what happened to me. He put me back behind the oven and I continued to live. I sat alone, cried, and moaned. Up until now I had been sitting with my brother and sister-in-law.

[Page 400]

* * *

I decided out of my own free will to go away. What will be will be! I will go to my brother. One night I got up, wrapped my feet in rags. The snow was high. I went to my brother, and we again sat together. The fronts were not far away. We heard shooting already. My brother would climb out of the ditch and go up in the attic to hear the shooting and how revenge was being taken.

I no longer had the patience to sit in the ditch. We heard the front was near Rivne.

I got up and said, “What will be, will be. I am going back to my shtetl Mervits.”

I knew a Christian, Anopri (I do not remember his family) who lived near us, a Ukrainian, a very fine person. He had hidden six people, an entire family (located in America now)–Icek Kozak,[27] his wife and four children, two sons and two daughters. They were from Mlynov. That Christian was our best, good friend. He had told me that he wanted to hide us, my mother, me, and the children. But I was afraid of his son Alexey harming us.

I left to go to Anopri. It was winter; there was a lot of snow. On the way I saw German tanks. They did not recognize me. Before daylight I arrived in Mervits. A neighbor, a Jew hunter, saw me and recognized me. I went to Anopri's. It did not take long until the Jew hunter came in to search for me. He said he had seen me, and he asked where I was. I sat in another room. Anopri's wife responded that she knew nothing; she had not seen me.

I hid under the bed for two days. The Christians did not know what to do with me. They gave me food and drink. The front kept getting closer. On the third day, the woman came to tell me that the Russian partisans had come. The partisans asked if there were any hidden Germans. They found me sitting, so they asked who I was.

[Page 401]

I answered, “I am a poor Jewish child.”

They were very happy with me and begged me to tell them how I had been hidden. I told them.

The next day the Russians came. The front was in Mervits in January 1944. Russian headquarters had been established in Anopri's house. From headquarters I was asked who I was. I answered that I was a Jewish child. There was a Russian Jew there. When he saw me, he was as happy as when a father finds his only child. The first thing he did was to bring me clothes and a pair of shoes.

 

Problems after Liberation

A few weeks passed. The war had ended for us.

Now we had to think about ourselves, about getting food, about earning money. It was after Shavuot. I remembered my vow; I needed to get Yosel's child who was in Kivrets[28] near Lutsk. But I did not know exactly where that was.

In Mervits I had a very good neighbor, a Polish woman, who knew where the girl was. She said she would travel with me. She loaned me a dress and a pair of shoes, and we left for Kivrets.

The Polish woman showed me where the child was. Her name was Aviva. She used to know me very well, when she was two and a half, when she used to come into our home. But now, when I came to get her, she was five.

I came into the house and asked about her. The Christian woman called her in.

I asked her, “Aviva, do you remember me?”

“My name is not Aviva, but Vishya.”

She did not recognize me. I had with me as proof her little coat that her mother had bought her, a very pretty little coat. My brother had seen it in another Christian's house, and he took it. I showed it to her.

She recognized it and screamed out: “Oy, my coat!”

[Page 402]

She ran over to me. I hugged her and started to weep. The Polish woman cried, looking at me. After that I told the woman why I had come. As I am the girl's family, I came to get her. The woman responded that if the mother would come for the child, she would give her up. But as I was a stranger, she would not give her to me. However, if I wanted to give her 500 gold five-ruble coins, she would give me the child.

“But where can I get that?” I asked. “I myself have nothing to wear. If you do not believe me, ask my neighbor. Even the dress I am wearing is not mine.”

She made a gesture to the little girl who then called me “parszywa żydówka[29] and spat at me.

* * *

After extreme difficulties and obstacles, I managed to save the child and I brought her to Israel.[30]


Editor's footnotes:

  1. Bunia Epstein (1912-1995) was born Bunia Steinberg in Mervits to Asher Anshel Steinberg and Chana (Lerner). She and her two siblings Getzel (George) Steinberg and Mendel Steinberg survived. Mendel is also a contributor to this volume. After her liberation, Bunia married Yitzchak Upstein from Mlynov. The couple migrated to Palestine and the family name became Epstein in Israel. The Steinberg survival story is narrated by Bunia's daughter, Shoshana Baruch, in a book length narrative. Her son, Charles Epstein, is one of the translators of this volume. Return
  2. The author is remembering the order for Mervits residents to move into the Mlynov ghetto on May 22nd or 23rd, 1942. Return
  3. Pereveediv today, 7 km (4 mi) from Mlynov, on the road past Berehy and at the turn off to Smordva. Hereafter the contemporary name Pereveediv is used--HS Return
  4. New month of Elul, August 13, 1942--HBF Return
  5. The first day of Rosh Hashanah fell on Saturday, Sept. 12, 1942--HBF Return
  6. Erev Yom Kippur was Sunday, Sept. 20, 1942--HBF Return
  7. Sept. 27, 1942--HBF Return
  8. Sept. 29, 1942--HBF Return
  9. The eve of Hoshana Rabbah was Oct. 1, 1942--HBF Return
  10. Referring to Nahum and Rachel Teitelman's two sons, Efraim Fishel and Shlomo Benzion. See Nahum's account this volume. Return
  11. Oct. 4, 1942--HBF Return
  12. Since their mother could not swim across the Ikva they way her children had, they had to circumambulate via the roads which was more dangerous and which made the distance much longer.--HS Return
  13. Spelled “Ritzvuyuk” in the translation of the book length version of the story cited earlier.--HS Return
  14. Pańska Dolina was an area of Polish resistance between Mlynov and Lutsk that longer exists.--HBF Return
  15. Also spelled Ritzvuyuk in the book length narrative. Return
  16. Referring to Getzel's son Zelig (later Gerry Steinberg). Return
  17. Also spelled Wurtzel. Getzel's wife, Pesia and her brother, Srulik Wurtzel, were children of Zelig Ulinik Wurtzel and Sooreh (Gruber).--HS Return
  18. Also spelled Raikhman, the family is listed as martyrs from Mervits p. 443. Nute Raikhman, his wife Faiga, his sons Moshe and Mordechai, and their children, Mamtzi and Beracha, Yosef, and Yozyf and the family.--HS Return
  19. Nov. 10, 1942--HBF Return
  20. This place has not been identified.--HS Return
  21. Pesia's brother and family. The family name is also spelled Wurtzel.--HS Return
  22. The book length account indicates that Pesia was related to Yosel Feldman via the Gruber family line. Getzel's wife, Pesia (Wurtzel) Steinberg, was the daughter of Zelig Wurtzel and Sura (Gruber). Sura's sister, Rachel (Gruber) Feldman was the mother of Yosel Feldman. In the ghetto, Bunia befriended Yosel's wife Anyela (Neli).--HS Return
  23. Possibly the same Polish family that helped save the Teitelmans in Pańska Dolina referred to as the Zarembah family in their account.--HS Return
  24. Assumed to be the town called Kivertsi today which is 48 km from Mlynov and just 16 km northeast of Lutsk.--HS Return
  25. Following the Hebrew translation of the Yiddish.-HE and HS Return
  26. Drawing on the book length account here.--HS Return
  27. See essay in this volume by Icek Kozak, “What My Family Endured,” pp. 354-358. Return
  28. Kivertsi 16 km northeast of Lutsk.--HS Return
  29. [Pol] Lousy Jewess--HBF Return
  30. The detailed rescue of Aviva Feldman is told as part of the longer Steinberg family story.--HS Return

 

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