Translated by Shalom Bronstein
The following is the letter of Bluma Sterenberg zl, that she left with her Polish neighbor whose name was Pioterokovska. It was translated from Polish into Hebrew by Nachum (Nyonya) Shochat.
3 September 1941
To my Dear one, my husband whom I love above all else.
I write this two months after you have left. A great deal has happened to me during this time and now I have to separate myself from you. It is impossible to describe the Hell of our lives. I will try, only in a few words to tell you the main points.
It began right after you left, on the very same day. On Friday morning the city was already occupied - but the battles continued for six days. It seemed like that no stone would remain on another. We succeeded in getting through all this with a baby, through terrible difficulties and suffering in cellars and in the church.
We knew that life was not going to be sweet, but we had hope, that they would let us live, and in the worst case, we would die of hunger. There were good people who brought us a piece of bread and things began to improve slightly. We began to sell things to get some food. We were therefore satisfied, like we got a ticket to life. It was like this until the 4th of August.
In the morning on that day a horrible state of affairs began, just like in the plays of Dante. No, that is not accurate. Dante could not have imagined situations as frightful as these. Between two rows of soldiers, armed with poles, they led us to the forest; there we stood on the field, machine guns surrounded us, and silently we waited for death.
1900 people were murdered there. The rest returned to their homes. We left our father on the field. We didn't mourn very much on his death. Common sense told us that remaining alive was worse than death.
The desire to stay alive was very strong so that we were happy even with this kind of life. It is hard to believe that we were to experience a similar event.
This state of affairs lasted for four weeks during which there were surprises. We had to pay a ransom of 100,000 rubles and waited for them to organize a ghetto for us.
On August 31 rumors circulated, that tomorrow the horror which we already previously endured would return. I did not believe it but, it was not a rumor - it was true. This time we turned over Rusi, who had been a father to us after the death of our father. She had a strong will and physical endurance for everything; she sold things, got us food, ran the house and in addition, every day reported to forced labor that continued from 6 in the morning to 6 in the evening. She ended her life three days ago. Today there is nothing left [to eat] as the last portion was taken.
From right to left: Bluma Sterenberg, her brother Samuel Sternberg, sisters Zhnia and Bela Shanfer
A rumor spread today, that this will take place tomorrow. Lately, all the rumors came true, so I am saying goodbye to you.
I only described the dry facts, but I am unable to describe my sometimes-crazy feelings! Especially when I look at my son. My dear one, if you could only know how wonderful a boy he is. My heart is breaking when I think that tomorrow I myself will carry him to his final resting place and he is laughing and laughing What...God does not want that I should hear him, Mahmu (Mommy). Twice he saved my life, when they turned back mothers with their little children. Now, I wanted to save him, but there is no chance.
I wanted to convert to Christianity (many people wanted to do this). The [Christian] clergy sought permission carry this out, but they have no hope of getting authorization to carry it through. Therefore, we must prepare ourselves to leave life behind.
The mother carries on very bravely, she is deeply pained that she cannot save her son and that you will not see them again.
I and mother kiss all of you very passionately and hope that after you return, you will not remain here, on our parents' land. Escape from the memories, the place of our suffering, it is like a plague infested place. Cry about our fate and try to put your lives in order.
And you, my dear one, however it will be, put your life in order. Life has its own rules. Do not forget me or our firstborn son, of whom you could have been very proud, if only God had not brought this punishment on us.
We kiss you another time and leave you forever
Bluma, Mother and their son
Lord of the universe! I lived another whole month and again hopelessly regained hope. Tomorrow is Yom Kippur, and it is truly the Day of Judgment for me and for your wonderful child, Yoske.
I have absolutely no wish to die!
The boy is so wonderful, and to die so!
Standing - Samuel Sternberg; seated right of Samuel Mosi Soroka and Mosi Greinimas
Comments by Shalom Bronstein, the translator into English of this letter:
Family name spelled both Sterenberg & Sternberg in article.
My family was very close to the Sternberg (the spelling used in the United States) family. They are mentioned in the ship manifest of my great-grandmother Ruchel Dimmerman who arrived in the US in 1920. After World War II my father and his family sponsored the sole survivor of the family, Sam Sternberg and his wife Barbara whom they brought to Philadelphia where they became successful designers and manufacturers of women's clothing.
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