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[Page 83]

On the Path of Suffering
From the Time of the Holocaust in the City of Zbarazh

  1. Sketches
  2. Testimonies
  3. Documents
  4. Protocols
  5. Reportage
  6. Articles


[Page 85]

The Tragic History of Zbarazh, Galicia

(excerpt from an article published in the Morgn–Journal, New York 29.1.1948)

by Moshe Sommerstein

Zbarazh, a small town in Galicia, was known as a center of Jewish maskilim, with a youth who possessed vigorous national pride: sons and daughters who played an important role in building the land of Israel.

Among the bloody, sorrowful episodes of the destruction of the Jewish people in Poland, Zbarazh too went on the “last road” to martyrdom.

Five years have passed since the days of those bloody slaughters, the so–called “actions.”

But this began even earlier. The first victims fell on 9 Tammuz 5701, when the initial squads of the Nazi armies marched across the country. It was a cruel sight when they chose and gathered the leaders of the city, 22 in all. Among these first martyrs were Israel Sommerstein, Aharon Klar, Meir Hindes, Dovid Weihrauch, Israel Kapler, Yosef Segal, Mendel Palyak, Gershon Katz, Mordechai Brell and Israel Rubin. They were buried near the large synagogue, close to the fence.

On 14 Elul, 5701, an order was given for the entire intelligentsia to gather at the city hall. Those who came were immediately surrounded by the stormtroopers. After the murderers set aside the specialists they would need, the victims were taken to the Lubianki forest, where graves were already prepared, and there, after their clothes were torn off, they were all shot.

Among them fell the righteous Rabbi Hillel Sperber, Dr. Halpern, Dr. Goldberg, Dr. Mantel, Dr. Shmeirekh, Professor Zelig Sommerstein, pharmacist Landesberg, Dr. Reuven Herman, engineer Bernstein, and engineer Greenspan.

Dora Sperber, a student and the daughter of Rabbi Hillel Sperber, could not remain silent. When she saw how everyone was being prepared for the mass slaughter, in her wild suffering she yelled, “Murderers, Jewish blood will take vengeance on you!”

She was the first to fall, followed by the other 72 people, the intelligentsia of the town.

However, the painful, terrible days first began with the establishment of the Jewish ghetto in the town.

All of the Jews were expelled from their homes and settled in the small ghetto area, surrounded by a wire fence. Then the Judenrat was created, and everyone began to understand the barbaric plan for liquidation and extermination.

This drove people to seek various ways of rescuing themselves.

People began to build bunkers. They hid in the cellars and in the forests. But the latter did not work, because the Ukrainians collaborated with the Gestapo. Either the Ukrainians delivered the Jews who had run away into the Germans' hands, or else they themselves shot and robbed them. And so, more than 700 people fell in the fields and woods.

The first mass “actions” began on 18 Elul, 5702. 500 people were taken from the ghetto to Belzetz. After that, this became the routine, as it were. On 18 Tishrei, 5703, the worst days began for the Jews of Zbarazh. A group of old Jews was taken away. In the second “action,” on 21 Cheshvon, 5703, 1100 Jews were removed from Padvalatshisk [Podvolotziskeh, Pidvolochysk?], Navisyala, and murdered. The scenes of fathers torn from their children and children from their parents were so heartrending that they cannot be described. On 25 Cheshvon, 5703, in the third “action,” more than 1,000 Jews were sent to the Belzetz extermination camp.

On 2 Sivan, 5703, the fourth “action” began, bringing an end to the tragedy of Zbarazh.

1,200 Jews were bestially murdered next to the graves of the so–called Neftostroi not far from the new Jewish cemetery. The last death decree was given!

SS men went from apartment to apartment. They destroyed the houses with grenades, thrust the Jews out of their holes and bunkers, pulled the clothes off the victims, and drove them all to the death location, where the wild beasts were already waiting for them, thirsty for Jewish blood.

The day was bright and clear. The sun shone. And on such a day, filled with life, our brothers and sisters were driven–fathers and mothers, children and nursing babies–proceeding on the last three kilometers of the road leading from the ghetto to the place of liquidation.

Steps were cut down into the deep grave so that the victims would feel “more comfortable.”

The victims cried out wildly, “Sh'ma Yisrael! God, where are You? Save Your people Israel! Have mercy on the innocent children. What have they done wrong?”

These voices mixed with the desperate cries of the children, who had only one word: “Mama! Mama!”

The shooting increased and stopped, the desperate cries were choked and silenced. The only sounds were those of dying and of underground moans and yearning from the murdered in their death throes.

On 6 Sivan, the first day of Shavuos, the last 300 holy martyrs fell on the same site.

May their souls be bound in the knot of life!

Tel Aviv, 21 Cheshvon 5708

[Page 89]

The Yearnings of a Mother

Written in a Bunker in February, 1943

by Sabina Dorfman

My small daughter!
When you needed me, I sent you to strangers.
Forgive me.
I sent you, my child, with my own hands,
Doubting that I would ever see you again.
You stretched your small hand out to me.
“Mama, Mama!” you cried out in tears.
How can I go on living?

We pulled you out of the burning flames.
We decided that we have no choice.
A cruel war, mortar fire,
Most of all, the liquidation of the Jews.
We were without hope,
Buried in the belly of the earth,
Awaiting death, salvation.

If only I had the form of a bird
To enjoy the air, the sun, the light,
To enjoy flying across the sky,
My child, I would come to your windowsill,
To fly around your house
Until I would see your figure.

I would peek through the keyhole,
I would search in the barn, in the coop,
I would hide, I would settle myself
In a corner of the yard,
And no power in the world
Would move me from there.
I would chirp lullabies before you slept,
As in the good old days, in mama's arms.

Maybe one day you will feel
A trace of love, of yearning.
Maybe, maybe you will recognize my eyes–
Maybe you will caress my wings–
Maybe you will recognize my trembling body,
Sated with joy, sated with fear.
Only then will I grow calm. On my way, I will turn
To help your father, the sentry.

If, when the cruel war ends,
You do not find your true mother,
Remember, my daughter!
The place that you step upon moist earth
Suffused with tears and Jewish blood.
The Nazi monster destroyed
Our lives, hurled them down, ruined them.
It destroyed men, women, children.
The reason for our sin: we were Jews.
There is no power of expression in the mouths of human beings,
There is no power to describe it.
Remember, my child!
One last thing I ask:
Be proud of your Jewish heritage!

[Page 91]

Where is the Grave of My Dear Mother?

by Yosef Lilien (from Zbarazh; Bronx, New York, 3.1.1983)

If I were a bird, I would fly over the oceans
To the grave of my dear mother.
I would race a thousand miles to my mother.
The sun would lay down bridges with its bright rays
Over rivers, over oceans, to my mother.
The word “mama”, like a star, would
Show me the way, so that I would not stray.

And when I arrived,
I would place a wreath on her grave
And I would curse the murderers,
Their hearts hard as stone,
And I would ask the fields:
“Where are the bones?
Oh! You fields, rivers, oceans,
Tell me, where is the grave of my dear mother?”

[Page 93]

To the Memory of My Dear Parents

Zbarazh Ghetto 1942

by Sabina Dorfman

Only yesterday I saw you, my dear one!
I saw you frightened, weak–
And my dearest father in all the world
Was praying all the time.

Only yesterday, mama, I sat next to you,
I hugged you, I kissed you, I washed your body.
Only yesterday, you held on with the greatest strength.
How everything has gone down to ruin.

My dear papa,
If only I would have known what would happen tomorrow.
Only yesterday in your sad eyes, I saw
Suffering and despair gaze out.

With your sense of humor, clever, learned,
You became a person pained and silent.
Only yesterday, my heart was torn into pieces
To see you both suffer.

If only I could encourage and help
My beloved, pure father.
My dear papa,
If only I would have known that this would happen tomorrow.

If only I could see you one more time,
To embrace you, to kiss you, to hear one word.
If only I could cry out loudly,
“Where is the justice? Where is the law?

“Where are the friends? Where is God?
Why is everything still and at peace?”
My dear papa,
If only I would have known what would happen tomorrow.

I am happy in the present,
I trust in the future,
And I will never forget the past.

[Page 95]

I Was the Mother of a Baby

by Sabina Dorfman (from the Folk family)

I was 23 years old, the mother of a nine–month–old baby girl called Tzipporah, a woman in love with a loving husband. With the invasion of the Nazis, our happiness collapsed. We underwent three attacks (“actions”) in the Zbarazh Ghetto. In the second, they murdered my parents, Menachem Mendel and Yehudis Folk. They took my firstborn brother, Yishayahu, to the work camp in Levov, where, after he experienced great suffering, they liquidated him.

Lack of hope drove me to give my daughter to a gentile woman married to a Jew in order to save her. Until today, this image haunts me: as she is being handed over, her hands are stretched out to me, and she cries out with tears, “Mama, mama!” This caused me terrible agitation.

I knew that I could not compromise. I must decide: to live or to kill myself. There was nothing in–between. Suddenly, one day I found myself in a paper “shelter.” Yes, weak, soft and simple paper. It stood and protected me like a cement wall. It was a wonder drug for the chaos in my brain. I spoke to paper, I wept to paper, I spilled my entire being out on paper.

For over a year, nine people lived in the belly of the ground under terrible conditions: I and my husband Yaakov Lachman (of blessed memory), his sister Leah with her husband Shmuel Chaikin and their daughter Tzila, aged four, two of my sisters, Yaffa, aged 12, and Mina, aged 15, my brother Yitzchak and Malka Folk, who jumped from a death transport. Today we were all underground.

Broken and torn, we were privileged to reach the end of the war. We were privileged to see the downfall of the Nazis–but we did not have the strength to rejoice.

A full month after the liberation of Zbarazh in 1944, our second daughter, Yehudis, was born.

In 1950, we emigrated to the land of Israel. Here we were reborn.

My beloved homeland fully reclaimed me. In it, I found my lost happiness.

[Page 97]

A Period of Time

by Ida Fink

I want to tell about a period of time not measured in months. Always, whenever I wanted to tell about this time–and not as I will do now, only about one part of it–I wanted to, but I could not, I did not know how. And I was afraid that this second sort of time, which steals its way into the layers of years (the sort of time that is measured in months and years), would be trampled and flattened within me. But that was not the case. When I recently examined my heap of memory, I found it fresh, not harmed by the disease of forgetfulness. That period of time which is measured not in months but in a word (someone said that it occurred in the lovely month of May). People said that it occurred after the first “action” or after the second, or before the third. We had other ways of measuring time, we who are always different, always branded as being different–which causes some people pride and plunges others into dispirited subjugation. We are responsible for the fact that, due to our being different, we were again judged as we had been before in our history–not just once or twice. Again we were judged during this time that was measured not in months or in weeks, not with the rising of the sun or with its setting, but with a word, with a concept that speaks of movement and deed, a term related principally to literature, to a novel or to a drama. I do not know who was the first to use this word–those who acted or the victims of their actions, the victims of the “action.” Who created this technical term that took the place of the earlier term, “manhunt”–a term that, over the course of time, with improved technology, degenerated (or maybe improved?)? The “action” was a manhunt with racial considerations, a manhunt for workers.

The first “action”–that period of time that I want to tell about–we called it a manhunt, although no one hunted and no one was seized. Each one of us delivered himself to imprisonment, although not of his own free will but under orders. One fine, clear morning, in the city square, enclosed within multi–story buildings–a pharmacy, stores for haberdashery and iron, we were imprisoned on the sidewalks with large flagstones that time had split and cracked (after that, I never saw such large stones). In the middle of the square stood the municipal council building, and before that building, we were ordered to stand in rows. We were ordered–that is not correct, because I did not stand in a row–although, out of obedience to the directive that had been issued the previous evening, I left my house after breakfast, which I ate normally, by the table that was set normally, in a room whose door led to the orchard, wrapped in dry morning mist, gilded by the rising sun. Still we had not changed, still we lived in accordance with the ways of the old time measured by months and years. And that morning was fine and good, filled with pure, golden mist. We read the directive as it was written. And since reading between the lines is not foreign to an adult, we imagined behind the word “work” the image of a work camp–which, it was told, they were setting up near our town. It appears that those giving the directive knew very well the limits of our ability to read between the lines, the limits of our imagination–so impoverished–and so they saved themselves trouble by issuing the written directive. The degree to which they did not err in predicting our response is proven by the fact that after breakfast, which we ate normally, at the table, set as always, the old people in our family decided to ignore the order out of fear that physical work would be too hard for them, but they did not advise the young people to do the same, because the latter would not be able to use the excuse of old age. We lived like infants!

That fine and clear morning sprouts from the heap of my memories still fresh, its colors and smells undiminished: a golden, crisp mist, hanging red apples and a shade over the river, moist and bearing the scent of burdock leaves, and the light blue skirt that I wore when I left the house and when I turned away from the gate. At that moment, it seems, I suddenly passed intuitively from the stage of infancy to the stage of thought, still na├»ve–intuitively, of course, because I did not think about why I was repelled by the gate that led to the road, and why I chose a roundabout way, through the orchard, alongside the river–“from behind,” because it led to the forest thicket–intuitively, because at the time I did not yet know that I would not stand in the square before the municipal building. Perhaps it was because I wanted to delay that moment, and perhaps simply because I loved the river.

On my way, I picked up smooth stones and skipped them across the water. On the bridge, from which the town vista appeared, I sat briefly, I unshod my feet and through their movement I saw my doll's image in the water and the poplars standing on the shore. At that point, I was not yet afraid. Nor was my sister afraid–I forgot to tell that my younger sister went with me. She too sent stones skipping across the water and shook her foot over the river, called the Gneizna, a pathetic stream eight meters wide. She too was not yet afraid. Only after we left the small bridge and, beyond the corner house, the square appeared before our eyes, only then did we suddenly stop, and we did not take another step. The sight that appeared to our eyes had nothing unusual. It was a black crowd, as though on a market day. But it was different, because the market crowd was colorful and loud, the hens crowing, the geese honking, and there was a lively commotion, whereas this crowd was silent, similar perhaps to any other gathering, but also different. The truth is that I don't know. I do know that we stopped suddenly and that my small sister suddenly trembled, and that her trembling affected me as well. She said, “Come on, let's run!” And although no one chased us and the morning continued to be clear and tranquil, we ran back to the small bridge, but we did not see the poplars or the dolls of our images running across the face of the water. We ran for a long time on the steep hill, called Fortress Hill after the ruin of the ancient fortress at its peak, and there, next to this beloved ornament of our town, we sat in the bushes, still panting and shaking. From here it was possible to see our house and our orchard. They were in their place as always. Nothing had changed, including the house of our neighbors, from which the neighbor woman went out and began to beat the rugs. Tach! Tach!–the sound of her rug–beater came clearly to our ears. We sat there for an hour, perhaps two hours, I do not know, for time measured in accepted measures ceased to exist. And after we went down the steep hill to the river and returned home, we learned what was occurring in the square and that they had taken our cousin David, how they had taken him and what he wanted to tell his mother, and that he wrote down what he wanted to tell when he was already on his way and he threw a note from the vehicle, which some farmer brought in the evening–but that was later. At first, we learned that they had sent the women home. They told the men alone to remain. And the way in which my cousin went was the opposite of our way. Whereas the sight of the crowd in the square upset us, it attracted him powerfully, overcoming the strength of his nerves, until he himself, as it were, decided his fate–he himself, himself, himself! As he himself wanted to tell his mother, and for which he afterwards wrote: “I myself am guilty. Forgive me.”

We never imagined that he was among those who lack equanimity, those whose restlessness and inability to remain still sentence them to destruction–never, because he was fat and rotund, not alert in his movements, someone whom it is difficult to disengage from a book, bent forward, with a stifled laugh like that of a girl. We learned later, much, much later, about his last hours–if they were the last and if they were only hours. Only the end of the war brought us reliable news. The farmer who had brought the note did not dare tell us what he saw–what he himself saw and what others hinted at. No one dared believe it. In fact, they tried to prove that something else was true, indications coming in restricted measure, bit by bit–a version that everyone grasped fervently, a camouflage that was considered to be the entire reality, so much did people work to fool themselves, to pretend to themselves. Only time, the time that is not measured in months and in years, opened their eyes and persuaded them.

Our cousin David left the house later than we did, and when he came to the square, it was already known–not to everyone, but to those called the council, which in the course of time was transformed into the mechanism of the Judenrat–that the words “drafted for work” were not to be interpreted literally. A friend, an old man who foresaw the future, told young David to hide, and since he was too late to go back home, because the roads were blocked, the old man led him to his apartment in one of the stone houses surrounding the square. Since, like us, the old man did not imagine that this youth was among those lacking equanimity, those who have difficulty coming to terms with aloneness and dealing with pressure, he left him in the room, locked with a key. What happened to our cousin enclosed in that room remains forever in the realm of speculation. There is certainly weight to the fact that its window overlooked the square, at that silent crowd, at the faces of those known and close. One may assume that at a certain moment, perhaps in a fraction of a moment, the aloneness that sprouted up from the hiding place to the youth was more onerous than the huge and threatening unknown offered by the world from the other side of the window, the unknown shared by all of those gathered in the square. It was definitely a fraction of a moment, a flash of thought–that he should not be alone but together with everyone else–a movement of the hand was enough. The assumption that he left his safe hiding place because he was afraid that they would search the apartments does not seem right to me. Impatience, nerves, the burden of being alone–these drove him into the abyss of the black crowd. They sentenced him to extermination among the first 71 victims of our town.

He stood in a row between a lawyer's stagiare and an architecture student, and to the question: “Profession?” he replied, “Teacher,” even though he had only been a teacher for a short while and by happenstance. His neighbor on his right also did not lie. But the student lied and claimed that he was a carpenter, and that lie saved his life–more precisely, it pushed off the decree of death by two years. 70 of the sort of people called “intelligentsia” were loaded onto vehicles. With that total of 70, the examination ceased. At the last moment, they dragged a rabbi out of the house. He was the seventy–first. As they went to the vehicles, they passed before the rows of those who hadn't had a chance to tell the questioners their type of employment. Then our cousin David said loudly, “Tell Mother that I myself am guilty, and I ask for forgiveness.” It appears that already then he did not believe in what we all believed afterwards, which is to say that they were going to a camp. He already had keen vision before his death. The farmer who brought the note in the evening containing the words, “I myself am guilty, and I ask for forgiveness,” was gloomy. He did not look into our eyes. He said that he had found the note on the way to Lubianki and that he did not know anything else about it. We knew that he knew, but we did not want to admit it to our own ears. He left, but he returned after the war to tell what he had seen.

A postcard written by the rabbi that arrived two days later persuaded everyone that the 71 expelled people were in a work camp. After a month passed, when the lack of additional news somewhat undermined our faith in a camp, a postcard came written by another one of those expelled, an accountant. With that, the procession of postcards ended. Its place was taken by the giving of gifts to the authorities, who hinted that kilograms of coffee, tea and gold could help a family receive news of their relatives. As an act of kindness, they also allowed sending necessities to prisoners, who–they told–were working in a camp in the area of the Reich. Then, after the second “action,” came another postcard, written in pencil, in blurred writing, hard to decipher. After this postcard, we said, “They are being finished off.” On the other hand, unsubstantiated rumors passing quickly from mouth to ear told about the boggy ground in the forest near the village of Lubianki and about the handkerchief that had been found, soaked with blood. Those rumors had no owners. There were no witnesses.

That farmer who then did not dare speak came after the war and told us everything. This had happened in the forest that was mentioned in the rumors, a wide, thick forest, not young, five kilometers from town, an hour after the vehicles had left the square. Taking the victims out to be killed took a short while, while the digging of the grave that preceded it took longer.

With the sound of the first gunshot, my cousin, fat and round, not lively in exercise and sport, climbed up a tree. With his arms, like the arms of a child around his mother, he hugged the trunk, and with this he breathed forth his soul.

[Page 105]

From Recollections of the Nazi Conquest


by Stella Klinger–Zidenorg (Kiryat Chaim)

At present, in Germany the trial of a few of the tens of thousands of criminals and executioners of human beings is taking place. This trial brings back terrible dreams and dark memories of the cruelest years that mankind has ever known. Wounds that never healed are re–opened. The strongest words and the sharpest pen could not faithfully reconstruct the horrors of those terrible days.

Night in the era of the Nazi conquest–every town has its own story, written in blood. My hand shakes as I write these words, but I will try to describe one of many events that I experienced in the small town of Zbarazh, in the Tarnopol district.

“Action, action!” The terrible knowledge spreads as quick as a flash from mouth to mouth: “action, a–c–t–i–o–n!” To the shelter, to the cellar–to hide, to flee, to remain alive, to be safe! The drive to protect life expressed itself in primitive grasping at the remnant of life. Stubbornly, at the end of our resources, we held firm in order to be safe, in order to live. In seconds, the shelter was full. We heard pounding at the gate: “Open up, Jews, open up!” They knocked and kicked until the gate burst under the wild pressure. We did not move, as though we were dead. It seemed as though my heart had stopped. Through the small cellar windows came the despairing voices of the first who were seized in the “action.”

“Jews, where are they taking us, to slaughter?” Children were given a double portion of Luminal so that they would be calm and silent. In the shelter adjoining ours, a crying two–year–old girl was choked, the daughter of Melly and Robert. 26 people were saved. Every day we gave the babies and small children the poisonous but silence–inducing Luminal. The shelter was so tightly closed that there was no air. The ventilators were of no use. Women lay on each other, faint. “Water, water, help!” white lips whispered. Small children vomited in their sleep. The “action” continued. I felt as though I was in a submarine that has dived and cannot be recovered. Around us, bits of drama occurred. Young people embraced and separated, sent last instructions. “If one of us stays alive … if you live … remember … do not forget.” Lack of air, faces covered with sweat. Someone yelled: “Open up the shelter! If this goes on, we will all choke!”

A pious old man recited a blessing, whispered the confession. 36 hours in this shelter, an eternity!

Everyone held his breath: can it be? A sound of weeping that had been withheld for so long broke forth from our throats, like an echo bouncing off the walls and rising, rising, it seemed, to heaven. In the underground shelter, we heard the noise of vehicles driving away. The criminals were leaving the city.

They returned to Tarnopol. It was enough for the day. The harvest of death was rich. But they did not discover our shelter. Wrung out, despairing, with sad faces, we emerged. We dragged our children on the steps like packages. The Luminal was still at work. The children's faces were white, tired, frightened, the faces of small victims, children who were grown before their time, knowing and understanding everything. My oldest son, the first–born, asked: “Mother, how long have I been alive?” “Seven years, my son.” “Mother, then it is wonderful that I have lived at least seven years!” Tears choked me. Something wept from within. Something was torn–“mother,” a Jewish mother! How much despair and despondency in these words. I will cover my children with my body but will I manage to protect them, will I succeed in guarding them? It is so easy to die and so hard to protect another day of life. The battle takes place for every day, every moment.

Another “action,” and they discovered all of the shelters. There was no longer safety in a shelter. At night, we fled to the forest. Quickly, more quickly, so that no one would see us. Early in the morning, the shining head of a animal appeared in the wet grass. A snake? Perhaps it is venomous? I stepped backward in fear. “Mother,” whispered my small son, seven years old. “What are you afraid of? That isn't a person!” Fate was friendly, and death did not want me.

Like the fragments of a ship that has broken up, we miraculously remained alive. Joy was always hidden from our hurting hearts, because the shadows of our brothers, sisters and parents remained in them. Belzetz, Lubianki, Yabovke, Paviak, Choloth–that was our common denominator. One big graveyard.

Now we live in Israel under the light of the sun and in the freedom of our homeland, but the horror of the night of the Nazi conquest exists within us. The shadows of our persecuted and worn–out relatives, never forgotten, live within us. In their name, on behalf of the injustice done to them, we cry out for vigilance and for justice.

[Page 109]

The Might of the Jews of Zbarazh

by Zalman Rosenberg

During the bloody days when the Nazis ruled our town, our brothers and sisters were filled with might in facing the enemy and murderer.

As soon as Hitler's gangs entered the town, and after the first blood bath that they perpetrated in the Jewish streets, they told the heads of the community to gather together: the leaders of the Jewish populace and the religious leaders with Rabbi Hillel Sperber (of blessed memory) at their head. These numbered 71, like the 71 members of the Sanhedrin. The enemy's goal was known. Those who gathered together knew what awaited them and that their hours were numbered. And here appeared the pride of the rabbi of Zbarazh.

Rabbi Hillel Sperber: who doesn't remember that tall Jew with the white, patriarchal beard and clever eyes? His congregation loved him, and he was mentioned with respect among the Christian populace. Legends were told of his wisdom. When a Jew and a Christian had a dispute, or even two Christians, they went to the rabbi to adjudicate the case, because they knew that he would issue a ruling as fit and correct as that of the government. So, as said, the rabbi was known in all areas. He was so great that we had to share him with the community of Zlotshov; he dedicated three days of the week to Zlotshov and four days to our town. Leaders of Christian persuasion came to him with various problems, and in his wisdom he answered them. And in this way he attained a great reputation.

Peasants who were present at the “action” told that when the Germans–may their name be blotted out–gathered the 71 people with the rabbi at their head, before they sent them away to liquidate them, a priest came to the gathering place and asked the SS leader to spare the rabbi. But before the murderer answered, the rabbi called out proudly (as it is written in the holy books), “Wherever the flock goes, there goes the shepherd.” And away went the shepherd with the flock, and they were brutally murdered. They were buried alive in a depression in the Lubianki woods. The peasants told that for the next few days the soil moved over their tormented bodies. May the memory of our leaders with the rabbi at their head never be forgotten.

Three youths showed great courage, going went in the direction of Volhin–Palesia in order to report if it was possible to join the partisans in those forests. Sadly, this attempt failed. The distance was too great and the road was under surveillance. As the youths were on the way, they were captured, and their young lives were cut short.

How much strength did our mothers and wives display! Leaving the ghetto, they went to the villages to get a loaf of bread for their sons and husbands, who languished in the forced labor and extermination camps. More than one woman paid with her life for her sacrifice.

It should be written down so that it will never be forgotten: the account of a man who was in a forced labor camp in Luzov, near Tarnopol. He, with everyone else, worked–and starved–digging sand. These men loaded sand and stones onto train wagons. This was Mekhl Hecht, a resident of Zbarazh, a Jew who, in happy times, throughout the year earned a living carrying water for the residents, just like Y. L. Peretz's Bonche Schweig. Whether or not he was paid, he brought water into people's homes. He languished in the Luzov camp together with everyone else in sweat and in blood, barely standing on his feet. Under a commando, they gathered stones and filled buckets of sand. The bloodthirsty volksdeutsch Ostrovsky was the supervisor. His pleasure lay in splitting open the heads of Jews. Not a day went by that one of us did not fall soaked with blood. With utter cruelty, the murderer turned his attention to Mekhl Hecht. As mentioned, Mekhl could not bear to see his fellow–townsmen suffering–not only from hunger but also of thirst at the backbreaking labor of digging sand. He could not supply them with bread, because he himself was starving, but there was a great deal of water in the village. But the degenerate volksdeutsch did not allow it to be brought. So the weak Jew Mekhl, despite being warned, sneaked out and brought water to the weak. For a long time he succeeded, but one time the murderer noticed that the small zshidek was missing. He ran to the village and caught him there. The entire way from the village to the sand–digging site, he struck the weak Jew in the back with a stone. At the digging site, he pushed him and cast him twenty meters down into the pit. Falling down onto the sand, he still groaned, and here the murderer mutilated his body before the eyes of all of the tormented prisoners. At night, a few youths risked their lives to bury the martyr in the field. No doubt the grave was uprooted so that not a remnant remained, but in the memory of the few survivors he will remain a hero and will never be forgotten. There were many such silent heroes in our town, and Mekhl Hekht is mentioned as a representative of those who sacrificed their lives to help others.

Our town and its environs produced very prominent doctors and teachers. They were active in Zbarazh and many brought light to other towns as well. Two of them may serve as an example.

Yitzchak Kofler was born in Zbarazh, studied and then was a director in a school in Bezhezine near Lodz. Because of his abilities, he was selected as head of that town's community. And he did not forget his birthplace. During the time of turmoil, he and his family returned to Zbarazh, from which the Nazis sent them away to be murdered in Belzetz.

A second Zbarazh resident was Reuven Rosenberg. He had a university education and spoke 12 languages perfectly. He had a post as teacher in the government gymnasium in Stavibsk near Kalna. With his scholarship, he could have climbed much higher. However, the anti–Semitic authority looked with a jaundiced eye on a Jew occupying such a position, and demanded that he either convert to Christianity or leave his position. The talented professor did not abandon his faith over his career. He proudly left the foreign camp and dedicated his life to the Jewish children in Tarbut school (Suwalki) and in Talmud Torah (Visnyuvtze). He wrote poems about Jewish life in Poland and–because he was an enthusiastic Zionist–about the pioneers. These were published in Jewish newspapers in Polish. Tragically, they were destroyed together with the author. In order to give a sense of the mentality of a Zbarazh intellectual, below are a few stanzas from a poem written by this professor–lines that were carved into my memory.


Exile's Plagued Our Tribe, Our Brothers

Translated from the Polish by Dobrochna Fire

1) Exile's plagued our tribe, our brothers
For two thousand years and more
From the bloody times of Titus
Butchers have on us made war
2) When fierce knights in middle ages
Fought to win the Holy Land,
Swords were honed on Jewish bodies,
Bulwarks built of Jews, not sand.

[Page 114]

3) Let us finally halt misfortune;
Enough of blood and tears and pain.
Our suffering will find an ending
In a country free and born again.

[Page 115]

Israeli Witnesses Face to Face
with the Murderer of Tarnopol Jews

Translated from the Polish by Dobrochna Fire

12 Israeli citizens flew to Austria yesterday to give testimony in the trial of Friedrich Lachs, the murderer of Tarnopol Jews.

Lachs's trial started on Tuesday in Gratz, eliciting great interest because the court in this same city last year acquitted another criminal, Franz Murer.

The 53-year-old Lachs is accused of active participation in the extermination of 70 thousand Galician Jews in the period from April 1942 to June 1943, when he headed the Sonderdienst in this region. He is also accused of personally murdering 13 Jews.

On Thursday, Lachs's former supervisor, Herman Miller, in his testimony claimed that the Judenrat in Tarnopol had itself appealed to the Germans with the request to “liquidate” numerous sick Jews in the ghetto.

After the war, Lachs was in hiding in Austria, but he was unmasked thanks to the actions of the division for pursuing Nazi criminals under the main command of the Israeli police.

One of the witnesses was Gerszon Landsberg, who works in this division and who had spent time in the Tarnopol ghetto.


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