Table of Contents Next Page »

[English page 3]


After having overcome serious difficulties in obtaining the material for the book which contains essays, short stories, descriptions of manners of life, reminiscences, personalities, various documents, testimonies of survivors of the holocaust, photographs, necrologies, lists of the deceased and so on, and after having classified the material edited and prepared it for the printing-press, we are presenting the book to our townsmen and to all those who are interested in these events.

The object of the book, as of all the other memorial books is as follows:-

(a) To be as a memorial to the martyrs of our town who cruelly and tragically perished with even their burial place unknown.

(b) To describe to the best of our ability, the ways of life; the livings; the manners and the conduct of our parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends; as well as the suffering, oppression, humiliation, starvation and the other sadistic tortures which they experienced before their death by the Nazis.

(c) In order that our townsmen, wherever they are, as well as their children and children's children should always remember and never forget the evil the Nazi-Amelek had done to the community of our town Czortkow.

(d) In order that this book may serve as raw material for the historian in the generations to come, who will write the history of the Jews in Europe.

We do not pretend to have attained our aim in full. There is no doubt that many aspects of Jewish life in Czortkow have either not been emphasized enough, or not been touched on in the book at all.

We tried to do our best, however, and the readers of the book have to take into account that the participants in this book were not professional writers but ordinary people to whom we had appealed and asked them to write. We had to accept what they had written and how it was written, except of corrections of language and style.

Likewise it must be clear that the book is not "clean" of errors, mistakes or repetitions in content, as we did not think it proper to delete the few words or passages, when someone mentioned a personality or some event about whom or about which someone else had already written. As for the English section of the book, reluctantly we had to minimize the quantity and publish only a small part of the contents of the book, as it was practically impossible to enlarge the volume apart from the additional cost involved in publishing, which we could not afford.

In conclusion, we express our thanks to all those who participated or extended help to issue the book, either by their contribution in writing or by material help.

May all of them be blessed!

Our friends, members of the Czortkow Association of New York deserve special thanks for their share in the book, as their financial contribution to the Gmiluth Chessed Fund which was ultimately used for the publication of the book, constituted a considerable par of the cost of publication.

May this book be a Monument for the martyrs of our town.

(Czortkow Book Committee)

We Will Never Forget

We the members of the Rabbi David Moses Friedman Society wish to express our deep felt sorrow, pain, and sadness of the tragic happenings to our dearest and closest from the city of Czortkow.

We will never forget what the German, Polish, and Ukrainian murderers did to our families. We will always remember that the whole Christian world looked on apathetically, while our brethren were being massacred and gassed.

We cry out to the Almighty in our ancient prayer: "God, pour out thy wrath upon the nations who have shed the blood of our Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, and Brothers".

On behalf of
Congregation Rabbi David Moses Friedman
Society of Czortkow
Sol Stoeckel - Financial Secretary

History of the Jews of Czortkow

Mordechai Silberg

Topography of the Town

The town lies on the right bank of the river Seret, in a deep valley surrounded by mountains some of them covered with forests, the others greening with herbs in summer and snowcapped in winter. The river flows from north to south, and falls into the Dniester. Two of the bends of the river cross the town at two different points and largely add to its charming beauty. From the top of the mountains roundabout, an exquisite scenery is visible which one can feast his eyes on for hours.

History of the Town

The name Czortkow was mentioned for the first time in 1427 in a document of sub,mission to the King Wladyslaw Jagiello, signed, among other nobles, by the possessor of the village Czortkowicy. The name was mentioned again in 1522, when King Zygmunt the First granted the landowner Czortkowski, a charter to build a town, according to the German regulalions.The town was to be named Czortkow.

The town experienced various adventures. From the beginning of its establishment it was frequently attacked by the Tartars who destroyed it and took captive its inhabitants. Especially during the revolt of the Cossacks the town fell several times into the hands of the united host of tile Tartars and the Turks.

In 1678 the Turks conquored Czortkow as well as the other Podolian towns, and in 1700 Czortkow was raised to the status of the Seat of the Vice-Pusha. Their rule lasted until 1683 when they were expelled by Andrej Potocki.

At the Peace of Carlovitz in 1699, the Poles took over the whole region of Podolia, and Czortkow returned to the Potocki family. In 1772, after the first partition of Poland, Galicia was ceded to Austria.

In 1800 the province of Tarnopol, including Czortkow, was annexed to Russia and remained under its control until 1815 when Austria renewed its rule which lasted up to the outbreak of World War I.

In the first weeks of World War I the Russians occupied the town and controlled it for three years, when they were forced out by the returning Austrian-German armies. After the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, as a result of the defeat in the war, the town entered upon an era of instability, after a continuous rule by Austria for nearly a century.

As soon as the war was over, the Ukrainians seized the reins of power and ruled in the town for nearly a year, until they were defeated and forced out by the Poles who had gradually conquered the whole of Eastern Galicia and annexed it to the independent Polish State.

In 1920 when the Bolsheviks invaded Poland, Czortkow too came under their rule for about three months; then they were driven out by the Poles beyond the border. Since then Czortkow had been under Polish rule up to the Soviet conquest of the town a few days after the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The town remained under Soviet rule up to the German occupation, a few days after the German onslaught on the Soviet Union on the 22nd of June 1941.

Jewish Settlement

The year 1616 -- the earliest date to prove the existence of a Jewish population at that time -- was found to be engraved in a tombstone in the old cemetery of the town. However, there was no doubt that the Jews had settled there before the above mentioned date.

In an ancient Registry of the Jewish community in Czortkow which was discovered before World War I (the contents in Hebrew is given in an abridged form at the beginning of this book) there is a supplementary note about the destruction of the community at the time of Bogdan Khmelnitzky (1648). It is further told there about the martyrdom of Jews who fell victims of libel spread by the Poles, who apparently had suspected the Jews of having come to an agreement with Cossacks, which consequently led to a massacre of Jews by the Poles. At any rate, from this note it is evident that, 32 years after the mentioned date (1616), an organized Jewish community already existed in Czortkow.

In the registry there is a record of events stretching over a period of more than one hundred years. So is there a list of the Rabbis who had served in the town, some of them became famous as geniuses.
There are also detailed lists of the yearly budgets of the community, of income and expenditure. It becomes clear that in most cases expenditure exceeded income, and the community was compelled to borrow money from the rulers and priests at a high rate of interest, or even at an exorbitant one. A vicious circle was thus created : a large part of the annual budget had always to be reserved for settlement of former debts (sometimes up to two-thirds of the budget), and the remainder hardly sufficed to pay the salaries of the employees of the community, like the rabbi, the cantor, the attendants an<l so on.

From a study of the Registry as well as from other sources, one can learn that the situation of the Jews of Czortkow was very hard at that time, both politically anti economically.

The governments in this region were unstable and, relatively, changed very often. The common factor of all those governments was that the Jews were victims of all of them: they were deprived of civil rights but, however, were the first to carry the Burden of general taxes, in addition to specific taxes imposed on Jews only. No ray of hope was to be seen on the horizon, of any possibility for them to get out of the terrible distress they were in. The "real" hope was their strong belief in the coming of tile Messiah...


In the second half of the 19th century, after the revolutions which had broken out in 1848 in Western Europe, a marked improvement occurred in the situation of the Jews, both politically and economically. First of all, the special taxes imposed on Jews were abolished, and gradually they received equality of rights similar to those of the other inhabitants, Jews could get jobs in government offices and in law courts. In the seventies of the 19th century Jews engaged in export-import trade, and some even became landowners. High schools were opened to Jews, and they made use of this privilege and entered liberal professions, became physicians, lawyers, and the like.

However, the improvement in the economic situation touched only a relative small part of the Jewish population, while the majority of them lived in poverty and distress, and had to struggle hard in order to earn a poor and scanty livelihood. There were entire quarters in the town where there were neither paved roads nor sidewalks. In the dilapidated clay-houses there were neither electricity nor water supply, nor bath-tubs, nor sinks nor canalization, nor W.C.

The majorily of the Jews of Czortkow lived on trade, while a substantial minority consisted of artisans, teachers, clerks, butchers, religious ministrants, and so forth.

In the political sphere, the Jews were ground between the millstones of the Poles and the Ukrainians in their struggle for power. however, in the course of time, the Poles and the Ukrainians, despite the hostile relations of one to another, joined against the Jews, in order to evict them from their economic positions in dealing with the peasantry in agricultural produce, by imposing a boycott on the Jews, by the opening of cooperatives, and so on. Nevertheless, despite all this hardship, by contrast with what happened later, this bygone epoch can be seen as calm and quiescent. The most important mitigating factor was, that the world was still open to immigrants, and whoever could not succeed in finding a livelihood in his native community was able to seek his fortune in overseas or in other lands.

The Russian invasion of the town in World War I, brought about an end to this epoch which lasted for more than half a century.


Fortunately, unlike many other towns in Galicia, Czortkow was not destroyed when the Russians invaded and occupied the town in World War I. The Jewish inhabitants adapted themselves to the new rulers and continued their life as before.

During the period of the Russian rule which lasted for three years, some major events are noteworthy: 1) The expulsion of the Jews of Sniatyn into Czortkow in 1915. 2) In the same year epidemics broke out in the town; the most formidable was the cholera plague, to which many hundreds of people succumbed. 3) The Jews of Czortkow witnessed the revolution which broke out February 1917, known as the Kerenskv Revolution.

World War I and Its Aftermath

When the war was over, the town changed hands several times: the Ukrainians, the Poles, the Bolsheviks and again the Poles took possession. The period of Polish rule in Czortkow lasted for nearly 20 years, and came to an end with the Soviet conquest of the town in the first days after the outbreak of World War II.

From the beginning of the establishment of the independent Polish State, the Poles conducted a struggle against the Jews, in order to drive them out of tile sources of living and take their places, and to evict them from the economic positions they had held before. The main object of the Poles was to compell the Jews to emigrate, in accordance with the well known slogan: "Poland for the Poles" They wanted to achieve this end by hook or by crook: by the press of taxes; by not employing Jews in government offices, in industry; by various kinds of economic pressure, and so on.

From the beginning of the establishment of the independent Polish State, the Poles conducted a struggle against the Jews, in order to drive them out of tile sources of living and take their places, and to evict them from the economic positions they had held before. The main object of the Poles was to compell the Jews to emigrate, in accordance with the well known slogan: "Poland for the Poles" They wanted to achieve this end by hook or by crook: by the press of taxes; by not employing Jews in government offices, in industry; by various kinds of economic pressure, and so on.

In the twenties of the 20th century, some countries were still open
to immigrants, and many Jews of Poland seized this opportunity. However, the gates of immigration were gradually shut, and in Poland the sources of living were closed. The economic impoverishment of the Jews increased and reached its climax in the thirties on the treshhold of World War II, which brought about -- in addition to the economic poverty -- the Nazi holocaust, which put an end to the physical existence of the Jewish population in Czortkow.

The Spiritual Image of the Town

Czortkow was always bubbling and full of life. As long as religion was in supremacy, the town was renowned with its genius Rabbis, learned and erudite men. However, in the 18th century, the "Haskalah" (enlightenment) began to penetrate, at first secretly and hidden; however, it was like a thin rain which falls slowly but penetrates deep and waters well the earth. Indeed, within some tens of years, ever since the gates of the secondary schools and universities had been opened to Jews, a large class of intelligensia sprang up in the town which played un important role in various fields of life, in education, economy, and in social, political and communal activities.

The Jews of Czortkow took an active part in all the social movements which have arisen in the last two centuries: Hassidism, Mitnaggedim, Haskalah, Zionism of all the colours of the rainbow, Assimilation, Socialism, Communism, and so on.

Czortkov was among the first towns in Galicia where a modern Hebrew School was founded with Hebrew as the language of instruction. In the last years before World War II, a Hebrew gymnasium was established and the "Talmud Torah" was also turned into a modern school.

There were various institutions in the town: Talmut Torah", Gmiluth Hessed (lowns without interest) an orphanage, a home for the aged, libraries, clubs, choirs, dramatic groups, sports teams, and others. The political parties were very active: in the first place, however, were the Zionist and Hechalutz youth movements.

A number of Halutzim from Chortkow immigrated to Eretz-Israel before World War I. Groups of Halutzim immigrated to Eretz-Israel one after another. However, the stream of immigration stopped because of a lack of certificates, and many, many Halutzim who prepared themselves to go to Eretz-Israel were victims of the Nazi holocaust.

Of the personalities active at various times in some fields of life in Czortkow, we want to mention here only two, active in the second half of the 19th century. Their influence reached far beyond the boundaries of the town.

One of them was Rabbi David Moses Friedman,. the founder of the Ruzhin dinasty of rabbis in Czortkow. He was a modest God fearing man, who kept away form world affairs, who mostly was engaged in the study of the Torah and in religious subjects: the whole of his being said sprituality. In an atmosphere of luxury and abundance - as was customary in the courts of this dynasty - he lived a life of suffering and torment. As if forbidden by vow, the pleasures of life he denited himself.

His infuence lay in the strong belief of thousands of his disciples in their Rabbi, whom they admired, listened to for his advice , and whose commands they obeyed.

Thanks to him the town became famous all over the world. The great stream of people from without, which used to come into the town throughout the year, especially on the eve of festivals, and the High Holy days was of great importance, both from the social aspect and from the economic one. The people who used to come from far and near, relieved the town from dreariness, and breathed life into it.

The second personality, Rabbi Yeshayahu Meier Shapira, a contmeporary of Rabbi D.M. Friedman, attained his goal by his activities for the enlightenment of the masse: artisan, small merchants , etc. They were no disciples of Rabbi Friedman.,but rather opponents (Mitnaggedim). Although their is no doubt that Rabbi Shapira was a very pious man, nevertheless Hassidim maintained that Epicureanism smelled from his activites. Ribbi Shapira was not a conserative man, and did not follow in the footsteps of the other. contemporary rabbis.

He saw himself designated to encourage and aggrandize the depressed and humiliated masses, not only spiritually but also materially. 'To this end he foundeda bank on a cooperative basis, in order to help the needy by granting them loans at a low rate of interest.

He organized an Artisans Associalion, "Yad Harutzim", which was a "revolutionary" act according to the conceptions of those days. In his spare time he used to invite groups of artisans and teach them a "Parsha-Chumash" (poriion of the Pentateuch) with "Rashi" commentary: a chapter of Psalms or "Ein Yaaqov". He was among the first to circulate the ideas of Enlightenment and had preached orally and in writing the idea of "Return to Zion" long before the appearance of Dr. Th. Herzl.

Thanks to the activities of Rabbi Shapira, Czortkow had turned into an important centre of the Haskala movement, and later on also of the Zionist movement. Nearly all the first Zionist leaders camc from among Rabbi Shalpira's pupils and admirers.

A synagogue bearing the name of Rabbi Shapira was built in Czortkow, so was founded by the Y.M Shapira Society in New York.

We mentioned these two personalities, because their names were renowned all over the world, however, besides them, there were in Czortkow tens and hundreds of personalities descrving individual appreciation, since they dedicated very much of their time and of their power to social movements, public institutions, the education of the people and so on. However, we regret that we can not afford to appreciate every one of there individually.

When the Nazis invaded Czortkow one of their first acts was, as in other pIaces. to start cutting the "Tree of Life" from the top. On demand of the Gestapo, the Judenrat provided list which included hundreds of those in the liberal professions, lawyers, teachers, engineers, and the like. All of them were brutally murdered in the "black forest" near the town.
May these lines be a tombstone in memory. of these estcemed men, and a designation of the dreadful disgrace of their murderers !

The Destruction of Czortkow

Translated by M. Silberg

On the 17th of September, 1939, the Red Army entered Czortkow. The Jewish population ,breathed freely, because they were saved from Nazi occupation. The Jewish community, Which numbered about ten thousand, continued to live in relative quietness up to the outbreak of the German-Soviet war on the 22nd of June, 1911.

On the 6th of July, 1911 the Germans invaded Czortkow. Although the Soviet authorities had made it possible for anyone to leave town, and join the retreating Red Army, only ,a few hundred Jews, mostly young men, seized the opportunity and escaped to Soviet Russia.

The effect of the virulent campaign conducted for years by the Nazis against the Jews and the Soviets, by means of Ukrainian agents and spies, gave its signs already in the first days of the occupation. The Nazis reaped the fruit of the hate they had sown, as even before they had set foot in the Ukrainian village the peasants broke into the houses of their Jewish neighbors, murdering them together with their wives and children, and looted their property.

An atmosphere of an eve-of-pogrom panic was felt in the town. The Ukrainians circulated all kinds of fantastic accusations against the Jews, and after exciting feelings for several days, they attacked the Jewish inhabitants and took them to forced labor, where several hundred People Perished as a result of brutal treatment and lust for murder.

It was the Ukrainian Police which perpetrated the most terrible attacks, brutalities and mass murder of the Jews of Czortkow and its environment.

The first edict issued by the Nazis ordered every Jew to wear on his arm the mark of disgrace the "Star of David" on it. In addition, the Jews were ordered to provide daily several hundred workers for forced Labor, and to fulfill all the demands of the local Nazi authorities.

After a brief period of time, several persons joined to set up the "Judenrat" of Czortkow. The Judenrat numbered 12 people among whom were advocate Dr. Kruh. Israel Langerman, Bertsie Steiger, Feivish Lebhard and Israel Mordechai Treiner.

Among the first demands of the Nazis from the Judenrat was a list of those in the liberal professions. according to which all the teachers as well as lawyers were arrested, among whom were also members of the Judenrat, together about two hundred people. They were brought to the "black forest" about five km from Czortkow, where all of them were shot and buried in prepared graves.

On the 20th of August 1941 a "flying machine arrived in Czortkow and at once started snatching Jews in the streets, who were also brought to the "black forest" and murdered their.

After the liquidation of the Judenrat in the first composition, the Nazis appointed a new one, headed by Dr. Ebner. Among other members of this Judenrat were Hertz Buchsbaum, Yankel Kohn, Leib Winter, David Stoecker, Dr. Goldstein, Dr. Kimmelman and Dr. Feldman.

There is no doubt that the Judenrat was not established in order to protect the Jews. Its single task was to serve as an agent of communication between the Germans and the Jewish population. Since no Jew was allowed to enter a German office in order to arrange something, the only official procedure left open to the Jews was the Judenrat.

On the other hand, the Judenrat served also as the executive agency of the Nazi authorities, being forced meticulously to carry out their orders. This in itself was a sufficient cause for the lack of confidence on the part of the Jewish population which turned later into hostility towards the institute and its "personages".

The Judenrat emptied the Jewish population of their property, in order to fulfill the demands of the Nazis.The Judenrat never tried to make use of the large sums and means at its disposal, to do something in order to ease the terrible situation of the Jews in Czortkow. One must, however, bear in mind that the Judenrat was in a precarious position. Its members were unable to meet all the demands of the Nazis. Once and again strict measures were taken by the Judenrat against the Jewish population by means of the Jewish Police.

As is known, a Jewish Police Force existed which was at the disposal of the Judenrat.The Jewish Police Force, "Ordnungs-Dienst" (Order-Service) in German, consisted of 20 men headed by the Officer Hungar of the municipality. These Order-Service received orders from the Judenrat, and carried out with loyalty and strictness all the requirements, like collection of taxes, the confiscation of valuables, furniture; utensils and so on, in order to complete the imposed quotas.

The job of the members of the "Order-Service" was vile and not easy., However, despite the fact that in some cases one policeman or another extended help in time of distress, or showed a kind attitude, nevertheless, generally, the members of the "Order-Service" fulfilled their terrible duty obediently.

Both the Judenrat and the Order Servicemen never shrank back from helping in snatching Jew's to be sent to labor camps, which were in fact death camps. More than once bitter dispute broke out between members of the Order-Service and the rest of the Jewish population.

It was imposed on the town daily to provide hundred or two hundred workers. The work was hard,and while working the workers were cruelly beaten, and many were shot dead. however, on the next day the same number of Jews were sent to work as if nothing happened.

Despite the incessant demands of the Nazi authorities. from the Judenrat for the supply of valuables as well as large sums of money, it never happened that the Jedenrat did not meet a demand, to the last penny. The order-servicemen forcibly confiscated m the Jewish houses whatever they could, and delivered the quota m full punctually.

More serious was the problem of providing the quotas of workers, ever since it became clear that the so-called labor camps near Kamionka, Tarnopol and Lwow were death camps. The Nazis based their continual demand for new workers on the ground that they had to release the former ones. The fad, however, was that not a single man of those sent to a "labor camp" ever returned to the ghetto.

Most of the men in the camps starved either of hunger or of cold, or were killed by the Ukrainian police which helped the Gestapo in the extermination of the Jews. In a short period of time, more than two thousand Jews perished in the camps.

All the Jedenrat faultlessly fulfilled their assignment, however, the Judenrat of Czortkov exceeded all others, especially in its chairman, Dr. Ebner. This man managed his treacherous activities mercilessly, with disgusting German punctuality, and the Jewish population was full of powerless anger against the chairman of the Judenrat who served with so much brutality his Nazi masters.

I emphatically declare that some of the neighbors of the Judenrat became rich and benefited from special privileges granted to them at the expense of the Jewish population which was doomed to extermination. No Jew of the town ever contacted them, and the Jewish masses were keeping distant from them as if they were lepers. However, the members of the Judenrat themselves did everything possible to keep away from the Jewish community , trusting to succeed in this way to set up a barrier between those who were doomed to die, and between those who might be lucky to save their lives, as well as those of their families. However, they deceived themselves, as none of the Judenrat people was saved, and their fate was like that of the other Jews, with the only one difference, that their names will remain for ever under a dreadful disgrace. At the last "Action" of extermination of the Ghetto, the fate of the Jewish police was the same as that of all other Jews. The Gestapo had brought the Jewish police together with other people into the railway carriages and dispatched them to the death-camps at Belzec.

As far as the Germans are concerned. they gave us to understand that we were to doomed to destruction and that it was only a matter of the time, which was to be fixed by the authorities in Berlin. They used to hint to dates, which were delayed and changed again and again, so that our existence turned into, an infinite wait for death.

I shall try to describe the conditions we lived in. If it is at all proper to to be called life.

Early in April 1942 the Germans began to carry into effect their satanic plan for a systematic extermination of the Jews in the surroundings of Czortkow. At the same time the Nazis established a ghetto, in Czortkow. which included the streets Rzeznicka., Skladowa, Targowa, Lazienna, Podolska and Szkolna.

All the Jewish houses were marked with a large "Star of David". Leaving the ghetto without permit involved capital punishment. Snatching and shooting as well as surprise-"Actions" in the ghetto area occurred often.

From time to time large contributions of money were imposed, which were to be delivered in a few hours time. Time and again the Nazis used to take away from the Jews silver-cutlery, clothes, books and money. From time to time they used to send large numbers of men to camps and women to work in the neighboring estates.

The first "Action" took place in the days of 26-27 of August, 1942. About a thousand Nazis and Ukrainian police attacked the ghetto at night and took out of the houses about two thousand Jews and sent them away, by train, into the gas chambers at Belzec. About five hundred sick and aged Jews as well as children were murdered on the spot.

The detained were divided in groups and to each of them a member of the Judenrat and two Jewish policemen were appointed to be responsible for the respective group. Although both the Judenrat and the Jewish police were personally spared in the first "Action", nevertheless, some of their relatives were among those sent to the death-camp. At the "registration area" near the Bazaar the Germans made a selection and exempted about two hundred Jews who were needed to carry out their indispensable work.

After the first "Action" the ghetto was reduced. Szkolna and Podolska Streets were excluded. and the ghetto comprised only the streets near the river Seret like Skladowa and Rzeznicka.

On the 5th of October 1942 the Gestapo ordered the Judenrat to provide 500 Jews. Both the Judenrat and the Jewish police tried to carry out the order and started snatching Jews and bring them to the "registration area". However, they failed to fill the quota imposed on them. The Gestapo broke into the ghetto and took away by force 500 Jews and brought them to the train. With this group the Gestapo pushed into the carriage 12 Jewish policemen, who succeeded, however, to save themselves by breaking a wall of the carriage and deserting.

It is worth mentioning that in the first "Action" two girls jumped out of the window of the train and thus escaped death. These were the daughters of Mr. Palik (the pharmacist) and Mr. Bercowicz.

The "Action" on larger or smaller scales, continued all the time. However, we got wind of the German decision to liquidate all the Jewish population by January, 1943. The liquidation did not, however, take place at the mentioned date.

In the course of time a large part of the population voluntarily moved to the labor camps which had been established in the big farms at Swidowa, Jagielnica, and Tluste. About a thousand Jews arranged themselves in relatively favorable conditions. they had a self-management : the work was very hard: they settled in more or less good huts and were able to acquire foodstuffs as desired. There were whole families who settled on those farms.

The Nazis organized a special camp for artisans as well as a camp called Store-Camp. At both places about a thousand Jews, both men and women, worked.

By June 1943, the Nazis decided finally to liquidate Galician Jewry. The snatching of Jews did not stop even for one day, and all of them were brought to death camps. Many were shot on the spot.

By August 1943, Czortkow was declared as "Judenrein". When the Nazis came across a Jew he was instantly murdered. A small number of Jews succeeded to find a hiding place at their Christian friends and were saved. However, many others were unlucky, since many of the Christian "friends" who had agreed to hide their Jewish friends betrayed them and delivered them to the Gestapo, who liquidated them.

In the surroundings of Czortkow only one camp remained, the farm of Lizowce near Tluste. Out of several thousand Jews in all the farms, we remained only three to four hundred people. The German manager of the farm maltreated us, and anyone who so desired was allowed to attack us, by day or by night. In such conditions we lived in this farm for several months! We used to sleep at various places, mostly in the forest, sometimes in the open field, for fear of assailants and murderers. For weeks and for months we did not dare to undress. The most of us fell sick of typhus and other diseases. The number of people dwindled day by day. Some fell down while walking and died of hunger of illness or of exhaustion. Many perished by the hands of their neighboring peasants who used to attack groups of Jews, murdering them and looting the rest of their belongings. Many fell by the bloodthirsty Ukrainian police who used from time to time to attack the camps murder the Jews and shoot at the flying ones like hunters at wild beasts.

Such a horrible life continued up to March 1944. At that time we noticed that the Germans were retreating. In the last days before the final retreat they attacked our camp every night and killed many of us.

The few of us who were saved and remained alive fled to Tluste, and on the end of March 1944 we were freed by the Red Army.

The task of exterminating the Jews in our region had been imposed on special groups of the Gestapo. We also suffered very much from our neighbors, the Poles and the Ukrainians. If the relations of the non-Jewish population were better, far more Jews could have been saved remain alive.

Out of nearly ten thousand Jews which Czortkow numbered before World War II. only about one hundred remained alive.

Death Camps in the Region of Czortkow

It is Well-known that the Germans had planned the final extermination of the Jewish population The perpetrators adapted the plan to the conditions of the political situation. The Germans used all sorts of lies, cunning and fraud, and in this way succeeded to mislead the Jews, who in most cases placed confidence in their promises. It did not cross anybody's mind that there was a German tendency to annihilate the Jewish people. It became clear, however, that many of the commanders, Gestapo people, S.S. and policemen had studied in specially arranged courses, before entering upon the "task". However, form the moment they started in these "activities", they willingly, even devotedly perpetrated the killing and murder of the Jewish inhabitants..

The majority of the Jewish population perished in the camps. Some of these were "labor-camps", where many died of exhausting labor, inhuman conditions, diseases and cruelties of the guards and the policemen. However, these camps had not been planned, theoretically, if practically, to be death camps. Labor-camps of this kind were the farms of the Polish nobles, as well as the artisans-camps of Thomanek. Death-camps were set up at Kamionka, Hloboczek near Skalat, in Tarnopol and in Lemberg. More than two thousand Jews of Czortkow perished in the gas chambers of Belzec.

"Office" which contained a Jewish Department managed by three officials: Dr. Bloch, Lazar Katz, and Dudik Sternberg. They drew up lists of Jews able to work, who received identity cards for Jews, with photos and numbers. This card emphasized that the bearer of it was registered at the Labour-Office and was at its disposal at any time. At the end of the card was a remark: "Snatching in the street of the bearer of this card - prohibited". However, this remark was only to lead the bearer astray and to stupefy his vigilance to sense danger.

The snatching in the streets continued incessantly, and more and more cruelly. After an announcement by the Germans that every Jew must have his identity card, which gave him the right to work, stamped by the Gestapo, all those who presented themselves were detained and sent to a death camp. Only a small number of Jews obtained the so much hoped for stamp of the Gestapo. However, in cases of snatching of Jews for a transport into a death camp, no difference was made - every Jew was condemned to death.

The First "action" in Czortkow

Zonka Berkowitz (Pollak)

Translated by Michael Lande, Advocate.

Wednesday the night of August 26,1942.

One can hear the first shots. crushing of window-panes, shattered doors, lamentation, weeping. screams. there is a feeling of a cruel slaughter outside. The "action" started. Midnight; a beautiful and clear August night. with the moonshine lighting up the rooms, so nice around, and in such a night you hear cries of innocent children, of mothers and men, shaking the air. Only a few streets separate us from the "Aryan" side, where evrybody sleeps freely in his bed.

My ten-year old sister prays to God that she may. be saved and stay alive, and we both. my mother and myself, while watching her, feel that our blood stands still in our veins.

At 2.30 in the morning the "SCHUPOS" (Schutzpolizei) with whips in their hands, having the merciless faces of murderers, are driving us out from our house. We join other Jews, and we are assembled on the square near the "Bristol". where the horse-cars used to stay. And here, watching the scenes of children, being shot to death in their mothers' hands and thrown from balconies. I recall the horrible stories from barbarian times: but even these atrocities are pale as compared with the cruelties and savagery before my eyes.

Wherever I looked around, familiar faces. We are arranged in formations of "sixes", and so we go to the prison yard where there are already several hundred more people gathered. The prison gates are locked and here we have to stay until the following day.

Our faces reflect silent despair. People ask each other about the circumstances of their arrest, and we are wondering what's going to happen next.. Groups are formed, friends look for each other; there are many wounded people with bloody injuries from having been beaten. Children without parents, separated families.

It begins to dawn, and with the appearance of the sun, the heat grows. There is no water, and we quench our thirst with rainwater in the nearby barrels. Hours are passing with the heat becoming unbearale. We are like animals destined for slaughter and kept in a cage; but for thoes animals they spare neither water nor food. Everybody is hungry and forgets even the feeling of shame, making his ordure in public.

At 1:30 p.m. we hear the opening of the gate and we are ordered to step out. Everybody is sticking to the corners, to avoid bing the first, but after a while, we give up and all of us go out. We are now ordered in ten-men formations and escorted from all sides by SCHUPOS, Gendarmes and Jewish militia.

Mickiewitz Street is full of people, as in the days of big parades. We deliver the onlookers a wonderful show. theya re the happy ones and privileged to stay alive.

We are sure we will be taken to the forest, where we can expect to be shot, but we are directed to the railroad station. It seems to me that I never walked carefree and without fear through these streets. The feeling of thirst grows more intense. My lips are dry and the tongue sticks to the palate. It is a terrible feeling. People get rid of their belongings to ease their way.

On the railroad station we are spit up in groups of 120 and more and packed off into freight cars. The doors of the cars are shut. It is dark and tense, impossible to stretch out your arms, absolutely no air to breathe. Everybody strangles and chokes and you feel as if a rope were tied around your neck and such a terrible heat as if fire had been set under the car.

About ten people from the group are placed near the door; whoever has hairpins, nails, fasteners, starts to bore between the boards to get a little bit of air. People behind us are in much worse plight. The take off their clothes and look as if obsessed by bestiality and madness. They are hawking, choking and driven into the utmost despair.

I cannot recall for how long we are waiting of after how many hours the train starts. But when after a long waiting, the train is in motion. a sigh of relief emanates from the mouths of those who are still alive. The hope tht now more air will find its way inot the carriage, or it will start raining and a few drops will penetrate through the clefts. But none of these miracles happen.
It occurs to, me that we are making our way towards Trarnopol. I noticed that in our carriage there is more and more free space. People die and we are seated on their dead bodies. The remaining are raving and wild, mad from suffereing, quarrels between themselves aboug water.; mothers hadn thier children urine to still their thirst.

At night we are arriving at a station where the train stops for some time. We can hear a conversation in Russian. We wonder wht they will do next. A short ray of hope comes to our hearts. maybe we shall stay here to work. We hear many sounds, like that of a detachment of carriages, opening of doors, orders to undress, lamentations; we do not know where from, and whether there are more trains. Our train is driven back, and in our car there are still about 20 people alive. I remember, my mother with a very poor voice asking us to easoe our suffering and to break open a small window which if discoverd would not make any difference for us. being anyway condemned to death.

All of a sudden it becomes light in our car and from this moment I can hardly remember,how my mother insisted that I should jump out.I do not hesitate at all, because the motion of the train does not frighten me when I look on the dead bodies around me.

And then I recall two countrymen leaning over me and insisting that I should run away, but all I wanted was to drink, drink,drink.

I throw myself in a nearby pond and I can hardly quench my thirst, which burns my stomach. I am pouring handfuls of water with those hands which had lifted a short while ago dead bodies in the carriage.

Within a short distance from me, I notice a body of a woman from our car. She certainly has been shot to death by the Germans, who were on gurad on the roof of the train. Soon I am discovered by a German, who escorts me to the nearby Police Station, but later I am escorted to the Rawa-Rusksa Prison and put into cell No. 12. The date is the 28th of August 1942. Friday.

Luckily, I arrive at the prison soon after it has been emptied of a big transport of Jews, and I find out that in this transport was Zosha Feldman form Czortkow, the daughter of Advocate Feldman.

There are two days more left for the next transport, and they were to be decisisve for my destiny. Maybe, on account of my young age, the watchman decided to leave me alive and kept me in the prison. for ten weeks. Eventually, though their representation with the Judenrath, I am in a legal way directed to the Ghetto.

Later on, my father delegates to the Ghetto a man with "Aryan" papers, and he takes me to the ghetto in Buczacz. where I stay with my father and brother until "liquidation".

After the "liquidation" I am living in the camps in the region of Jagielnica (Marylowka,Shulthanowka,Trawna) until January 1944. The last two months before the liberation we were hiding in the fields and in the forest.

February 1962.

Fragments of the deportation of Jews from Czortkow to the camp in Belzec, on the night of the 26th of August1942 as deseribed by ZONKA BERKOWICZ, now married POLLAK. residing in New York. 1547 - 39th St. Brooklyn. N.Y. USA.

Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Chortkov, Ukraine     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Project Manager, Binny Lewis
This web page created by Moshe Shavit

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 27 Jun 2009 by LA