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Those slain with the sword are better than those who die of hunger
(Lamentations 4:9)


How a Shtetl Was Erased

By Moyshe Nass (New York)

Translated by Theodore Steinberg

In the name of the Boiberke Yizkor Committee, I will, as vice-president, thank Mr. Abraham Fisher and Mr. Julius Haber for their devoted work, effort, and strength in assembling the materials that were needed in order to fashion the yizkor book about the former town of Boiberke.

These men's devoted work should be recorded in the book, because without their efforts, without their energy, the writing of this book would not have occurred.

My brother-in-law, R. Avraham Fisher, spent over a year collecting funds, and himself contributed, held meetings, called on people, called on the few survivors, shaped the material, collected the names of all those who had been murdered by the German and Ukrainian killers. Avraham Fisher and Mr. Julius Haber made it possible for the names of our martyrs to be recorded in the yizkor book that will be distributed by the Yizkor Book Committee in Israel.

My name is Moyshe Nass, the son of Naftali Nass and Moyshe Shochet's great-grandchild, from Boiberke. Boiberke was a city of five thousand inhabitants, a Jewish city. The Jews were killed in a barbaric, inhuman manner, in Wolowa by the murderous Nazis and their awful assistants, the Ukrainians and Poles, on April 13, 1943.

I will try to present the Jewish city of Boiberke after 1938.

In Boiberke, the Jews took the place of honor in business, in the intellectual professions, like lawyers and doctors. Among the Jewish lawyers we should recall: Yudel Hollander, adr. Tunis, and Dr. Shrenzel. Among the Jewish doctors we should recall:

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Dr. Bley and Dr. Katz. Dr. Bley was also the director of the city hospital.

On Shabbos, Jews went to pray in the large shul, in little shuls, in beis-medreshes, in the Belz study house, and in the Czartkover study house. The working men had their own study house, the Charetzim [The Diligent Ones], although working people could be found in all the other shuls. On Shabbos one could see Jews going to and from their prayers. On Shabbos afternoons, Jews went to study a biblical verse, to recite Borchi Nafshi or a couple Psalms. In the evening they would go to the Third Meal, to recite traditional hymns, to have some marinated herring and a touch of whiskey.

In Boiberke you could see a proper Shabbos. All businesses were closed and locked. The young people went to their clubs, the various Zionist organizations like Achava, Betar, Gordonia, Ha-Poel ha-Mizrachi, and Ha-Shomer ha-Tza'ir. People held lectures, and people dreamed and hoped of being found worthy to receive a certificate that would allow them to make Aliyah to Israel.

In Boiberke there was a preparatory course to ready young people, boys and girls, to go to Israel.

My father, a”h, who came from Magerov as a Magerov Chasid, often traveled to the Magerov rabbi. I studied not only in the general school but also in cheder, at first with “Goat Beard” and then with Natanieli the teacher and then with Mordechai Yoslen. In Boiberke there was also a “Tarbus” school in which Pesach Leib (later he was the mayor of Lod, in Israel) was the Hebrew teacher. I also studied Hebrew in the Hebrew school.

Later on a business school also opened in Boiberke, and I also studied there. Sadly, in 1938, the economic situation of the Jews worsened considerably. Jewish businesses were boycotted. Christians opened their own shops and unions–the Gentiles conducted a propaganda campaign and distributed leaflets telling people not to buy from Jews. In the air people could feel that change was coming.

On July 1, 1939, Germany attacked Poland. [Actually it was September 1.]. Jewish young people who could flee went to the Russian border. My parents, my brother Berish, and I fled to Koskva, near Tarnopol. There we learned about the treaty between Russia and Germany, whereby Boiberke remained in Russian hands, so we returned to Boiberke. There we began a chapter of life under Russian rule. At first the Russians allowed the Jews to conduct their businesses, but soon the Jews were forced to close their businesses and only Ukrainian shops and cooperatives existed.

Since I had studied bookkeeping in school, I received employment in a Russian tax office. Later on, investigations began into everyone's past, and they discovered that my father was a merchant, so I was fired.

The Soviets began to seek out the wealthier Jews and gradually sent them to Siberia. My older brother, who was a merchant, was sent to Besarabia. There he worked hard at building airports. I got a position as a bookkeeper in the Strilske cooperative. Later, I also got a job in the Wolowa cooperative. Just as I took these jobs, I received a position as head bookkeeper in the union of Boiberke. I worked there until the outbreak of the war between Russia and Germany in 1941.

On Thursday, July 2, 1941, the Germans marched into our city. Even on that first day, the Ukrainians conducted a terrible pogrom against Jews in which forty-two Jews were killed, in the city itself, on the roads, and in the villages. Jews were beaten with clubs and burnt alive by the murderous Ukrainians. Soon a Ukrainian militia was formed. They were permitted to enter Jewish homes and steal whatever they wanted. The Germans formed a Judenrat [Jewish Council], which helped them send Jews to forced labor. Jews did all kinds of labor. I first worked at demolishing buildings. Then I worked in the Wolowa woods in terrible cold and frost. Then I worked at loading and unloading wood on trains.

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In April, 1952 [sic–should be 1942], a Jewish policeman from the Jewish Council came to our home. His name was Hersh Gottlieb. He requested that I go to the Council with him. Since I was in the middle of my prayers, I told him I would go as soon as I was finished. But I realized that he was going to take me to the labor camp. I took off my tefillin and started to flee. Jewish policemen hit me on the head, but I tore myself away and fled. It did not help. I had to return home. Two weeks later the Jewish Council sent a Ukrainian policeman with a loaded gun to our home. They arrested me and took me to jail at Zagura. There I was put into a cell, where I found Moyshe Katz, Zelig Katz's son. There we sat among thieves, lawbreakers, who had been captured. During the night when we were seized, they beat us, so that for two weeks we could neither sit nor lie in the camp to which they took us on the next day.

That next day we were taken in a wagon to the Hermonow camp. I was in the wagon with Moyshe Katz, Zelig Katz's son, Shimshon Kahmeydes, Vulf Veyzer, and Shloyme Yokl. In the Hermonow camp I worked at breaking up stones, preparing them for a highway between Lemberg and Kiev. That work was very difficult. People collapsed from the effort, because as food they gave us the bones of dead horses who had fallen while transporting the stones. Hersh Shlumper, Zeinvel's son, threw himself under the wheels of a train to end his suffering. The train only maimed him, but he remained alive. Seeing this, a Ukrainian policemen went over and shot him. The Ukrainians, who oversaw our work, learned to aim over our heads. Bullets flew over our heads and around our ears. In this way the Gentiles wanted to show that they were expert shots. There were also cases when they missed, and a Jew would be shot. But a Jewish life had no value. As I worked, I saw my strength decrease from day to day. My mother, Chantshi, was courageous enough to come see me. She was brought in a cart by Leibish Jaget and Chaim from Sokolivki, and she brought me her last bit of food in the hope that it would save me and keep me alive. In this way I worked in the camp until September of 1942. Every day I saw people fall from loss of strength, and those who could no longer work were shot. I saw that I could not survive there for long. One day I fell and could not go on. It seems that I was ill with typhus. Burning with fever, I lay on some straw in great thirst. I was lucky that 40-50% of the inmates were ill with typhus, because when there were fewer suffering with typhus, 15 or 20 would be shot. Lying on the straw with a high fever, I dreamed that I was at home, in our town, and I went out on the Zagura, and in that holy spot I saw an old man with a white beard. He stood up from the ground and stretched out his hand to me, to give me something. In the dream, I was afraid and pulled back and he said to me, “Don't be afraid. You'll be healthy,” In the morning I awoke and felt better. The Jewish Council was required to exchange healthy men for those who were ill, and I was taken to the town hospital. The Jewish Council often did such maneuvers, especially when people paid them. Thus, Shimshon Khameides did not remain long in the camp, because his parents paid a lot of money


We have watched for a nation that could not save
(Lamentations 4:17)

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to free him. So, too, others with money were let out.

In October of 1942 my younger brother Sholem was taken away to the Korewicz camp by order of the Jewish Council. They wanted to take me, too. The Jewish Council was then located in Chaim Fisher's house. When my mother came to give him some bread, Leshele Kaminker kicked her so that she fell down the steps and could not deliver the bread. Then I was freed because I had just returned from the Hermonov camp. Since I knew the conditions in the camp, I immediately sent a letter to my younger brother and told him how to conduct himself. He should guard his strength so as not to lose his courage, because if one loses that, he loses everything. And if one loses his strength, he loses everything. My letter and my instructions based on my own experiences had a great influence on him and helped him greatly, having shown him how to conduct himself in order to stay alive. It was up to me to get him back home to the city.

While in was in the Hermonov camp under the leadership of the camp leader Heini, the first Aktion took place in Boiberke, on August 18, 1942. In this Aktion, 1500 Jews, women and children were led on foot to the train station, where they were loaded into wagons. Their removal was called “transfer to another place,” but sadly they were being taken to Belzec. As we learned later, they were killed there.

The situation of the Jews in the ghetto grew worse daily. People collapsed in the streets. Jews went around with swollen heads, with swollen feet, because they had nothing to eat. The Jewish ghetto was enclosed and locked. Moyshe Shoffle's son was shot taking a little board in order to warm some food. Gedaliah Tzimmer was shot near the ghetto gate because he had brought some potatoes from Kanke. Every day people collapsed; every day 10-15 people were buried in mass graves. People were swollen and collapsed in the middle of the streets. People begged for death because they could suffer no more.

Like so many others, I constructed a bunker in our house. This was a hiding place in the attic. The bunker was well-disguised and saved my family during the first Aktion. While I was in the camp, they stayed in the bunker and survived the first Aktion. During the second Aktion, which took place on December 8, 1942 I hid my family in the bunker. We stayed there and heard the wild shooting outside. Germans ran around and seized Jews.

In our home with us was a family from Strelisk. The husband was an older man. He could not get up to the attic. His wife, Chantshi, did not want to leave her husband alone and so remained with him, prepared for the Germans to take them away. At about 6 o'clock, when things quieted down, I left the attic to see what was going on in the house. When I went down, I heard someone making noise in the house. When I asked who it was, I got the answer, “It's me, Chantshi. I stayed here and they shot me. I was very frightened.” I did not know what was up. I could not understand. The Germans shot her, so was I speaking to a dead person? Later I understood that her husband had been taken and she hid under the bed. When the Germans returned for a search, they shot her in the eye. The bullet went through


For the life of your young children
(Lamentations 2:19)

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her eye and she remained alive, although the Germans thought they had killed her.

At the beginning, the Jewish Council had established a people's kitchen in Boiberke where they would provide Jews with a little soup and thus maintained life. But later the Jewish Council showed itself slowly to be made up of scoundrels. While Jewish blood was flowing in the streets, the Jewish Council and the Jewish police helped the Germans get people out of their hiding places. And after the Aktion, when Jewish blood flowed like water, they created diversions and ate and drank while Jews were being killed and while Jewish blood flowed. Jewish police, like Shperling, Chaya Mann's son-in-law, like Hersh Gottlieb and other members of the Jewish Council and police, like Chaya Mann's son, Leibish Mann, looked terrible and they helped the Germans in their filthy work in dragging Jews out and sending them to extermination.

The thirteenth of April, 1943, approached. In the morning I heard wild shooting. When I ran outside, I saw that the ghetto was surrounded by German soldiers and German gendarmes, and Germans in helmets were shooting at me with machine guns. I had to run back into the house and hide with my family in the bunker. In our hiding place we could hear the shooting and the cries and screams of Jews who were being dragged out of their homes. I heard how they took Hersh Engelberg's daughter, and I heard how she cried for her mother, saying, “Mother, I'm still young. I want to live.” But sadly, her cries did not help and she was taken away with the others. A couple of hours later they found our bunker and took us out. Because the Germans had trouble finding us, we were stood up with our faces to the wall so they could shoot us. Miraculously, an officer came by and began to yell, “Out, out, out, Jews!” So they took us to the square before the shul. As I was going toward the shul, I saw how Nissin Rock, Sholem Rock's son, came from a room that the Germans had set fire to. His clothes were half burned, and when the Germans saw him, they shot him. When we came to the shul square, I saw, I believe, almost all the Jews of the city. All were sitting on the ground. In the middle were two large chests, and the Germans ordered everyone who had papers, photographs, or valuables to put them into the chests–papers in one chest and valuables in the other. Then they began to sort the people. Young men went to the left, older men, women, and children to the right. I was among the 159 young men


Alvail The sins of Edom
(Amos 1:11)


The older people were led they knew not where, and we stood there and waited to learn our fate. After they brought back the bloodstained clothing of the older group, of our dearly beloved, they forced us with blows into trucks, in which they had put the clothing of our parents, of our sisters and brothers. And so we were taken to the Yanover labor camp, to Lemberg. Among those 159, I was with my brother Sholem. At the camp we were taken through two iron gates. Between the two gates we were stopped and told to take off and turn over whatever we had, money and valuables. On April 14 we were taken out for roll call. About 8,000 Jews were standing in the square. There we were again sorted out. First they took the wounded and maimed from the camp and took them to the crates by the fence. They quickly realized what was about to be done to them and they began to run. The Germans, like barbarians, ran after them with whips and shot at them as one shoots

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at wild animals. The Germans were shooting with sadistic laughter. Then Hauptsturmbanfuhrer Gebauer chose me for the dark labor at the D.A.V. [I have not been able to determine what D.A.V. stands for.] There I worked at building and carrying bricks up a ladder, while the Germans stood there and beat us with whips. If anyone stood still, they took him and beat him and killed him before our eyes, to instill fear in us. The beaten corpses were taken back to the camp in the afternoon. After several days, I received my number, 8313, that I had to wear on a yellow badge on my front and back. Then I became nothing but a number. We received food three times a day: in the morning, black coffee and a little bread; for lunch, a soup made from potato peelings that stuck in the throat and was inedible; mostly we just dumped it. In the evening we got the same soup with a little coffee. With such food, people could not long survive such killing labor. One day I had to come in contact with the operator of a woodworking machine. (His name was Link). I gave him a pair of riding pants that were worth a thousand zlotys, and he introduced me to the overseer as a carpenter, a specialist. I do not need to tell you that I was not familiar with the machine to which I was assigned. I had no idea how to approach it. But work in the factory could be endured. First of all, there was no shooting, and there were no beatings at work. After a whole day of work, which ended at 6 o'clock, when we could no longer stand on our feet, we received “vitamins” in the form of carrying wood from the train station to the camp. If one went too slowly, the Hauptsturmfuhrer Wilhaus would come out onto his balcony and shoot at us with a machine gun until there was a stampede, with people trampled and bloody. These “vitamins” were one of the dangers in the camp. They lasted from 6 until 11 at night. I was assigned to bunker number 6, where I would sleep on the upper level with my brother Sholem. Worn out from the whole day's work, I tried to get a little bread for us. I sold my jacket, which helped for a little while in buying food. One day, going into the D.A.V. in the afternoon, I saw how the overseer Brombauer took out two men from the brigade that preceded us. He accused the two of having been late in following an order. Brombauer put them into a bunker. One he released, but the other, Avraham Deiksler–Bezalel Deiksler's son–he believed had insulted the German people. They hung this poor young man by his feet and before our eyes they cut him into pieces while he was still alive. Seeing this, I could not believe that in the twentieth century Germans could act like this–such a cultured and civilized people. I thought it was a bad dream. I thought I was lying in bed, that my parents still lived, and I hoped that I would awaken from this bad dream, near my parents. But, sadly, these things were real, and I soon saw that this was no dream or mirage, that it was the reality and the truth, the horrible truth. My brother Sholem worked in the welding brigade. The welding brigade would go into the city, and he worked there as a welder. The brigade was called the train welding brigade. When he left the camp, he would take a little bread that helped somewhat in our need to prevent swelling from hunger.


Alvail They cast the pur, that is, the lot, before them
(Esther 3:7)

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My brother Sholem and I would always eat together at night. We slept together. He always waited patiently until I returned from the D.A.V. One day the Germans conducted a search of the welding brigade and found weapons, revolvers. The members of the brigade were assembled at the bunker and told that they would be shot. As I left the D.A.V., my brother threw me a couple of zlotys and told me not to worry. I should only ask God that the bullet would make a quick end of him so that he should not suffer. But a miracle occurred. The whole brigade was not exterminated. Four men were selected and killed. The others were allowed to live; my brother was among the living.

My brother and I also survived the “runnings,” which was when Wilhaus chose weaker men and made them run. SS men would trip them, and whoever stumbled and fell would be taken to the sand pit and shot.

Almost every Shabbos we were taken to the bathhouse on Shpitalna Street. In the middle of the bathhouse someone would stand with a whip and begin to beat our naked skin until we were bloody. So the bathhouse to which we were led was not among our pleasures.

At night, when we were at our “vitamin” work at the train station, we encountered Jews who were unloaded from train cars and brought to the camp. There were women with children and old men. Mostly they were naked, without clothing. These Jews were brought from Burislov, from Stri, from Sambar. They were taken to the sand pit and made to sit on the ground near the bunkers, near the women's camp. On the next day I saw how the Germans Heini, Shambak, and Zilker shot the men in various sadistic ways. They shot the men in their sex organs and killed them all in that way.

Among the worst sadists was the criminal Heini, an SS man, who for no reason, shot near the kitchen almost a whole brigade of bricklayers, who were forced to remove their clothes and fell to the sound of his sadistic laughter. His criminal deeds were halted when Aukser brought Wilhaus in a car and took away his gun.

After the second segregation, in May of 1943, in which thousands of Jews were taken to the sand and shot, camp commander Wihaus, in order to calm us, said, “Don't be afraid. There won't be any more such Aktions,” and pointing in the direction of the sand, he added, “This is your home. You can live here for fifty years.”

After his promise, they led away–to the sound of the “death tango”–women who worked in the D.A.V. To the sound of “Ha-Tikvah,” they screamed at the Germans that the world would pay them back for beating, torturing, and killing innocent women, and that the end of the German regime was approaching. So with a cry and the sound of “Ha-Tikvah,” the women were led through the town to the sand, where the murderous Germans shot them.

Hauptsturmfuhrer Wihaus left and was replaced by Hauptsturmfuhrer Warzug. Life in the camp improved under Wahrzug. Daily shootings ceased. The soup was better. Wahrzug saw to it that the food was better. He opened shops prepared for the camp inmates where they could buy seltzer, lemonade, and bread. He even ordered that dances and games should be organized on Sundays. It seemed that the camp was transformed into a Garden of Eden, at a time when our days and hours were numbered. It soon became apparent that this was a new doctrine, a new system, the Wahrzug-system.

On October 19, 1943, I was working in the morning shift, which began at around 4 in the morning, in the carpentry factory. I had not met with my brother because I was awakened at three. At about 9 I became aware in the carpentry shop of the treacherous liquidation of the city brigades that Warzug had planned.

Once during his normal work, like every day, Wahrzug decided that everyone in the camp should receive a new outfit, new boots, and a new coat, so that the men in the camp thought he might be going to new work. Then they herded the men into trucks and took them to the sand hill and there shot them. The men in Schumann's brigade, seeing that they had nothing to lose, turned on the SS men in Stshelecki Place and tried to escape. There was a volley of shots and in the chaos many men were killed. Also many civilians on the street were killed. I thought that my younger brother Sholem was

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among those running from Stshelecki Place and was alive. But that was a dream. Some weeks later, when I went to receive clothing, my brother's jacket came into my hands. He was killed by murderous Hitler's bullets. My brother's jacket was stained with tears, tears that I have not forgotten as I have lost my family.

In the camp there was an overseer, a Jew from Szalkwa. He was named Schlosser. He was short, a fine young man. He bragged to Sturmfuhrer Ziller that he could tell what the future would bring; Ziller hit him with his whip. But Schlosser said that if it turned out that he was not telling the truth, Ziller could shoot him on the spot. He told Sturmfuhrer Ziller that his brother, who should have been at the front, was now in a hospital in Lemberg. Schlosser also told him which hospital and told him to go there and call out “Ziller” in the corridor and his brother would reply. Then he told him that when he, Ziller, would return home, he would find a letter from his sister-in-law asking about her husband, his brother.

Understand that Ziller did not believe him and laughed at him. He was sure that his brother was in France. But he went to the hospital that Schlosser had indicated and found that what Schlosser had said was true enough. Schlosser was very popular, and Ziller therefore made him an overseer in the camp.

When my brother had disappeared at Stshelecki Place, I went to Schlosser and asked about my brother. Schlosser told me that my brother had been killed by a murderous, Hitlerist bullet, and he had not suffered.

One day, as we were leaving the camp, we were stopped. They began to search us to see about the roll call. Two people from the camp were missing. Apparently they escaped. During the search, they found two men who were not registered in the camp. The two were torn to shreds by Wahrzug's dogs.

A few days later, five men who had escaped from the camp were seized. The goodhearted Hauptsturmfuhrer Wahrzug ordered the erection of five poles. The five masked and beaten men were tied to the poles, and thus bound, they were suspended from the poles with a sign saying that anyone who tried to escape would meet such a death. They were left hanging for several days in the rain and cold until they died of hunger.

One day, that awful sadist Heini went to the overseer Schlosser and asked him to tell what would happen to the Jews who still remained in the camp. Schlosser responded that one morning the generous Wahrzug would come on a white horse and would say, “Go home, children.” But the reality turned out quite differently. Life in the camp settled down, but not for long.

One day an order was issued that everyone who lived in the D.A.V. (outside of the camp) must move back into the camp. We expected liquidation on the next day. There was great panic. After the day when the D.A.V. workers were returned to the camp, I sneaked out of the factory. I saw how many other inmates were going around looking for a way to escape. The guards had been reinforced. I heard a lot of shooting. It appeared that a group of inmates had tried to break out of the camp and evade the guards. I saw how the SS men ran wild with guns in their hands, and whoever they caught was shot. Many inmates who were running through fire ran back to the factory. Many were thus killed, like the Babad brothers and Shteyerman, a great soccer player from Lemberg.

Liquidation did not come the next day. Things quieted down. But this was the calm before the storm. After I lost my brother, I no longer believed that I would survive. I lost my courage. A few days before liquidation came, I tried with a friend, Busza Hummer, to put up a ladder by the electric center. We put a sack over the glass atop the wall, and on the other side we would let ourselves down using a board. But we noticed that the SS men saw. Thus our only way was closed to us. We had to give it up. So we went to prepare another plan. On Friday afternoon we had to go with an SS man to Lemberg to bring pipes from a factory. We planned to kill the SS man on the road and flee.

It was 5 am. On Friday. Roll call was delayed. When I met up with Busza Hummer, I told him I was not pleased

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about the delay. He told me he had spoken with the engineer who was supposed to flee with us, who had assured him that nothing would happen today. A bit later I met another landsman, Veinberg. He was a fabric cutter in Boiberke. While I was standing and talking to him, we heard women screaming. We heard doors opening, and German SS men in helmets and with machine guns in their hands ran into the camp. Veinberg raised his head and said, “This is the end. Soon we'll be ordered to lie down and they'll shoot us all.” My blood began to pound in my head. I saw that I had nothing to lose. I ran to the electrified fence. The electric lights were not on. About fifty inmates threw themselves at the fence. In order to make myself lighter, I threw away my bread bag and my mess kit, and I threw myself at the fence. Everyone ripped at the fence as much as he could, with hands, with teeth. Blood flowed, but no one let up. Then we broke through the first fence. At the second fence I snagged my clothing. The SS men were shouting at us from a distance, but we ran through the road toward the Kleperov train station together with companions from the camp. There were also women with us, and they lost their shoes in the mud. Bullets flew by our ears, people fell around us, and I thought I had been wounded because there was blood on my hands.

After running for an hour, I crept into the Bszukow woods. Scratched, bloody, hungry, and exhausted, I arrived at the woods, but it was really just a little covert. We hid under the trees so we could not be seen. To the right of the woods was a German villa. We could hear Germans singing and laughing in the villa. To the left was an armory, and we heard shooting. To the left was a road traveled by military vehicles, and we had to hide so we could not be seen.

Sitting under the trees, soaked by the rain, hungry from not eating for a whole day, we listened to the terrible shooting that drowned thousands of innocents in a sea of blood, the finest flowering of Jewish youth–engineers, musicians, painters, writers, and other artists and specialists.

That night I chose to leave the woods, and I set out toward Boiberke. To get there, I had to go through Lemberg. The friends who were with me warned me not to go, but I paid no attention. They said that all the streets were closed and this was not the time to go. I saw that I had nothing to lose and I dared not delay. If I was fated to live, I would live on the road. My friends yielded, and we headed toward the road. When my friends saw a police car, they ran back into the woods, but I and Nebel, a friend from Lemberg, hid under a tree; and when the car had passed, we went on the road toward Lemberg. It was dark and the night was quiet. We bought some bread and stayed in the green closet as much as possible until “curfew” time. The trip from Lemberg to Boiberke took six and a half hours.

After six and a half hours, we came to Szpilshtshima, a village three kilometers from Boiberke. Then we decided there was no reason to go to Boiberke. We were afraid of the Ukrainian police or the Ukrainian gendarmes. I turned left toward the Polish village of Wolowa. It was a dark night, really dark, and we got lost and missed the village as we walked through the muddy woods. I had to listen to the scolding from my friend Nebel, who was saying it would soon be day and we would fall into the hands of the Germans. He blamed me for leading him astray and for not knowing where to go.

When day broke, I got my bearings and saw where I was, and I arrived at my Polish Gentile acquaintance in Wolowa. When I got there the Gentile stared at me with shocked, wide-open eyes and asked where I had come from. All the Jews had been killed some time ago, and no Jews were left. When he saw that I was scratched and bloody, he wanted to give me bread and milk. We had bread, but we were very thirsty, so we drank the milk and we left for the woods. In the woods we ran into Gentiles who warned us to pay attention, because there were partisans in the woods, and if we did not know their passwords, they would shoot us. As we continued through the woods, suddenly there were the Kartens and Motl Ehrlich. I cannot describe the happy scene of this encounter. We fell upon each other and

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wept. There I also found Dvorah, Itche, and other landsmen, who gave us warm soup for the next few days.

And there a new life began, or more correctly, a battle for life and freedom. On November 19, 1943, I fled from the Yanover camp in Lemberg. I arrived at the woods the next day, November 20, 1943. There were two sorts of Jews in the woods. One sort, who had Gentile acquaintances in Szwirsz and in its vicinity, received necessities from them for survival. The second sort consisted of Jews with guns and weapons, and they survived through ambushes. That is, they lived on the necessities that they stole from nearby Gentiles.

Two weeks later these same Jews went to a Gentile named Krinicki. They were armed, because this Krinicki had turned a Jew over to the Germans, and the Germans shot him. Eight young Jewish men with guns went to Krinicki. First they beat him and then they shot him. They told his wife that any Gentile who did the same thing would meet the same end. The young men's act had a great effect on the area. It saved many Jews who lived in hiding with Gentiles, because those who thought they would get a reward for turning in Jews were afraid to do so, and they tried to hide the Jews because they feared for their own lives. I, having no weapon, wounded, moneyless, with no acquaintances in Szwirsz, I got hold of a bayonet, and with the bayonet I set out for Wolowa, where I did know Gentiles. It was winter, with snow, and freezing. I took along a rucksack and came to the Gentiles at night. They helped me. They gave me barley and other food with which I filled the rucksack. But there in the village I was stopped by a guard who was on horseback. He wanted to arrest me, but I took out my bayonet and ran into the woods. In my fear, I lost my way, and I spent the whole night stumbling through the woods. It was a dark night and I did not know where I was. It was a dark night and I blundered here and there. My shirt was soaked with sweat from running, and when I stood still, the shirt froze to my skin. The whole night went this way. In the morning I heard a dog barking. I thought this was the settlement of Szwirsz, but sadly I learned from an old Gentile whom I met that this was Romanov. I had to run quickly back into the woods, because Romanov was one of the worst villages in the area, a village that had killed its Jews right after the Germans had arrived. When I got back to the woods, I knew which direction I had to take.


Standing, right to left: Moyshe Nass, Chaim Gimpel, Malkeh Lehrer, A. Bitman (The son-in-law of Gershon Leinvand), Yisroel Karten
Sitting, right to left: Chaim Karten, Moyshe Ehrlich, the peasant who helped them the whole time


Not long after those Jewish boys shot Kirinicki, the Germans and Ukrainians conducted a raid–an ambush–in the Szwirsz woods. But thanks to the thickness of the Szwirsz woods, no Jewish lives were lost. We then fled to another forest near Stalowicz. When we got there, we found burned out bunkers. It appeared that the Germans had tried to exterminate the group of surviving Jews in the woods.

The little bit of food that I brought back from Wolowa was soon gone, and without a gun, a person had little value in the woods. When I saw that I could not help, I went to Strilke to a Gentile named Nicolo Yekimisza for whom I had done favors when I worked in the Strilke cooperative. The Gentile gave me his own bed. Through him I was enabled to send letters to Gentiles I knew; he leant me some money and I bought a gun. With my revolver and some food, I went back to the woods.

I also learned that in Strilke there was a battalion of Russian prisoners who were dressed in German uniforms. When they heard that we were in the woods, they wanted to join us. They had guns and other weapons.

[Page 2160]

I conveyed this to our people. The next day I came with Itche Karten to Strilke. From there we were to take the Russian prisoners in German uniforms into the woods. Unfortunately, the day before, they had been taken away by the Germans. Thus we lost the possibility of adding a couple hundred men to the partisans.

My life improved. I was no longer the same person. I had a weapon. I had a revolver. Everyone was my friend. Yosl Fogel sewed a jacket for me. Everyone who earlier chose not to know me now became my best friend. A partisan group was created, and I was a member. The leader of the partisans was someone who at first was thought to be a Pole, but it later appeared that he was a former university professor.

Among the partisans were armed Jews and Poles. Life with the partisans was quite different. I had no worries about food. The partisans fought against the bands of Ukrainians.

A couple of weeks earlier we heard that there would be an attack on the Szwirsz woods. We were in the Chanitszow woods with our weapons. In those woods were many more Jews than in the Szwirsz woods. It was cold. Instead of staying in the woods, we went to the Polish village. The Poles, who feared attacks by the Ukrainians, left us alone and received us well.

In the middle of the night we were awakened by loud shooting. The Ukrainians took Chanitszow. They set fires throughout the village. We found ourselves in the midst of Ukrainians, who burned and killed Poles. All the Poles who had weapons fought together with us against the Ukrainians until early in the morning. The Ukrainians even had cannon.

In the morning, things quieted down. The Ukrainians withdrew and we Jews returned to the woods. We found a terrible scene. The Ukrainians had destroyed half the village. They left burned houses, burned cattle, burned horses, and burned people. We went back to the Szwirsz woods.

The front got closer to us. German soldiers began to return. Our partisans took part in the battle against the German army. Our section of partisans headed toward Stok. On both sides of the woods we saw a small division of Germans going back in trucks. We surprised them by shooting from both sides. They jumped from the trucks and began to run without knowing where. The Germans were shot up. We took their clothing and even more important, their weapons, and we returned to the woods. This was our first chance to fight against Germans as the Germans began to retreat toward Lemberg. Later we went into the village of Szwirsz and there, too, we fought–with a division of the German army. This division was strengthened by tanks and artillery, and we had to withdraw to the woods because we could not combat tanks and artillery.

Itche Karten came to us in the woods and told us that the Russians were already in Boiberke and that we should go there. I was the only one from Boiberke among the partisans. I was in the first patrol that led the partisans to Boiberke. In Boiberke, I met Manek Kroythhammer in the Polish church. I also found Moyna Ehrlich. We went around the city. All the Gentiles who had taken over Jewish homes either ran away or hid.


Alvail The Destroyer

[Page 217]

We organized ourselves. We even wanted to bake bread. But the next day, German soldiers were approaching. At first we thought it was a small patrol. We set up machine guns near Yehoshua Dreyer's, near the Russian church, and elsewhere. But it soon appeared that a large contingent of Germans with tanks and artillery were approaching, so we withdrew. Many of our partisans lost their lives in our battle with the Germans.

We ran through the Zegelni and back into the woods, among the oaks. But these woods were too small. The partisan leader ordered us back to the Szwirsz woods. We had to go through Szpiltszina, but we did not know who controlled Szpiltszina, so we sent a patrol there. The patrtol found that it was in Russian hands.

The Russians sent us to Prshmishl. There our weapons were taken and we were given papers saying that we were partisans. All of the Jews who had been partisans were Russian policemen. I was given a position in the war commissariat in Prshmishl. This position helped me by keeping me from having to enter the Russian military. The Russians did not count on there being almost no remaining Jews. They mobilized the surviving Jewish young people and sent them to the front. Many Jews who experienced the hard times of the war and who finally survived the Nazi Amalekites fell at the Russian front. In this way, Yerucham Schleider lost his young life, as a Russian soldier soon after the liberation.

Also in the final hours before the liberation Akiva Vasser's son, Moyshe Vasser, was killed. He was in the Yanover camp, where he went through a lot. He did not merit liberation. He was killed at the last minute.

The surviving Jews lived together in Boiberke. It seemed as though they had no more to do there. One morning they all got up and left as Polish citizens for Poland, for Cracow, and later for Germany. From there, some went to Israel and some to America.

My dream was to go to Israel. In Cracow I worked for Aliyah Bet. The doors of Israel were closed. Jews were stuck in DP camps. I, because I had been a partisan, was employed in bringing people over the border. People created different kinds of documents, and I, with my partisan papers, led people from Cracow to Slovakia, to Bratislava. Our job was also to bring Jews illegally to Israel, but the Zionist organization did not allow me to come, because they said they needed me in Poland for the work of Aliyah Bet. I lost my patience. I did not want to remain any longer in Poland or Germany. I registered to go to America. I received documentation and came on the “Marine Fletcher,” and American military ship, to America in 1947.

Interestingly, when I was in Israel in 1962, I met a woman named Cohen who recognized me and thanked me because I had taken her over the border from Poland to Bratislava (Pressburg). This gave me great pleasure, because Mrs. Cohen was one of hundreds of men and women whom I led from Cracow to Pressburg. I had not expected that after 17-18 years that I would first see the result of my work for Aliyah Bet.


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