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[Page 183]

Part V

Holocaust and Destruction


All your enemies have opened their mouths against you
(Lamentations 2:16)


The Ghetto in our Shtetl
(reported by eyewitnesses)

By Avraham Fisher (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

The Germans, may their names be blotted out, gathered together all the Jews from the town in one corner of the town, that is, in the area that lies from the sacred spot through the Jewish street, the whole length of the community, and in breadth from the market to the pharmacy on Wishili. That was the ghetto in Boiberke. In the ghetto of Boiberke were not only the Jews of Boiberke but also those from the towns and villages around Boiberke, such as: Strelisk, Mikolayew, Brodowic, Pidhordiszecz, Wibraniwka, and so on. Aside from members of the Jewish Council [the Judenrat] and the police, no one had the right to be outside of the ghetto. People lived in the ghetto in this way until the second liquidation, which happened on December 8, 1942.

The third liquidation occurred on Tuesday, the eighth of Nisan, 5703 (April 13, 1943). On that Tuesday, at 5 in the morning, the Germans, may their names be blotted out, surrounded the ghetto with machine guns and started shooting. The Germans, with the help of the Jewish police, assembled all the inhabitants of the ghetto in the open space near the shul and issued an order that ten healthy men should step forward. Ten healthy men volunteered and the Germans took them away to Wolowa in order to dig a grave.

They also set up two large chests near the shul and they ordered anyone who had anything of value or photographs to put them into the chests. The Jews did so. Then the Germans divided the people into two groups: healthy young people on one side (the left) and the old, the ill, and the children on the other (the right). The latter group was taken by trucks to Wolowa. There they were ordered to undress and descend into the graves. They were all machine-gunned–including those who had dug the graves.

The 159 who were fit for work on the left side waited until the trucks returned with the clothes of the murdered martyrs. The 159 young people were loaded in with the clothing and taken away to Lemberg, to the Yanover work camp. Of the 159, only 4 survived (Mottle Ehrlich, Moyshe Ehrlich, Moyshe Nas, Yossl Fogl).

The German murderers did all of this with malicious devotion and with Germanic attention to detail. All of these exterminations took place on Tuesdays.

In Wolowa, many Jews from other cities in Galicia were also killed, Jews who had escaped from earlier exterminations by jumping from the death trains. They tried to hide in the Boiberke ghetto and were thus killed with the Jews of Boiberke.

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The Szwirsz Forest
(Recounted by Eyewitnesses)

by Avraham Fisher

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

In the Szwirsz Forest, a handful of Jews hid out–from Boiberke, from Premishl, and from the surrounding villages. The first ones who fled to hide in the woods were Moyshe Karton's four sons: Chaim Karton, Itchi Karton, Yisroel Karton, and Hirsch Karton. Moyshe Karton, aka Krezil's Moyshe, was a wealthy man with a stately appearance. He was an ox merchant and a fervent Stretiner Chasid who often came to Boiberke not only for the fairs but in order to see the Stretin rebbe R. Yitzchak Eizik, z”l. Moyshe Krezil's also hid in the woods, but he tried to go back to the city to take care of matzo for Pesach–the last Pesach–and the killers put an end to his life (may God avenge his blood).

Hirsch Karton (may God avenge his blood) was killed by Polish hooligans in Cracow shortly after the liberation. The other three brothers, Chaim, Itchi, and Yisroel, now live in New York.

Other Jews joined the Karton brothers in the woods. In the woods there were also partisans who fought the Germans behind the front lines. But not everyone in the woods belonged to the partisans; a couple of Jews belonged to them until the liberation. But everyone who lived in the woods, in order to exist, had to have a weapon. The body had needs–one had to eat. Concerned over provisions, one had to go to the Gentiles in the villages to buy food. Or they had to steal. And if he went without a weapon, he was in danger. Either the Gentile would kill him himself or turn him over to the Germans for a reward.

To the woods also came several Jews who had escaped from the Yanover camp. When they saw that the camp was about to be liquidated and its Jewish inhabitants would be killed, they realized that had nothing to lose, so each one thought up a way to escape from the camp. Their goal was to get to the Szwirsz Forest.


“Is this the city the men called the perfection of beauty?”
(Lamentations 2:15)


There were no longer any Jews in Boiberke. So they had to flee–Mordechai (Motl) Ehrlich and his brother Moyshe, Eliyahu (Eli) Fuchs (who did not survive until the liberation–he died in the forest), Yosef (Yossl) Fogel, Moyshe Nass, and a certain Nebl (who was not from Boiberke). In the forest they encountered some other Jews–Shmerl Bergman and his family, Moyshe Vasser–from whom they learned how to survive in the woods. In the woods, everyone had to have a bunker, that is, an underground hiding place, or, to put it plainly, a hole, because the Germans would go searching for the few remaining Jews. Each bunker had to be covered and well-hidden so that no one could see that it concealed people. The hole also had to have a tunnel, an exit, for escape in case of danger when the bunker was covered.

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Because those killers could not rest lest they find a living Jew under the ground. The will to live was very strong, and people hoped to survive until the liberation.

When the Russians arrived in Boiberke, some Jews from the forest went into the city. There they found some Jews who had been hidden by Gentiles. These were: Leibush Yaget and his wife and three children Yitzchak (Itchi) Ziegler with his wife and child, Shmuel Ziegler's wife and children (Eizik, Reuven), Menachem Manek) Krauthammer, Chaim Gimpel, and Leib Kaminker. From their hiding places in the city–the cellars, the attics, the bunkers–nothing else remained. Only the few Jews in the woods survived, along with those hidden by Gentiles.

The others appear to have gone to Wolowa to the graves of our tortured martyrs who were killed by the German murderers. On the eighth of Nisan in 5703, all the Jews of the holy community of Boiberke were murdered in a barbaric fashion, men, women, and children, may God avenge their blood.

The survivors made a fence, a fence of wood, around the grave and said kaddish before they left the city. It appears that the fence exists no longer. Our murderous neighbors not only helped the Germans in their bestial deeds, but they also took over the possessions of the victims, their houses, and their very last possession, the wooden fence.


Alvail: A mother mourns her child


Standing from right to left: Pearl Schuster, Chinke Krieger (now in Canada), Simma Redlich;
Sitting from right to left: Chanah Baer, Basha Krater (in New York), Sherke Krater (group leader), a guest, Rachtshe Fuchs


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by Yehudit Altman

Translated by Regina Russak

Gone! No more the beloved people from long ago. So grand in their simplicity, humility, so devoted in their readiness to help all those in the throes of great stress.

Gone! No more our devout fathers, who observed the holy Sabbath, and with so much soul extended the final meal of the Sabbath (the “third meal”) until almost night time, until it was time to make “havdalah” (the lighting of the candle denoting the end of the Sabbath).

Gone! No more our devoted dedicated mothers who would not light a candle at the end of the holy Sabbath before there were three stars visible in the sky, and until they did, they whispered in the silence of the twilight, the warm prayer to the “G-d of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Guard your dear people of Israel against all evil”. “Better the bitter page from G-d, than a bitter page from man. Heavenly Father bless me not to have to go to people for help”.

I still remember today so well, her sweet words of this heartfelt prayer, although so many years have passed since then.

No more is there my little mother who prayed with so much devotion and so much heart, for her husband and children, for her brothers and sisters and their households, for everybody, all the People of Israel, she thought of everybody in her prayer. Oh dear G-d, where did all these prayers vanish?

Gone, gone are father, mother, no more father-in-law, mother-in-law and all the others so dear to us forever gone. Not there, even the graves where I could cry my heart out, and cry over your pure clean souls. How can I bend down and tell you that the world is not as it used to be in those quiet times? Life today is so hard, and cruel and the people are often bad and rotten.

Gone! Time is gone with you, the cleanliness, the wonderfulness of the Sabbath, the good feelings of holidays.

Year after year we light commemorative candles for our dear parents, sisters and brothers, relatives, near ones and far ones and friends of blessed memory.

The flames are flickering on the soul-like candles. Slowly, drops are falling like big human tears, our lips whisper name after name, names that time did not erase from our memory. Names of those who have gone before their time, even though they had so much faith and hope in their hearts, such powerful will to endure everything and survive.

Here I see before me the little house of the Boiberke ghetto (the little house in the city where I was born and grew up) and in the yellow light of the dim cool oil lamp, there is the reflection of emaciated faces, and in a corner stands my dear mother (may she rest in peace) and with a shaking hand she cuts bread, everybody's eyes are riveted to the round brown little loaf. The mother, the eternal good mother, may she rest in peace, she would give everything away, she would not begrudge, but one must divide small little pieces, and hide the rest for later or tomorrow, and the tomorrow never came anymore. My dear sweet mother, it seems I have just spoken with you. It seems to me you wanted to tell me something unfinished, they tore you away, so brutal, so murderous.

The murderers made a joke of it: they placed you beside our dear father as if to lead you to the wedding canopy. And with one bullet out of their gun, they shot you both.

Gone. No more the pious mothers, the dear sincere fathers torn away from young, not yet grown children, thrown under the ground. With shaking hands we light every year on the day of memory, we light many memorial candles, and our lips whisper in quiet pain, name after name which time has not erased from our hearts. From the candles drip slowly, hot paraffin, drops like hot tears.

“Yisgadal veiskadash shmei rabah”


Truly you were burned in fire

(from a lament written by Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg after hundreds of copies of the Talmud were burned in Paris in 1242)


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The Experiences of our Shtetl
from the First of July, 1941, until the Thirteenth of April, 1943

by Mordechai Ehrlich (from Strilke)–New York

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

On July 1, 1941, the Germans marched into Boiberke. You must understand that the Germans were discreet and did not appear in the streets. Soon bands of Ukrainians arrived, peasants from the surrounding villages, and they began to drag Jews out from their hiding places. The Gentiles beat their victims to death with sticks or they burned them alive. So on that day, 42 souls perished at the hands of the Ukrainians. Mostly those who suffered on that day lived on Bathhouse Street (Ulica Batorego). Killed on that day in such a terrible fashion was Shmerl Treger. Moyshe Messing (the son of Froyim Messing) was burned alive by the Ukrainians.

On July 20, the Ukrainian commander issued an order that all Jews should gather in the market at noon. Anyone who did not obey would be shot. A number of Jews went into hiding, but many others assembled in the market, where the Nuremberg Laws were read to them–that all Jews, large and small, must wear a band marked with a Star of David–it had to be 8-10 centimeters wide. Any Jew found without such a band would be shot on the spot.

On the same day, the Jewish Council [the Judenrat] was formed, headed by Dr. Schlechter. In the morning, the Jewish Council received a demand for a tribute of 2,000 marks. And there was another order, to present a variety of goods, clothes and furniture. Disobeying this order was punishable by death. Understand that everything had to be carried out.

Meanwhile, everything had come to a halt. No one worked or did business. People had nothing to live on. People who had lived from hand to mouth simply died from hunger.

In the middle of October, 1941, the commandant of the Koriwicz camp came and demanded twenty people for labor in the camp. At that time, no one in the camp had been shot. This was still at the beginning, and fear was not rampant. The Jewish Council called for young men, not yet married, and asked them to volunteer. Since hunger was so common and the Jewish Council had tried to help the elderly with a little bread, the poor young men volunteered to go to the labor camp at Koriwicz.

Hunger was terrible. A hundred kilos of potatoes cost 1000 zlotys, and even at that price the Gentiles would not sell for money. They demanded merchandise or clothing. And even this had to be done covertly, for Jews were forbidden to have contact with the Gentile world, and buying food was forbidden. People traded a shirt for a potato.

The Germans conducted a second raid on chol ha-mo'ed Pesach of 1942. People were seized in the street and they were sent to the labor camp at Koriwicz. Seventy-two Jews were seized, but they did not survive for long, because in the camp, eighty-five percent of them were shot.

In the summer of 1942, hunger grew worse. People were swollen from hunger and fell in the streets like flies. People plucked grass and nettles to eat. Every day, eight to ten people died of hunger. Yosl Dotz and Mordechai Herbst took to burying the dead, whom people gathered in wheelbarrows and brought to the cemetery.

At that time the Germans expelled all the Jews

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from the surrounding villages and gathered them all in Boiberke. Be assured that the tumult and the anxiety were enormous. Three to four families lived in every apartment.

Then came the first Aktion. This was on Tuesday, 5 Elul, 5702 (August 8, 1942). At six in the morning, the German and Ukrainian killers surrounded the city and ordered the Jewish Council to be sure that by 9 a.m. all the Jews had to be assembled at the square of the Polish church (across from the post office). People could bring little with them because they were being “transferred” to a new place for labor. But people knew they were being taken to extinction. A number of people tried to escape. Thus Yopsl Zimmer and other young men began to run to the cell of the Polish priest, but they were immediately shot.

At that time I was a neighbor of Eli Fuchs. In his house was a bunker where Hersh Engelberg and David Willig lived. The whole group were in the bunker, whose entrance was covered over with laundry. I was out in the street and I saw how people were being taken to the Polish church square. Everyone had to sit on the ground with their hands behind their heads. It was a terribly hot day. Their lips and tongues were parched. People fainted for a bit of water. At around four, Munia Maybloom and Motl Lehrer came with some water. Then the SS selected 42 healthy men, I among them, and freed us.

We must remember that the SS killers had ordered the Jewish Council and the Jewish police to search for bunkers, to break into them, and to seize the people in them. In Boiberke there was a healthy young man. He was the gravedigger for our town. For more income, he was also a porter. He was a fine, upright person. His name was Zechariah Shtrum. He was a member of the Jewish police. When the SS killers had given their order, that those who dragged people out of bunkers could remain alive with their families, this Zechariah and his family were among the first to go to their deaths. He would not help to locate hidden Jews.

What happened on that Tuesday, the crying and screaming of women and children, are all indescribable. About 1500 people were gathered in the square, many of them from my family--my dear parents, my beloved grandfather, my uncles Moyshe, Leibish, and Berl, my sisters and their families, and my aunt Chanah and her family.

My grandfather, R. Sender Ehrlich (from Strilke) had been brought. He lived with his son Leibish in Duvid Erden's house. He was 104 years old and did not want to get dressed. He begged them to shoot him in bed. He wanted to lie in the cemetery next to his son Duvid. He had long ago paid the community for a gravesite.

The killers showed him no mercy. Naked, in just his shirt and underwear, he was laid in a cart and taken with other Jews to the train, packed in wagons, and sent off to Belzec.

On that same day, the dearest people of our town were taken away. What transpired in the wagons was told by Sholem Rak's son, who jumped from the moving train not far from Belzec and returned to Boiberke. Also in the wagon was the beloved citizen and prayer leader R. Lipa Fenster, the son-in-law of R. Chaim Katz. “Dear Jews,” Lipa Fenster said, “we are going to our deaths. Just as I have prayed with you for so many years on the Days of Awe, so let us pray this last time.” And this last time, R. Lipa Fenster recited with them the “Un'ethaneh Tokef” prayer.

After this Aktion, broken families remained. Lone men, lone women, and children bereft of fathers and mothers. Those who remained had no idea why they remained. They no longer wanted to live. About 1500 people remained, but hunger tortured and burned, and they went around like living corpses. There was no help. The sun shone, and in the fields the wheat grew. It was harvest time. A little girl from the village of Kalihora went into a field for a few ears of corn. Along came some German killers in a carriage. They tied the ten-year-old girl to the carriage and urged on the horses until the child gave up her innocent young soul. A twelve-year-old boy (the son of Hirsch Leibn) picked a green onion, so the German police shot him. Young Gedalish Zimmer came from Lenke with five kilos of potatoes, so the Germans shot him by the gate of the cemetery (where they had caught him). Many people were killed in this way for seeking food.

Anxiety reigned in the ghetto. All the Jews from the nearby towns and villages were packed into our ghetto--from Brozdowic, Strelisk, Wibroniwika, Mikolayev. The Jews from

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Pidhordishec and Hariniw the Gentiles killed in the Hariniw stoneworks on the day of the Germans' arrival. The Germans, may their names be blotted out, were so evil. But our Ukrainian Gentiles were much worse than the Germans. But the world forgets. Many of those Ukrainian killers are now scattered around the world, with no consequences, as though nothing had happened.

The second Aktion occurred in December of 1942. People had predicted it and so were in hiding because they had better bunkers. Most of the people who were taken away were Jews from the surrounding towns and villages; they were still with their whole families. The city people were solitary, remnants of families. This time the Jewish Council and Jewish police were all taken. They were packed into wagons and taken away. People jumped from the wagons. They said that the did not want to see their children killed before their eyes.

Then came the third Aktion. This was called the liquidation. On the eighth day in Nisan, the 13th of April, all of the Jews were taken from the ghetto and brought to a spot near the shul. I was among those gathered there, along with my beloved wife Esther (the daughter of Tzal Deiksler, whom I will not forget until my final day) and with our two dear children, Rochel and Toibe. We all sat on the ground. Nearby sat Rochtshe Engelberg with her daughter, to whom she said, “My dear daughter, we are lost.” Her daughter was quite pretty. Six months earlier a Gentile boy from Lanek who worked for the city of Lemberg offered to rescue her if she would marry him. Her mother, Rochtshe Engelberg, told him that her fate would be the fate of all the Jews. Thus did our Jews sacrifice their dearest ones as martyrs.

Also sitting near us were the wife of Duvid (Dana) Willig with her two children, Chanale and Willi, both students at the gymnasium. Chanele was sixteen, very pretty. Willi, the son, I had recently brought back from the Yanover work camp in Lemberg. I risked my life to bring him back from Lemberg to Boiberke, along with my father-in-law, Avraham Deiksler, and Gimpel from Sokoliwka. But all was in vain, On April 13 we were all taken again to the Lemberg camp and all was lost. In the camp there was great hunger. Hersh Engelberg sold his only coat for a piece of bread, even though it was so cold. I wanted to give him a couple of zlotys, but he refused. He just wanted to die. In the seven weeks that I spent in the camp, there were two Aktions. The first was on May 9, 1943, when a thousand people were taken. Many were our townspeople, among them, as I recall, Duvid Rapp, Fishl Kleinman (from the court), and Tuviah Langrat (the son of Moyshe Kutzin), and Selig Rapp's son-in-law from Glina (I have forgotten his name), and many others,

The second Aktion in the camp came, if I remember correctly, on 26 May 1943. They shot about 6000 Jews at the mountain in Yanover. In the days of the Aktion, no one was sent out to labor aside from the men in my brigade, which consisted of ten healthy workers. We had a good brigade leader, a certain Sommershteyn from Lemberg. Every day we would go outside the city in a truck in order to accompany an SS man who had only one hand. We saw how they took Jews to the Yanover mountain. The Jews would jump from the trucks and the SS men shot them on the spot. All of Yanowska Street was covered with Jewish corpses. The SS man who was with us said that all Jews would meet this end. To this our brigade leader responded in Polish, “It would be best if you fled, but where could you go?” I knew that I had a brother in the camp, so I went back there. I found devastation there. Of the ten thousand people in the camp, they had shot five thousand at the mountain. But I did find my brother Moyshe with a group of fellow citizens. My brother and I discussed escaping from the camp; and if we could not do so together, we would meet at a Gentile's place near the Strikle woods, not far from Szwirsz.

My brother was young, twenty-one years old. He had been a mechanic at the Lemberg train station. Since he spoke good Ukrainian, like a Gentile, and had a dark complexion, he came to the Gentile about whom we had spoken. But I was in the Lemberg ghetto because I had discussed with Yehoshua Safran's son that we should hide in a truck that would take us to the Hlibitshok woods, about twenty kilometers from Lemberg, at about 10 p.m. To our misfortune, our driver changed his mind.

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Around midnight, the Lemberg ghetto was surrounded and the liquidation began. What we saw there is beyond description. Human brains were scattered as if in a slaughterhouse.

We had to try to get out through the canals. Thousands of Jews were there. The Ukrainian police stood with dogs at every opening and seized everyone who tried to get out. We were a group of five men and one woman, and we lay there for five days: two men from Lodz, a man and his wife from Stanislaw, Yehoshua Safran, and me.

Early Shabbos on June 10 we saw that we could no longer stay there, and since we had nothing to lose, we went up to the covering of the canal and out into the street at the corner of Kochanowska, near the Szelona toll house. The day was beginning and the peasant women were taking milk to the market. At about 4:30 in the morning, we entered the Sechowa woods. The man and his wife went to a Gentile to hide, and we, four men, went via the woods to Strilke. There we had to wait for my brother Moyshe. We were very thirsty. We begged a peasant woman to give us a glass of water for 100 zlotys. She told us to wait. But we realized that she had gone to summon someone to betray us, so we got away. At night we went across the Shalamina mountain. There we drank water from the river. Our feet were swollen from walking for so long because we had to follow unfamiliar paths through the woods. We had to go into the Wolowa woods, and going through Wolowa we came across the grave of our martyrs. Eventually we managed to get to the Gentile where my brother Moyshe was supposed to be waiting for me. There the Gentile told me that my brother had gone to another Gentile at the Szwirsz woods. There one of the Karten boys came to take him to his bunker, so we also went to Stefan in the Szwirsz woods. A great surprise awaited us. On our arrival, we met Itche Karten, shaved, fresh, well-dressed and in fancy boots. We could not comprehend this, since we were tattered, downtrodden, filthy.

Itche Karen quickly took us to his hiding place. He revived us a bit, and after a couple of days, we could go out into the woods. I must stress that the Karten brothers from Szwirsz, Moyshe Krezel's children, had organized everything. Thanks to them, we all survived.

In truth, we all suffered greatly in the woods. People pursued us, and we had to flee from one bunker to another. Our lives in the woods for sixteen and a half months cannot be described; and it was not our cleverness that preserved us. We have to ascribe it to inexplicable fate, to, as people say, Heaven. Because none of the survivors thought we had any interest in continuing to live in such a wicked world, having lost all of their close relatives and acquaintances, but one could not just go out naked and be shot. I would like to give examples from the final four weeks that I spent in the woods together with Moyshe Karman and his child, with Nachum Schleider, Moyshe Feiner, Leib Kaminker, and his brother. We were very divided for the last couple of weeks because the Ukrainians were after us. One of our bunkers was in the Strilke woods and the pleasant Szwed would bring us food, so the Ukrainians shot him. His wife, Kashke Szwed, went to a village near Szwirsz–they earlier lived outside of the woods–so we had nothing to eat.

Interestingly, when I got to the woods, Abramtsche Leider from Szwirsz was there and came to see me. He proposed to me that a peasant was prepared to hide me for five thousand zlotys. My heart told me not to go, although the Karten brothers urged me to. The two young people from Lodz and Yehoshua Safran's son accepted the deal and went to the Gentile. After two weeks they were discovered with the peasant, and they were all shot on the spot–including the peasant. Was this a divine fate?

Around the tenth of July we could no longer hide out. We were hungry, covered in filth, and we could not hide from the third plague in Egypt [that is, from lice]. It was very hot and the flies bit without mercy, so we said, “Let us leave the woods for a bit and see what's happening in God's world.” As we left the woods, we saw two Ukrainian killers dragging Mrs. Szwed so that she could show them where our bunker was. She was screaming so that we could hear her voice. We went back to the bunker. Moyshe Karmen was there with his son (who is now a doctor in Melbourne, Australia) and we all fled.

Ten days later we were liberated. The woman then told us how she had been taken to show where we were. She went with them too


The stone shall cry out of the wall
(Habakkuk 2:16)

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two bunkers, but we were not there. Was this not fated from Heaven? I could tell many other such episodes. This is not easy. It hurts my heart to recount and to write.

I will now describe an Erev Yom Kippur in the woods in 1943. Zelig Fluss had obtained two pieces of candles, how I do not know, probably from a peasant. In the woods we bent down a tree and attached the candles to a branch. An older woman with us (I no longer remember her name–this was over twenty years ago) said the blessing over the candles and our cries reached the heart of the heavens. Yeshayah Feffer, who now lives in Ra'anana in Israel, was the only one who had a tallis and part of a Siddur, and he recited Kol Nidre as we all repeated it, weeping so much that the next day when the Jews went out to eat, the peasants told us they could hear the crying in the village.

It is worth remembering and contemplating that when the Germans came, there were still Jews in the villages, while in the city, hunger reigned, because the Gentiles would not sell us food, so almost everyone went to the villages and the Jews there provided whatever food they had to the Jews. They gave whatever they owned–milk, potatoes, barley, bread. Whatever they had, they shared with the city Jews. This lasted until the Jews were forced out of the villages and into the ghettos. In the ghettos they starved like all the other Jews and swelled up like them.

I must conclude. It is 4 a.m. My heart cries within me. I can write no more. It was a horrible time. The world forgets what they did to us, and Jews forget. Even the people who took part forget. The world is a foolish, jealous placed. Everyone just cares about acquiring more money.

Sadly, I, too, am one of these foolish people. Those who experienced all of these things are no longer young. They are older than they should be. But they live with the hope that for our children, for the younger generation, we will build new heavens in the old-new land of our ancestors. And in the few years of life that remain to us, we should live together with all of our people in Israel–Amen.

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by Yehudit Altman–Yenta Meller
(native of Boiberke, Petach Tikvah)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

GONE! No longer the generous, loving people from the past, so great in their simplicity and modesty, so devoted in their readiness always to help anyone in the spirit of self-sacrifice.

GONE! No longer our observant fathers, who, with the greatest care celebrated the sacred Shabbos, and with their whole souls extended the “third meals” until well into the night, long after people had done Havdalah.

GONE! No longer our faithful, devoted mothers, who kindled no lights at the end of the holy Shabbos until the heavens showed three stars and until, in that space between Shabbos and the rest of the week, they had whispered the warm prayer “God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, protect your people Israel from all harm…Better is the bitter decree of God than the sweet decrees of human beings; Maker of the Universe, bless me that I shall be indebted to no one…”

I well remember until this day the sweet words of your heartfelt prayer, even after the passage of so many years.

GONE! No longer my mother who so fervently prayed, so faithful and generous, for her husband and children, for her brothers and sisters and their households, for all, for all: she had the whole people of Israel in her mind when she prayed. Oy, dear God, how were all of those prayers slaughtered?

GONE! No longer father and mother, no longer father-in-law and mother-in-law and all those others who are eternally dear–they exist no longer!

GONE! No longer even a grave where I can pour out my heart and mourn their pure souls. Where should I bow down and explain that the world is no longer as it was in those quiet times. Life is now so hard and awful and people can so often be evil and corrupt.

GONE! The good, the pure, that which is like Shabbos or Yom Tov is gone with you.

Year after year we kindle yahrzeit lights for our dear parents, sisters and brothers, relatives near and far, and friends, z”l.

The flames on those candles flicker. Suddenly drops of wax descend like large, human tears. Our lips whisper name after name, names that time has not washed from our memories, names of those gone before their time, though they had in their hearts such faith and hopes, such strong wills to carry on and survive…

There! I see before me the prayer house in the ghetto of Boiberke (the town in which I was born and raised), and in the yellow light of the blackened naphtha lamp are mirrored their pale, thin faces. In a corner stands my dear mother, peace be upon her, and with a trembling hand she cuts bread; everyone's eyes are focused on that brown bread. My mother, my always good mother, peace be upon her, will give it all away. She will not be stingy, but people must share small pieces and save the rest for later. In the morning…but that morning will never come.

Sweet mother, my mother, if I could speak with you, I think of what I would say…it is ended. They tore you from me brutally, murderously.

The murderers made a gesture; they took you away by the side of our dear father, peace be upon him, just as you were led to the chuppah. “Lovely and pleasant were they in their lives, and in death they were not parted” [2 Samuel 1:23], and with one shot of those rifles they were both shot.

GONE! No longer the good, observant mothers, the dear, wonderful fathers. They were ripped from their young, not yet grown children and shoved into the background.

With a trembling hand, every year on the day of their yahrzeit I light many candles and our lips whisper on that day of woe name after name that time has not erased from our hearts.

From the candles drip hot drops of wax, like hot tears…

Yisgadal v'yiskadash shemai rabba

[Page 191]

The Beggar Woman

by Meir Shtiker (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

For forty years already the nails burn in my hands,
My hump has grown in front and in the back.
My cheeks weighed down in paralyzing winds–
I enjoyed, kept silent, and seldom lost my cool.

“You are a cripple,” my mother warned me–
“Tears and laughter are only for the children of the rich.”
I enjoyed, kept silent, ground the thorns
All my life. What do I do now?

I stand at the door of the Czorkwart study house
Withered and stunted, but not extinguished–
Because I laugh and laugh at everyone
When I stretch out my hand for their copper groschen.

[Page 192]

The Rejected

by Meir Shtiker (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

Perhaps you know the differences–
Summer, winter, fall, or spring?
When it rains or snows outside–
Regardless, I am rejected.
When the leaves fade, when the grass turns green–
I will still find no rest.

I count my years: seven times seven
Since I was sent from the poorhouse.
I go around, I swallow my saliva,
But in the garbage I find no food.

In the market they chase me from the stalls
Where beads and onions hang.
The wild children throw stones and glass–
What do they have against these old bones?
When I have a groschen to spare,
I'll just leave this town.

The High-Class Woman

by Meir Shtiker (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

I am the most high-class woman in town.
Even Lemberg's aristocrats don't bother me.
In our dull and sleepy wasteland
My husband (he should be healthy) is honored in shul and bathhouse.
I don't embarrass him, Heaven forbid,
But when I see him every Shabbos by the eastern wall
I swell with pride.
I don't much like those wearing rags and patches.
It's no lie: the feathers
In my Viennese hat surely will not please the folk.
The pearl fan and the gold-trimmed dress–
What they wish for me should land on their own heads.
The ornamental brooch that glitters like a rainbow
Amazes them, brings tears to eyes.
A whole year I've been exhausted and resting–
Winter in the warm baths, summer in its warmth.
I watch out for the evil eye from the wicked,
When every day I put a penny in the pushke.

Two Drunks on the City Asphalt

by Meir Shtiker (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

Two drunks–out on
The sun-brightened sidewalk:
Their bodies in ferment, their eyes
Stare dull and fixed
At the swamp of their vanished memories:
A tiny step, then two or three
To the green grass of their younger years;
Soaked in whisky.
The tower tops glisten
And windows aflame with light
Throw gold on the delirium
Of the drunkards on the drunken asphalt.

The Bankrupt Man

Meir Shtiker (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

The fly that buzzes on the ceiling
Is like a full band
In my brain. I have nowhere to put my hands,
And in the dirty mirror I see: hatred and mockery
And twisted mouths, hissing; bankrupt.
Is it the ash of promissory notes, wiped out, burned up,
That now lands in my eyes, on my hair?
The chest stands sealed with my forty years
Of toil and unslaked thirst to buy and sell.
Should I blow my voice into it?
The neighbors know better, because they know well
That at daybreak I will flee the city.

[Page 193]

The Bitter End

by Itche Karten, Swirz - N.Y.

I am Itche Karten, Moshe Krezel's son from Swirz, a son-in-law of Chaya Ruchel's Moshe Leib from Bobrka (Moshe Leib Shleider).

I will tell you a tale of the first day. The first day when the Germans came, they needed straw for bedding, so they put us to work. They made the Jews go to the goyim to get straw, which the Jews had to drag with their hands. They took a lot of Jews, including me and the Rabbi's children. I grew up in Swirz, a village, and I was used to such labor, but the city children could not do such work. That's why the Rabbi's children were beaten. I had to watch as they loaded the wagon with straw and then pulled it. I cried, but I couldn't help or defend them. I just did my work so I wasn't flogged. They wanted to work but couldn't, so they were beaten to death. That was the first day.

The second day they were told on a pretext to go to the court house to clean it up. I went too. I had no fear. Others were afraid because that's where they killed Jews and made a pogrom. I went and I wasn't afraid.

The third and fourth day they formed the Ukrainian police. The police gave an order that all Jews present themselves on the square. As the Jews assembled, they were told they could not take one step out on the street of the town or they would be shot. The government can give the death penalty for anything you did. Everyone had to wear the Star of David on their clothing. They then read the Nuremberg Laws to us.

That's when we discovered that our real troubles had begun, the genocide of the Jews. Hunger was a result. It was so bad that people colapsed in the street. People ate grass and became swollen. Blotches appeared on their bodies. They fell in the street like straw. The dead were laid on stretchers and that's how they took them to be buried. I also had not much to eat and was swollen, but when I saw their troubles, I didn't feel so sorry for myself.

Before the first “aktia”, I went to Swirz to my father because in Bobrka there was nothing to eat. In Swirz my father had a small field, so I went to him with my family and with my brother Chaim and his children. That's where we stayed over the first “aktia”. In town they thought we'd known something and therefore we'd run away. The only reason we went to Swirz was that there was no food for us in Boiberke and there was some in Swirz.

A decree came through that Jews couldn't stay in small villages. We had to leave Swirz and go back to Bobrka.

We came to Boiberke not long after December 8th when the second “aktia” began. By the second “aktia” they took my family with children and my brother away. I didn't want to stay there anymore. I had two unmarried brothers, Hersh and Israel, and we decided we wanted to leave. We went back to Swirz in the forest. We partially stayed with a goy and partially in the woods.

After the snows, we went into the woods to dig a hole where we could hide. On the 13th of April we were occupied the whole day digging the bunker. At night my brother would go to a goy to get some milk. The goy said he was in Bobrka and there had been an “aktia” there. In the morning we sent a messenger to town to find out what happened. He came back saying there were no Jews left in Bobrka. He also said our father Moshe Karten was burned to death. Our hearts were so heavy that if you stuck us, blood would not flow. That's how broken up I was.

From this messenger, the people in another camp learned where we were and they were able to joind us in the forest.

When they came to the forest, that was the first time we were able to help them. We gave them their first food and showed them how to live in the forest.

It was about May-June 1943. At that time we thought we were the only Jews left in the world. Afterwards we found out there was another forest called Chanitchover where other Jews lived. To make sure the news was true, four or five boys went to check it out. One of the Karten brothers (Motel Erlich and others) went to the Chanitchover forest and found Jews in dire straits. As the Jews in the Chanitchover forest saw the Jews of the Swirz forest, they couldn't believe their eyes. They thought the Jews fell out of the sky. They were amazed to see Jews who were cleanly dressed and they wanted to follow them to the Swirz forest. That's where my brothers found 2 of our cousins - our father's sister's 2 children. In the end they didn't survive the war.

Slowly people began to get together and we numbered 115. We conducted ourselves in such a way as not to antagonize the Poles so they would not discover us and turn us over to the German police. This is how we lived until December 1943.

In December 1943 we discovered a goy called Krinitski who gave up a Jew to the Germans who killed him. Eight of our young people from the forest went to the town of the goy. They beat him and then shot him. They told his wife that his was the payback for killing a Jew.

Eight days after that there was a consequence because we killed a goy. A goy by the name of Franek Baltzer sent a message to us on Friday night and told us to be careful because something would happen to us. The punishment would occur on Saturday or Sunday. We left immediately. Saturday morning the Germans overran the place in the forest but we thank God we were in another location in the big forest. We thank God we were all saved and survived.


Alvail: The Hewer Has Arisen
(based on Isaiah 14:8)


[Page 195]

The Holocaust

by Chaim Karten (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

From our old home, my shtetl of Szwirsz
In memory of my father and teacher R. Moyshe Karten, a”h,
and in memory of my dear mother, a”h.

Szwirsz lay on the road between Boiberke and Pshemishl. If one traveled from Boiberke to Pshemishl, one passed through Szwirsz. The town was on a hill. On the north, the city lay on a large body of water that people called the Szwirsz River. The river was deep, and every year someone would drown in it. According to legend, every year the river would have to claim its sacrificial victim.

In the town shul there was an antique menorah with seven branches. The menorah also had its legend. It was told that a peasant not far from Strelisk had found it in a field, and since a menorah is a Jewish thing, there was soon an argument between the Jews and the Gentiles about whom it belonged to. So someone had an original idea: They should place the menorah in a wagon and hitch a pair of oxen to the wagon and let them go. If they went toward a shul, then the menorah belongs to the Jews; but if the oxen go toward a church, the menorah belongs to the Gentiles. And so it was. That's what they did, and the oxen went to a shul. So the memorial became the property of the Szwirsz shul.

The menorah survived through the First World War because they buried it in the ground.

But in the Second World War the menorah was destroyed along with all of Szwirsz's Jews.

[Page 196]

R. Moyshe Karten from Szwirsz (Moyshe Kreizels)


Szwirsz was a small town with about 75 Jewish families. But it was suffused with Yiddishkeit. Szwirsz produced several rabbis, among them Rabbi Duvid Meir, the author of many books. The Szwirsz Society in America is named for him. Many smaller villages (with their Jews) belonged to the Szwirsz kehillah [community organization], such as Szwirszke-Leibowitz, Negiliski, Kumer, Czechowicz, Plockes. In the nearby villages lived 30-40 Jewish families, almost none of whom survived. The survivors can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

The Jews of Szwirsz made their living from a few little stores and from dealing in grain, with some livestock and similar things. To buy a new garment for a holiday, one waited for a couple of American dollars, from a friend or a relative who thought to send them.

Yiddishkeit was not lacking in Szwirsz. Szwirsz had a Talmud Torah, where children learned the alef-beis, Chumash with Rashi, and Gemara with tosafos. The shul was full of young men who studied with Sholem Shochet, or who studied alone. If they did not know something, they asked one of the older students who could explain a difficult passage in Tosafos. The town had two Zionist organizations, the Mizrachi and the General Zionists. Szwirsz had a rabbi and two ritual slaughterers. Our first rabbi, Rabbi Yakov Yitzchak Vaysblum, is now in Haifa, Israel. He was followed by the Mikolayev rabbi's son-in-law. The slaughterers were Sholem Herman and Duvid Nass.

The head of the kehillah was my father, a”h, R. Moyshe Kasten. He led the kehillah from 1920 until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. My father a”h, was also the head of the Talmud Torah, and he was also a member of the city council. When the war broke out, the Jews of Szwirsz helped refugees who were fleeing from German territory. Among those refugees were the Belz rabbi's two sons, who were deaf mutes. The Jews of Szwirsz, who were themselves poor, shared their little food with the refugees. In 1941, when Hitler, may his bones rot, attacked Russia, Szwirsz suffered the same fate as all the towns in Galicia. A Judenrat was formed and tribute was demanded, amounting to more money than all the Jews had together. People had to sell whatever they had to raise the funds.

People were dragged off to forced labor on the roads, in the stone quarries, and in the labor camps at Koriwicz, Hermanow, and elsewhere. The Jews of Szwirsz knew how to give advice along with a little bread, because the Gentiles of Szwirsz did not treat them badly. In 1942, an order came that Jews must leave Szwirsz and go to the ghettos in Pshemishl or Boiberke.

I will here record the names of the people from Szwirsz who were killed by Hitler's murderers, may their names be blotted out, in 1941-1944, beginning with the villages near Boiberke.

  1. Moyshe Karten was burned in the Boiberke ghetto on 8 Nisan 5703 (1943).
  2. His son, our brother Hirsch (Tzvi) was murdered in cold blood by Polish killers soon after the liberation, in Cracow in 1945. (Four brothers–Yakov, Yitzchak, Chaim, and Yisroel, now live in America.)
  3. Mendel Tzeizler and his wife and their two children were killed in the Boiberke ghetto. (His wife was the daughter of Fishl Zorgen.)
  4. Peyshe (Pesach) (Henoch Zaltz's son-in-law) was killed with his wife and children in the Pshemishl ghetto.
  5. Yuta Zorgen and her children were killed in the Pshemishl ghetto. (Her husband Eizik Zorgen and their son Shmuel live in America.)
  6. Yonah Czaczkes and his wife and daughter died of hunger in 1942. (Two daughters and a son live in Argentina)
  7. Sarah Leider is survived by a son in America and a daughter in Israel.
The following were killed in the Pshemishl ghetto:
  1. Yosef Zorgen and his family. (A son now lives in America.)
  2. Moyshe Reiz and his family.
  3. Gitl Reiz and her children.
  4. Ozer Feffer's family. (Ozer himself died of hunger in 1942.)
  5. Hirsch Reiz and his family. Sina (Hirsch Reiz's son-in-law.)
[Page 197]
  1. Yisroel Mantel and his children. (His wife Etshi-Dvorah lives in America.)
  2. Yetke Gimpel (Shabtai Donner's daughter) and her children.
  3. Sholem Herman's family. He died from hunger. (His daughter lives in America.)
  4. Yehoshua Herman (Sholem Shochet's son) and his family.
  5. Yosef Leinvand and his family. (A daughter survived.)
  6. Moyshe Shpielman (teacher in the Talmud Torah) and his family.
  7. Yakove Duvid (Szwirsz Shochet) and his family.
  8. Shabtai Donner and his family.
  9. Urtshi Meller's wife and her son Duvid and his wife.
  10. Shmuel Weiss and his family.
  11. Frieda Ferffer and her family.
  12. Nachum Uri Messer and his family.
  13. Toibe Donner and her son.
  14. Hersh Zorgen (the Szwirsz butcher) and his family. A son (Avraham) lives in Israel.
  15. Shmuel Shochet (Yakov Duvid's son-in-law) and his family.
  16. Moyshe Feffer and his family.
  17. Vulf-Ber Messer and his family.
  18. Shmuel Zorgen and his family.
  19. Yitzchak Leinvand and his family. (He came here from the village of Kumer.)
  20. Fishl Zorgen and his family. (A son remains who lives in America.)
  21. Eliezer Glass (Leyzertze the Tailor) and his family.
  22. Yisroel Schnaps (came to Szwirsz from Mikolayev).
  23. Uri Shamir and his family.
  24. Nechama Feffer (Yehoshua Feffer's sister) and her family.


Alvail: Servants rule over us
(Lamentations 5:8)


Killed in the Boiberke ghetto:
  1. Miriam Leinvand (Yosef Leinvand's sister).
  2. Yosef Schildkroyt and his wife Fradl (daughter of Moyshe Karten), sent to Belzec.
  3. Eizik Axelrod ( a son remains living in America).
  4. Moyshe Axelrod and his child. (His wife lives in America.)
  5. Shloimtze Leinvand and his family.
  6. Henya, Tzvi Schildkroyt's wife, with three children. He, the gabbai of the shul, died in Szwirsz in 1940. (A son, Zelig Fluss, remains in America and a daughter, Fradl, in Israel.)
  7. Shloyme Karten's wife and children, sent to Blezec. Shloyme and a son killed in the Yanover camp in Lemberg.
  8. Doctor Duvid Klunger, killed in the woods by Ukrainian murderers.
Killed in an unknown manner:
  1. Mordechai Redlich (the Szwirsz rabbi).
  2. Chaim Mushtshitzler and his family.
  3. Yehoshua Ber and his family.
  4. Hersh Nass (from Boiberke) with his wife and child. Killed in the Szwirsz forest by the Ukrainian murderers.
  5. Yakov Eliezer Herman, died in the Szwirsz forest. (His wife and children live in Israel.)
  6. Rochel Kyoton (Yekutiel Kyoton's daughter) was murdered in the Szwirsz forest. (Her daughter lives in America.)
  7. Fishl Tzimmer and his wife, killed in Dinayev.
  8. Itzik Kimmel and his family, all died from hunger in Szwirsz in 1942.
  9. Tzirl Zaltz and two children, killed in the Szwirsz forest.
At the same time, there were in Szwirsz about twenty refugee families from the other side of Poland. All were killed by the German murderers, may their names be blotted out.

After the liquidation of the ghettos in Boiberke and Pshemishl, Moyshe Karten's four sons–Yitzchak, Chaim, Hirsch, and Yisroel–went to the Szwirsz woods and there dug a pit where

[Page 198]

people could sleep over night and have some covering from rain. For a little food, they would go to a Gentile acquaintance who helped them.

Later, more Jews from Boiberke came to the Szwirsz woods. Shmerl Schneider with his wife and son were killed by Ukrainians in 1943. Eli (Elyahu) Fuchs died in the woods in the Karten brothers' bunker.

Moyshe Blecher came from the Yanover camp. Before liberation the Germans killed him.

Survivors from Boiberke who hid in the Szwirsz woods:

Yosl Fogel
Moyshe Nass
Motl Ehrlich and his brother.
Moyne Ehrlich

They escaped to the Szwirsz woods from the Yanover camp.

Moyshe Karmen and his son (now in Melbourne, Australia, and practicing as a doctor) at first hid with a Gentile in Pshemishl and then came to the Szwirsz woods.

Manek (Menachem) Kroythammer (now in Israel) survived the war in the Szwirsz woods.

Those from Szwirsz who were rescued in the Szwirsz woods:

The Karten brothers: Itchi (Yitzchak), Chaim, Hirsch, and Yisroel. (Hirsch Karten was murdered by Polish killers in Cracow right after the liberation.)

Zelig Fluss and his wife and three children, his sister Fradl with her four children, Yoshe Feffer, Avraham Leider and his wife (Moyshe Feffer was killed in the Russian army. The Russians sent several surviving Jews to fight at the front, and many were killed.). Vevve Zorgen (Fishl Zorgen's son), Rochel-Chanah (Schildkroyt's daughter), Sholem Shochet's grandson, Shmuel Zorgen, Bella Leider with her nephew, Feine Feffer, Miriam Nass, Gitl Leinvand, Eizik Zorgen. (Gershom Herman and his sister Basha were killed shortly before the liberation.)

Milyusha Kyoten (Yekutiel Kyoton's grandchild).

So also survived in the Szwirsz forest 135 people from other towns: from Strelisk, Pshemishl, Chanitshaw, and also from the refugees who were in Szwirsz at the time of the war.


Alvail: The heathens entered her sanctuary
(Lamentation 1:10)


[Page 199]

The Last Fight

by Yosef (Yosl) Fogel (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

I am Yosef Fogel, Yuta's son, from Boiberke. I am a survivor of the Yanover camp, one of the four whom Motl Ehrlich mentioned. I will tell how the ghetto appeared in Boiberke.

The first ghetto that they created extended from the Jewish cemetery through the whole community, the whole length of the “Jewish thoroughfare,” as people then called it. People were driven into the ghetto from all the surrounding towns and villages, such as Strelisk, Mikolayev, Brozdowicz, Pidhordishtsh, Sooliwke, and so on. All of these people were packed into a small area, with 15-18 people to a room. Thus did people live and thus did people suffer. Hygiene and cleanliness were not to be spoken of. It was so filthy that it made people ill. From the start there was great hunger. There was nothing to eat. The ghetto was surrounded by fencing. One dared not leave. A Gentile did not dare to enter the ghetto and a Jew dared not leave. Thus did people suffer until the first Aktion[1].

In the first Aktion, 1500 Jews were taken. The Jews were forced to gather in the early morning at a spot near the Polish church, opposite the city offices. From there they were led on foot to the train (7 kilometers). There they were loaded into wagons and taken away. No one knew where they were being taken. They were told that they were being relocated to another city. That was all they knew.

Later, after a short time had passed, people heard of Aktions in other cities such as Kolomai, Stri, and others; people began to jump from the wagons on the moving trains, and of those, some arrived in Boiberke. They said, “Do you know where they were taking us?–They were taking us to Belzec, where everyone is to be suffocated.” As people learned this, everyone began to prepare a bunker in his home–a hiding place–so that in case of another Aktion, they could hide in the bunker.

It was not long before the second Aktion occurred. Anyone who had a bunker and was hidden at that time managed to survive. But those who had arrived from the surrounding towns and villages (and having no bunkers), the poor souls all went, children and all, both in the first Aktion and the second.

Soon came the third Aktion–that is, the liquidation. In the third Aktion, bunkers did not help, because the German killers and their assistants, the Ukrainian scum, dragged out all of those hiding in Jewish homes. Even those who remained in bunkers eight days or ten days, how long could they stay? They had to go out.

Meanwhile the Gentiles went into the abandoned houses and took the possessions that the Jews had left behind. They looked inside the walls and dug in the bricks–in short, they also discovered the remaining bunkers.


“Let us lift up our hearts with our hands”
(Lamentations 3:41)

[Page 200]

I was among the 159 Jews who were taken to the Yanover camp. From our first day in the camp we could see that it was dark and bitter. One could do nothing. The camp was surrounded by electrified fences. At the entrance were two steel gates. We saw how Jews suffered there.

In the morning we were taken out for roll call. There were eight thousand Jews there. The newcomers to the camp were asked who among them was a craftsman–a tailor, a shoemaker, a carpenter. They should identify themselves. All who did so were sent to work in the city. Those who were not craftsmen were sent to the factories and to other kinds of labor. We were held in this way for eight months.

After eight months a Gentile I knew told me that he had heard it would not be long before all the Jews would be shot. I should find a way to escape!

Hearing this, I escaped from the camp and headed to Boiberke, to the Gentiles. When I arrived, he said, “I told you to flee, but I can't hide you. You know that if you're caught you'll be shot, but how am I guilty? Why should I be shot? I have a wife and two children.”

He was not wrong. If I had been found with him, he would have been shot and perhaps his family as well. So I fled to the woods. I stayed there for eight days. I suffered terribly. I had nothing to eat. I had no way out except to return to the camp. It was harder to get back into the camp than to flee; but when I got back to the camp, I encountered several landsmen from Boiberke, who told me that we dared not stay there. They knew that in the Szwirsz forest there was a Karton, and one could flee to him. Again I tested my fate, but I had nothing to lose. With two friends–Shmerl Bergman and Moyshe Vasser, Akiva Vasser's son–we fled to the Szwirsz forest. When we got there, the Karons gave us food. I will never in my whole life forget this. I cannot describe what went on in the woods. I can only say that there were great difficulties. There was no food and there was great hunger. We were afraid to leave the woods for the first period. Thanks to the Karton brothers, and later, thanks to contact with the Polish peasants, who began to bring us food. We formed a partisan group and life became a little easier.


Boiberke partisans from the Szwirsz Forest
From the right: Mordechai (Motl) Ehrlich, Moyshe Nas, Yosl Fogel, Moyshe Ehrlich


Translator's Footnote

  1. A Nazi operation involving the gathering, deportation, and killing of Jews. Return to text

[Page 201]

My Experiences

by Selig Fluss (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

I am Selig Fluss, the son of David Fluss, Shmuel Baruch's grandson, from Boiberke. My grandfather lived near the mill. Later I lived my whole life in Szwirsz. When the war broke out I had to go to Boiberke. I entered the city through the cemetery. A carpenter lived there, a terribly poor man. People called him “The Half-Forty.” Entering there, I encountered eight or ten small children, aged three to ten or eleven, half dead, lying belly up. When I saw this, I still had not entered the city. I went back home to Szwirsz. This was at the beginning, when the Germans came to Boiberke.

When I got home, the Germans began taking Jews in Szwirsz for labor. I, too, was taken. It was on a Friday. When I had worked for half a day, I asked a German if I could go home. He allowed me to go, because I had worked well. But where I had been working, people were beaten for going home and they had to sit there, and they were not allowed to get up.

When I got home, a woman from Szwirszke-Leibowitz came on her way to Szwirsz. Her name was Shaindel, Chaim Shamir's wife; she asked pitifully if anyone could help her. Her Gentile neighbors had told her that the Jews in Boiberke were lying dead in the Leibowitz woods and were decomposing. They asked her to leave with her children and disappear. Otherwise her house would be burned. She still had two cows. People did not believe that possessions were worthless. Because she was afraid to send her children away, she came to Szwirsz for help. I was alone in the town. Aside from me, there was the rabbi who was hidden somewhere by a Gentile. There was no one else.

I could not help her at all. I was afraid to go. She fell at my feet, saying, “You have to help me. I can't go home. They'll burn my house and take my cows.”

In Szwirsz there was a watercarrier, a Gentile (named Martzin) who took water around in his horse and wagon. I knew him well. He was quite poor, and he feared nothing. I went to him and said, “Martzin, I have a job for you, and I beg you not to refuse.” As payment, he asked for two sacks of grain. I gave them to him (you have to understand that Shaindel had given them to me) and Martzin set off for the woods via side roads, because he was afraid to take the main roads. He brought the corpses to the Szwirsz cemetery. I quickly recognized them. There was Hersh Rapp and his brother Yitzchak Rapp with their wives and five children. Peasants from Szwirszke-Leibowitz had killed them after plundering Boiberke. They met the Jews in the woods. They were going with a wagon of their possessions toward Boiberke in hopes of hiding there. A day or two earlier, the Jews were in Ticzna. The peasants there went wild and killed Jews, so they had left the village with their horse and wagon and went as far as the Szwirszer-Leibowitz woods. Then the Gentiles met them and killed them with broken bottles and iron bars. The Gentile told me that near their bodies he found a good number of broken bottles. They had been killed so horribly that it was indescribable. I wanted to follow Jewish custom, so by myself I started to dig a grave. I dug one large grave, and I wanted to remove their clothing, but I could not because everything was covered with blood and filth. I lay them all in the common grave in the holy spot in Szwirsz, near the gate. Since, then, I think, no Jew has come to that sacred spot in Szwirsz.

This is the story of the few Boiberke Jews that I knew. Now I want to tell you a little of my story.

I was in the Jaktoriw camp and my wife and children were in the ghetto. In the camp, I learned that my wife and children were alive. I began to seek a way to escape from the camp. It was very difficult. Three times I found myself outside of the camp at night, but I had to return. It was too late and day was beginning, and there were other circumstances that prevented me from leaving.

One nice day, in the middle of a bright day, as we were going for lunch, I fled and got to my wife. When I tried to tell her how I had gotten there, it would have

[Page 202]

“He set me as a target for his arrow”
(Lamentations 3:12)


taken a long time, so I told her briefly. I found my wife in hiding with a Gentile. I took my wife into the Szwirsz woods, and we were all together. When I got to the woods, no one else was there except Hersh Nas, Chanah Yenta's son from Boiberke, with two children, a couple of people from Szwirsz, and my brother-in-law with his wife and children. When I got to the woods, I thought I would meet Moyshe Kantor's sons, because they were my cousins, but I did not find them. At that time they were in hiding with a peasant.

When, through the peasant (whom I knew well), I arrived where they were, I asked the peasant for a little water, because I was with my wife and children, and he said to me, “Flee! You can't stay here. Soon a Ukrainian will be coming, and I am afraid he'll catch you.” I saw that something was not right, but since he told me to go, I went. A day later I discovered that my cousins were with the peasant, but he was afraid that I would make too much commotion and they would be discovered.

In any case, they did not remain with the Gentile for long. They soon entered the forest. And thus we lived in the woods as if for the whole time it was a little Boiberke, a little Parumshlian, and a little of the villages. Moyshe Fand knows well how we lived in the woods all those years. Yosl Fogel spoke of it. He did not remember my name. I once saved Yosl's life. He was dying of hunger, so I took him to a Gentile. The Gentile kept him for a couple of weeks and brought him back to life. He returned to the woods like a newborn, and with his new strength, he survived. I do not know why he did not remember. Perhaps he just forgot.

I will now say a few words about Hersh Nas. As I said, when I came to the forest, I encountered him

[Page 203]

and we were together in the woods for a short time. Once when we were sitting together, peasants from Stok passed by with two Ukrainian policemen. I saw immediately that this was bad, because they saw us. I went to a Gentile whom I knew outside the woods–this was in the Stok woods, near Strilke–and I begged the Gentile to tell me if he knew who had gone by yesterday. He told me that he knew: They were two Ukrainian policemen who served in Lemberg, and they were going home on leave, and a pair of scoundrels went with them. They had been out gathering raspberries and were heading home.

When I heard this, my eyes clouded over. I ran back to the woods. It was about 11 p.m. When I got to the place where I was staying with my wife and children, with my sister and brother-in-law, I said to them, “Pack up. We can't stay here, because yesterday a group of Ukrainians went by and they will surely come to kill us.” Hersh Nas, Chanah Yenta's son, was near me, along with his children and some other people. I ran to them and told them the same thing: “Flee. We can't stay here.” Hersh Nas had already lost his spirit. His wife and two of his children had been killed. The other people lost their heads and just sat there until morning. I had already packed, and Hersh Nas sent out a child for water. As soon as the child had left the woods, the Germans surrounded us–10 to 15 German police and 20 Ukrainian police, with a number of dogs. They surrounded our camp in the woods. Just as I began to leave, there was shooting over our head, and branches fell from the trees. I yelled, “Run!” Each of us ran on our own. My wife ran with one child, and I ran with my child and my sister's child in a different direction–I did not know where. At any rate, I got far away, deeper in the forest. Suddenly I noticed that my sister's child was with me, but not my own. I ran back some distance and found him lying in the grass in a faint. I dragged him and we lay there. It was raining hard and the shooting was terrible. I waited impatiently because I had lost my wife and child. At around 12, when it was quiet, I went back to our spot. Before I got back to the place where I had been, I lost my boots. The peasants who had come with the police cut off half the boots so they would fit and left the other half. They took our blankets and whatever else we had left. When I got to the place where Hersh Nas had been with his children and the others, I saw Hersh lying dead, shot, and the 20-year-old man had–I do not know why–his hands bound behind his back and had been shot in the head. I did not see Hersh's daughter. It appears that she escaped and is still alive.

Now I will tell that my family and I got away from Szwirsz to the ghetto in Premishl, and my mother with the children and my brother-in-law–his name was Yankel Vinter, Itzik Vinter's son from Boiberke–were in the Boiberke ghetto. My brother-in-law had planned that I should go to Premishl and he would go to Boiberke. I heard that when he got to the Boiberke ghetto, he immediately came down with typhoid. Then came the Aktion and he was taken away, ill, with my mother and sisters. I am certain that they were taken to Belzec and there incinerated.


Gershom Schleider,
the son of Moyshe Leib Schleider


Hersh Karton

[Page 204]

The First Forest People

by Yisroel Karton (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

I am Yisroel Karton, the son of Moyshe Karton from Szwirsz. I was the first among the founders of the Szwirsz Forest, which over time became a settlement in which over 100 Jews from Boiberke, from Szwirsz, and from other neighboring towns survived.

What I am telling here is not in a search for glory. I seek no glory. The biggest glory for me is that I survived. But I will recall another person who was among the founders of the settlement in the woods, but he, alas, is no longer alive. This was my brother Hersh Karton, a son of Moyshe Karton from Szwirsz. I went to the woods with him in December of 1942 and we hid there in the snow for two months, and we established there a place where more than 100 Jews could survive.

Everyone who has spoken for me has said things that cannot be described. Those things cannot be spoken nor understood in order for people to know what really took place. Each person who has spoken underwent suffering, and it is hard for them to tell their stories. But I believe that as the years pass, people will be able to read between the lines and they will be able to determine what happened to the settlement of several million Jews who were erased from the land where they had been established for hundreds of years.

My brother Hersh survived the war. In 1945 we went to Cracow, because we did not want to remain among the Communists. In Cracow, Polish hooligans attacked a Jewish home and killed my brother Hersh at the apex of his young life, along with two other young Jewish men, Zebulun Groder from Khanitshiv, twenty kilometers from Boiberke, and his brother-in-law Hirsh Hochberg, also from Khanitshiv. May the names of the Poles be blotted out. Whoever brings their names to his lips should curse them, because they helped the Germans slaughter Jews.

Escape from the Death Camp

by Moine (Moshe) Erlich (New York)

Translated by Claire Rosenson

I, Moine Erlich, a son of Berl Erlich and a grandson of Sender Erlich from Strelka will tell you briefly how I survived the Hitler years, may his name be cursed.

When the second action began, I was sick with typhoid fever. We were awakened in the middle of the night and told that the town was ringed by Germans, so I got dressed and ran to the cemetery. On the way I saw Germans and headed across a frozen lake. It was winter. As I walked through the cemetery I fell into a deep hole and passed out. Towards morning I awakened. With all my strength I got out of the hole and went to Lanke. In Lanke I entered the Strilker Forest. I hoped I would meet up with people who lived there. I hoped I could meet peasants who would hide me.

In the forest I met Gershon Shleider, Yoshse Shleider's brother, a son of Moshe Leib Shleider and with him I went to a peasant woman I knew and she gave us milk and told us all the Jews were murdered and there was no town left to go to. We had nowhere else to go so we left at night anyway to go back to the town. Gershon died that night.

Now a few words about the third action, the liquidation. They gathered all the remaining Jews at the shul and sorted them. Those sent to the right went to the concentration camp -- those sent to the left were shot. In the middle was a box and all jewelry, gold, and valuables had to be thrown in. I had a few rings from my mother and I threw all but one of them in. It came in handy in the camp. I bought bread with it.

On the way to the camp they put us into cattle cars that were full of clothing of our honored dead who had been killed in Wolowe few hours earlier. In the back were two militiamen who went through the bloody clothing and linings and removed any money and valuables. There were another two men who wanted to attack them and then run away, but they were afraid.

We got to the camp towards morning. We were counted and had to be classified as to who worked at what job. When I told them I was a mechanic, they took me to Lemberg. My job was to take apart locomotives so they could remake them into guns in Germany. I was there seven weeks and met up with my brother Motl Erlich and we devised plans to escape. We couldn't escape together because we didn't work in the same place together. We had to find different clothing. My clothes were prisoner clothes with the number 8473 printed on the front and back. As soon as I got other clothing, I hid in a locomotive where they shoveled coal, and locked myself inside. Around 5 o'clock when people went back to the camp they discovered I was missing since I was the first of the fifth group. They started shooting but they couldn't find me.

In the middle of the night I opened the door and left the locomotive. I was aware of where I was and in which direction I could go. I could go to the Strickler Forest, but my plan was to go first to the cemetery in Wolowe. All night I ran and hitchhiked in back of a wagon. In the morning I came to the cemetery's hole in the ground in Wolowe. My first plan was to say Kaddush and to remember all the people I knew. After that I went into the forest and went from one goy to another and one of them told me where to find Jews. The Jews were the Karten brothers and other Kartens. Thanks to them I stayed alive.

My brother left the camp a few days later and we met up a week later. He also went from one goy to another and found out from them where to find me. After that we lived together with the Kartens in the forest until the liberation.


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