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[Page 259]

The Road of Suffering

by Rywka Klein-Weinik

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Translation donated by Nina Talbot

Thirty-nine years have passed since the German murderers in Dynow, our shtetl [town, the plural is shtetlekh], drove together a large number of Jews, mostly men who were caught in the streets and taken outside the shtetl, where they were forced to dig large pits with their own hands. There hundreds of Jews were thrown in alive and covered with dirt.

Among the mountain of covered up people were many bodies under the covered over ground that were still moving over the course of several days.

A night earlier, at the close of the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the Nazi hordes burned the synagogues along with all of the Torah scrolls and the Jews who were located in the prayer houses. In order to increase their number – the murderers tossed in more Jews from outside.

All of the Jews who succeeded in hiding on the day of the wild fury were caught for unskilled labor, accompanied by “scenes” of mockery and blows.

On that bitter day there were a small number of Jews who tried various ways of saving themselves, such as making use of their acquaintance with gentiles in order to hide and those who crossed the San River to the other side, which was rules by the Russians.

A few days later, an order was immediately issued in the morning that all remaining Jews – women, children and the sick – had to be at the marketplace in an hour. The dread was very great and at the designated hour, we all appeared there.

Here we were surrounded by Gestapo divisions, which drove us to the shore of the San and told us to go into the river to the opposite shore. Women holding many children strode into the water, stimulated by the power of the hope of saving their lives.

A number of us reached Bartrowka and other villages. Others, I among them, wanted to get further away and climbed over the Dynow Mountains, reaching other places. As always in a time of trouble, a heavy rain fell and we slipped and fell holding the children, got up covered in mud and climbed further.

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And so during the climb carrying my year-and-a-half old child, my mother and my sister, Ruchla, followed me. Suddenly my mother cried and said: “I am now losing two children because Rywkala cannot endure this. My sister took my child from my hands, but fell along with us. She could not carry the child. I, as the mother, it appeared had other strengths. I feel the vestiges of that march to this day.

Night fell and the Christians of that area who had a humane character took us into a barracks, spread straw on the ground and, here, we, women and children, old and sick – amidst the sound of children crying which caused a terrible sadness for us – spent the first night.

In the morning, the gentiles, from whom we hired horses and wagons, took us to various places. Everyone searched for a place where they had a family member or an acquaintance. The greater number went to Przemysl. Our family went to Berch [Bircza] where our older sister Rayzele lived.

Now for us began the difficult life of refugees. It is difficult to describe the poverty and loneliness that accompanied us every day of our life when simultaneously we felt the usual situation of formerly well-situated people who now, with great effort, had received a small residence jointly with a few families. We suffered from hunger and were without clothing and without shoes. Everything already was torn and this all was still just the beginning of our troubles.

The Russians, who were the bosses on that side of the shore of the San and also in Przemysl, carried out police raids, grabbing people, packing them in freight trains and sending them as refugees to Siberia like cattle. Among them, too, were the few Dynow Jews. We succeeded in escaping and hiding. We left Przemysl for eastern Galicia and settled temporarily in Zloczew.

Then the Russian-German War broke out and the Germans arrived in Zloczew. This time they gathered the Jews together, the majority women and children, and led them to the pits, where they also buried many alive. A concentration camp was created for those remaining alive – for heavy labor and annihilation. Simultaneously, a ghetto was created for the Jews in the poorest area where

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there only were old, collapsing houses. The surviving Jews were placed in them, a few families together [in each house]. We were provided with very little food. Various epidemic diseases broke out immediately and every day the dead, who had been covered only in sacks, were removed.

The Nazis carried out aktsias [deportations] every few days – surrounding the ghetto, where the Jews had been driven from all of the small shtetlekh in the area of Zloczew, and led out a few hundred Jews. It was said they were being taken “to camps,” but in fact they were sent to their death. And thus, fewer Jews remained every day. Those remaining in the ghetto were given instructions to go to work. They were ordered to put on a white band with a Mogen Dovid [Shield of David – the Jewish star] so that it would be easier for the murderers to recognize a Jew.

The remaining Jews saw and felt that the final annihilation already was underway. They began to pay large sums of money to the Christians, who would agree to hide someone. Others dug bunkers in the ground in the houses of the ghetto.

One morning the Nazis surrounded the ghetto, gathered the Jews and also pulled out those who were hiding in the bunkers and sent everyone to their death. They then declared the city free of Jews and simultaneously covered all of the streets with placards stating that any gentile hiding a Jew would be shot with his entire family.

There had been few Christians who would hide Jews. However, now their number decreased even more. A number of them took the money from the Jews to hide them and later called the Germans and gave the unfortunate one to the Germans. There were cases in which the Christians themselves with axes in their hands killed their victims.

We were successful in hiding with a decent Christian family with five children in a village near the forest. The man, Franciszek Kalicine and his wife, Hani, treated us very humanely. My husband, child and I, disguised as peasants, left for a village seven kilometers from Zloczew. All three of us were there together with another woman and her young son, hidden in an attic of a pigsty. We lay on spread out straw for 16 months. At that time my husband worked in a private camp, in a leather factory. When the Christian friends informed him that the intention was to liquidate the rest of the Jews, they escaped and my husband and a daughter of the woman who was with us succeeded in joining us in the hiding place.

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We then made a bunker underground, in the grain barn – we were there when the situation outside was dangerous because they searched for Jews from yard to yard.

When the searches outside stopped – we went back to the attic where there was more air. It is difficult to describe the hunger and lack of water. We lived with a constant fear of death. Our number of hidden reached 14 Jews over the course of time. In the neighboring house of the brother-in-law of our Franciszek there also were 11 Jews hidden and we maintained constant contact with them.

Our money reserve became still smaller. On the other hand, the gentiles were afraid to buy a great deal of food because they were wary of too much attention. We then received one large bread a week. We divided this into 14 pieces. We weighed the portions of bread on a scale that we had made ourselves. We received a pot of soup twice a day that had a few potatoes and square flour noodles in it. Everyone received a small cup as a share of this “warm food” twice a day.

Little by little I took off my coat, all of my clothing, the rest of my jewelry that I still had from home and each time gave it to Mrs. Kalicine for her to give my child a small glass of milk every day. She also agreed to give me an onion from time to time. Every day I gave another piece of bread from my portion, which I always kept for this purpose, to my child – because I was a “specialist” at fasting…

My child often looked out through the cracks between the boards and saw the children playing. She begged me that she also wanted to play. I told her that we Jews could not go outside because the Germans were killing Jewish children. To this she asked: “Must I be a Jew when it is so bad?”… She was then four and a half years old.

At one time the Germans learned that Jews were hidden with gentiles in the village. They arrived with bloodhounds and searched for a few hours. To our good fortune they did not discover us. During the German search for us, I begged my little girl that if the murderers found us and took us to our death – she should, as a small child with blond hair, try to escape and hide among a group of good Christians. And when the war was over – she should leave for Israel and be with our

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family. The answer from my small child was that she would only live with us and what happened to us should also happen to her.

Our situation lasted this way for almost a year and a half. Then the Russian Army, with a heroic struggle, retook the area. This was heralded by heavy bombardment from the air. The Russian military entered and liberated us from the hopeless situation. We were free.

We already were depleted of strength, barely dragged ourselves with the help of sticks across the battlefields back to a life.

[Page 269]

From the Distant Past

by David Moritz

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Translation donated by Nina Talbot

Cold Days and Angry Winds

Although most of the Jews in Dynow did not enjoy great comfort and were far from “…and each man will be able to eat the fruits of his grapevine and each man the fruits of his fig tree…”[1] they had enjoyment from their warm homes, normal nourishment and mutual concern. The communal life also had its constant framework: the Hasidim warmed themselves around a fire from their rebbes, the Zionists strove and hoped for Zion, and the leftist parties, and above all the communists, hoped to live to see the coming of the “liberation of the world.”

In autumn, 1939, this was all overwhelmed at once. Everyone felt as if their heretofore high ideals were collapsing and that their futility was being shown at a time of bestial contests of strength. Suddenly everyone felt bitter surprise when they could not find any support in the beliefs they had nourished for years. The belief in the strength of human culture was shown to be groundless when one watched (and also felt on their bones…) what was being done by the human hordes, among whom were Germans, Austrians, Poles, Ukrainian Romanians [ethnic Romanians living in Ukraine] and Hungarians, who served the Germans, Austrians, who as if with a spell, lost their human face and threw off the fig leaf that only had served to hide their bestial instincts that incited them to such murderous acts.

The winter of 1939-40 was very difficult, frighteningly cold and snows that covered the ground up to a meter high [about 39 inches]. It reminded us of the winter of 1929. The German refugees from the surrounding cities and shtetlekh [towns] ran across the San and Bug Rivers – the new borderline between Russia and Germany.

For the refugees the situation was of “On the outside, the sword will bereave…” [Deuteronomy 32:25] – devastation and death lay in wait on the German side and poverty, cold and dirt raged on the Russian side. To this was added fear of the Russian secret police, who would carry out searches during the night and search for “speculators”…

First they were robbed by German gangs and what they left – the hungry Russians came like wolves and cleaned out everything: food, leather, clothing, jewelry, haberdashery,

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articles – everything that their eyes saw. They sent this all home to their poor families, who did not know of such things since the time of the czar…

The Dynow Jews were in a bitter condition: naked, barefoot, without being able to take suitable clothing with them – they wandered to the cities of Przemysl and Lemberg and to other cities and surrounding shtetlekh [towns]. During days of suffering and sadness, there reigned a strong longing for their hometown where some members of their families remained and – many mass graves.


The Rescue in Russia

A few of our brother Jews saved themselves in Russia. I do not think that the Russian government deserves special recognition for this. Their representatives did not come to save anyone. The Russians came across the border in a military action, just as the Germans did.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees, a large number of them Jews, were sent to Siberia. The people truly served as working slaves. A great number of them died there of hunger, cold and illness. This would have been the fate of almost all, if not for the Sikorski [-Mayski] Pact between Poland and Russia and the reestablishment of the Polish army. Then the Polish citizens were freed from Siberia and thus their lives were saved.

Here I want to provide an interesting detail that happened to the young people of Dynow who went to Russia before the war. Among them were Dynow Halutz [pioneers – those training to settle in Eretz Yisroel] who left Eretz Yisroel and went to Birobidzhan. They tragically ended up in a slave labor camp. One of them fell on the Finnish front.

And in addition, another episode: When Jews in Dynow exhibited their joy at the Russian entry into the city that freed everyone from the nightmare of the German murderers, a Jewish officer approached them and said: “Jews, do not celebrate yet; Moshiakh [the redeemer] has not yet come. The 'seven days of feasting' will come to an end and then you will have a difficult time.” When he was asked if they would be able to celebrate holidays under them, he answered: “One may even celebrate the Seder, but the [four] questions cannot be asked. If the questions are asked, one goes to Khad Gadya…”[2]

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A Dynower in Georgia

A young man from Dynow traveled through Kavkaz [Caucasus]– Georgia. He wanted to travel even farther for two reasons: [to escape] from the Germans and from the cold… to find a quiet corner somewhere, even behind the hore-khoyshekh [legendary mountain of darkness signifying a distant location] – perhaps he would meet a remnant of the Lost Tribes there and thus he traveled through European Russia to Baku on the Caspian Sea, not far from Tiflis [Tbilisi], the capital of Georgia.

A new world opened for him. After enduring the cold and snows of Lemberg, after absorbing the images of thousands of homeless refugees – it was a pleasure to stroll around the magnificent city, Tiflis, where palm trees were planted in the streets and the gardens were full of fresh grass and trees full of green leaves. There was food to buy in the shops, various kinds of bread, as well as various fruits.

There he met Georgian Jews for the first time. He tried to speak to them in Yiddish, but there was complete silence… They had not understood him. They spoke Georgian or Russian. Several of them understood a little Hebrew.

There were then three synagogues in Tiflis, two Georgian and one Ashkenazi, in the area where the Russian Jews lived. The rabbi and shoykhet [ritual slaughterer] in the large synagogue was Khakham [Sephardic equivalent of rabbi] Emanuel. The khakham in the second synagogue was a Georgian Jew who spoke Yiddish. He once studied in Brisk. The rabbi in the Ashkenazi synagogue was a Jew named Kaptsan, a well-known rabbi and scholar, to whom one turned with various questions. He later died in prison.

The synagogues were primitively built, much different in appearance from Polish synagogues. The local Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community] did not have the monetary means for more beautiful [synagogues]. They also had a fear of the communists who would have the opportunity to say that the Jews are rich and…speculators. Despite all of this, the synagogues were kept in good and clean condition, as much they could be.

One group of Jews traveled from Tiflis to Kulashi, a small shtetl mostly inhabited by Georgian Jews who lived a very pious life. There also were three synagogues there at that time when in Russia there were, in general, very few synagogues – the local Jews exhibited much energy in protecting the existence of the synagogues in their shtetl. Several years earlier, before our arrival, the communists wanted to close the prayer houses. The Jews, old and young, gathered there and faithfully,

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with self-sacrifice did not permit the evil will to be carried out, so the synagogues did remain.

The Jews in the shtetl and in the surrounding area maintained a primitive life. The small houses, mostly wood, were placed on blocks so that in the winter, when it rained heavily, they would not be inundated. The government houses and businesses were brick.

All of the people in the shtetl came together to look at the “wonder” of the Polish Jews. We have to remember that since Communist rule, no person from another country had visited.

The arriving group was divided in two: the people from Dynow and three other comrades were assigned to work in a small paint factory where the workers were almost only Jewish women and girls. Small packs of paint were packed in this factory and they were sent to various cities and shtetlekh in Georgia.

A second group worked in the shoe factory. It states a “shoe factory” – how does such a small shtetl in the time of scarcity of leather and rubber have a shoe factory? They took the old rubber tires from the vehicles and put together laptshes (shoes) for the peasants of the kolkhoz [collective farm]. A pair of shoes was an article – a rarity.

Food was a little easier to get here than in other places in Russia. Georgia is a fertile land. However, the Dynow young men said that in order to [feed] themselves – they needed to have their own airplane to rush around and procure everything for themselves. There was tea in Georgia, in Kyrgyzstan – sugar, in Krasnodar – bread, in Siberia – potatoes, and so on. Very little was brought from one place to another. There was a system that every republic had to support itself… Among the special articles for which Georgia had a reputation must be recorded Turkish nuts, grapes and wine, and… (mainly) a little locally made schnapps.

Shabbos [Sabbath] was almost the only day for a little spiritual feeling. Young and old went to the synagogues to pray. All repeated the prayers out loud. There were almost no scholars available. The Soviet regime closed all khederim [religious primary schools] and yeshivus [religious secondary schools]. The parents themselves taught their children a little Hebrew. At every opportunity, the Dynow young men would speak the holy language [Hebrew] with Khakham Shlomo and with the shamas [sexton] of the synagogue, who knew Tanakh [the Torah, Prophets and Writings] and the Talmud. He told the local Jews that the name of his shtetl is mentioned in the commentaries of the Talmud. There were old Vilna Gemares [Talmudic commentaries in the synagogue

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with the commentary Melo ha-Ro'im, whose author [Jacob Zevi Ben Naphtali Jolles] was the rabbi in Dynow.

The “cultural work” was exemplified by the arrival of a politruk (agitator) [Soviet political instructor] sent by the regime to agitate against the Jewish religion. One of the themes was – “discrimination” against the women. He gave citations, such as the blessing “Shelo asani isha” [“Blessed are you Lord…for not making me a woman”]. One of the Polish young people said during the discussion that evolved that it is good that the Jews are religious because if not, they would be corrupt like all of those who present their European “culture”… Discussions about religion could be held, but not about politics. Here, they could always listen and then say, “Amen”…

We met an interesting type of person in the shtetl – a scholar who had lived for many years in Jerusalem and when he was in his thirties, he came to visit his family – he was no longer permitted to leave. He liked to carry on conversations with the Polish Jews and particularly with those from Dynow. His stories about Jerusalem, about praying at the Western Wall, about Rachel's grave and the Cave of Machpelah, captured everyone. He spoke in Hebrew and the man from Dynow repeated his stories for everyone.

With all of the interests that we found in the shtetl – Dynow – our home always swam into our thoughts as if from nowhere. The images of the small alleys, of the market, the Kaiser Weg and the house of prayer that existed since the time of Rabbi, Reb Zwi Elimelekh, always appeared to me. He would spend time there with the Gemara [Talmudic commentaries] and other religious books.


Like a dream, our thoughts went to the times of the flood, Noah's Ark and the Mount of Ararat that is located at the border of Georgia and Turkey – and an immense power began to draw [us] there, to the other side of the border. One of us took courage and left. We did not hear from him again.

Translator's notes:

  1. From II Kings, 18:31 Return
  2. Khad Gadya is an allegorical song sung at the Seder – the Passover meal celebrated on the first and second nights of the holiday. Khad Gadya is also a slang Yiddish term for prison. Return


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