Table of Contents

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The Holocaust and the Destruction
of the Jews of Zbaraz

From the Diary of an Eyewitness, the Late Yaakov Litner

I arrived ill in Zbaraz, a small town in the district of Tarnopol. I felt so bad that I doubted I'd ever recover. My legs had been wounded and I feared blood poisoning, but a miracle happened. The local Jews received us with kindness and did more for us than we could have imagined. I was put in the local Jewish hospital, and a Jewish Polish doctor operated on me. The nurses and several women doctors looked after me with extraordinary devotion. Even though the nurses wore tall mannish boots, the way they moved was incredibly graceful. In their pure white coats they seemed like winter birds that come from the cold Far East to warm the hearts of those sufferers in hospital wards such as the one where I lay in great pain.

After a while I was discharged from the hospital and as I went out into the streets, I saw a lovely town, a church, a convent, a magnificent synagogue and a castle built in the middle ages.

Here under Soviet Russian protection, I heard that Hitler had already conquered most of the world and that

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his armies had reached Holland, Norway, Belgium and even Paris. News of recent events reached us in very strange ways.

Somehow we tried to get by. My wife Nina and I found some food. The people of Zbaraz were very nice to us and accepted us warmly. The flames of war spread; the fire was raging and it seemed that it could not be put out… Hitler crossed the Russian border… A time of suffering lay before us.

The hell of war draws closer and danger hovers above our heads. Planes circle the town. The first bombs fell. In these moments we try to find transport but can't. Refugees flee, hungry people crowd at the shops. There is no bread, no food. The cannon fire passes over us towards the east.

We stay in our room, standing by the window and peeping out at the main street. The first grey armoured cars filled the streets and the axe and cross (Hackendreuz) flags flew overhead.

We are defeated. Towards evening it rained. The streets were filled with armoured cars and other mechanized vehicles. An old woman wandered amongst them, apparently insane, left to herself; it was hard to believe just how she had happened on this scene. This sight was illuminated from the flames of houses burning around us. Outside our door, a strange kind of traffic, soldiers walking back and forth acting decently and humanely with the population. It seems to us that these soldiers are happy to exchange a few words with us in German. The municipal egg warehouse has been requisitioned. We are forced to fry eggs for them in our stores – like an assembly line. Together with other Jews

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we are all made to take part in preparing their meal. These troops were from Austria and Bavaria.

The soldiers have advanced eastward. A couple of Bavarian soldiers tried to boost our spirits but after some polite words they mentioned that the S.S. were on their way. My thoughts returned to those days when I had experienced their behavior towards the Jews of Germany.

The regular army kept out of the way of the National Socialists that were on their way. The soldiers repeatedly told us “it will be bad for you”. I believed them.

At the break of day, the death force started advancing. With their horns blazing, and wearing their infamous uniforms, the S.S. arrived. Intense pressure paralyzed my chest. The black trucks were like a funeral procession doing a devil's dance. A driving grey rain fell, only adding to the horrible scene.

The S.S. acted fast. The great synagogue went up in flames. Crystal Night was no longer history. Destruction, death, murder and rape came along with the bitter weather. No Jewish house was left untouched. It wasn't the end thought, the fear had just begun.

My next-door neighbor, Hindes Meir, a merchant, was forced by the S.S. to hand over the keys to his warehouse. When he answered them that the retreating Russians had the keys, the German berated him rudely. Two other S.S. men stood by, enjoying the conversation. One of them took out a gun and shot Hindes, killing him. After this “heroic act”, he lit a cigarette and continued on his way as if nothing had happened.

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Meir Hindes still lay outside his house. When no one was on the street, his wife ventured out for a few minutes, kneeling before her dead husband.

I saw all this through a crack in one of the closed windows. Today two Jews were sent with a wagon to take away the body. S.S. men stood looking on, ridiculing. He was buried in a plot in front of the razed synagogue. Towards evening of that same day, Meir Hindes's wife was also shot.

S.S. men chased Jews all over the city, hunting them like animals in the jungle – the jungle of Zbaraz, a small worthless settlement in the east. The houses, half of them destroyed, half still standing. We were lucky, since we lived in the center of town, opposite the Army headquarters. Probably, that is why, we remained alive.

Max Frielich who lived in the same house with us was in Tarnopol when the S.S. took over. He was among those people shot; the bullet didn't kill him but badly wounded him. He lay among the bodies with the bullet lodged in his stomach. He lay there not making a sound. During the night he awoke among the bushes, crawled through the corpses, pulling himself along till he reached the house of friends. Despite the danger, a doctor dressed his wounds and one night he was brought back to Zbaraz. Here he lay now with a high fever hidden in the cellar of our house.

The Ukrainian militia joined up with the S.S. in our city. They promised to improve our living conditions but in fact they worsened. Now our lives depended on the S.S. on the one hand and the Ukrainian organizations on the other.

They introduced new methods of cutting off the beards of old orthodox Jews – they delighted in their deeds. The

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old beadle at the synagogue, a pious Jew, hung himself. Large lettered slogans proclaimed: “Only Jews have lice and lice brings disease. Stay away from Jews”.

Towards evening, a car with a loudspeaker informed us that all Jews aged 15-60 were to gather in the market place at exactly 7:00 the next morning. That morning I got up very early, I got myself ready to go out, not knowing what would be expected of us, but I wanted to make a good impression. When I was just about to go out, I found the door locked. Nina, my wife, had taken the key out of the door and refused to give it to me. She had an intuitive feeling that if I were to go to the meeting in the market-place, something terrible would happen to me. Despite all my arguments to let me go, and that if I didn't, there would certainly be some unpleasantness that could be avoided, Nina refused to give in and wouldn't give me the keys.

We watched others hurrying to the marketplace from the window. A few minutes before 7:00, pandemonium broke out in the marketplace. People ran in every direction or at least tried to get away. The S.S. and the Ukrainian militia surrounded the square and pushed them inwards. Afterwards, each was asked his age and profession as if they were recruiting them for a special mission.

In the end, they were divided into two groups. In the first were those who were better dressed, representing the “intelligentsia” – and in the second group, all the others. Those in the second group were lined up to send to work; those in the first group, 72 altogether, were declared as hostages. An order was given to the Jews of Zbaraz to find – by the afternoon – 5 kilograms of tea, 5 kilograms of coffee, 150 kilograms of sugar and 200 bars of soap.

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In order to free the hostages, the women and girls of the city collected all the products in baskets and by the afternoon brought them to the spot indicated, but the hostages weren't freed. The still stood in the marketplace. The S.S. arrived with trucks and the hostages were herded on – hands behind their heads, kneeling. The trucks left in the late afternoon and were never seen again.

A farmer who came to our town told us that he had heard shooting in the Lubianki forest next to the city the night they had been taken away. The next day, he had found a mass grave – freshly dug and covered.

The German administration ordered the formation of the Judenrat, apparently to assist Jews but really to be used against us. No one really knew exactly what their job was. Pinchas Greenfeld was made head of the Judenrat – a rather unpleasant man with a bad reputation. Nazism chose its own agents to carry out its edicts against the Jews.

Greenfeld, his wife and daughter, I'm sorry to say, are being given the job of fulfilling a terrible role against local Jewry. We all think, and their friends as well, that Greenfeld is willing to sacrifice everything in order to save his skin and that of his family's.

He is ready to betray Jews, to disregard everyone in order to fulfill the horrendous demands.

So that this mission might be carried out and to save the skins of the other Judenrat, Greenfeld organized a Jewish militia. Many of the town's young Jews hurried to join.

The Judenrat levied a high tax on Jews. I was forced to pay 500 zloty which is about DM 250. The funds were collected brutally. Members of the Jewish militia spared nothing and more as they went from door to door, taking

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anything of any value from those that wouldn't pay – wardrobes, beds, covers, bed linens. They took all this from those too poor to pay the tax levied upon them as their contribution.

Since the German administration demanded that workers be found for public and other kinds of jobs the Judenrat set up an employment office. A system of bribery set in. People were afraid to leave the area, fearing to be killed or transported to a Labor Camp. They did anything to get suitable work. The Judenrat took advantage of the situation and accepted bribes and money for certain work arrangements. The sums reached 3000 zloty and more. A job next to the railway station cost more.

Jews had to hand over all leather coats, furs and woolen clothing to the Germans. Upon delivery, all items were examined. Every day, we'd read the large posters placed during the night on the walls of houses. “From today on, every Jew must wear a wide armband 10 centimeters wide on his right sleeve and on it a blue Jewish star. Those who do not abide by these orders will be punished”. The next day we'd see that the armbands that one day earlier were to be worn on the right sleeve were today to be worn on the left sleeve.

The question f Jewish armbands kept the German administration very busy. We had the impression that they made these changes with the purpose of making the lives of the Jews miserable. The next morning, they again changed the order. The armband was to be worn on the right sleeve. On the streets they checked to see that the order had been carried out. Each morning, those who disregarded the order completely or did not carry out that morning's instructions,

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were fined 500 zloty. Today, it was decreed that anyone found not wearing the armbands would be sentenced to death.

One day, an order was given that every door and window be marked by a Jewish star on a white background – marking the houses where the Jews lived. The day was spent carrying out the order but it was not enough. The German administration demanded the notice be uniform, printed by the Judenrat with the signatures of its 3 members and the name of the apartment's owner. All this cost 100 zloty.

Non-Jews were forbidden to enter any of the marked houses. After the instructions were carried out, the Jews were stripped of their ownership and it was transferred to the government. Any one disregarding the law would be punished.

In addition to all these prohibitions, the Jews were forbidden to enter the public market but in order to stay alive, Jews had to buy food from farmers in exchange for expensive clothing or other valuables. All this under the threat of great danger. But hunger is worse than fear and there was no other choice. The farmers took advantage of the situation and demanded inflated prices. If the farmer and the Jew were caught in such a transaction, both were punished but the Jew more severely. He would be taken to the Ukrainian militia and there, beaten brutally. Notes were taken and they threatened to send the report to the German S.S. investigator in Tarnopol if the Jew didn't pay a high fine to the Ukrainian militia.

If such a report reached the investigator it meant punishment by death. The Jew would carry out the orders given by the Ukrainian Militia. The Ukrainians weren't “cruel” – they took gold, watches, rings, rugs, suitcases –

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anything of value. And only after their avaricious appetites had been satisfied would they destroy the report.

The Ukrainian Militia developed new large sources of income. Jews have to keep the front of their houses clean and they try to abide the order. Each morning I get up at dawn, go out and sweep the street in front of the house. The street is clean. A few hours later, a member of the militia intentionally drops a piece of paper. He comes into our house and starts to argue with me that there is a piece of paper on the street. In such a case, the fine was set at 25 to 560 zloty. Who would dare to question his decision, or do not pay the fine?

There's no branch of the Tarnopol employment office in Zbaraz. Jews must register with the office and appear in person once a week to have their work card signed. The purpose of this registration is the transport of Jews to labour.

Reports regarding the state of these camps and their methods of death were smuggled to us from those first victims who reached the camps. There was a large graveyard filled with Jewish bodies.

Today I was really in mortal danger. The secretary of the Work Office, a Ukrainian, wanted to send me to a punishment camp but one of the committee men, Vasota a meticulous but honest man, saved me from certain death. He gave me, for no payment, one of the jobs in Zbaraz. This is the same Vasota who, out of a humane attitude towards Jews, sent several Jews to work in Germany with Aryan papers which he prepared for them.

I began my new job. I work as an inspector of sanitation work in the city and am responsible for the cleanliness of the streets. Most of the workers assigned to me are old. I let

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them stay at home and go out by myself to do the work. I'm already up at 4 in the morning. I sweep the streets, supervise myself and am satisfied. I don't receive any wages but at least for the moment I am alive.

Day by day, the reports get worse. The sight of so many Jews in the streets angers many of the S.S. men, and Jews stay off the streets.

The father of Professor Halpern, who lives in our house, is the second chairman of the Judenrat. Tonight, the militia woke us. They demanded that Professor Halpern go to join the Judenrat, and told his father that there was a lot of work to be done preparing lists. His help was needed. This information foreshadowed the approaching danger. We dressed in order to be in a state of readiness. And when 2 hours later, we heard knocking at the door, a wave of terrible fear swept us. We frantically ran behind the house. We stood trembling in the dark. Suddenly, a light was shined in our faces. It was one of the Jewish militia men who asked us why we had run. He led us back to the house, and added that what we had done was very dangerous.

We later learned that it had been a messenger from Professor Halpern who had knocked. He had come to inform us that the “action” had begun. Even though we had known that it was coming for several weeks already – the news was a terrible shock. The horrors were approaching. We saw uniformed men with rifles patrolling the streets. Here and there we saw flashlights, and S.S. men with their white batons. They looked like devils but were worse than any of those described in books. They craved the flesh and blood of their victims. The messengers of hell of a western nation.

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Yaacov Ohl lived in our house, as well as Mr. Kornberg and his wife. In the middle of the night the door was broken down. The sound of heavy boots echoed through the hall. Everyone cowered in his room, then we heard the name “Yaacov Ohl” and after it the names of Kornberg and his wife. We now knew the sound of the voice calling us to the eternal world. Our hearts pounding, we each waited to hear the next syllable, asking ourselves: Will the next name called be mine, announcing that my time has come?

At our house, they were satisfied with these 3 names and the poor souls were taken away. They left quietly and without a struggle. Similar things occurred in other houses accompanied by heart breaking scenes as families were taken away. The old man Katz told his wife when they had to join the death march: “Come, come my dear wife. We're going on our 'honeymoon'.”

Terrible screams were heard from the street. At 7:30, Halpern came back. He was completely confused and crying as a result of the horrible scenes from his night with the Judenrat. The S.S. commandos demanded 530 Jews, a quota which had been filled exactly.

The S.S. wanted them brought immediately, and if one of the intended victims could not be found, another had to be sent in his place. At the Judenrat, Greenfeld had prepared an exact typed list. The victims were rounded up by the S.S. and helped by the Jewish militia.

By the early morning hours, they had been rounded up and held in the bath house. Later, they were loaded onto trucks. Three of the older men were too weak to climb on the trucks and were shot. The trucks drove off in the direction of Tarnopol.

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Ohl's youngest son worked at the railroad yard at Tarnopol and knew nothing of his father's arrest. He recognized his father on the transport that passed by him. But he couldn't approach or talk to him. Father and son parted with just a glance. Both knew it was a final parting.

By now we already knew that near the city of Belz there was a center for the slaughter of Jews. It is like a factory and employs special modern methods. Transports from our district were sent there. They were used as raw materials at the plant. The clothes and the bodies of those poor souls were processed industrially – slaves as if nothing mattered. Their souls were sent upwards in a billow of smoke.

At the time of the “action”, more contribution taxes were levied on us. We had to bring gold and silver articles. The Judenrat formed a committee to see that this was carried out. No one asked if he had any more to give. The evaluation was made by the confiscators, causing a great deal of distress.

A reliable source informed me that the members of the Judenrat did not participate in this contribution. Their despair took on another form. They also were not experiencing quiet nights. Members of the Jewish militia, who do not belong to the elite, are also subjects to strict guard. They must be given drink and fuel for heating.

We can hear a noise getting closer from house to house. The Nazis are demanding 250 new victims from Zbaraz. A cruel waiting period commenced once we heard about this. Greenfeld is preparing a list of deportees in the Judenrat, and as far as we have been told this list includes all the wretched and poor, whose that they regard as a burden, those

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that have been left completely bereft of anything that can be taken away from them.

Anyone not succeeding in hiding or not avoiding being abducted in some other way must go towards death. There was no possibility of freedom. 250 people were forcibly dragged to the bath house and imprisoned there.

They already knew what was awaiting them. Towards evening the victims were counted once more and it transpired that the full quota of deportees had not been filled; it was necessary to make up the numbers. The streets were empty. Only the members of the Judenrat and the militia, both Jews and Ukrainians, were to be seen in the streets. Suddenly out of the silence around, could be heard the sounds of wailing and sighing. A couple had been kidnapped and transported. The husband was carrying in his hand a package all wrapped up – his 3 year old son – and all the way he was stroking him. His wife was crying and held on to the arm of her husband. My heart broke to hear these cries. I saw the wretched people and there was nothing I could do to help them. At any moment the same fate could have overtaken me.

In our house there were still 23 Jews before the 'action' that was about to befall us. Each one of us was racking his brains to find some solution – some way out. We conducted joint discussions, but to no end. We are trapped animals. More than once it had occurred to me that it would be better just to lie down and not get up anymore. Afterwards I overcome these feelings, and I feel inside me that God will save me.

In the end we agreed all of us together, to build a secret bunker; we chose for this purpose a dark room in

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the corridor. We blocked up the entrance, and nobody could have known that this place hid an empty chamber behind it. Working very hard, we drilled a hole from our apartment that led to the hiding place, and we camouflaged this with much imagination. From the day that the 'actions' began, we established a special night duty. This duty exhausted our strength but the morale and fear gave us the strength to carry on.

Sometimes there's a false alarm. The guards heard some sound and then we all entered the secret bunker. We knew that such an eventuality was possible, and that we would have to spend a long time in this dark, damp room. There were also children amongst us, and coughing, rasping, and carrying could have meant the end for all of us.

Younk Ohl was dismissed from his work at the railways and was accepted into the militia. Sometimes he would work on the night duty and then he would know of any approaching danger. His young wife, Tonia, her parents and the young daughter Naomi were with us in the bunker. For this reason, Ohl's interest was even greater, and he was careful to warn us in time. This gave us a certain amount of security. The bunker was terribly narrow. Many of the people snored in their sleep because of the damp and the lack of air. We were forced to wake them up because their snoring could have given us away.

One night Ohl was all ready for the midnight shift and I was on guard duty at our bunker. Opposite our house was the station of the Ukraine militia. And then, in the middle of the night, a car arrived and somebody asked in German: “Where is the Judenrat?” I looked out very carefully, and saw S.S. men sitting in the car wearing their

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white coats. I felt fear choking me. The situation was very serious; Ohl and I woke up the others in order to get them immediately to the bunker, and Ohl carefully closed the hiding place and made his way to the Judenrat. Before that we had spread all the personal belongings and furniture around the flat and opened the door in order to give the impression that the actions had already passed by here. After a few minutes, Ohl returned from the Judenrat and warned us from the other side of the wall that we have to be particularly quiet. It seemed that a very comprehensive witch-hunt was in progress. How can I describe in writing our situation in our little hole? That particular day I was feeling weak. The air was choking and time seemed to stand still. Suddenly we heard the sound of steps. They came nearer and nearer and then they were in our apartment. Silence! We held our breaths in order that our hearts shouldn't beat too loudly. These were moments of decision that could mean life or death for us. The Germans spent a long time in our apartment; afterwards we felt that the search as over. We breathed a sigh of relief. The footsteps left. The pressure subsided slowly but we still had to be very careful. The lack of oxygen in our hiding place was more and more apparent. We sat with our heads down, breathing heavily. Ohl only arrived the next afternoon, after we had waiting for him eagerly. We were happy to leave our hiding place that had saved us from death. Ohl explained why he hadn't come to release us earlier. The action had continued right through the second day into the early hours in the most frightening way. Men, women, children and old people – they did not leave out a single house. That day we felt paralyzed; again we heard of acquaintances who had been

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visited by the terrible fate of death, and Zbaraz had supplied over a thousand people to the extermination machine.

One of Zbaraz's citizens, a dentist, managed to escape from the transport of those sent to death, and he related: “At six in the morning I was kidnapped by the police next to my house, I was wearing my slippers, and one of the army men said: 'Look, you haven't even got shoes on!' The other one answered: 'If he's going to his death, he doesn't need any'. All those kidnapped in our district were gathered at the public square, and for some unknown reason we had to kneel down. After a lot of pain and fear, we were transferred in groups to the bath house; the place was full of other kidnapped people. They pushed us inside forcibly and beat us with rubber batons. Cries filled the air. Children choked and some people were already standing on the corpses of others. We were there for 2 hours.

“Afterwards they took us out from there and took us 2 kilometers towards the railway. They forced us to sit crossed legged with our heads held backwards. This was the order that the sadists gave in order to fulfill their quota of cruelty.

“Here they hit us again. One of them in uniform stood guard over the wretched brigade. At first we were told that we had to lift our hand if we needed to excuse ourselves. Then the S.S. man was heard to yell 'What? To the toilet? No! Do it in your pants like at home!' In this wretched state, worse off than a flock of sheep, we remained until the evening. Afterwards they counted the flock. All the men between the ages of 16 and 40 were stood in special lines and sent to the work camps, most of them to the town of Lemberg. The rest were sentenced to death by a thumb sign of the S.S. leaders.

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Those that had been sentenced to death were pushed into closed wagons and sent to the crematoriums and extermination camps in Poland. The wagons were sealed up. The whole of the yard in front of the railway was lit up with projectors and armed guards stood round the wagons. Twice I fainted. I wasn't the only one. The wagons had no windows, the sole air vent was closed up from outside. At about 9:00 in the evening the train left. My heart was informing me that my chest was about to explode. I yelled and yelled together with my father who was with me in the same wagon. His sole concern was for our mother. If she had been with us we would have willingly gone together to our deaths. And then I thought of escaping. We weren't scared of trying, because we knew that our fate had already been sealed. One of us had a large knife. I started to saw the plank that was blocking the window until the opening was bigger. What men are capable of doing in such situations! My father and I were ready for it. The train slowed its journey for a few minutes and I jumped out. My father jumped after me. We were both injured a little but we did not feel the pain.

We ran back on foot to Zbaraz. I was still wearing my slippers and my feet were completely bloody. Others also managed to escape from that wagon, but some of them paid with their lives. They were crushed to death mercilessly by the wheels of the train. The same fate they would have received from the Germans or the Ukrainian murderers.

It was decided to establish a ghetto. The order was given that the Jews had to go and live in the same part of the town that had previously been the horse market.

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This is where all the municipal garbage was brought, and we were obviously considered as garbage. In summer the place is full of flies and biting mosquitoes; the stench was terrible like in hell. The move to the ghetto had to be completed within 24 hours. The Jews of Podvoloziska were also transferred here. The small number of houses was not enough for all of them and could not hold everyone. We are going to have to make do with 20 people to a room. Many people have to sell their furniture or to exchange it for other goods. It's interesting that the local farmers, well-known for their avarice, very quickly got used to the new situation. Already in the early hours of the day, they were standing in lines in front of the Jewish quarters waiting for the right moment to rob them of their belongings. The ghetto looked like a complete disaster area. The filth and the despicable behavior of the farmers carrying off the good only added to the disgust. Broken furniture stood in front of the houses; and horse droppings were everywhere. Here again I was put in charge of cleaning the street, and I carried this work out with a broom like Hercules – with no results.

This was an unsuccessful war. Until that period, I had never seen so much wrong. Farmers took all the furniture that we couldn't take into our new houses. “You should be happy”, they taunted us “that we're giving you something in return. In any case, you don't have much time left to live”. The mood in the ghetto reached rock bottom. Peoples' faces showed their despair. Some of them had already accepted the idea that their life had come to an end, and all that they wished for was that the end would come as fast as possible. Others who still had a little spark

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of the desire to live in them, was living in perpetual fear. These were all broken people, who knew that they faced a terrible and unavoidable end.

The Jewish militia was increased in size from 80 to 130 men, a sure sign that a new action was being planned for us. Greenfeld knows for certain what has to happen. The Jews are so scared of him as of the S.S. hangman. He is convinced that by betraying his friends he will save his family. The members of the militia hold onto their posts in order to ensure their lives. These men pay astronomical sums, up to 10,000 zloty in order to become member of the militia. I once read in a book about a ship that sunk and on the fight for survival that these men fought in order to save themselves. Everything is in a state of destruction in the ghetto. Life is cruel and the people are cruel. How many guards there are over us – the Jewish militia, the Ukrainian militia, the regular S.S., the special S.S., t he S.S. gendarmerie, S.S. police – all of them guarding us in our wretched ghetto.

Often inspections were made for food items. If food was found in the ghetto, it was thrown into the streets. I sweep up a lot of such food items. I was even capable of eating it, so hungry was I. The Germans and the Ukrainians want to know how stocked up the Jewish houses are, and woe unto him who's house was found to contain more than the right amount of food stuffs. These inspections are the best opportunities for blackmail of every kind.

There is a wedding today at the Judenrat. One militia man is marrying the daughter of Greenfeld, the head of the Judenrat. For us the regular Jews, the meaning of this celebration was an emergency tax.

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The Jewish identity cards were returned to the security service in Tarnopol for reexamination. They had to have the stamp of the security services, otherwise they would not be valid; for anybody found without one, life was not worth living.

Greenfeld travelled to Tarnopol to get the cards stamped, our lives were again terribly threatened. Our fear was that Greenfeld would foul things up. Our future depended on these cars being stamped. Does Greenfeld himself know when he is going to bring these cards back? Greenfeld returned from Tarnopol saying that he only brought some of the card back stamped. The stamp costs a great deal. I myself had to pay 1,000 wretched zloty for my own card – and all that for maybe a few more days of life. We are completely obsessed with getting our stamped cards as if it was the only medicine that prevented us from the death sentence. The tragedy of the commerce in stamps continues.

Many of those who worked in the brick factory of the Eastern railway or the railway track did not receive their cards and were in despair at the astronomical sums that they had to pay for the stamp.

Greenfeld travelled again to Tarnopol. A wild and filthy trade began over our lives. Man no longer exists – only the stamp.

All of the inhabitants of town of Viznovich fell victim to riots. One doctor with his wife and child were able to escape. Brininger, a long time apostate, brought the doctor and his family to his home and gave them shelter. However a neighbor reported him, and he and his family and all those that he had given shelter to were taken to Tarnopol and were all shot.

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Fear of a new action is growing daily. We no longer dare to undress at night. Every house has a guard whose job is to see what's going on in the streets. They're building bunkers everywhere in order to hide. When people see death before their eyes, they bury themselves like moles in the ground. The building of our bunker was particularly difficult because our house was on a hill; there was no cellar and the whole thing was likely to collapse. We dug out from the floor a hole just large enough for one person to get in. This hole was covered with a mud plank. So successfully that when it was closed, nobody could guess that there was a hidden entrance there.

The tunnel began here. We did this work with the simplest tools and with plates. We worked very hard, scratching he dirt and plaster. Panic pushed us to work faster. Every moment and every hour was very important for us. We worked with all our might at night without any light. Sweeping up the earth caused us many problems. We would take out the earth and cover it up with snow and frozen ground. We had to be very careful because the militia men who guarded the ghetto examined – with the help of torches – everyone who went out at night and woe betide anyone who got caught. Finally four people managed to squeeze into our bunker. In order that we might be able to sit down, we filled some sacks with earth and place the planks on them. Inventory of the bunker included a pot for excusing ourselves, candles, and a thermos with drinking water.

We Jews were particularly frightened of the 9th of November. The night arrived. We were all awake and ready

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for anything that might transpire. At midnight Ohl knocked on the window and whispered that the action had begun. Like frightened mice we scrambled into our hiding place. The situation inside was indescribable. Four men waiting with their hearts beating for the danger of death to recede. The passage was very narrow. We had difficulty breathing. Suddenly we heard voices and heavy footsteps above us. They were here. We stopped breathing. Again these were minutes that were determining our fate. And then we heard cries; “Jews, out!” They knocked with their rifles on the floor to search for hiding places and tunnels. Time stood still. Death was looking for us. The knocking of the rifles was like the knocking f our own bones. We were covered in dust, and at any minute they could have found us. At last there was silence. We were given our lives back again. We very carefully let air into our hiding place, but we were still scared to leave. We only left the following day. We looked terrible. Our clothes were full of plaster and dust; we were thoroughly drenched inside and out, because the conditions of the lace did not allow us to excuse ourselves. We came out like shadows arising from the underworld. The tragedy is immense, but we are all alive. The despair in the streets is even greater, where fathers, mothers, children, husbands and wives are searching for one another. The heart rending cries are terrifying. Some are shouting, others are tearing their clothes.

Some are walking around in despair, in silence, with a fixed stare. Hunger is driving them to robbery and theft in the streets. I saw a young child with a loaf of bread under his arms; a short man is struggling with various household items; thieves get in through the windows in broad

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daylight. The houses are deserted – the residents have left never to return.

Later, we learn from the farmers of the shocking total of 1,050 victims that were taken that night. Slowly but surely the houses of the people that left were closed and locked up. The Jewish militia was given this task, but before they were allowed to start, official permission was given to loot the Jewish property. From Tarnopol, there arrived a unit of the S.S. commando, headed by some bishop, a very special person. He arrived accompanied by his mistress Yedvika Pertika from the German nationalist movement. With the help of his gun and his baton he personally took part in this robbery. He was accompanied by two militia men. One of them was Greenberg, the brother of the other “Oberman”. Greenberg held a bottle of Vodka in his hand for the bishop. When the bishop reached the place, he left all his followers outside. To the question “how come you haven't yet been transported?”, I said “I work”. The bishop demanded to see my identification and check it very carefully. He ordered me to empty my pockets. All this time he was waving his baton in front of my face, threatening to hit me several times. Afterwards he stole my wallet from me, and my silver watch, a pen and stamps; he also removed from my finger the little gold ring that I received from my late mother.

I was forced to carry on working in the street, clearing the way for our oppressors. I soon developed pneumonia, due to the lack of clothing and insufficient food. The rats crawled over my bed fearlessly, and paid me a sick visit. The people who came to visit me weren't laughing. Shmajuk was here today. His parents, his sister and his wife had

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been put to death. Igor Greenberg sat by my bed yesterday. He is one of the few that were released from the punishment camp. At home he found his wife and children, but his brother, sister and brother-in-law had been killed. I had very sleepless nights.

The Judenrat distributed alcohol to members of the Jewish militia. The rumor spread like a flame in the ghetto. We knew what this meant – a new witch-hunt was about to begin.

I'm still ill, and even so I'm forced to go down to the bunker. In a state of complete collapse. I bent down in order to get into the damp hole. To our misfortune, when the sign was given to start the big witch hunt, two strangers were with us. In the confusion they were also shoved down into our bunker, even though there really wasn't room for them. I was so cramped that we asked the strangers to leave, and to allow us to get into the bunker. They left and ran off. There was silence in our bunker. We hear the voices of militia men. They spent some time in the room, and left again. If we thought that the danger had passed, however, we were mistaken. At about 5:00 in the morning, other militia men came. They went straight toward our hiding place, removed the partition of the hiding place, and knocked. This was a result of treachery by somebody against us, genuine treachery. We had to remove the partition at the opening, and we all left trembling. I alone remained inside lying down. They took my son Mietek; but they couldn't take me because of my illness. My wife Nana ran back and forth in complete despair because of our only son that they had taken, and afterwards she ran to the Judenrat to try and release him. I remained alone, in despair, powerless, in my “grave”. My

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temperature rose, and I started to imagine that I was buried alive. The opening to the hiding place was very narrow, like the neck of a bottle. It seemed that I had been pushed through the neck of the bottle inside, and the cork had been placed on it. I asked myself how I would ever be able to regain my strength in these circumstances.

I felt as if I were shot from above and below and in this way I had been finished off. My despair was so great that I prayed for a bullet to once and for all end my misery. Suddenly five militia men arrived. They dragged me out and roughly forced me to leave through the narrow opening. They threw me on the floor of the apartment, and I lay there groaning. I was overcome by giddiness and I felt as if I was in a stationary car, with its engine on and everything shaking.

It seems that my condition aroused the mercy of the militia men. They didn't do me any harm, and sent to call a doctor. Another miracle occurred. My son Mietek was released in the Judenrat, and my wife Nina was very happy. We were able once more to think about continuing our struggle to live.

At five o'clock in the morning I awoke to the sound of wild shooting. I jumped out of bed and looked out the window. Men in uniform were disturbing the morning serenity. Others, not in uniform, were firing their guns in all directions. I woke all the others up immediately. They hadn't heard the shooting. We were in despair. We could not get dressed. All around the house we heard terrible shouting. We grabbed our clothes and again we squeezed into our hiding place in the bunker. In the excitement, I forgot to take my shoes with me and I found myself barefoot on the

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Damp cold ground. We were all trembling. We were not allowed to move. Outside, death was all around us and the shots did not cease. The hunter could reach our room at any moment All around we heard terrible cries that froze our hearts as if an icy finger had touched us My throat was dry, my pulse was racing, my forehead was filled with cold sweat. This was an awful hour spent in fear of death.

This time we were certain that the end had come. Then all of a sudden a miracle occurred. The angel of death passed us by and went on. The hunter departed, and the shouts, yells, and shots vanished as if they had never been at all. At daybreak, Mietek decided to leave the bunker and Nina went out after him. He thought that he should go to the Judenrat. He managed to prepare bread and water for us, threw me my shoes, and left the house. We sat waiting in our dark tunnel. An hour later, Mietek returned to our apartment and warned us that a very widespread action was in process. Until now, he said, 900 Jews had already been rounded up. Our anxiety increased. About lunchtime, Mietek returned again. He was in great despair, his fiancée was rounded up and he wished to free her. In previous actions the militia men had managed, with great effort, to free people close to them. They had to go to the head of the SS actions and to say “I have worked very well”. Cohanic, one of the militia men, managed in this way to free his parents, but in return he had to bring in 24 other Jews.

He wished in this way to release his sister also, but he didn't manage, since he was unable to round up another 12 Jews. At half past four in the afternoon Mietek returned once more. We were still sitting frozen, statue-like in our

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bunker. Mietek said that his fiancée had been released but had been transferred meanwhile to the railway station and that he was hurrying there. Several hours passed, hour after hour, and Mietek did not return.

It was a very long night. We spent the whole night in the bunker. Eventually after 24 hours in the bunker, we left our hiding place at 6:00 in the morning. I dared to go out into the street. The dead were again lying at the side of the road. Their limbs were frozen. Their blood had colored the snow. Some of the Jews that still remained dared to go out into the street, stealing furtive glances at each other, like hunted animals. We then discovered that Sternberg, the commander of the Jewish militia, together with 48 militia men, had been shot to death. 1,050 Jews had been shot by the militia. Militia men buried them, and then they themselves stood in front of the firing line and they were all cut down.

My wife Nina's feeling that our son Mietek was one of the tragic victims turned out to be true. The ghetto was like a city of death. The tense quietness of the empty streets had a terrible effect on us. The empty houses looked like a ghost town, with their empty windows and opened doors. Eyewitnesses reported that the victims of that terrible day were under tight guard on the empty yard in front of the bath house, and the “animals” ordered them to get down on the damp ground.

When they realized that they were going to be searched, some of the victims buried those valuables that they still possessed in the ground underneath them. The ground was frozen, and they dug with their fingernails until they were completely bloody. Afterwards they were taken in groups to the bath

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house, where they were undressed, and forced to walk 3 kilometers through the town, completely naked. They were shot in groups of 20. The next day all the documents and photographs of the dead were still in the bath house.

The wind, together with a few children, was playing with them. One of the children was holding a photograph of a good friend of mine. At my request the child gave me the photograph.

Today the order was given to go through the clothes of the dead. Their rings and all other valuables and jewelry were gathered together in bags. Only 900 people still remained in the ghetto. None of them with any hope of being saved. We are a city doomed to be lost. Informed sources tell us that Zbaraz will be completely free of Jews by the end of this month.

Children playing in the yard by the bath house found some of the jewelry belonging to the victims. Looters came from far and wide to dig up the ground and take the gold of the miserable people who had left it there – they found jewelry, gold, silver, and dollar notes. This was a very sad looting. The remainder of the militia men no longer wished to serve their masters, and threw away their special armbands. There are now vacancies in the militia for no payment. A new Judenrat has been organized and at the beginning of its term of office it faces financial problems. It therefore proposes to impose an emergency tax.

I have never been so depressed. My hands shake. I cry without stopping. I feel like a little neglected child. I am no longer human. Today I went out with a few other men to prepare a mass grave for the dead. This mass grave was covered with a thin layer of earth, and blood

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was still all around. A terrible stench rose from the pile of bodies. Jackals were scratching the ground, and would take away with them limbs from the dead.

A farmer's dog brought home the hand of one of the victims. Every day some of the men had to go out to cover the grave again. There is no way of describing how terrible this work was. Miss H, a beautiful 18 year old girl, was told by the S.S.: “You really are very beautiful, that's why we'll give you two bullets”. A 22 year old woman, who had not been killed by the bullets, rolled on the ground screaming that she wanted to die. “Why do you want to die”, asked the S.S. man “Jews don't die, they just rot away”. A five year old boy opened his eyes wide at the murderer. “Yes my little one, I even have a bullet for you”, the German said to him. It looks as though Zbaraz is going to be entirely rid of Jews, and we have to do something to try to save ourselves.

We have started to negotiate with a Ukrainian farmer, and he has promised to give us a place to sleep, naturally in exchange for hard cash. Today he took us in his cart with the beds, bedclothes, clothing, linen and a little food. We gave him 300 zloty as a down payment, and we think that this give us a good chance of getting out of this place. We did not imagine that anybody would wish to help us.

This is how the evil started. The punishment for leaving the ghetto was death. But we had to escape. We had been condemned to death in any case. This was our only chance. We waited until twilight, and we decided to leave the ghetto. When we reached the last house of the ghetto, we removed the symbol of our Jewishness, our armbands. We hid. We were not afraid of the Jewish militia, who themselves were wandering

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around the forest. We made our way like something out of a story about Red Indians, but far more dangerous. I felt very unwell. I could only move very slowly, making my way along the paths through the fields. A few times I almost gave up.

The moon was hidden as if it wished to disappear from the night. We held each other's hands so as not to get lost in the fields. A dog barked. We were very frightened. Every minute could have taken us out of that night. Finally, after much effort, we reached the farmer's yard. I collapsed under a tree. I was at the end of my strength, but I felt that I had been saved. The farmer moved us to a barn, and laid us down on the straw. It was very cold. At dawn the farmer's son came and frightened us. Some committee, he said, has to come and check the place over, and we can't stay here. The son was very unfriendly, even hostile. He opened the barn doors since he wanted us to get out of there fast. We did not dare to make for open ground. We couldn't decide what to do, because we felt that we could not leave our hiding place. Another hour of anxiety passed over us. Then the farmer came, and he was extremely worried. He was worried and very angry because his children were not agreeing to our staying there. We felt sorry for him and for the trouble he was being caused by his children. “It's not nice of them”, he told us. “We will have to think of building you a bunker”. In the meantime his wife came and brought us a pail of hot milk and a bowl of boiled potatoes. We were very hungry and devoured the food. The farmer's wife looked at us if we were animals, the way we behaved.

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When we finished eating, she told us that we would have to leave their yard. She was scared for her family. In the mean time all was quiet in Zbaraz, she said. All our pleas were to no avail, we had to leave. We were desperate, and did not know how to start all over again. We were very anxious at the prospect of returning. We remained there lying down and after a few minutes a young blonde girl came to the barn and started screaming with fright when she saw us. Then we heard shouts of people in the yard. Now we had no choice but to escape from the place.

We ran like blind men through the fields. We coughed and groaned from the fear that gripped us. At this time of year, it was already quite warm during the day. Farmers working in the fields paid no attention to us. Spring had started. We ran back into the trap, back to the ghetto, to the hiding place, to death. After the difficulties of our escape, we now retraced our steps like snails. On the main road, I suddenly felt breathless. I sat down and could no longer get up again. Had my final hour arrived, death, redemption? From a distance I saw a farmer, who almost ran us over. I felt bad, and in no way could I look after myself. Nina prayed, she was completely bewildered. She begged, out of her despair: “O fate, o fate! You have to walk” she said to me. But I couldn't. I remained seated helplessly. The farmer was by our side in an instant. “Where's your arm band?” He asked in Ukrainian. Nina answered him in Polish but he realized that we were Jews who had fled from the ghetto. He insisted that we go with him immediately to the militia. With inhuman pain, I managed to drive myself a little forward and then fell down again. I went down on my knees, and begged him to save us. I asked him what

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benefit he would derive if they kill us. The farmer thought a little, and brought us to a little grove by the side of the road. There was nothing we could do, and we carried on crawling out of that place. We were lost. At the best, a bullet awaited us. With the fear of death over me, I stroked the farmer's face to try and influence him to change his mood towards us.

After he examined my purse and that of Nina, he took from us 360 zloty, the last of the money that we possessed. I had to undress and I stood there naked in front of him. He searched all my clothes, feeling around everywhere, to no avail. I did not have any more money. In the end, he kicked me, and silently turned away from us. He went away and we had been saved once more. We walked farther without meeting anybody until we got back to the ghetto. As we ran back into the ghetto, we passed a hut from which we heard joyous voices, singing and loud laughter. We did not understand what the gaiety was about. In such a miserable situation, in an atmosphere of prey, such joyous voices sounded like a ghost's dance. This laughter and singing caused us terrible mental anguish, and although we were terribly tired, we could not take one step further. We looked into the hut and what did we see? Inside the hut sat young Jews who were singing and overflowing with freedom. We realized that they refused to accept their fate in life, and had decided to flee into the forest.

Our house was empty. The farmer had taken all our belongings when we went to the hiding place that he promised us. A hatbox and a small suitcase was all that was left in the house. The ghetto had become smaller and other groups

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had reached us. The few remaining Jews had been given houses next to the bath house.

We had to leave our house within 24 hours, and there was not yet room for us by the bath house. That day was my birthday. I tried to find a new place of refuge in the area, but by the end of the day I had no roof over my head and we decided to stay another night in our old place and to sleep on the floor. This was the night of ghosts. Not only was there no light in the ghetto, but everything seemed dead. In the middle of the night we heard knocking. These were the people who had come to loot the houses of the dead. As the moon rose, they went like mice from house to house. We knelt down full of fear on the bare ground. Suddenly the door of our room burst open. In the doorway we saw the shadow of a man illuminating us with his torch. His lighted cigarette end could have betrayed us, as he stood there by the door. We held our breaths. It was like a dream. We waited for something to happen any second. What would be with this man? After a minute he disappeared, with the small light of his cigarette receding into the darkness. The door was slammed. He had left.

Professor Halpern Munio took pity on us, and took us into his little room. He was there with his wife and small son and another child whose parents had been killed during the last 'action', whom he had adopted for himself. We could only lie down in a corner of the room, but at least we had a roof over head, and shelter from the militia guards that were chasing us in the street.

The remnants of the ghetto looked like an underground cell. Jews met each other in the streets as if they had been resurrected from the dead. They greeted each other without

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words, the greeting accompanied by tears. We look like fish in the fish shop with our number getting steadily less. In the morning, S.S. men came twice to the street of the Jews, and each time there was a commotion. The potato soup of the Halpern family was passed from hand to hand in the darkness. After the meal, I sat down to write and Nina was busy with the dishes. Halpern's wife got herself ready, changed her linen, and put on her expensive dress. After that she asked me to read to her husband and son. While I read to them, she spoke quietly with my wife Nina. Nina was very perturbed. Mrs. Halpern told her husband and son that she asked for their forgiveness, but she had to leave now. She stretched her hand out to me and said, “I must say goodbye to you now”. Tears choked us. Professor Halpern was unable to restrain himself. The child cried instinctively from fear. I cried out anxiously “No you can't do this!”, but it was already too late. She took poison. She fell unconscious on the couch, and she died towards morning after having poisoned herself with luminal. A ghetto resident could not call a doctor. She had rid herself of the sorrows of this life. Many Jews had prepared poison for themselves.

The young men that we had met in the hut, whose singing we heard when we returned to the ghetto, fled to the woods. They wanted to find their way to Valin and to join the Partisans there. They never managed. The same day that they escaped to the forest no far from Zbaraz, murderers fell upon them and killed them.

One of them was brought in a critical condition to the Judenrat, and died a few hours later. Now we were in their hut.

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Something else was also happening. Children were playing on the street of the Jews, Jewish children. We saw them through the window playing at “actions”. They built themselves hiding places and bunkers, they hid in them, and afterwards pretending to be S.S. men, they came out of the bunkers and chased everybody away, pointing wooden guns at them to kill them. This game frightened me, because I saw before me the game of the future, and their fate.

Large posters were put up in the town of Zbaraz and surrounding villages: “Anyone giving shelter to Jews will be put to death”.

Early next morning we head unrelenting shooting from the direction of the ghetto. Sometime later, the baker came and told us that the action was progressing furiously. He told us that many of our friends had poisoned themselves at home and in the streets. Others had been shot. They were forced to dig their own graves, and afterwards they stood next to the graves and were shot. The hammer of machine gun fire was heard right through the night. Then there was silence. Death had its fill. The last 'action' was over. The S.S. men worked thoroughly. The town of Zbaraz was finally completely free of Jews.

We laid down like blind men in the darkness. We learned to move like blind men. There had been a terrible noise in the ghetto. It was difficult for us to get used to the quiet in our new place. The cement walls allowed no sounds to get through to us from the outside world; we were closed in with our sighs and with our fear.

Slowly but surely we became completely silent. We were frightened of our own voices. Nina and I developed an ability to understand each other without words.

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There was a terrible winter at this time. We laid down frozen together, clutching each other like animals in the den. The walls of our hiding-place are no longer damp, they are covered with frost. When our landlord came to us, to the other part of the hut, he brought with him snow. It seems that we were making a bad impression on him. We were full of mould. The mould and the frost got through to our clothes and penetrated to our skin. Our eyesight was weak. We were scared that we would go blind. The baker told us today that the Red Army is progressing, and that the Germans are retreating. Will the Bolsheviks save us? Will they find us alive? We have no more food left, and both the landlord, and the baker are demanding money from us. I was wondering what one can do when there is nothing more you can do to help yourself. In my misery I suddenly remembered the gold bridge that capped my teeth. But how was I going to remove this from my jaw? For that you need a dentist, which was out of the question. I chose to do it myself, and I took a long time. These were terrible hours of pain. My teeth and my jaw hurt, my gums bled, and I developed a fever. At last I managed to take out my good tooth, on which the gold bridge was beginning to wobble. I took courage, and separated the tooth from the bridge. I gave the gold to the landlord so that he could sell it to a dentist. He told me that he received 3,500 zloty for the bridge. I gave him half, and part of the money went to the baker. We thus received another respite. We had quiet, and bread, for a little while longer. The baker started giving us better food. He told us that the Germans were preparing defense positions, and

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all the signs pointed towards a terrible defeat for the German army. This was our hope.

It looks as though the German army wants to defend the town of Zbaraz. From today in the afternoon, we've been hearing the sounds of cars in the direction of Tarnopol, in other words to the west. It seems that they really are contemplating retreat. After that, the machine guns ceased. In our bunker we felt an earthquake from the cannon fire. We were like in fever. Our bodies trembled, our hands are almost paralyzed. It looks as if freedom is not too far away.

We are free! The miracle occurred and the hour of our redemption has arrived. The moment that we have been waiting for has finally come to pass. Our landlord arrived and told us that the Russians are approaching the city. Then came the baker and told us that he has seen with his own eyes the market place full of big tanks. We were so happy that we could not express a word. Freedom is near. We could not utter cries of joy but mumblings of confusion. We did not dare to go out to our freedom. We also had no strength to leave our hole. Furthermore, the landlord, for reasons that we could not fathom, was still afraid to let us out of the bunker. He was hoping to put the Russians up, but did not inform them of our being there.

We were terribly nervous, and we spoke louder and louder. Our voices were heard above. Three Russian officers came down to the cellar, with their guns cocked to see who was hiding there.

We called them and told them who we were. The officers came down to us and we showed them our personal papers that we still had with us. The Russians were moved at our story. They found our photographs and did not believe that

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we were the same people: we had become burrowers, and I believe that the Russian officers were inclined to keep us that way.

We could hardly move our limbs, and were too weak to go outside. They had to bring some Red Army soldiers to take us out of our hole. After so many months, I saw the sun again. It stood there colored reddish beige, above the snowy landscape.

The combination of the cellar, freedom, the sun, and the snow, put us into turmoil. We fell to the ground. We were like people reborn, barely able to move properly in this world. We had to learn to walk again, to move again, and this took 4 weeks. We slept with closed eyes. Were we in paradise? The Russians put a guard over us. Officers and regular soldiers guarded us, each one of them making certain to bring us some sort of present, or to help us in some sort of way. The terribly dark night had passed, but the war was still on. We had experienced a miracle.

Today we made our way past the old ghetto. It was a terrible and painful experience. Only a few houses remained of those that had held more than 5,000 Jews. The others were completely destroyed. With great difficulty I managed to find some of the houses where I stayed during that terrible period. In the street, I walked on the same pavements that I had swept earlier. I saw parts of gravestones from the Jewish cemetery spread all over the streets of the town. Hebrew lettering could still be read on the broken tombstones. In the children's home today, they showed me a Jewish child who somehow had been saved from death. During the disturbances at the time of the 'actions' against the Jews, a farmer's wife in the area brought the murderers a Jewish 3-year-old

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child who had been given to her, so that she should save him from the murderers. The woman gave the child to an S.S. man, and told him that she did not want to hide him anymore. The S.S. man sat him in the yard of the burnt out synagogue. The child sat there, not knowing what was happening. A shot was heard in the direction of the child, but the bullet missed and the child laughed at the murderer. The latter reloaded, but the second bullet also missed the child. The same happened with the third. Worried, he turned to a Ukrainian militia man and ordered him to take the “Jewish skin” to be baptized in the church. I heard this story from a living witness from the town of Zbaraz. He assured me that this is what happened. Many people were no trying to take this child under their wings.

Today the Russians started excavating and bringing up the victims of the 5th and 6th “actions”. An investigating committee arrived from Moscow and from other towns, in order to establish on the spot the facts of the mass murders. Most of the Zbaraz population, doctors, soldiers from the Red Army, and all those that remained out of the 5,000 Jewish victims, went with the investigating committee to the burial site, the local petrol station, “Neftostroy”. For many of the Jews who had just come out of hiding, this was an opportunity to meet up again with their colleagues in similar circumstances.

Each one had suffered his own fate. Each one had his own problems. The look of death stared from the eyes of all. One told the other of the terrible tragic circumstances that had overcome him, and each case of escape was a miracle.

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We gathered here by the grave of the victims for a memorial. It was a terrible sight. The head of the investigating committee, some Russian major, gave a speech. After that 30 young men came up with spades and started the exhumation. Only a thin layer covered the bodies. The first body that was taken out was that of a woman clutching a baby in her arms. All the time the wailing and crying of the Jews could be heard. Some of them threw themselves to the ground in pain. Nina and I could not bear to watch.

The opening of the mass grave continued. Nina stayed at home. I had to go again because they wanted me to identify the bodies. From behind the castle, they took out 19 people from a single grave. Among them was young Ohl, his wife, their beautiful daughter Naomi, who I had held so often in my arms and on my knees. Apart from them, I was also forced to identify in this grave, many friends, now in their new role as dead men. Every last one of them, children and all, had been shot in the head. Only one of the victims has his skull crushed. Witnesses had told how the victims had dug graves for themselves, and then after that they had stood by the graves and been shot to death. A child had been pushed into the grave in tears. A farmer who was forced to cover the grave had heard the child's cries for a long time after he had been covered with earth. This testimony had been entered into the protocol. In the forest next to Lubyanki, they found a mass grave with 72 prisoners, victims of the first action. This was also opened up in the presence of the investigating committee. These victims had been killed by minor officers who had shouted “Forward to dig your graves!” They gave the victims spades and forced them to do their dirty work. And while the Jews, confused

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and frightened, were digging their graves with the full knowledge that they were shortly to enter them, the hangmen, true to their infamous fashion, started to prepare their machine gun. The Jews were then stood by the grave and the machine gun passed along the line of victims. They all fell tidily arranged. Only the privileged were given the special mingling with the dust and their shouts only ending as their souls gave up. These first victims of the mass murders were still dressed when they were shot. The ones that came later were forced to undress before they were annihilated. The junior officers always made certain that the clothes were tidily arranged. Only the privileged were given the special task of murderers and the commando recruits were specially trained in how to fire.

After the terrible times that had befallen the population, Zbaraz returned to peace time. The summer harvest was brought to market. There were plenty of fruit and vegetables. An old woman stood in the middle of the market with a large tray. Wordlessly, she offered homemade cakes. She had white hair and her stare seemed to go on forever. This was a woman from Tarnopol, and it was amazing that she had stayed alive. She had come from a good house. All her relations were buried in a mass grave.

During the initial period after we had been saved, we were under the wing of the Red Army. Now started a daily battle to find bread. I tried to make myself useful, working now here and now there. Many families gave us work and assistance. But the town of Zbaraz remained a very strange place for us, a place that was a mixture of redemption and the most terrible suffering.

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On the 7th of November the Russians celebrated their revolution. We Jews that remained celebrated this day in the synagogue in the form of a Thanksgiving. There were no more than two dozen of us survivors that gathered here. With great sorrow, we remembered the wretched victims. We thanked God for saving us. Among the remains of the synagogue, I found torn burnt fragments of the torah scrolls.

With the consent of the others, I took these burned pages with me to accompany me wherever I go. With death ravaging Europe, I wanted these pages accompanying me and to serve as a terrible warning to the world to remind the world of the deeds, performed by the lowest of me.

One day the church bells of Zbaraz rang. The observant crossed themselves and the Russians lowered their flags. The market place was festive, Germany had surrendered. The war was over.

Hate is a difficult word. Hate, madness, and fanaticism bring catastrophe. I don't hate anyone. I don't even hate people. I suffered greatly from the Nazi rule, but I would not dare to act as judge on them. It is wrong to forgive. I cannot free the accused of their guilt, but man is unable to pass justice on such deeds. God alone can judge them for the inhumane way that they behaved towards their fellow humans. He alone has the power to be merciful, where man is unable to feel mercy.


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