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[Page 301]

A Confrontation with the Police

Yehoshua Nudelman

Translated by Dalya Yohai

I was one those who found refuge in the forests, after the destruction of the Butshatch Ghetto. This saved my life. I would like now to share more details about this period.

I myself am from Chernelitza, but had close contacts with the people of Horodenka because of my activity in Gordonia-Hit'achdut. My father and I used to lease the forests in the Chernelitza area and use it for cutting and selling wood. In Kopachintsy, a small village near Chernelitza, my family owned and cultivated a forest. So I became a forest specialist and knew the paths in the forests. I also had maps, especially of forests around Potok-Zloti. After the destruction of the Butshatch Ghetto, I joined the young people who fled into the forests. There were four from Horodenka and I was the fifth from Chernelitza. There were also others from other cities in the area. The Horodenkans were: Yehoshua Vermot; Israel Zilber; and the brothers Yakov and Yochanan Bernstein, Pini Bernstein's sons.

During the destruction of the Ghetto I was gone. I was working for the Germans as a forest specialist. (I still have a certificate with a formal German seal.) One day I got an invitation to come to Butshatch with my tools. On the road I met a dentist from there and he told me it was a trap; that the Germans had once invited a doctor and dentist in this manner and had then killed them. I left the carriage, telling the Germans I need to get another paper, and fled to the forests.

When I met the other hiding in the forest, they asked me to join them and be their leader since I knew all the paths so well. Even before this, I had helped other Jews to hide in the forests, but they were all discovered and killed before they got to their hiding places. I was glad to join the Horodenka group and to work together to save our lives.

This was in October 1943 and so we needed to last through the hard winter months. And we did. I can say with no arrogance that it was thanks to my knowledge of the forests and the people who supplied us with food, helped us with laundry, hid each of us for a couple of days, and treated us very respectfully. I also managed to get some weapons.

I want to relate here about a battle we had with a German and Ukrainian troops. It was February 28, 1944. The day before we had been hiding with the Domkevitz family who lived in a forest on the banks of the Dniester in the area of Chernelitza and four kilometers from Kopachintsy. It had snowed hard that night and we decided to stay one more day and to move during the night. Somehow the police discovered we were there and a whole troop came to look for us. When we saw them, we locked the door and hid in the house. They called for us to come out and when we didn't respond they started to fire. We answered with gunfire and a battle ensued for an hour. Luckily we had enough ammunition — we had 100 bullets — and could hold out for a while. At the end we decided to run out of the house. But we tricked them. Five of us continued to fire and the other five, including me, we behind the troops and opened fire from the back. When they fired at us, the other five left the house. In the battle one of the German soldiers was hurt and they decided to retreat and leave us alone. Their plan was to come back with more people. We took advantage of that truce and quickly left. We even managed to take our belongings. The daughter of the house, Marsia joined us. The parents were not home at that time, so they were not accused of hiding Jews.

A couple of hours later, the troops returned but couldn't find us. They took the other children out of the house and burned it to the ground.

After this incident it was harder to hide anywhere because the troops knew about us looked hard for us. We moved to the other side of the river and continued to hide and move in the forest. We stayed in Potok Kloti a couple of weeks until the Russians liberated the whole area.

[Pages 302 & 328]

How I Survived

Moshe Blazenstein

Translated by Dalya Yohai

When the war broke out between Germany and Russia, I was in Lvov. The first or second day of July, I went back to my mother's place in Kolyanki, 15 kilometers away from Horodenka. The same day, the Hungarian army captured Horodenka and as a reaction, a Ukrainian militia that began attacking Jews was created. In another village, Nezvisko, they killed all the local Jews – 60 of them – and threw them into the river. More than once you would see whole families floating in the water; often they were bound together with barbed wire.

Two weeks later, around July 15, 1941, Hungarian Jews started coming to Horodenka on the way to Ukraine. Many of them stayed in town or in neighboring villages. The Germans in Ukraine killed some of them; many who stayed were murdered by the Ukrainians along with the local Jews.

In Horodenka, the Jews were forced to wear yellow stars and they were forbidden to leave town.

The first Action was on the 4th and 5th of December, 1941. The Ukrainian militia herded all the Jews into the big synagogue and from there they were taken to the village of Mikolayuvka where they prepared a big pit next to the Dniester, not far from the “Pension.” They put a wooden board on the pit. Five people at a time were ordered on it. Then they were all shot and fell into the pit. The German Gestapo did the killings and the Ukrainian militia stood guard. Some fell into the pit still alive and then ran away at night. I myself saw a child coming out of the pit and running away. This was on the first day of the Action. The same day they killed Edward Greenberg in the street when he tried to run away from the militia.

On the night between the 4th and the 5th they started to do the “professional” selections. They needed welders, carpenters, and other occupations. My brother Yehuda-Chaim saved himself by registering as an egg packer. On the 5th, in the morning, they rounded up 600 remaining Jews and walked them to Mikolayuvka. The Ukrainian militia again was responsible.

On these two days, 2400 Jews perished. Before the killings they were asked to get undressed down to their underwear. The clothes were taken to the Pension. Among the dead was Dr. Shneyder. After the Action, the Gestapo came to the Judenrat and asked for a confirmation of the number of the dead and also asked for 10,000 marksto pay for the bullets that they had used.

After the first Action a ghetto was established in Horodenka. There was an order that all the Jews from the neighboring villages move into the ghetto. The ghetto lasted until April 1942. It was guarded by the Jewish militia.

I was sent to build a bridge on the Dniester. A German company, Gustav Raga, Tiff und Huchbau, ran the project. Fifty Jews worked for them. We lived in a house in the forest (which belonged to Fizik, the son-in-law of Prishling). We were paid with lunch (usually burgul) and minimum wages. Every day I had to pass by the communal grave because the Germans now lived in the Pension. Sometimes I'd find documents, such as graduation certificates from high school, which belonged to the dead. Some of the Jewish workers got better jobs as welders or cooks.

A Hungarian Jew was responsible for the storage room. The others worked as haulers of the pillars, which were sunk into the river and secured with stones to create the base for the bridge. Some of the stones we brought from a nearby mountain and some came from headstones taken from the Jewish cemetery in Uscieczko.

To tell the truth, the German workers under the engineer Weher treated us O.K. Once during a storm, we were pulling a raft on the river. I was extremely tired, as I hadn't slept all night. There were 200 people in one room including woman and children. When the engineer Weher saw me like that he said, mercifully, “This one is ripe to be killed….”

In April 1942, there was a second, smaller Action in Horodenka. 140 Jews were killed, among them Avraham Ziedman from Kotikuvka, who was in the hospital. He was shot in his bed.

In July 1942, they started to liquidate the ghetto in Horodenka and all the Jews were ordered to move to the Ghetto in Kolomyja. This was a terrible ghetto. People were dying in the streets from hunger and every morning a cart passed to collect the bodies. The ones that stayed alive were finally removed to Belzitz.

Some of the Horodenkan Jews ran away to Tluste, instead of going to Kolomyja and some of them were able to survive. Only a small group stayed in Horodenka. These were the sorters of stuff that was left behind.

September 6, 1942, they started the complete destruction of the Jewish quarter. They put everybody in one of the yards and also took 25 day-workers from the bridge. They told them to come for registration; I was at the time a night laborer and that's how I stayed alive. In the morning on the way back from work I saw the 25 people being taken away in carts, my brother Binyamim included. Engineer Weher saw us coming back and ordered us to go behind the building so we could remain safe.

In Horodenka they put the Jews in the storage shed of the yard and left them with no food or water for two days. When women and children asked for some water they threw them some beets (meant for animal consumption). That's what the people had to suck on. A couple of times the Germans came with bags and asked for gold and valuables. Some preferred to give them money.

After two days they took the Jews out and asked them to line up by fours or eights holding hands. They then took them to the train station. There they put the youth together in one group and the old, the women, and the children together in another. The youth were given a loaf of bread and taken to the Yanovska camp in Lvov; the others went to Belzitz, the death camp. They were taken in wagons with barbed wire on the windows. When it got dark somebody took the wire down and some of the passengers started to escape. The guards shot in the air, but couldn't do anything else. This how my brother Binyamim and his wife got away. They wandered two days in the fields and then went back to Kolyanki and hid at the place of a neighbor, Kazimersh Yashtshur.

After this happened, I worked two more months at the bridge. After our friends were taken away, the Germans treated us like we were non-existent. I think that they felt responsible for this crime. Other than that, as I noted before, they treated us quite fairly.

From time to time, I would go to Kolyanki to get something to eat and to visit my brother. On October 6, 1942, I was on my way as usual to Kolyanki and when I came back I noticed that there was no smoke coming from the chimney in the camp's kitchen, as was usual at this time of the day. I also saw some disorder in front of the camp. So I hid in the forest and a farmer collecting mushrooms told me that they took my friends in carts to Horodenka. I went immediately back to Kolyanki and started hiding. A Ukrainian named Hanet Osadtchuk took me to his house. In the day I hid in the cellar and by night I slept in the hut near the stove. This man had only one room that was both the kitchen and bedroom. He treated me like an angel — especially in light of the fact that I coun't pay him. I repaid him with some stuff that was not worth much. They brought me food in the basket they used to bring potatoes from the cellar, so nobody would have any suspicions. Usually a four year-old boy brought my food and it is worth noting that he was able to keep the secret.

Once they told me that my older brother, Yehuda-Haim, was sick and hiding in one of the fields with his wife and three children and that he wanted to see me. My brother Binyamim went to see him and slept there one night. Some days later Binyamim got sick and the goy sheltering him asked him to leave because as he was sick he would not be able to run away if need be. The goy would then be found out and killed.

Binyamim came to me and my good goy accepted him, but only temporarily. I brught him to a women neighbor, but she too was scared. Another neighbor sent his dog against him. The day after he came back to me, I asked Hanet to let him stay and I promised him wood. He agreed. He was in the barn during the day and in the house at night. Hanet sent his son to a Jewish doctor that lived in Siemakowce with his wife and small child. He was young and originally from Stanislvov. I wrote him a letter describing my brother's symptoms and he sent back some medicine, saying it was typhus.

In the meantime, Hanet's oldest son also became sick, followed by his wife and the young child; the whole house became a hospital. Eventually Hanet himself got sick and we had to leave his home. We went to the forest. This was the 23rd of January 1943. Outside there was the big frost. My brother started getting better and the goy named Ivan Sanduk took him home for some days. I got a high fever too but didn't succumb. Another Ivan Sanduk took me to his house and I stayed there five days and then I went to other houses. Altogether I hid for three weeks. Then I had no place to go. In the meantime I learned that Hanet died; I blame myself to this day. Then Ivan Sanduk and his family died too. I mourned them like they were my relatives.

My brother Binyamim was also roofless at that time. One day I went to a desolate barn and I found him there. We decided to go to the forest. This was February 13th, 1943. In the day we hid behind the rocks in the forest and at night we found a desolate hut and slept there. After two weeks we noticed that we were seen and began sleeping in the forest again.

We ate mainly potatoes that we stole from farmers' cellars. In the summer it was easier. We ate fruits and vegetables from the fields. The biggest problem was the mushroom season when all the villagers came to pick. We had to move from one place to another at that time.

In Kolyanki there were other Jews in hiding. Among them were Rachel and Avraham Guttman, Naftali and Josef Esnfeld and Rivka Eider. Naftali died of hunger and cold. The Guttmans hid at one of their neighbors. However, another neighbor went to the militia to report them. They found Rachel in the barn but didn't find Avraham. She had one foot paralyzed and couldn't walk. They took a cart and brought her to a mountain called Okopi, where horses were buried. They finished their bottle of wine, then shot, killed her, and buried her there. Somebody said that although she was crippled, she tried to escape, but they didn't let her.

In the fall, Avraham Guttman came to the forest. The same day it snowed and we couldn't stay under the trees. But we didn't have another alternative. So we went to the rocks. This was quite close to the road and the guard noticed us and went to the militia. We ran away and left everything behind including shoes and coats. We ran shoeless in the snow and managed to disappear. We slept that night under another rock and the day after we dug a hole like a bunker.

This was a simple hole in the ground; it was so small that we couldn't even manage to lie or sit in it together. We covered it with branches and leaves. Again, in the summer we managed with food and then started stealing potatoes again. Because of the lack of vitamins, my brother became blind at night. I had to guide him. I have to confess that I was trembling in a strange cellar, stealing potatoes. But my brother was more secure. Looking for a hiding place, I always took into consideration the security element. That's why the bunker was located in the middle of the forest on a hill. It proved to be a good decision. We saw often from our hiding place how the obvious places were searched for hiding Jews; but nobody would think that we were in the depth of the hill.

In the summer of 43-44, we started hearing rumors that the Russians were close. In December 1943, Avraham Guttman visited us again. He was hiding with a neighbor who was supplying him with food as well. We told him to give up the “comfort” and come stay with us. He had some sheepskins and he promised to bring them for us to cover ourselves with. We planned to enlarge the bunker, but he went back and never returned. Later, we heard that he was found in the barn. They took him to Horodenka and shot him in the cemetery.

As I mentioned before, Yehuda, my brother, had typhus. When he recovered he ran away with his wife and three children to Tluste. There, his oldest daughter Luci was killed in an Action. They returned to the forest and hid behind the rocks in the field between Horodenka and Kolyanki.

I was told that he used to come at night to one Peuter Yashtochok to get some cooked potatoes. At the end, somebody told the German police and they went, in January 1944 (two months before the liberation) and caught and killed them on the spot. The bodies were taken to Horodenka.

Of all the people hiding in Kolyanki, only Yosef Ensfled and Rivka Eider suvived. But they ran away and the militia was looking for them. They found Yosef at night in the Dalshow forest and killed him on the spot. Rivka was younger and stronger and managed to survive until the end of the war.

In February 1944 there was a deep snow and it was dangerous to go to the village to get food because we would leave footprints in the snow. We still had two kilograms of wheat, so we made flour by grinding it between two stones. We were able to make a soup everyday with one tablespoon. This is how we ate for six weeks. When the snow melted and we dared to go to the village, we almost couldn't walk.

This was the last time we went to the village and this time we were not lucky. Binyamim went down to the cellar to get potatoes and a dog came and started barking violently. The farmer's son came, but when he saw us he retreated. This time we had gone earlier than usual, around 9 o'clock, something we never dared to do before. But since we felt the presence of the Soviet army we became more daring. We left the yard immediately, but managed to get some potatoes. The day after we saw the guard looking for us behind the rocks.

We felt the Soviet Army getting closer and indeed on March 23rd, 1944, we heard an engine and saw a plane with a red star fly very low along the Dniester. We were ecstatic. But still we didn't dare to go to the village until two days later when the Soviets were already there. I was long-haired, I hadn't shaved the whole year. The whole winter I wore one shirt and didn't have the chance to wash it. We were covered with lice and all the villagers came to stare at us.

But this was not the end. A couple of days later, a German troop came to the village. There was a battle between the Germans and the Soviets. We hid in a cellar and the battle was 100 meters from our hiding place. That same night the Germans left. The next day we went to Horodenka and found there a couple of Jews who had managed to hide there or come back from Tluste.

I ran away to Czernovitz. My brother Binyamim was drafted by the Soviet Army and they sent him to the front. That same year he died of a German bullet.

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