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[Page 461]

Szczurowice (Schtervitz)
(Shchurovychi, Ukraine)

50°16' / 25°02'

Translation of “Szczurowice (Schtervitz)” from:

Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Radikhov

Edited by: G. Kressel

Published in Tel Aviv, 1976

This is a translation of “Szczurowice (Schtervitz)#148; from Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Radikhov; Memorial book of Radikhov,
ed. G. Kressel, Tel Aviv, Society of Radikhov, Lopatyn and vicinity, 1976 (H,Y)

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

[Pages 463-464]

My Town Szczurowice

by Yitzchak Shterling

Translated by Jerrold Landau


In memory of my father Eliezer of blessed memory


Like all other Jews in the small towns of Poland, the Jews in Szczurowice toiled an entire week so that they would have what they needed for the Sabbath. Jews who could do this were fortunate, for not everyone succeeded in doing so. Need led to no small number of Jews of the town taking up the walking stick and setting out into the wide world, seeking a way to free themselves from poverty and need. A few went to the land of Israel. The town consisted of Belzer, Olesker, and Husiatyner Chassidim. As always, disputes for the sake of Heaven took place at times when they had to hire a new rabbi or shochet (ritual slaughterer) in the town. The Jews of Stremilcze [Stremliche], as well as the Jews who lived in the villages around Szczurowice, were also part of the community of Szczurowice. These included the Jewish pritzim (landowners). They were good citizens of the villages, and had warm, Jewish hearts. They gave needed support to the poor people in the towns. They would conduct appeals for aid for the needy of the town, especially before the High Holy Days or other festivals, and no less when they had to build a synagogue or a beit midrash. The community council of Szczurowice consisted of 20 householders who served as councilors. They elected the communal head and his representative from amongst themselves. The aforementioned Jews from around the town also participated in the elections. Reb Eliezer Shterling was elected to be head of the community during the time prior to the First World War and he led the community with dedication. He dealt with the various needs of the community and sacrificed his own interests for the benefit of the public.

My grandfather Reb Moshe Leib Bodek had previously served as the head of the community, and was elected as a representative for the [town] council by the Christians. At that time, when the synagogue was being built, they sent him to America to collect money for the synagogue. The majority of the Jews of the town were murdered together with all the other martyrs who were murdered by the Germans and their assistants, may their names be blotted out.

A few Jews who miraculously succeeded in saving themselves live in Israel and in the Diaspora today.


Blima Gruber nee Bodek

  From the right: Shimon Shterling and his wife Zandil, Baruch Tzvi Fish, Fruma Fish wife of Shterling, and Chana wife of Parnas


[Pages 467-474]

Schtervitz and Its End

by F. Fisch

Translated by David Goldman

There were about 70 families in the town of Schtevitz where I was born. The town was surrounded by forests, one of which was owned by the philanthropist Reb Velvel Wachs. The community itself, headed by Reb Eliezer Sterling, owned its own forest. The Styr River passes by the town and was leased by Reb Avraham Ber Friedman. Later, on the lease was acquired by his son, Reb Mendel Friedman, who was a survivor who passed away recently in Israel. They owned the rights to make use of the income from the river.

This town had a synagogue and study hall just like other towns. There were religious teachers for children and all types of ritual objects required by any Jewish community. Rabbi Yosef Hemerling served as the town rabbi. It was a small town although there were Chassidim from various Chassidic dynasties: Belz, Husiatyn, Olesko, and others. Most of the Jews were involved in business: storekeepers, wood merchants, etc. Some also worked in agriculture. There were artisans, shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths and others. A fair was held in town once a week, and villagers from the surrounding area came to sell their agricultural products. They would buy merchandise in the Jewish stores: skins, fabrics, kerosene, salt, salted fish, and the like. Non–Jews also enjoyed alcohol, and this was also a source of income among the Jews.

A Zionist organization was established in town at the initiative of Zelig Kranz from Lopatyn in 1922, and it was the first in town and called “Achva”. I happened to have been elected the chairman of the association. Then the “Gordonia” organization was established. At the same time a Hebrew teacher was hired. A library was established and began broad Zionist activities. Lecturers from the central offices and surrounding towns came to Schtervitz. Major activities were undertaken on behalf of the Zionist funds, and the main headline was the establishment of the hachshara training group whose purpose was to train people for the agricultural estate belonging to the Kardiman family in Zawidche.

In 1930 I left for training held in Radekhov at the sawmill owned by Yosef Postel. My brother–in–law, Moshe Eidelheit, was the manager of the sawmill. I handled the group's interests and my official title was Group Leader. Our friends from Radekhov, Zelig Kranz, L. Wurm, Michal Schrage and Baruch Sternberg, who lives in Israel, invested a great deal of effort and work in order to maintain the kibbutz at the appropriate level. Afterwards a second group was set up which found work at the Feierstein sawmill.

In 1933 the first pioneers moved to Eretz Israel: Nechama Perl nee Sterling, Shmuel Singer and his wife Tsipora Schorr, Sarah Feinmesser nee Reis, Rachel Chazan and Kayla Neufeld nee Gold. They all live in Israel today. A letter arrived from the central office just before Pesach in Lvov with instruction not to leave the worksite before the holiday, but to remain at the worksite. However, some of the participants did not heed this request although the majority did, including myself. Our economic situation was not particularly bright, and we did not have the means necessary to observe the holiday properly. We heard that the local rabbi was helpful to the pioneer groups in the area, and we contacted him about it. We found Yosef Wasser at home. The rabbi asked us the reason for our visit and then told us that he was happy we contacted him. He said he would do whatever he could to help us. But when Yosef Wasser heard the rabbi's response he remarked, “But rabbi, these aren't the people you think they are. These people are among those who come every Shabbat to pray.” The rabbi responded that he must first assist those who do not come to pray. I was not ashamed and said, “Then rabbi, you have to punish those of us who do come to pray.” “God forbid,” he replied. “What do you think? I am certain that somehow you will make your arrangements and will not eat chametz,[1] but those of the second group could end up eating chametz.” And in fact, we made our arrangements, and everything turned out just fine.

I was living in the city of Zalozce near Tarnopol in 1939 when war broke out. The wicked and cruel actions committed against Jews began even on the very day the Germans arrived in town, may their names be blotted out. They immediately captured around 50 Jews including myself. They herded us together into one of the yards and kept us there for a few hours while their curses and threats flowed without end. Suddenly we heard an order: “Within three minutes you must disperse in all directions.” People started running chaotically in every direction, and the Germans opened fire, killing 40 Jews. I succeeded in hiding inside one of the ruins nearby. Then they captured people to dig a large pit to be used to bury the victims. The victims were thrown into the pit without distinction or marking. A few days later the Germans agreed to transfer the victims to a local cemetery, but we were warned to get it done as fast as possible. Chaos broke out among the families of the dead. Everyone wanted to identify their loved ones in order to bury them according to Jewish law with shrouds and ritual cleansing and purification. However, it was difficult to identify the people. Their faces were unrecognizable after several days inside a mass grave. The murderers sped things up, demanding, “faster, faster, finish.” My mother–in–law came to identify her two sons who were among the victims. They identified one of my two brothers–in–law immediately with no doubt, but it was difficult to identify the second one. Both claimed that one of the victims was their son. I searched in the pockets of the dead man and found my brother–in–law's wallet, so only then could we determine the identity of the person without any doubt. After the burial the bitter wailing and crying of the parents, women and children began. The cries rose to heaven and we did not know that problems were just starting.

When the order came for us to leave the town and head to the ghetto in Zborov – I decided that it would be easier to go to Brody, because I knew no one at all in Zborov, so we left for Brody. As we passed Podkamen we were arrested by the wicked Germans who took everything we had in our possession. My father– and mother–in–law were with us, as were my wife and our one–and–a–half–year–old daughter. A few days later we succeeded in getting away again and headed for Brody. When we arrived in Brody at the entrance of the city we were attacked and beaten badly. We made it to our friend Yitzchak Kuperberg who lived in the house of Itsha Haberman on Goldhaber Street.

While we were staying in that home, the first “Aktzia” began. Thirty–some of us, men, women and children, went down to a bunker that had been prepared previously. Unfortunately we did not have sufficient food, and not even drinking water. We had a lot of fear and anxiety. I still feel unsettled whenever I think about those days. Ten days later we left the bunker alive, still surviving. One decree followed another. An order was issued for all Jews living outside the ghetto to congregate inside the ghetto within three days. I found out that my acquaintance Avraham Yaar, the son–in–law of Michal Rottenberg, had an available room and even a cellar where one could hide if necessary. Avraham Yaar took me into his home thanks to the fact that he knew my two brothers, Chaim Hersh and Nachman. Chaim Hersh was my eldest brother who died in the Rimanov camp near Lvov, and my other brother Nachman was murdered in the Yanov camp, also near Lvov. My brother Reuven died in Lvov, and brother Shalom in the Brody ghetto. My two sisters, Mindel Eidelheit, who lived in Radekhov, and Sarah Distenfeld, who lived in Lopatyn, were murdered in Radekhov together with their children. May God avenge their blood. My third sister Fruma Sterling died in the Brody ghetto together with her two children.

After we moved to Avraham Yaar's apartment we decided to refurbish the bunker and make some changes in the apartment: one day Moshe Charesh approached me and told me that in one block of houses called the “Podkamener Block” named for the people from Podkamen who lived there, a few sick people with fevers were there. If nothing was done an epidemic would break out in the ghetto, and an order might be issued: to burn down the block with the residents. However, he demanded that I enter the block of homes and straighten things out. I agreed and went there. When I went in I was crestfallen. In one corner I found a woman who was unconscious next to her dead daughter and her child. People told me that they had been stuck with that situation for several days. They were scared to say anything to the authorities for fear that they would set fire to the building and its residents. I started making order in the houses, removing the dead, etc. Then I also became sick with typhus and was bedridden for two weeks. This also had to be kept a secret so the Germans would not find out about it.

Miraculously I recovered. A rumor was circulating that there would soon be another “Aktzia”. We made efforts to obtain some food and water in the bunker. The fear about the “Aktzia” lasted for weeks, and it was impossible to leave the bunker. Our food and water were gone. The children cried and screamed constantly from hunger and suffering, and it was impossible to help them. But we found ways to survive. Avraham Yaar suddenly remembered that two weeks earlier he had seen two pails of water. The women returned and said they didn't find the water. However, they saw two unknown people from a distance in the area, and Avraham Yaar remained outside to follow them. They also said that they saw my mother–in–law lying helplessly and unconscious in the second cellar where she had gone to set a flame to heat the water she was going to bring. Avraham Yaar also entered the cellar and as he entered he died from poisoning caused by the charcoal gas and lack of air to breathe.

I entered the second cellar, covered Avraham without revealing his death to anyone else. Someone was always passing out. We were a total of three men – my father–in–law, Avraham and myself. After Avraham died there were just two of us left. My father–in–law died before my eyes and I remained the only man who was capable of providing assistance. The only medication I had available was vinegar. Finally I too passed out. They saved my mother–in–law, but when Avraham Yaar's wife learned of her husband's death, her tragedy began. How could anyone influence her not to cry about the death of her husband?

Another day went by with horrors and brutality. On the second night, at approximately midnight, we suddenly heard knocking. In the second cellar someone was knocking and constantly scratching until they discovered an entry into our cellar. They started to open the entrance, and I saw people, one of whom was listening to the wall and saying to the other, “I can hear snoring.” This was the snoring of children asleep who knew nothing of what was going on. Suddenly five or six non–Jewish teenagers of 15–16 years old burst into the entrance to the cellar, and one of them started cursing in his golden language: “Give us all your property and we won't harm you.” I was the only man there, and I could not stand up against them. They started turning over everything in the cellar. Two of the children were choked in the midst of all this devilish activity. The two were my child and Avraham Yaar's child. Finally, they told us: “There aren't any more Jews in the ghetto. Do whatever you want. We can take you to the forest or leave you here.”

I could see that it was more dangerous to remain there. I told the people in the cellar that I thought that we had to get out of there, and every person should do whatever he could to save himself. A few women told me that if I would transfer them across the barbed wire fence they knew where they could go. I did what they asked and a few of them remained alive.

The Germans declared Brody to be Judenrein (free of Jews). However, on occasion they discovered new bunkers. They took people out of them, and some were shot to death and the rest were taken out to forced labor in the camps. We also came out of our faraway location and went to the camp with everyone else. The murderers saw that new people appeared for work and wanted to get rid of them. The day after our arrival an order was issued for all those in the camp to leave their locations and gather together in the yard in rows. Seventy people who arrived at the camp were taken out of the lines. These included Chanoch Kardiman and his family and brother Baruch from Zawidche. These people had already seen the bitterness of death with their own eyes. My brother–in–law Yitzchak Sterling and I returned in the meantime to the location of the ghetto where my wife, mother–in–law, sister Fruma Sterling and her daughter were located. We took them to the camp because we realized there was no possibility of remaining in that location. My brother–in–law and I left the next day for the work in the ghetto. Suddenly we received an order for all workers to gather together back in the camp. We understood that they had selected us to dig a pit for the 70 people who were arrested. We ignored the order, and remained in the ghetto inside some ruins. We were found to be correct because they called for people to dig a mass grave for themselves. Everyone was shot and thrown into the pit in the Leshnev forest. When we arrived at the camp in the morning we discovered only the clothes of the people. The camp was wiped out.

So my brother–in–law and I decided to leave and search for a hiding place some distance away. Suddenly my niece appeared – Mani Fisch together with her girlfriend from Radekhov. She told us that her girlfriend had a safe place where we could hide. It was just a question of money. I did not pay much attention to that story. But I gave them some money. They remained in Brody, and my brother–in–law and I left the next day to work in the ghetto. We worked until the afternoon. We did not return to the ghetto. We hid until midnight and then left Brody. We arrived close to Leshnev, where we spent the whole day. At night we had to continue on to Schtervitz, but in order to get to Schtervitz we had to pass through Leshnev which was quite dangerous. When we got close to Leshnev we found the village of Pisky. My brother–in–law knew a non–Jew there and he hoped that this person, who was a fisherman, would agree to take us across the Styr River into the forest near Schtervitz, which belonged to Velvel Waks. We arrived at the non–Jew's home around midnight. We knocked at the door and he woke up. He welcomed us inside, and we ate and drank, and he promised to get us across the river. This was really an angel from heaven who was sent to save us, and not a gentile such as those we had grown accustomed to treating with suspicion and dealing with cautiously. He got us across the river in a boat, and when I wanted to pay him for the work of helping us he refused the money and said: “When we are all alive together – we'll have a drink together.”

We went into the forest and stayed there all day. At night we continued on until we got to Dobrelovka, to Jan Yashkevich. He also welcomed us and arranged a fine supper for us. He advised us to go to the Mikolayev Forest with the promise that he would bring food to the forest. He also remained true to his promise. A few days later he brought us my brother–in–law's brother, Shimon Sterling and his wife. However, we could not stay in the same place for very long. Shimon and his wife left. Yashkevich also transferred us to another safer place. He provided us with all our needs. We were also with Eliyahu Bernstein and Hertz Friedman from Schtervitz. Both were murdered a brief time later. In this place too was Yosef Parnes from Schtervitz. We were not allowed to remain there for a long time. We therefore decided to move to the place of another gentile. His name was Martzinovski and he lived at the end of the forest. In this area Mendel Friedman and his son Yitzchak were hiding, together with the wife of Meir Hart and their children from Brody. Fate had it that the child struck a match and a fire broke out. People ran away from their locations to the haystack on which I was laying. The people were saved miraculously. They looked for them everywhere, but luckily for them they passed by the place where they were hiding. A few gentiles joined me where I was lying – and asked me for money or else they would report me to the police. Somehow I got away from them and got to the forest. After staying there for two days I heard a dog's barking getting closer. It was the woodsman who was walking with the dog on a hunt. But as he got closer he recognized me, hugged and kissed me with great emotion. He was the woodsman Benderchik. He brought me food and told me that the place where I was hiding was not safe, and he would take me to a safer location, which he did. The next day he brought me Yaakov Potasch who today lives in Canada.

At our new location we barely succeeded in setting up the bunker. We had no digging equipment, and the gentiles were scared to lend them to us. Finally we were forced to buy them from a non–Jew. There was another bunker in the same forest where my brother–in–law's brother Shimon Sterling was located with his wife and her brother Meshulam Reis from Schtervitz. A short time later the Germans discovered that we were in the forest. They informed the woodsmen that a search would be made soon, but the woodsmen informed us about it ahead of time, and we fled the place. I ran to Dobrelovka to Martzinovski, where I had hidden once. He told me that on occasion Pina Potasch, the daughter of Zalman Gold came to him with her two children. On one of my own visits to him I found out that she was at his house recently, and he pointed out the direction she had gone although it was nighttime. However, I succeeded in getting to her. I saw her walking with a child in hand. She was very shocked before the meeting, but she was overjoyed when she realized that she was no longer alone and there was someone to help her.

When I saw the bunker that she had dug with her own hands and with a little assistance from her children I was heartbroken and bewildered. She told me about everything she had gone through, as well as about her husband who had been murdered. And then she said: Ivan Kott lived in the forest. She had already given him everything she had, and he had even threatened her with an axe. The next morning Ivan's wife arrived and provided some food for Pina and her children. When she saw me she was overjoyed, as if about me, and said that Ivan would definitely be happy to see me. She invited me to visit one evening. I knew I had to be careful. However, Pina and I went to see him but he received us coldly but pretended to welcome us as if he wanted to assist us and we asked him to take us in. We could tell he had wicked plans for us, and we decided to run away. Yosef Parnes, Yitzchak Sterling, Shimon Sterling and his wife, Meshulam Reis, Yaakov Potasch, Pina, the children and I met to discuss the matter. We decided to remain in that forest although in a different location a distance away from where we had been until then. We also decided that we should all gather together in one large bunker that we would build for ourselves. This was in January 1944. The weather was very cold and the snowstorms were large. So my brother–in–law Yitzchak Sterling and Yosef Parnes left our bunker and hid with a farmer in the village of Hrycowola.

On one occasion we heard the cries of children, and I could not understand what it meant. Pina explained to us that the Germans sent children who, with their screams and noises, sent animals out of the forest, and that outside the forest there were Germans hunting the animals. So we realized we had to leave the area immediately. We sent Pina and the children to Ivan Kott, and the rest of the people scattered to various places. I went to Dobrelovka to Yashkevich who told me that his own son was among the children running around in the forest. However, as far as he knew they had not discovered the bunker. So we all returned to the bunker where there was some news: Shimon Sterling had come down with typhus. We were crowded together and all ate from the same dishes, and we feared that others would also become ill. Nevertheless the situation ran its course and no one came down with his disease. We received medication for Shimon from the priest in Schtervitz who had a wonderful relationship with us. We remained in the bunker until March 1944.

Ultimately our hour of salvation arrived. It was on the Sabbath. We suddenly heard shouting in Russian: “Long Live the Red Army!” I recognized the voice of my brother–in–law Yitzchak Sterling who had come to report to us about the liberation from the accursed Germans. It is difficult to describe the joy that enveloped all of us. Shimon Sterling was still sick, and we took him on our shoulders and arrived at the center of Schtervitz.

The Passover Seder was approaching, and the town priest suggested we celebrate Passover in his home. As far as kashrut was concerned, the priest told us that the Seder would not be at the highest of standards. We could get fish from the river, and he had wine. But we could not use this wine according to Torah law. He could offer us chickens, but he knew nothing about our slaughtering laws. David Sitzer from Stremiltsh was with us, and he said he had studied the laws of slaughtering in the Talmudic tractate of Hullin. But it was clear we would not have matzah or wine, so we made do without them.

In the meantime the Germans were bombarding the town, and the Russians retreated to Berestechko. We all joined them, and that is where I met Kehat Barach from Lopatyn. We wanted to travel together to Dubno with hopes of finding other Jews there. The Russians sent us back in the middle of the journey to Berestechko. They took Avigdor Apelfeld from Wygoda, the son of David Sitzer and me to Rovno, where we were drafted into the army. We registered as Polish citizens. We understood that as Poles we would have more freedom to decide where we would go in the future. The next day the Germans bombarded the train station in Rovno. We were conscripted together with other people for repair work. Among other things we had to get railroad tracks out of a deep pit. Most people were injured including me. I awoke in a hospital where I remained for a month until I recovered and was sent back to the army. When I left the hospital I dressed in a Polish military uniform, but I was told that I belonged in the Russian army. Since I was a Jew from “Zapadnaya Ukraina” (Western Ukraine), I went to the commander and requested that I be recognized as a Polish soldier. The commander replied harshly and stated that he would put me on trial at a military tribunal because of my counter–revolutionary claim. He finally acceded to my request stating that he liked me. So I joined the Polish army where I went through difficult and bitter times until the end of the war. In 1949, I succeeded in arriving in Israel.

Translated into Hebrew by Eliezer Wilder


School children in Schtervitz


  1. foods not permitted on Passover Return

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