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[Column 183]

The Loss of the City

by Shlomo Meir

Translations by Gloria Berkenstat Freund and Moshe Kutten

Note: this article was taken from the translation appearing at https://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/Zolochiv/Zolochiv.html (translation of the publication Der Untergang fun Zloczów, except the introduction which only appeared in this Yizkor book.

Zloczow, located between Lviv and Ternopil, was one of the oldest Jewish settlements in Galitsia, Advanced social and culture lives developed there over time. Jewish brew schools, libraries, drama clubs, and the rest of the public institutions contributed significantly to the cultural level of the Jewish population. The poets, Moshe Leib Halpern, Shmuel Yaakov Imber, Israel Ashendorf, Nakhum Bomze, Hirsch Fenster Arye Shrentzel, and others took their first steps in Zloczow.

Fourteen thousand Jews perished in Zloczow during the years of the Nazi regime. None of them was given a Jewish burial. In is article I highlighted the important issues, provided some dates and statistics and mentioned episodes. The latter are symptomatic, and reflect the lives, suffering, and scarify of the fourteen thousand martyrs.

 

I

This Is How It Began

On the 15th of September 1939, the Jewish population of the city of Zloczow experienced a cruel day. The defeat of the Polish Army was unavoidable; with each hour, the Germans came closer to the city. Panic arose among the Jews. The Jewish young began to head for the eastern border by means of every road, believing that there they would find a safe place where they would not be threatened by Hilterism. While the fear of the Germans and the trust of Russia was great, the number of refugees was greater. However, it was shown that with luck they had only suffered from fear. According to a special agreement, Russia occupied the eastern areas of Poland. The Jewish population breathed freely. The Soviet government saved it from Hitlerism. Despite the fact that the Soviet regime brought by Russia did not please everyone, everyone related to the new regime with respect and it was regarded by all of the Jews as a redeemer, a protector from Hitlerism. The situation lasted for a scant two years. The war broke out between Germany and Russia. The Jewish population again found itself in danger. However, this time they were much calmer than they had been in 1939 because, if earlier they had thought little of the military power of Poland, for Jews the Soviet Army was a big deal and there were few who doubted its power and its readiness to fight. Sadly, however, it was obvious immediately on the first day that “something” was not working. The Soviet civilian population

[Column 184]

Zol184.jpg
Dr. Julek, a physician in the Forced Labor Camp in Latzki near Zloczow

 

secretly evacuated from the city, but the local population was not told anything. The Soviet representatives kept secret the situation in which they found themselves until the last moment and demanded that the population remain calm, not escape and not spread a feeling of panic. It was no secret anymore for anyone and also not for the Soviets that as soon as the Germans occupied the city the Jews would be in danger because the other nationalities were waiting impatiently for the liberation from Bolshevikism. No one found it necessary to evacuate or at least warn the local Jews. When a group of activists decided to leave the city on the 25th of June, they were returned from outside Tarnapol. The assurance with which the Soviet government organs behaved led the population to believe that this was an exceptional strategy; it would not take long and the Germans would be driven out. Therefore, it was decided to remain in the city and wait out the critical days. There was bitter retribution for this mistake. On the 30th of June the last Soviet military divisions left the city. The German air force bombed the city for the entire night. All of Lemberger Street stood in flames. The Germans were not concerned with any morality. Every house, regardless of whether it had a military connection or not, was besieged with bombs. There were no longer any hostile soldiers in the city and the bombing still did not cease. Approximately 40 Jews perished during the bombardment.

The first German motorcycles entered Zloczow on the first of July at four o'clock in the morning. An automobile of wounded members of the Red Army stood at the market place. The automobile was damaged. The Germans poured benzene over it and burned it along with the wounded. This was the first terrible act with which they introduced themselves to the Zloczow population.

[Columns 185-186]

The “heroes,” one like the other, young members of the S.S., started to wildly go through the Jewish houses; they raped Jewish girls, murdered pregnant women, robbed and plundered Jewish possessions.

The first victim who fell was the city [fool], known by the name “Jopak.” He fell as a result of the first German bullet, not understanding that one could be killed for no reason and that it was necessary to hide.

A woman holding her child in her arms stood behind a closed door on Lemberger Street. The child cried. A German was passing by and noticed this; he murdered the mother and child with two shots. A neighbor, a pregnant woman, started to scream; she did not understand the gravity of the situation and tried to speak to his conscience. His answer was wild laughter and a shot in her stomach.

Many Jews paid with their lives for their naivety on the same day. No one could yet conceive of what the Germans were capable. Someone looked out through a window, another stood at the door, a third dared to go for water. Immediately, on the first day, the local Ukrainians appeared as loyal collaborators of the “victor.” Rich and poor, the members of the intelligentsia, the worker and the peasant, all, without distinction, presented himself for service with the Germans. They had long awaited such an auspicious opportunity; this was the fulfilment of their dreams. Their murderous and criminal instincts finally could be realized.

Under the protection of the Germans, they behaved freer in relation to the Jews. The peasants from the surrounding villages, incited by the intelligentsia, armed with weapons, clubs and provided with sticks, went through the Jewish houses. They stole whatever there was: jewellery, clothing, shoes, food – everything that had a little value. The provincials, who did not know exactly where the Jews lived, were helped by the local Ukrainian neighbors. They knew about everything and in the majority of cases they played the role of leader. The more sensible and refined tried to maintain “neutrality” where they lived. Therefore, the rampaging in the quarter was boundless. The Jews did not even try to defend their possessions; they were ready to give everything away in order to save their lives. The murderers went in groups. One group left and another one arrived. What people had saved from the generations–long work was abandoned in one moment.

On the second day, that is Wednesday, the 2nd of July, the leaders of the nationalist–leaning Ukrainian intelligentsia gathered in the Ukrainian casino hall. A committee of 30 men was organized there to which belonged: the businessmen Antoniak, Mudry, Alyszkewicz, Dzwonnik; the lawyers Wanio, Jojko; the doctor Gilewicz; the teachers Symczyszyn, Sobolewa, the wife and daughter of the lawyer Wanio, the officials Lewicki, Krawczuk, the priest Mykietyn, Hupalowski, Pawlyszyn and so on.

The committee established as one of its first tasks to organize and carry out an anti–Jewish pogrom. This was supposed to be a political action by the Ukrainian nationalists and therefore had to take on a mass character both in perception and in results. Everything had to be “legally” justified. This legal justification, which made the pogrom accepted among the wide Ukrainian masses, quickly was found.

The Ukrainian nationalists immediately on the first day of the war organized sabotage against the Russian regime bureaus. The Russians answered with mass arrests; all of the arrestees were shot during the retreat. The execution was carried out at the city jail, which at that time was located in the castle and they also were buried there.

The Ukrainian committee issued a proclamation in which they made the Zlochzow Jews responsible for the death of their nationalists. This blood libel spread quickly and [caused the right conditions] for a pogrom. In the proclamation, the committee called upon all of the people to take revenge against the Jews for the spilled “innocent” blood. In addition to the proclamation, meetings were called at which representatives of the committee appeared with speeches. The daughter of the lawyer Wanio particularly distinguished herself on that day.

The Germans received the initiative by the Ukrainians with satisfaction, accepted their plan and promised far–reaching aid in this area. The pogrom was set for the 3rd of July 1941.

 

II

The Pogrom

It was Thursday. The Zoloczow Jews, who endured the hardships of the first two days, consoled themselves with the hope that everything would be quiet and return to normal. They sat in the houses and waited for the agitated mood to be stilled. No one, or more likely, few knew what the enemies had in store.

On that day, seven o'clock in the morning, the Ukrainian representatives adorned with yellow–blue bands on their arms, armed from their heads to their feet, began to go through Jewish houses. Some nicely and some severely, lured the people out into the streets. The pretext was to go to work. Given that everyone was ready to work, many went out willingly. Jews had to bring their work tools with them from home. This calmed the people to a certain degree and they were filled with trust. However, the trust disappeared immediately after leaving the house. The wild horde lay in wait on the streets. They immediately took the Jews into their jurisdiction and drove them to the castle that was designated by the regime as the collection point. The demonstration that was encouraged by the committee found favourable soil. They came from the surrounding areas en masse.

It should be understood that everyone had a sack with him, because the main purpose for everyone taking part was thievery. The young and the old took part in the “sacred” work.

Ten–year old gentile boys chased old Jews and murderously beat them;

[Column 187]

Zol187.jpg
A mother identifies her child murdered by the Nazis 1942

 

adult Christians tortured innocent children and, in addition, laughed at them victoriously. The murderers had great satisfaction when an old, sick Jew or a pregnant woman fell into their hands. Whoever was caught at prayer was not permitted to put away his talis and tefilin [prayer shawl and phylacteries], but was driven in them through the streets. Compassion was an unfamiliar thing to the murderers. They used whatever they had for hitting [people]: with sticks, with iron bars and spades… Every innocent work instrument was a tool of murder in their hands. A large number of those Jews who were caught were not brought to the castle, which was the collection point, but simply were murdered on the way. They perished with the first blow if they were sick or weak; strong people had to endure great suffering. Their bodies were tortured systematically and they were condemned to a slow death.

It was said about the death of Hersh Tabak: Hersh Tabak was one of the healthy young people. He was tall, broadly built and stood out because of his extraordinary physical power. The murderers dragged him away to the [non–Jewish] cemetery and there a certain chimney sweep, Serba, beat him all over his body and over the head with a monkey wrench until, bloodied, he fell down to the ground. He was tormented and stamped on with feet until he breathed out his soul. (Incidentally, it is worth mentioning that this murderer lives to this day and [enjoys] his freedom.) The Soviet government organs, to whom they turned after the liberation to punish him, did not consider it important and necessary.

Even crueller was the death of Dovid Lwow. When the murderers began to torture him, he did not try to ask for any mercy, but boldly shouted, Shema Yisroel [“Hear O Israel” – the central prayer of Judaism]. A German S.S. man, not able to bear his shouting, fired at him. Dovid Lwow, to everyone astonishment, did not fall from his feet and Shema Yisroel again tore from his heart. The S.S. man delivered a second and third shot and these had no greater an effect than the first one. The soul did not want to leave the healthy body and Dovid Lwow did not give up his belief and with his last strength called out Shema Yisroel. The S.S. man became confused. The patriarchal figure and the extraordinary power of the Jew frightened him and he withdrew. At that moment, a local Ukrainian pounced and split Dovid Lwow's head in two with a spade. The Shema Yisroel remained hanging in the air. One of the most pious Zloczow Jews was dead.

[Column 188]

It also is difficult to forget the terrible death of the Kosower religious judge, Elenberg. He was praying; he was pulled from the house, tied by his beard to a motorcycle and he was dragged through the streets until his body became a formless, bloody mass of flesh.

The cries of the tormented and murdered Jews filled the air. All who were still in their homes understood from the voices what was happening outside. It became clear to everyone who had not be fooled into leaving the house that they needed somewhere to hide. However, this was difficult because the murderers searched everywhere up to 10 times.

Death threatened everywhere. A number of Jews had Christian friends and tried to hide with them. However, very few succeeded. The majority had to pay for their false illusions with their lives. Salek Parnes can serve as an example.

Salek Parnes had a Christian wife. It was shortly after the wedding. They loved each other. Despite all of these circumstances, right on the first day after the Germans entered their residence, she pointed to her husband, about whom it was difficult to recognize his racial background, and declared that he was a Jew. The Germans took him. He succeeded in escaping from them, but later he fell a victim.

The fate of young Friedlender is also widely known. The Jewish workers from the Zloczow canned goods factory tore through a thousand dangers on that day in order to enter the factory. Since the factory was built and belonged to the Jew Oskar Robinson who had acquired a good reputation for his relationship to the workers without regard to background, the Jews believed that the Christian workers in the factory would help them during this difficult time. However, they were bitterly disappointed. They were allowed into the factory, welcomed with friendship and when the doors were closed behind them, the knives came out. [The daughter of] Friedlender, a young girl of 14, who was hiding with her father, was raped by the murderers and then bestially murdered; the father had to watch this with his own eyes. A number of Jewish workers successfully escaped from their “friends” and saved their lives. Among the above–mentioned murderers, those who particularly stood out are Malyk, Stryk, Szluz, Szczerban and so on, who the entire time played the role of friends of the Jews and who even succeeded in becoming trouble makers for the Soviets.

It is characteristic that during the pogrom days all those who had presented themselves as friends of Jews were our greatest persecutors and bitterest enemies. It is enough to remember the sadly famous S. Wanio. She would spend time with Jews, was the choreographic leader at the Jewish Dramatic Club, “Ansky,” and during the Hitler days this S. Wanio was one of our greatest enemies. She gave speeches at meetings, travelled through villages, organized pogroms and personally took part in them.

[Columns 189-190]

She beat and murdered dozens of Jews with her own hands. The well–known merchant, Antiniak, distinguished himself no less. He, who had traded with Jews for all the years, was friends with them, placed himself at the head of all anti–Jewish aktsias [actions, often deportations].

It turned out that all of our friends had forgotten us; in the best cases, they acted passively or acted as if they did not remember us.

However, during the first days, it was not easy for the Jews to free themselves of their inborn optimism and of their trust in the justice of their fellow men with different beliefs. The case of Dr. Eisen is typical. When the murderers brought him to the castle, he met a Ukrainian acquaintance by chance, who wanted to save him. He [the Ukrainian] told him [Dr. Eisen] to go home and bring a rope.

Dr. Eisen, in his naivety, did not understand the true intention of the Ukrainian and returned quickly with the rope.

There was a similar case with the fish merchant, Peysye Bloch, and several other Zloczow Jews. They paid with their lives for their naivety and trust.

It was no accident that immediately on the first day, the majority of Orthodox Jewry was annihilated. Their faith was so great and so strong that they did not even try to hide. They could not understand of what the enemy was capable. The older ones among them remembered the pogroms and various persecutions that they had lived through and, therefore, believed in modesty and in God's care.

Chana Opper, a …[1] Rabbi Feywl Rohatiner, a woman in her 60s, refused all opportunities proposed by her neighbour to hide. During the fervour of the pogrom, she sat alone in her house and recited Psalms. A band of murderers under the leadership of the house owner barged into the residence and forced her out to the collection point. She recited Psalms on the way there. Because of her age, the barbarians treated her particularly murderously.

After the liberation, that is three years later, when a Soviet Historical Commission opened the mass graves at the castle, among the first found was her body. It was apparent with what barbarism she was murdered. Only the ring that she wore on her finger allowed her to be identified.

Those saved from the castle told about a horrible and simultaneously wonderful scene that played out before their eyes: when the group, among whom were the religious judge B. Szapiro and his brothers, the ritual slaughterers and their families, the pious Jew Shlomo Tenenbaum (known as Maite's son Shlomo), was brought to the execution spot, his son Sholem, Dovid Lwow's son and other pious Jews began to sing aloud with ecstasy. Their ecstasy grew and their prayers were transformed into song. The murderers began to shoot into the wonderful group. One by one, they fell from the bullets; those who still were on their feet continued singing with their last strength. But, from minute to minute, it became quieter and weaker and when the last of them fell, a martyr, the singing ceased.

At the same time, the murderers did not forget that the defilement of houses of prayer also belonged to a pogrom. A group of Ukrainians under the leadership of the S.S. left in the direction of the houses of prayer. They shattered the doors, looted whatever had a practical value and destroyed everything else. They gathered all of the sacred books and set them on fire.

They are few familiar with the heroic death of Chaim–Yoel Horn. Chaim–Yoel Horn was a simple man–of–the–people. He was the shamas [assistant to rabbi] of the large synagogue for all of his years and, like the majority of the shamosim, a very poor man. He had a large family; however, his home was the synagogue. He was dedicated to it from very early until late at night. During the day of the pogrom, he could in no way decide to stay at home. He wanted to be where he usually was – in the synagogue. Not listening to the pleas from his wife and children, the old, broken Chaim–Yoel hurried through the city during the most intense time of the pogrom and reached the synagogue where the hangmen rampaged. It is difficult to understand what happened then. Chaim–Yoel saved a sefer–Torah [Torah scroll] from the flames and started to run away with it. The murderers watched with mockery and laughter and when he reached the small bridge that crossed the river, they shot after him. The bullets reached him and Chaim–Yoel fell into the water with the scroll. The water ejected the body of Chaim–Yoel Horn several days later. His hands holding fast to the rescued sefer–Torah.

At the same time, cruel scenes were played out at the castle. The gathered Jews were forced to dig up the pits where the Soviets had buried the Ukrainian nationalists. The corpses had to be removed by command and were photographed.

The pictures were printed later in all the newspapers with the headline: “The Victims of Jewish Terror.”

It was a hot summer day. The sun burned without mercy. The dug up dead smelled terrible. People vomited and fainted from the smell. The Germans and Ukrainians, holding handkerchiefs to their noses, did not trust themselves to go closer. Few could endure the work. The people fell like flies. The Ukrainian corpses that were removed from the pit were carried out of the area of the castle. Finding an opportunity, a small number of those gathered at the castle succeeded in sneaking out and running away. Few of those who ran away survived because the murderers lay in wait everywhere. When the pit was empty of the Ukrainian dead, an order came to fill it with Jews. In the rush, people were thrown in half alive. When the pit was full, the murderers threw in a few grenades and shot into it with dum–dum bullets.

The Jews had to count their own victims. One of the Germans, who it appeared was still new to the work and still had a spark of humanity in him, said to one of the Jews that they should count more (that is, they should be deceptive), it would be better. However, the Jews did not trust him and saw a new trick in this.

At three o'clock a German general arrived at the execution spot to learn about the number of victims; he considered the number sufficient and ordered that the slaughter end until four o'clock.

Those carrying out the pogrom still had authority for not quite another hour. They tried to make use of the time as much as they could. The general stood with a watch in his hand and counted the minutes. When four o'clock arrived, he ended the slaughter. At this time, he told the surviving Jews to run home “schnell” [fast]. The murderers shot after [the Jews]. They ran over each other in fear. There was a tumult. The majority were exhausted and could not run. Therefore, they paid with their lives. Only a small number were successful in saving themselves from this hell on this day.

[Columns 191-192]

It rained in the evening. Many who had fainted, but whom the murderers believed had died, were in the mass graves. The rain revived them and they [regained consciousness]. They waited until darkness fell and then with great effort they came out from under the corpses with which they were covered. So as not to be noticed by anyone, they entered the river that flows not far from the castle and entered the city in the water.

The victims in the graves had hugged each other and pressed firmly against each other at the moment of their being shot.

One of those remaining alive could not leave the pit because a corpse held him so firmly by the foot that he could not free himself from the dead one's hand. Not wanting to be buried alive, he was forced to cut off the hand and he entered the city with the hand that was pulled after him all the way.

Those who returned from the castle had changed so much in just one day that it was hard to recognize them. They could not eat anything for a long time. What they had lived through on that day took away their sleep for a long time. Of them still alive today are: A. Rosen, K. Sznap and Wilner. – I spoke to the last one. It was difficult for him to describe in words what he had endured and it was even harder for me to write it down.

Three thousand five hundred Jews were murdered during the days of the pogrom. These were the most precious of Zloczow Jewry. The majority of them found their rest at the castle. The remaining lie spread over the entire city: at the marketplace, on the old ramparts, on Lemberger Street, at the sportsplace, in the courtyards of the Linsk [Hasidim], of Lipa–Mer and many other places.

Everywhere that Jews lived, they were murdered and where they were murdered they were buried.

The Germans declared on the second day after the pogrom that nothing would happen to whoever reported to make order after the pogrom. Despite the fact that they had little trust in their promises, they went out so as to carry the few corpses that lay in the streets and to cover them with a little bit of dirt. (Understand that there could be no talk of burial according to Jewish law.)

The pogrom of the 3rd of July was the beginning of the downfall of Zloczow Jewry. Each of the 3,500 murdered Jews has his own story. One story is more terrible than the other and all of them together are an accusation against the “peaceful” Ukrainian citizens and their German teachers with whom we lived together for many generations.

 

III

Judenrat and the Contributions

A deathly pallor reigned over the city on the first day after the pogrom. They did not dare go out into the streets; they had fear of the bright sunshine. They sat in their houses and quietly mourned the victims of the pogrom. There was not one family in the city that had not been touched by the pogrom. Every Jew was a mourner. The grief was great and to this grief was added the fear for one's own fate. They did not know what the morning would bring and did not know with what it would end. Hooligans, who did whatever they felt like doing, still were threatening in the streets from time to time. There was fear of crossing the threshold to bring in water. There was no talk of providing food. This situation lasted for two weeks. The German administration that took over the city was not satisfied with the condition of business. It had the task to exploit, as far as possible, the economic estates of the city and this could be done only with the help of the local population, of which the majority were Jews. The robbing of Jewish possessions by the Ukrainians also was against their interest. They had to reserve this for themselves so as to take it over legally at the appropriate moment. Therefore, placards in two languages were hung over the entire city that warned the population [against] further anti–Jewish pogroms and [against] robberies. These placards calmed the mood to a certain degree. They began to leave their houses, to take care of their daily bread.

The necessity to organize emerged, to create an administrative body that could represent and act in the name of the surviving Jews. Dr. Meiblum, the longtime vice mayor and chairman of the general Zionist organization, took upon himself this task. The [members] of the created committee, in addition to him, were Dr. Szotz and Dr. Zlatkes. Their first task was supposed to be to establish the exact number of the pogrom victims. There were optimists who believed that the calamities had ended and that these events had to be preserved in writing so that people would not forget that a pogrom took place in the 20th century.

Dr. Zlatkes and Dr. Szotz went from house to house and everywhere recorded the exact number of victims. The work lasted for four weeks. At that time, the German city authorities called on all of the Jews to assemble at the market. The Jews, for whom the memory of the pogrom still was fresh, did not appear for the assembly. Only 25 Jews dared to do this. The purpose of the assembly was to inform the Jews how they were to behave, the symbols they had to wear and so on. The Germans demanded that a Judenrat [Jewish council created by and beholden to the Germans] be created with which they could maintain contact. The already existing committee reported and promised to maintain contact with the Germans and to carry out all of their orders. The Judenrat, which was given a series of tasks, such as keeping order among the Jews, providing workers for the German firms, and so on, had to increase the number of its members. Many Jews, who were proposed for this post, refused.

Despite the fact that the tasks that the committee had to fulfill were still enveloped in a fog, there were people who foreswore its traitorous role. Among those who categorically refused and warned everyone else of the game into which they were being drawn was Dr. Tajchman.

In time the Judenrat was completed. Dr. M. Gruber, Dr. Prager, Dr. M. Rubin, Dr. Diwer, Dr. Hreczanik, Dr. Gerber, M. Cukerkandl, Jakier, O. Szmirer and Bernsztein joined. Dr. Glanz and L. Cwerling were unofficial members.

As soon as the members of the Judenrat were freed of work obligations, other children of influence sneaked in, often as assistants in this institution. It should be understood that only the intelligentsia benefitted from this “luck.” “Jewish Social Aid” was organized under the direction of Dr. G. Kac, Dr. Kitaj and Dr. Szwager. Their task was to organize aid for the needy, maintain contact with the camp Jews and their families. They even dreamed about making contact with the JOINT [Joint Distribution Committee], but understand that this was a clear case of Don Quixote… Dr. Kahane, Wajsztok and Tauber also joined as assistants at the Judenrat. They were representatives of M. Cukerkandl and their work consisted of providing the Germans with the goods they wanted.

A Jewish militia was organized at the same time under the leadership of D. Landesberg. His representative was Steinwurcl. The task of the militia was to keep order among the Jews. It should be understood that one had to have patronage to become a member of the militia. However, not everyone benefited from it. There were many who foresaw the shameful role that the militia would play and therefore did not want to be found in its ranks. That was said about a certain Gershon Spodek, who was a militia member

[Columns 193-194]

during the first days but understood the role he would have to play and, therefore, immediately resigned from it. The same thing was done by L. Walfisz. The situation began to be relatively normal. The mood turned optimistic. Newspapers published in the large ghetto cities, like Warsaw, Lodz and Bialystok, reached Zloczow.

A certain F. Prager, who for the entire time had been a member of the militia in the Warsaw ghetto, returned from German captivity. It appeared that the ghettos everywhere were [part of a] system and one grew accustomed to them. Theater was created; newspapers were published; communal life was developed. The belief began that the German was not terrible and if things continued this way, they would survive somehow. The entire bitterness of the Jews was turned against the Ukrainians who persecuted the Jews in their daily life with their poisonous hate and with all means. It was enough that a Jew bought something from a peasant and it was noticed by a Ukrainian and a crowd would gather that divided the purchase (it was a lucky thing if the buyer succeeded in escaping with his life). Because of financial motives, the Ukrainians were interested in grabbing and handing over the Jewish “criminal” who succeeded in buying something from a peasant because everything [that had been bought] was given to them. This was part of the normal troubles that was called gezunte tsores [healthy troubles].

It did not take long for the Germans to make a new word popular in the Jewish neighborhoods: contributions [actually, ransoms or mandatory payments]. An order came “from above” that Jews must pay contributions. The Judenrat became responsible for providing the contributions. The amount of the contribution was kept secret for the mass of the people. It was said that it was a giant sum, about half a million zlotes. The Judenrat was the appraiser and the dunner. [It determined how much each Jew would pay and it collected that amount.] It [the Judenrat] took whatever it could. No amount was enough. The Judenrat was a tool of the Germans in the collection of the contributions.

The German administration in the city grew larger from day to day. Every day new officials arrived. The Judenrat had to provide everyone with a place to live, services and so on. It was taken from the Jews and given to the Germans. J. Tauber and Wajnsztok, who had large businesses before the war, knew exactly what each Jew had and, therefore, they were given this refined work. The nobles[2] were satisfied with their work, the Jews less so. Jewish furniture, bedding and clothing migrated to the Germans and the Jews had to provide it to them. The wives of the rulers had other caprices every day and every caprice had to be accommodated.

At the beginning of November 1941, the first labor camp was organized 12 kilometers from Zloczow in Lackie Wielke. The administrator was the known murderer, Hauptsturmfuhrer [Nazi party rank equivalent to captain] Warzok. On the same morning, all of the streets were closed and manned by S.S. members. People were grabbed; they were packed into vehicles and they were taken to Lackie Wielke. No one knew what this meant; the methods with which they “recruited” the people did not indicate anything good. On the same day, 200 people were grabbed. Among those caught were found those who were employed in other German firms and those who stood in the service of the Judenrat. The Judenrat intervened for them. They made contact with the murderer Warzok and an exchange of a number of those “caught” was proposed to him. The negotiations were carried out by Lonek Cwerling. He succeeded in winning the trust of the German, who nominated him as the regular intermediary between him and the Jews. They asked Warzok that no more “recruiting” take place, but that he should communicate with the Judenrat and it would provide as many people as would be needed. Warzok agreed to this proposal. In time, Lonek Cwerling, with his doggish nature, made himself beloved with Warzok, was an intimate of his and even had a little influence over him. He could ransom whomever he wanted from the Lackie camp for a nice diamond or for another object. At first, he only used his influence “for the good of the people,” but in time he understood that he could procure money through this. He became a dealer of people. He was responsible for who would be in the camp and who would be freed from it. He became the Jewish Warzok. Whoever could, tried to be on good terms with him; everyone else tried to encounter him less and less. Whoever did not please him was sent to Lackie immediately and Lackie sounded like a death sentence for every Jew.

The role he played during the war years was not a surprise for those who knew Lonek Cwerling from before the war. He belonged to the intelligentsia that had great aspirations and they had not succeeded in attaining the communal and material position of which they dreamed. A bankrupt and a defrauder, a Moszke Polak [a Jew who was obsequious to the Poles] and a card player. It was not difficult for people with such baggage to tumble down to a position of traitor to their people. Alas, it must be understood that among the traitors there also were people who were contented with their good reputation; however, they let themselves be drawn into the devilish plan and became assistants of the Germans. However, this was a small percentage. The majority of the traitors had assimilated earlier or were simply the type that society should have spit out long ago.

The second Jew, who sadly made himself well–known in the downfall of Zloczow Jewry, was Dr. Glanc. He was an advisor to the labor office. Who and where one had to work were dependent on him. It was in his power to free someone from work. However, as this insignificant person's greediness for money conquered every other human feeling, the old people and the sick had to go to work and the young and healthy would ransom themselves from the obligation to work. He was autocratic in the matter and no one would dare to offer him advice. He was the second individual after Cwerling.

In addition to these two, still others distinguished themselves: Oyzer Szmirer, Dr. M. Gruber, Sztajnwurzl, D. Landesburg and so on. Their names are covered in shame and will always be remembered for being in the ranks with the Germans and other murderers of Jews.

Mass hunger came to Zloczow Jewry immediately during the first months of 1942. I write “mass hunger” because just hunger was not unusual for the poor of Zloczow. The Jews had to endure a great deal to be able to provide themselves with a little food during the first months of Hitlerist rule. There were many families that did not have anything with which to survive the day, but they still benefited from the compassion of the richer Jews. However, in time the supplies from the rich Jews grew smaller and they began to fear for their own fate. It was difficult to convince them to open their wallets. The Germans, who were occupied in breaking the morale of the Jews to make it easier to annihilate them physically later, increased their numbers. Money was raised to such a level, as people saw it as the only way to save themselves. The Germans freed people from the camps for money; they freed people from work for money; they gave people their lives for money; they provided the means to live for money. Money was a tool with which they murdered the Jewish conscience. They forgot all of the ethical and religious laws. Colossal antagonism arose between the hungry and the sated. One hid from the other. They ate behind closed doors so no one would see. However, in the atmosphere of self–centeredness, there were people who organized help for the hungry. To these belonged S. Safran, Ch. Zimand, B. Lifszic and others. However, their number was so small that in the created situation their help could only have a minimal effect.

The German defeat outside Moscow gave the Jews courage and hope. However, it did not have any effect on the hunger. The self–centeredness increased. They calculated how long the road back from Moscow would take and if they would be able to survive during that time. They began to keep things for themselves and not give anything to another person. People became swollen from hunger. They went out and searched on the pile of garbage. They ate whatever they could find. It was not rare to kill dogs and cats in order to avoid a deadly hunger.

At that time, new camps arose in the Zloczow area. Kozaki, Yaktoruv, Plew, Zarvanitsa, Olesko, Sasov. They demanded workers. The Judenrat again received the order and again it began to trade in people.

[Columns 195-196]

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The Ruins of the Synagogue “Yad Kharutzim” During the Holocaust

 

However, this time, the Herrn [Misters] Cwerling and Glanz had experience in their work and their appetites were so great, for what they did not want to say. They held to the principle: “If one eats pork let it pour out over the snout” and it ran over their snouts… The rich people brought them the most expensive gifts and poor people took their place in the camps. As the conditions in the new camps were no better than in Lackie, the majority of people did not last long there. Exhausted and hungry, they were not capable of work and the Germans did not need anyone who was incapable of work… Selections took place every day and hundreds of people were shot every day. Warzok was commandant of all of the camps in the Zloczow area and wherever he reigned, death reigned there.

The Jews had not yet washed their hands of the first contribution and they received a second one, larger than the first. The same procedure took place as with the first contribution. The Judenrat appraised, dunned and threatened. The Jews sold their last [possessions] and paid. Everyone believed that obeying the German would quiet him. However, it became apparent that these were false hopes. The German worked according to a systematic plan and, alas, his purpose did not remain a secret. After the success of breaking the morale of Zloczow Jewry, he began the physical annihilation. The first step was the aktsias [actions, usually deportations].

 

IV

Aktsias – The Death of Sh. J. Imber

Rumors arrived that the Germans were organizing aktsias [actions, usually deportations]. No one knew exactly what they were. Aktsia is an innocent word and it can be understood to mean whatever one wishes. Optimists said that they were taking people to work in Russia – pessimists, that they were being taken to a death camp, where soap and other useful articles were being made from the people. They could not imagine the exact the purpose of the aktsias; but it was clear to everyone that people were being taken away and that someone the Germans took away no longer returned. If the mass of people still had certain doubts about the matter, the Judenrat [Jewish councils appointed by and beholden to the Germans] was well informed as to what kind of aktsias and to what they led. Such aktsias already had been carried out in surrounding cities and the Zloczow Judenrat knew very well about them. It also was clear that Zloczow would not be spared. However, there were people who convinced themselves that the Zloczow Judenrat was empowered to do a great deal and as a result [could] also block the edict. Moshe Cukerhandl was successful in befriending the heads of the Gestapo, in bribing them and in delaying the aktsia. Understandably, this cost the Jews a great deal of money; however, this did not prevent the Germans from carrying out the aktsia a short time later.

On the 28th of August, the Judenrat received an order to present 2,700 souls. Panic arose among the population. They [the Judenrat] had to provide people from among them [the population] and give them into the hands of the hangmen. The Judenrat, which was ordered to carry out the aktsia, found itself in a repugnant situation. They had to decide: either work with the Gestapo at the aktsia or passively oppose it.

A small shtetl [town], Sasow, was located in the Zloczow area. When the Sasow Judenrat received an order to submit people, it warned the population and they escaped to the forest. When the Gestapo came, all of the houses were empty.

However, the Zloczow Judenrat lacked the courage to take such a step. They decided to cooperate at the aktsia. They convinced themselves that if the Judenrat took part, the aktsia would be carried out with compassion and they would have the opportunity to “fool” the German, that is, they would give away the inferior element of the city (the sick, the weak, the old) and save the young, the healthy and the intelligentsia. Time revealed how much a false calculation this was. Those, who sincerely believed in the opportunity their action [would provide] did not understand their naivety, that is, if “A,” one must also sooner or later say, “B.” For the mass of people, the decision of the Judenrat was a knife in the back. They thought of it as treason and it was that.

On the 28th of August 1942, the Tarnopol Gestapo arrived in Zloczow. The Ukrainian militia from the entire area was mobilized. All of the streets where the Jews lived were closed and attacked. The aktsia began.

[Columns 197-198]

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Discovery of a Mass Grave of Holocaust Victims

 

The Jews hid, some in an attic, some in a cellar and some in rooms. The murderers banged on closed doors everywhere. Since the murderers were no great heroes and since they were afraid to happen upon resistance on the part of the hidden, a representative of the Judenrat or of the Jewish militia had to accompany each group [of the murderers].

The Jews had to walk in front and open the Jewish houses and when this was of no help, they were given axes and they hacked open the doors. All of the Judenrat members took part in this shameful work. The only one who refused to [take part] was Dr. Majblum. The people were attacked without restraint during the aktsia. They tried to provide the designated quota as quickly as possible. (It should be said that one of those taking part in this aktsia, Dr. Gerber, still is alive and lives in Paris.) D. Landesberg, the commandant of the Jewish militia, promised Jewish children candy and thus induced them to go out to the street. B. Szapiro went to his woman friend, R. Rozenbaum; he knew that she had a small child. He did not leave until he found the child and he took it from the house. The chase for souls lasted two days. The victims were brought to the train station where they had to wait kneeling for the train wagons. They were not permitted to have any food or drink. During the wait for the train wagons, a number of those caught were freed due to their patronage. There also was no lack of cases of magnanimity, where people refused to be freed. Krancja Wajntraub was given the opportunity to leave the train wagon with the proviso that she must leave her child there. However, she decided to die with her child. There was a similar case of Etl Fodernacht, who did not want to leave her sick sister–in–law during the second aktsia.

Train wagons were provided on the third day. Two thousand seven hundred people were placed in the train wagons like cattle. So many people were pushed into each wagon, as many as could stand; there was no place to sit or to fall. There was no place for someone who fell ill. Those who died on the way had to stand hanging among the living. The transport went to Belzec near Rawa–Ruska. The newly installed crematoria waited at Belzec. Two thousand seven hundred hearts ceased to beat. Many tried to save themselves on the way by jumping out of the train. However, few of those who “jumped” were successful in saving their lives. A number of them fell under the wheels. Some were shot and some were given to the Germans by the peasants. It was said about Mekhl Trajber: he decided to take a chance with his wife and child. His wife jumped first; she fell down and did not move from the spot. He took his child on his back, tied it with a handkerchief and he jumped with the child. When night fell, he went to look for his wife. He found her in terrible condition, she did not recognize him; she had gone insane. With great effort he succeeded in bringing her to the city. They all perished during the liquidation…[3] …only ones who sprang from the train and survived until the liberation, were R. Szenker and her son.

The second aktsia took place eight weeks later, on the 2nd and 3rd of November 1942. This time the city had to provide 2,500 victims. The Judenrat provided them. Special emphasis was given to children during the second aktsia. The living children were packed into sacks and they were taken to the train in vehicles. The most precious Jew produced by Zloczow at that time, the poet Sh. Y. Imber,[4] perished during the second aktsia.

Sh. Y. Imber, the author of the book, Asy Czystej Rasy [Aces of a Pure Race], a publication of the journal Oyg Oyf Oyg [Face to Face], was born in Zloczow. In 1941 he was in Lemberg under the name Weiss and disappeared from there and settled in Gline, a small shtetele [town] where his mother–in–law's parents lived. He had to escape from there and he came to Zloczow. He hid with his brother–in–law, Dr. Hreczanik, in Zloczow. Dr. Hreczanik, who was director of the Jewish hospital, arranged for him to work with him. In his free time, Sh. Y. Imber wrote a great deal and he strongly believed that he would survive the difficult times. He would read his new creations to personnel and to the sick and, in so doing, encourage them. However, he [his work] could not be confined to the hospital society. It reached the city, where the Jewish masses lived, where a word of consolation was needed. The second aktsia found Sh. Y. Imber in the city. It was too late for him to enter the hospital because all of the streets were besieged by the murderers. Sh. Y. Imber hid in a cellar with his friend whose guest he had just been. The cellar was discovered and Sh. Y. Imber emerged to share the fate of 2,500 Jews from Zloczow who were taken to Belzec on the 3rd of November 1942. After his death, his friends gathered all of his manuscripts, hoping to publish them at some time. However, alas, all of his friends perished and, along with them, the literary treasure of Sh. Y. Imber.

 

V

Ghetto

Immediately on the first day, when the Germans occupied the city, the Ukrainians turned to them with a request that the Jews be enclosed in a ghetto.

[Columns 199-200]

However, the Germans did not yet consider this as necessary. It was still too early to create a ghetto and they did not yet have any instructions for this. They limited themselves to creating special houses, in which only Jews were permitted to live. The Jews had to leave the houses in which the majority of residents were Christian. The Jews were not permitted to appear in recreation areas or in gardens. They were not supposed to cross the threshold from [areas] designated for Jews. All of this was too little for the Ukrainians. They besieged the regime organs with pleas to create a ghetto. They [the Germans] paid no attention to them [the Ukrainians] for as long as it was not an actual question. However, this did not last long and instructions arrived to create ghettos in all of Galicia. The Ukrainians were full of joy. However, the Jews still convinced themselves that they would get around the edict. They bribed one official after another and the Jews were left alone for a time.

On the 1st of December 1942, the ghetto was closed. All of the surviving Jews were driven from all of the surrounding shtetlekh, such as Olesk, Bialy–Kamen, Sokolawka and so on. About 9,000 Jews were taken. These Jews were quartered with up to eight to 10 souls in one room.

The area occupied by the ghetto was very small. The ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by Ukrainian militiamen. There was the threat of death for crossing through the fence. However, there were many who risked their lives to obtain bread. The hunger, however, was greater than all of the orders. They risked their lives to obtain a bread or a few potatoes. It reached the point where they gave away their most expensive suit of clothes for a bread. The peasants knew to make use of the situation and to speculate on Jewish need. It was winter. There was no heating material in the ghetto. Hunger and cold was felt at every turn. In addition, the ghetto population had to endure great hardship from the members of the Gestapo and from their Ukrainian collaborators. Two members of the Gestapo, Zwillinger and Mury, particularly distinguished themselves. Their names already evoked feverish trembling from every Jew and from every Jewish child. They [the Germans] found their sadistic pleasure in the terrible torture of people and they particularly liked to beat naked women and children. As soon as they appeared in the ghetto street, the Jewish inhabitants hid in their residences and watched through their windows to see where they were going; everyone breathed with relief when they did not stop. Not everyone had the luck that Zwillinger and Mury would pass their house and not stop. My brother, Elye–Meir, said, “A Friday night is especially set in my memory; the Shabbos candles were burning on the table. News spread like a flash of light that Zwillinger was in the ghetto. This was enough for the Shabbos to be a sad one. We sat with fear in our hearts and waited for the joyful news that Zwillinger had left the ghetto. It was revealed that Zwillinger was visiting a certain woman, Gutfrajnd, who lay sick in the crisis stage of typhus with a temperature of 40° [C. – 104° F.]. Moans, screams reached us for an entire hour and then suddenly the voice stopped. We understood that the murderer had left the neighboring residence and I went to the sick woman. She lay naked on the ground; the window was open; the ground was wet from much water and the woman's small daughter stood crying and the blood ran from her. There were visible signs of beating on the body of the unlucky woman and her face seemed liked a bloody mask. When the woman was successfully revived, she said that Zwillinger carried out his beloved sadistic sport on her child and on her. He drove the sick woman out of bed, forced her to undress and to open the window; then she had to stand on a chair and the sadist poured ice–cold water over her for an hour and smacked her with a thick whip. He constantly warned her that if she stepped off the chair, he would inflict the same torture on her 11–year old daughter. The woman fainted after an hour and fell off the chair. However, this did not satisfy the sadist enough. When the mother lay on the ground, he carried out the same torture on the 11–year old child. When the mother came to and heard the crying of her child, she quickly stood up, took down the child and stood herself on the chair. When the woman fainted the second time, falling off the chair, Zwillinger finally left the room, convinced that the woman no longer was alive.” (Told by E.M.)

Thus the days and nights passed in eternal fear and in eternal trembling for their fate. Dozens of corpses were taken out of the ghetto each day. Among the corpses were the victims of German bestiality and victims of hunger. The corpses were the only ones who had the right to leave the ghetto. The boxes in which the wagon drivers took them were not searched because the Ukrainian militiamen were afraid of catching an illness. The wagon drivers used this fact that the boxes were not searched and smuggled potatoes and other produce into the ghetto in them [the boxes]. It was horrible. There was the threat of illness, but the people did not consider this. A typhus epidemic broke out in the ghetto.

 

VI

Typhus Epidemic

The typhus epidemic that broke out in the ghetto was not something new for the Jews. Only its scope was the greatest ever.

The first typhus epidemic broke out in the Lackie camp at the beginning of 1942. Three doctors worked in this camp: Dr. Jolek, Dr. Holenderski and Dr. Cigelman. They had an order from the camp managing committee not to permit the epidemic to spread. Warzog threatened that otherwise he would set fire to the entire ghetto with all its inhabitants. However, the doctors were not given any means in addition to the order with which to be able to protect the camp from an epidemic. Hunger and dirt brought catastrophe. The typhus epidemic broke out. The epidemic immediately covered a wide area. The doctors were overtaken by panic. They trembled for the fate of the entire camp. Dr. Jolek turned to the city hospital and to the Judenrat for help. He received an order to inform the camp managing committee about the epidemic. As the doctors Holenderski and Cigelman were already among the victims of the epidemic, it fell on Dr. Jolek to go to the murderers with the notice. This was considered certain death. Dr Holenderski asked Dr. Jolek to hide and he, Dr. Holenderski, would take on the mission. He, who no longer had anyone, wanted to make the sacrifice for a man who still had a wife and a child. However, Dr. Jolek did not agree to this. He said goodbye to his family and his acquaintances and went to the bandits to report about the epidemic. He had unexpected luck. Warzog, the murderer, had gone away and he was represented by someone who still possessed a spark of humanity.

[Columns 201-202]

He listened to the doctor in despair and promised him help in order to end the epidemic more quickly. (It is certain that this person was afraid that Warzog would hold him responsible for the epidemic and, therefore, he behaved well.) The sick were permitted to leave the camp. The sick were taken to the city where a large Jewish hospital was located. However, the hospital could not take in all of the sick, so two more houses were provided for this purpose. Dr. Jolek, who alone remained at his post, worked day and night. His work was very difficult. The people in the camp saw in the epidemic the only way that would get them out of the accursed camp. Healthy people lay with the sick, infecting themselves and thus with great effort reached [their goal] of being taken out of the ghetto. This was a hazardous way because many died immediately after leaving the gates of the camp. However, this did not frighten anyone. It then was clear to Jews that they had nothing to lose. Thanks to the heroism of the medical personnel and, particularly of Dr. Jolek, [and] thanks to the practical aid given by the Judenrat at that time the epidemic was fought successfully.

The typhus epidemic that broke out in the ghetto was worse. It spread at a rapid rate. The hospital immediately on the first day was overflowing with the sick. There was a lack of beds; [the sick] lay on the ground. There was a lack of space, so they lay in the corridors. The doctors Hreczanik, Jolek, Reichard, Zwerdling, Szalit, Thun, Flaszner went from room to room and brought help to the needy. It was said of the doctors Jolek and Reichard, that they would leave money for the patients to buy medicines. Berish Lifschutz, who worked in the apothecary outside the ghetto, helped in any way that he could to serve. He would take the most valuable and best medicines from the apothecary and give them to the ghetto. But this did not help much. It [the epidemic] led to the entire ghetto being transformed into one large hospital. There was no house skipped by the epidemic. The sick lay together with the healthy. It was difficult to protect a healthy child, who was located in one room with his sick mother, from coming in contact with her. The opposite was the same. One was a witness to the course of the illness; one was a witness to death and one could not help. The number of victims reached to 500 souls. The doctors were powerless. However, they did not leave the ghetto and provided help until the epidemic reached them personally and they were forced to leave their posts. The Zloczow medical workers are inscribed in the history of our city in golden letters and we, the survivors, will always remember them with gratitude. They brought help to our sisters and brothers at the most tragic moments of their lives. They courageously fought the typhus epidemic, which was one the great enemies of the ghetto Jew.

The only doctor who distinguished himself during that year and who survives to this day is Dr. Sh. Jolek. He left for the forest and became active as a doctor in various partisan groups several weeks before the liquidation of the camps. Since the liberation, he has worked in the Deggendorf [displaced persons] camp as hospital director.

 

VII

Ghetto Liquidation

The typhus epidemic consumed a considerable number of victims and ceased. The ghetto residents looked at the future with anxiety. They felt as if in a cage and they waited for the inevitable to happen. Anyone who had the opportunity to live outside the ghetto was among the fortunate. The belief arose that was later confirmed that the workshops located outside the ghetto that were valued by the Germans would temporarily not suffer the fate of those in the ghetto. People began to ask to be taken into the workshops, even into the camps. The supervisors understood how to make use of the situation and, therefore, took advantage. The Jews in Gebeck's firm felt safest. Gebeck, himself a German, showed compassion to the Jews and would help them in any way he could. When the situation grew even more strained, Gebeck agreed that the workers from the Schweiger firm and their wives would be quartered with him in the camp and thus protected them from danger. Dovid Zimand, the Jewish supervisor of the camp, feeling that he would not be able to take any money from the above mentioned workers, used his entire influence with the Germans to annul this [Gebeck's] decision. He succeeded. The people remained in the ghetto and later the majority of them paid with their lives. Lonek Cwerling, whose name requires no commentary, had the main word in all of the other workshops. Those who had money could count on his help. These events occurred a short time later. Shortly after the typhus epidemic, on the 2nd of April 1943, the last and most frightening chapter in the history of Zloczow Jewry occurred – the liquidation of the ghetto.

Engel, the well–known murderer and liquidator in the Galicia district, who was the representative of Katzman, the Lemberg and Tarnopol Gestapo [commander], came to the liquidation.

The ghetto was surrounded on the night of the 1st into the 2nd of April, as the Jews slept calmly, not sensing that danger was so near. Thus, the murderers made sure that no mouse could leave from there. All who were in the ghetto that night had to die. There were many from the camps and workshops who, by chance, were spending the night with their families in the ghetto and, therefore, they paid with their lives. In the morning the murderers accompanied by Jewish militia men went from house to house, drove the victims out of their beds and everyone, from young to old, was driven to the collection point which was located at the so called Green Market. The hunt was large. The victims were not given any time to dress. The mood of the masses on the 2nd of April was more apathetic, in contradiction to the panic that reigned during the pogrom and aktsias [deportations]. Few believed in the sweet promises of the Germans; they knew that this was the end – and yet they acted calmly…

The experiences of the last year so exhausted the people that they [no longer cared]. It was rare that someone started crying. Very few shouted. It was rare that someone asked for mercy. If they were afraid, it was not of death, but of the manner of death because no one could imagine what kind of death the Germans had thought up this time. The people stood for a long in the square and waited.

[Columns 203-204]

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The last way of the ghetto victims

 

It was a wet April day. It rained. The children clung to their mothers; old and sick people looked for support for their weary bodies and did not find any.

New people were brought from time to time. Those who already were here were resigned; those who had been at home still searched for an opportunity to hide to avoid a terrible fate. The German business leaders undertook trying to save their Jewish workers because they did not feel capable of running the enterprises but they were refused. The only one who succeeded in saving eight people was Schweiger. The men already were in place, but they did not want to leave without their wives. They decided to resign from the unit and to die with their wives. The Germans knew how to fool them, promising that the wives would be freed later. The men believed them and left the place. However, they never saw their wives again. B. Rosen and Mann also were given the opportunity to save themselves on the condition that they leave their wives. However, they did not accept this and went to their death with their wives.

Yoyl Lifszuc's wife acted with great dignity. She threw herself with her weak hands at an armed German who was leading her to death. A similar episode was told about Ewa Tinter–Rajcher, the teacher.

The murderers proposed to Dr. Majblum, the chairman of the Judenrat, the signing of a document that typhus was rampant at present in the ghetto, so the liquidation was necessary. Dr. Majblum refused to sign the document. Engel, the murderer, used every means: from sweet words and promises to threats and arguments with a riding crop. However, Dr. Majblum's decision was firm and he did not sign the document. Engel, seeing that [his plan] would not be carried out, murdered Dr. Majblum himself. (It must be remembered here that Dr. Majblum was the only [member] of the Judenrat who refused to take part in the aktsias.)

The marketplace was full of people. The Germans placed a basket into which the victims had to toss their money, watches, rings and other such items that they had with them. The Jewish militiamen saw to it that the order would be precisely carried out. The militiaman, Yosl Landau, was particularly brutal. He tore the rings from fingers with such brutality that blood began to flow from a number of victims. Trucks pulled up to the square. They began to load in the people. Up to 40 people on each truck. The trucks left in the direction of Yelekhovitse [Yelikhovichi]. The village of Yelekhovitse is four kilometers from Zloczow and is surrounded by forests. In the past it served as summer homes for the surrounding population.

During the month of April 1943 Yelekhovitse was the burial place for the Zloczow Jews. For two weeks the Russian prisoners dug three large pits in Yelekhovitse. The population saw them going to work every day with shovels. However, no one realized that they were going to dig graves for the remaining Jews. The trucks drove right up to the pits in Yelekhovitse. The victims were brought to the pits, forced to undress and to enter the pits. They had to stand in rows, close behind each other and, when the pit was filled so that the victims no longer could move, machine guns began to shoot at their heads. No one observed whether or not everyone had been shot. Therefore, it is no surprise that many people were buried alive. The peasants from the village said that the earth over the graves moved for several days after the executions and blood spurted out.

[Columns 205-206]

The dirt surrounding the graves was dug around in order to lessen the pressure from within the ground. The trucks worked without a break. People were taken to Yelekhovitse; bloodied clothing returned from Yelekhovitse. People in the workshops could see those closest to them taken to their death and could not help in any way.

The only witnesses who were present at the terrible Yelekhovitse massacre and survived were the dentist, I. Halpern, and Laya Cwerling–Frenkel. Warzog made a “joke” of the former, who was the camp dentist in Sasow. He asked him to take part in each procedure that the victims went through and, at the last minute, gave him a gift of his life. Laya Cwerling–Frenkel courageously escaped naked from the pit. She ran right into the forest. They shot after her but with luck the bullets did not reach her. Peasants of her acquaintance clothed her and hid her until the liberation. Another girl also escaped – the Czortkower [from Chortkiv]. However, her fate is not known.

The liquidation lasted two days. However, the Germans did not succeed in exterminating all of the Jews during those two days. A large number hid in the attics and in the cellars. However, the murderers were persistent. They searched each house separately and not futilely. They found new hiding places every day. The people were gathered and when a large transport was gathered together, they were taken to Yelekhovitse. They would have to wait three or four days. They were not given even a drop of water during this time. The murderers did not make allowances for any disorder. Hilel Safran had the opportunity to watch his parents and his entire family struggling with hunger and waiting for death. His 10–year–old nephew, A. Szpicer, called to him in tears: “Uncle, a little water!” – and he could not help.

Among others murdered during the days of the liquidation was Hersh Guttman, the prose writer. He did not submit to the liquidation, but when he was caught hiding women and children, he was taken away to the Yelekhovitse execution spot with them.

When the number of Jews caught began to decrease, the Germans decided not to take them to Yelekhovitse anymore. They would take them to the market near a wall and shoot them naked in front of the still surviving Jews.

The last victims would be shot at the cemetery. They had to dig their own pits and lie down in them.

The ghetto was destroyed; 6,000 Jews were murdered; only a small handful of Jews remained alive in the workshops and in the camps.

 

VIII

The Last Struggle

All of the hopes and illusions of the survivors were liquidated along with the 6,000 Jews. No one wanted to rely any longer on the justice of the Germans. The idea was ripe for the creation of a partisan organization and to escape to the forest. Two groups were organized: one under the leadership of F. Nachimowicz and the second under the leadership of H. Safran. F. Nachimowicz was an artist. He labored in the workshops. After the liquidation, the clothing of the annihilated ghetto Jews was washed and ironed in the workshops. Valuable items and money were found in some of the clothing. Weapons were obtained with the found money. When everything was ready, Nachimowicz and a group of 30 people entered the forest. They dug a bunker in the forest and the group was supposed to focus on life in the bunker. The entire plan was naןve and a fantasy and the initiators lacked experience and a knowledge of organization. After eight days, a peasant accidently knocked against the bunker. Sh. Frajman wanted to kill the peasant. Nachimowicz opposed this. He began a discussion with the peasant. The peasant, as all peasants, said that he was a friend of the Jews, praised the initiative of the group and promised them help. Nachimowicz believed him and was very pleased that he had succeeded in meeting such a good Christian. They released the peasant, but in any case, they began to dig a new bunker. They did not have to wait long. The peasant went straight to the Gestapo. The site [of the bunker] was surrounded. There actually were few people in the bunker. The majority were busy building the new bunker. Shooting started. However, the small group was powerless against the overwhelming number of members of the Gestapo. Despite this, they defended themselves to the last man. The last was S. Frajman. The murderers had to pay dearly for his life. They succeeded in shooting him in the end and thus invaded the bunker. However, their surprise was great when they saw how few “partisans” they had fought against and that the leader, Nachimowicz, was not among the dead. Warzog, the shturmfurer [assault leader – a Nazi paramilitary rank], who himself went to the forest, left a note to Nachimowicz in the bunker in which he guaranteed his safety if he returned to the camp. Nachimowicz, who was a weak type, lost his courage and returned. Warzog kept his word and Nachimowicz was given his life. The group was liquidated. Nachimowicz was taken to Lemburg to the Janow camp during the liquidation of the Lackie camp. He fell into the hands of the Gestapo during an unsuccessful attempt to escape.

Warzog, who was the commandant of Janow at that time, took bitter revenge on him. He [Nachimowicz] was tied to a pole and wild dogs were set on him. The dogs tore him apart and ate him alive.

The second group that was organized at the same time under the leadership of H. Safran had a wider and more serious membership. After the liquidation of the ghetto, engineer Hilel Safran had the idea to organize a partisan group. However, the situation was not yet ready enough and it was difficult to find people who would accept and be interested in the matter. Safran worked as an engineer at the German firm “Radebuele.” His work gave him the opportunity to always move everywhere freely. After the liquidation of the ghetto, he decided to realize his idea at any price. Bialystocki and Moskowicz, the Warsaw engineers who worked with him, approved of his plan and promised to help. Safran

[Columns 207-208]

stayed in contact with individual people from all of the workshops and from the surrounding camps. The people's task consisted of gathering trustworthy and combative people around themselves. The work evolved. The idea was warmly accepted and had a particularly good appeal among the young. They undertook the acquisition of weapons and ammunition. F. Rozen, G. Spodek and S. Grynberg received the task, sneaked into the armory and removed ammunition from it. Old Soviet ammunition was located in the armory to which the Germans gave no significance and, therefore, had abandoned. However, it was difficult for a camp person to enter [the armory] because the armory was located far outside the city. However, the three young men did not consider any difficulties and risked their lives. Under the cover of night, they sneaked into the armory and removed a considerable amount of weapons and grenades from it. They buried these objects in a forest not far from the armory. It remained for them to carry them into the city. H. Safran took this task upon himself because he could move around freely. Every day he went into the forest with his briefcase, dug up a few grenades and smuggled them into the city. Once he had the misfortune to meet Warzog, the hauptsturmfuhrer [Nazi paramilitary rank equivalent to captain]. He was accompanied by his beloved, the wife of a Czech engineer who had a good attitude toward Jews. Warzog immediately noticed that there were no papers in the briefcase, but something heavy. He stopped Safran and asked him what he was carrying in the bag. With luck, the woman noticed Safran's uncertain answer and decided to help him. She did not leave Warzog any time to discover the contents of the bag and quickly drew him away. Safran was saved. Izio Silber succeeded in making contact with a Christian who provided weapons for money. The weapons and ammunition were brought into the Radebeule building and hidden in clothing warehouses. Only a few people knew about this place. A committee of five people was created. Safran was at the head of the committee. A group of 50 men was organized that first had to take everything into the forest. New groups were supposed to be systematically organized. The fate of Nachimowicz's group became known in the middle [of the organizing]. This had a demoralizing effect and disrupted the plan. The people were controlled by despair and fearfulness. They gave up on this way out and they looked to save themselves with less risky means. However, Safran did not lose his courage and continued the work. He looked for contact with the Polish partisans. An officer with the Polish underground movement promised everything and betrayed Safran at the last minute. Safran made contact with the Ukrainian partisans. However, the people who were sent (two groups of six men) were attacked and murdered by them [the Ukrainian partisans].

It was decided that they would rely on their own strength to enter the forest. They chose the place and the date. Everything was prepared and exactly calculated. The auto that would take out the tools for the workers to the highway at 11 o'clock in the morning needed to take the weapons from the warehouse and take them to the forest that was near the highway. The driver was one of them [the group]. Everything was so well decided and planned that there could be no suspicion. A young man from Lemberg, who no one knew, worked in the block in which the warehouse was located. However, he did not have a good reputation and, therefore, the entire plan was kept secret from him. However, he had watched every step and it was clear that the man could cause harm. Safran was warned about him and, simultaneously, there were people who wanted to make this individual harmless. But Safran was against this. It was his opinion that the killing of a little German spy would arouse the watchfulness of the Germans and everything would be lost. This was a tragic error. This individual brought [information] about everyone to the Gestapo. The S.S. members unexpectedly organized a hunt for the committee members on the day on which the escape was supposed to take place. They succeeded in catching and arresting all five. The Gestapo demanded of the arrestees that they give a full list of their people. They refused. The murderers promised to give them their lives, but futilely, it did not help. They decided to die and not hand over anyone. They were locked in a cellar. Their comrades came to their aid. G. Horowicz succeeded in passing a tool to cut through the bars. However, Moshe Cukerkandl, the former Judenrat member mixed in and undid the entire plan. He always had had great success in extracting Jews from the Gestapo and promised that he would save these people. He assured them that he already had negotiated with the murderers and they had promised to free them. It is difficult to ascertain whether Cukerkandl was the one fooled by the Gestapo or if he deceived the victims. However, on the other hand, the arrestees were not inclined to escape because they were afraid that their escape would move the murderers to take revenge against the remaining Jews. They did not want to be the cause of a new slaughter and, therefore, they convinced their comrades that they believed the German promise. The next day, the arrestees were taken to the marketplace to a wall that was soaked through with Jewish blood. Two engineers, Bialystocki and Moskowicz, broke loose and escaped. The S.S. members shot at them. Hilel Safran, the third one calmly went to the wall and stood next to it. The murderers ordered him to take off his clothes; as an answer Safran threw himself on the rottenfuhrer [Nazi paramilitary rank, section leader] Sommer and threw him to the ground and, with a complete feeling of vengeful hate that had collected in him, began to strangle him. The struggle between the devouring murderer and the physically weak H. Safran took place in the blink of an eye and, when the latter succeeded in grabbing Sommer's revolver, a Ukrainian militia man shot H. Safran. H. Safran breathed out his soul. He left orphaned a wife and a small child.

The tragic death of the leader undid all the plans of the pugnacious Zloczow young. Only one way out remained: to save oneself with one's fists.

 

IX

The New Legend

A separate chapter in the history of the Zloczow Jews was the bunkers. The Jews saw in the bunkers the only possibility of saving themselves. However, the first bunkers were barely disguised and, therefore, easily discovered. Plans were worked out for underground bunkers. However, they required a great deal of work. In order for the bunker to be of value, it had to be deep and had to have a connection to the sewer system. Otherwise, there was no air and no water. The dirt that was turned out during the digging had to be taken out with pails and immediately concealed. The work had to be done at night because otherwise they could be observed. They guarded themselves even from the neighbors. During the liquidation, the Germans let in gas through the sewer pipes so that the Jews would have to leave their hiding places.

The bunker in W. Cukerhandl's house was one of the longest lasting. Despite the fact that it was not underground, it was well disguised and it was discovered only by chance. A Gestapo agent and his dog passed by; the dog smelled something and began tugging [the agent] toward the spot where the bunker was located. The Gestapo agent followed him. He understood that someone was hidden there. The Jews shot from the bunker and wounded the German. The commandant was alerted.

[Columns 209-210]

The militia arrived with machine guns. They surrounded the block; the machine guns were placed on the surrounding roofs. The Jews in the bunker decided to defend themselves. They had in their possession one weapon and a small amount of ammunition. The struggle was hopeless and yet they decided to carry on to the last cartridge. A large number of the besieged Jews had poison. They took the poison, not wanting to fall into the hands of the Germans. However, the doses were very small and the victims did not die, but struggled in terrible pain. They made an end to their suffering with the last remaining bullets. The survivors started a chase over attics and roofs and the Germans followed them. Only three people from the entire group successfully saved themselves from death: Merkac, Krautstick and Sigal; everyone else was murdered. The Germans also left a few dead during the struggle with the heroic group.

The largest bunker that held out until the liberation was the Sztrazler bunker, in which 22 people were saved. Wilo Freiman was found in the bunker in addition to the 22 survivors. Wilo Freiman was murdered in this bunker. Which of the 22 people and under what conditions the murder was carried out has not been cleared up to this day. A large number of Jews, who had money and acquaintances, hid with peasants. However, most of the peasants cheated the money from the Jews and then murdered them. A small percentage of the Zloczow Jews obtained Aryan documents and thus saved their lives.

Those who did not have any money and yet yearned for life went into the forest. Because of the anti–Semitic feelings of the Ukrainian partisans (the so called Banderowces [members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists led by Stepan Bandera]), very few successfully survived. The majority were murdered in the forest or died of hunger.

The liquidation of all of the camps took place on the 23rd of August, 1942. The aktsia was carried out without delay, as brutally as all of the earlier aktsias. The liquidator was the well–known murderer of Jews, [Josef] Grzymek. He took the place of Warzog who at that time was nominated as the commandant of the Janow camp in Lemberg. During this liquidation, a group of prisoners in the Lackie camp staged a resistance. However, the resistance was immediately broken by the overwhelming strength of the Germans.

The poet, Arie Szrenzel (author of the book of poems, Der Kas [The Anger]) was murdered on the 20th of Tammuz 5703 [23 July 1943]. Arie Szrenzel worked in the workshops. The heavy physical labor interrupted his literary activity. He perished during the liquidation of the camps.

A small group of well–qualified workers was taken to Lemberg to the Janow camp that was liquidated on the 20th of November 1943. The gifted painter and caricaturist, Mendl Reif (known from the satirical journal, Szpilki [Pins]), was among other Zloczow Jews in the Janow camp who perished.

The city was liberated from the German occupation on the 13th of July 1944. However, the liberation came too late for the Jews. In the city where Jewish cultured had blossomed for many generations, in the city in which every street, every house, every stone had breathed with specific small town yidishkayt [Jewish way of life], in Zloczow, the Jewish city, there were no longer Jews.

The small handful of surviving Jews who, on the first days [after the liberation] found themselves drawn to Zloczow, “their Zloczow,” were disappointed and immediately ran from there. It was no longer the city about which they had dreamed and for which they longed. The old houses of prayer were no longer there, nor were the Jews who would find consolation in them; the “An–ski” club with its literary evenings was no longer there, no Jewish library and there were no more readers of Jewish books. The Yiddish and Hebrew schools were no longer there and no children who needed them. The city was dead; Jewish Zloczow had disappeared.

What remained? The center of the city was burned out, empty brick buildings in the former ghetto. In the middle of the former cemetery, were several headstones of the Zloczow tzadikim [righteous ones], behind which was found the headstone of the great Tzadik and gifted man, Ohr Chaim.

The ghetto walls reminded one of death and ruin; the remaining headstones told of the power and about the timelessness of Jewish culture and of Jewish spirit.

For those who were not in Zloczow after the Holocaust and for those who did not see the headstone, it echoes as only a distant legend; those who were there know that this is not a legend, but the truth.

The Germans obliterated the Zloczow cemetery. All of the headstones were removed and the earth was smoothed over. An ohel [structure built over the grave of a prominent person] stood in the middle of the cemetery and the grave and the headstone of the great Ohr Chaim was in the ohel. The surprise of the Germans was great when they noticed the stones with which the ohel had been constructed and the headstone did not surrender to the sharp iron. The Germans unsuccessfully used every means. The stones were only slightly damaged but they remained in place. They returned several times to this headstone, but each time they saw that the headstone would not move from its place. Ohr Chaim's headstone and those of other tzadikim remained standing.

The countless Zloczow legends were joined by one more and this was the last one. It is difficult to say what will happen to the few Jewish headstones on the extensive Zloczow field [cemetery] in a city where there no longer are any Jews. However, they will be a symbol to the survivors, which the remnant of Zloczow Jewry will never forget. The headstones will not be forgotten nor will thousands of Zloczow Jews who died with pride al Kiddush haShem [as martys, in the sanctification of God's name] and in sanctification of the [Jewish] people. Hilel Safran, Ch. J. Horn and hundreds of other simple men of the people who during the horrible years demonstrated [an ability] to rise above their personal interest, wrote themselves with golden letters into the history of the Jewish people

* *
*

The names of the traitors and of all the timid people, who dealt with Jewish souls and handed them over to the devils, are covered with eternal shame.

Among the survivors are found people with doubtful reputations. The commandant of the ghetto militia, Steinwurcl, is alive; J. Landau, M. Alsztok, Karger, J. Chotiner, Halpern, W. Kirszen, Keller and Kin are alive. Shameful accusations are presented against many of those listed. It is not in my competence to judge how many of the accusations are correct and how far the responsibility of the accused reaches. It is a serious and complicated problem and it [must] be considered with the greatest impartiality.

It is the task of all of the people listed to stand before a Jewish communal tribunal. Only such a tribunal can have the right to condemn them or to rehabilitate them.

At the same time, it is particularly the task of all surviving Zloczow Jews to compel all of those who, out of compassion, do not want to place them before a tribunal to do so.

In Europe or in America, in Eretz–Yisroel or in Santa Domingo, wherever they are found, they need to be drawn to their responsibility. Whoever is innocent should be rehabilitated; the guilty need to be punished.

End


Translator's Footnotes:

  1. In the source text, a piece of opaque tape has been placed over the words represented by the three dots and they cannot be read. Return
  2. The author is using irony in his descriptions of “refined work” and “nobles” and so on. Return
  3. The corner of page 21 is missing and part of the sentence is missing. Return
  4. Shmuel Yakov Imber was the nephew of Naftali Herz Imber who wrote the lyrics to Hatikvah – now the national anthem of the State of Israel. Return

 

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