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[Page 233]

Letter from Dr. Avraham Halfan

Translated by Israel Pickholtz

Lodz, 28 January 1946
My friend!

I am happy to see that after so many years you have not forgotten us and that you are inquiring after the Buczacz survivors. It is no surprise that you do not hear from Buczacz, because Buczacz now exist only on the map. The city was destroyed. There are only two Hebrew families and there are no Jews in the entire county. There were more than ten survivors and about 65 from the county who went west to Silesia and on from there in order to get to Eretz Israel or other countries as quickly as possible. Don't send packages, they never arrive. My opinion is that everyone dreams of aliya to Eretz Israel, not of packages… The streets of Buczacz are covered with weeds and thorns and thistles are brought forth [this is a Biblical expression]. The houses are destroyed, synagogues are public lavatories. The cemetery has been plowed under and the tombstones taken to tile the pig market. The high school, the schools and other important buildings are destroyed. The people live on the banks of the Dnieper and the Volga. More than ten thousand Jews of Buczacz have been sent from this life' their bodies in mass graves on the "______," the ______, in the forests and the fields. [These two words are not Hebrew. I do not know what they are. The first says "fedur" and the second "bashtim."]

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to help us make aliyah. We appreciate your sacrifices and your efforts and we suffer with you. Perhaps there will be a change and the survivors will be permitted aliyah. – In any case, we are encouraged by the knowledge that someone under the sun thinks about us and wants to help us. You write that you have no news from Buczacz. How can I describe the situation – any description would be pale and would not truly reflect reality.

The tragedy began in July 1941 – beatings, forced labor, theft and corruption were common practice. In mid-August at four in the morning, 350 young Jews were shot on the "fedur." [see above] The young women were forced to clean the shoes of the executioners when they returned from this mass execution. People died of starvation. Outside the sword did its plunder, at home there was death. There were always new decrees, supervised by the "Jewish Council" (Judenrat) and carried out by the Jewish police. If any of these reach you alive, they should receive "special treatment." The Judenrat sent those who couldn't pay ransom to the death camps and the Jewish police hunted and beat the resistors. The Judenrat knew only dollars and gold. Furs had to be given to the Germans. Hiding furs brought the death penalty, because Jews were considered "warm" even without them. The Jews didn't know which was worse, the Judenrat or the Gestapo. This relatively good situation continued until the summer of 1942. Then began the five act tragedy – the "actions." The Jews of the towns and villages were brought to larger, central locations and from time to time there were "actions," generally late at night or towards morning. Germans, Ukrainians and Jewish police would burst into homes and whoever did not hide in basements, ditches, etc. was killed. There were several thousand victims of each "action." Terrible things happened in the hiding places. Mothers smothered their crying children or drugged them, without question. And outside death reigned. Sometimes those who were caught gave away the hiding places of their neighbors. After two days it would stop and bodies were removed from the houses and the streets and fines were paid by those who remained alive. The commerce continued: through the Judenrat you could buy and sell anything – gold, watches, jewelry, _______. [another foreign word] The non-Jews behaved badly towards the Jews. They were happy to hide their jewelry for them.

This is the way we lived from "action" to "action." each one eating away at several thousand victims. After each "action" the population was pushed into a few streets until eventually everyone was at the bottom of Podhajke Street, where the last were killed.

The tragedy had some tragi-comic scenes. There were a few instances where a person buried alive succeeded in working his way out of the ground and returned naked to the ghetto at night. Eliezer Binder, a memeber of my family, was twelve years old when he escaped from a mass grave which included his parents, brothers and sisters. A priest in the village, where I spent a certain amount of time, said "The Jews cheat. They jump into the graves, pretend to be dead then leave at night. You can expect anything from these Jews." Another scene: after one "action" a woman heard a child near a fresh grave "Mamma are you still alive?" A German policeman murdered the boy. He was the son of the dentist Gefner. Another story. Mrs. Clara Gross (nee Kornbluh) the wife of Gross the attorney, told hundreds of women and girls near the mass grave on the fedur "Be strong and do not fear. Any moment now and G-d will punish them… " Yaakov Margolies the baker yelled "Why are you being slaughtered like sheep and not dying with weapons in your hands!" He refused to undress before the "action" at the Jewish cemetery and spat in the face of the German. He was stoned and afterwards buried with his wife and sons.

After each "action" there were fewer hands to dig the graves and fewer people to pay the tributes. The Judenrat was killed last, in May 1943. Also killed were the Hecht, Mandel and Reich families as well as the work camp. The rest were sent to Kopicienice and Taluste [spell these how you like!] and killed there. The area was pronounced Judenrein. Any Jew found afterwards was murdered on sight. The murderers received 100 Zlotys per Jewish head. Heads fell – old and young, men and women. Anyone who succeeded in paying the last of his money to a farmer in exchange for a hiding place, was killed by the farmer or by the rural gangs or by the Ukrainian gendarmes. Oscar Friedenthal and his sister, Dr. Gross, Dr. Stern's daughter, Sabina Spiegel, the Kaner, Honig, Weiss and Zilberschlag families, Dr. Fuchs, Dr. Binenwald with his wife and sons and the wife of Dr. Hirschhorn were all killed this way. In Medidbecze [spelling??] a farmer killed Mrs. Chana Frankel and twelve others with an axe. The Glatners, the Schulmans, Mrs. Merangel, Mrs. Nacht and many others too. The city became like "the valley of the shadow of death." The Jewish bandits were no better than the murderers. They fell on the Jews in hiding, on the Jews in the forests and robbed them naked. That happened to Shaul Enderman and others. These bandits warrant "special treatment" at your hands. Jews were hunted in the villages, the fields and the forests. My wife and, my sister-in-law and her son hid in the village in the house of a farmer. It cost us much money. On 28 March 1944, the Soviets invaded but after a week, they retreated. Three and a half months – a second period of Hell. Another 600 Jews were killed, among them Dr. Goliger and her family, the physician Dr. Neuman and the Zigmans.

On 21 July 1944 we were finally freed. The count in our county was sixteen thousand murdered. Sixty five survived. They wait to be allowed to make aliyah. Try to make it as easy for them as you can. Investigate and examine the behavior during the occupation of every potential immigrant.

[Page 235]

Letter from Dr. Regina Zohker

Translated by Israel Pickholtz

Cracow, 14 January 1945

My Dear Doctor! [written with respect, using a third person form of address, which I shall ignore here]

I wrote to you some time ago, as one of those closest to me outside Poland – but did not receive a reply. Since I attribute the silence to the vagaries of the mails, I am writing again. Perhaps this time I shall succeed.

What can I write? There are so many confusing and weighty thoughts in my mind that it is difficult to force organization upon them and to express them clearly. But no one should be surprised at that, after what we have been through, irons saved from the fire, what we have seen and suffered, who can comprehend us? No man can understand it, perhaps only a mother's heart could feel the immensity of our suffering and pain.

Despite that much is being written and spoken about it, I am quite certain that you there – Jews, English, Americans – cannot fully fathom the painful events which have befallen us. Anyone who has not himself encountered the Germans, in the Gestapo, in the SS, in the gangs, who has not seen the "actions" with his own eyes – the hunt not of wild animals but of Jewish people, sick and healthy, old and young (and they all so wanted to live… ), anyone who has not seen brains splattered on the walls of homes, anyone who has not seen the butchered bodies and who has not seen the rivers of Jewish blood flowing in the streets – literally that – anyone who has not spent days in a death car to Belzec with no water, no food, no opportunity for basic physiological needs; anyone who has not witnessed the heart-rendering scenes as people left this life, and anyone who has not seen the beastly and sadistic crimes of Hitler's people – cannot understand us.

I see that I have written things beyond my intent, but it is hard to restrain myself.

The only survivor from my family was Mrs. Mina Salzman (nee Halperin) and her daughter. The rest are gone.

[Page 236]

Letter from Dr. Max Enderman *

Translated by Israel Pickholtz

Buczacz, 12 February 1945

Dear ["honored"] Mr. Heller,

I was given the letter which you sent to Levi Horenstein and Rosenthal, since they are no longer in Buczacz, having gone to Poland several months ago. Most of the surviving Jews from Buczacz have left the city and I assume that they have made contact with you [plural] and that you now know the names of any survivors. The only ones left in Buczacz now are me and my family, Prof. Heller (the son-in-law of Hersch Enderman) with his wife and grandson and a few people. The city appears as a wasteland, what the German murderers did not destroy, the war did. You have surely heard already of the fate of your own family. Your brother-in-law Zelig Enderman remained alive. He left for Poland some time ago, but we do not know where he is now. The Torah scrolls were taken to Tschernovicz and given to the rabbi there. Aside from those, each family who left the city took one Torah scroll.

* This letter was the last to arrive from Buczacz from the three families who remained in the city after the Holocaust. The recipient is in Poland. Return

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