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[Page 231]

The Annihilation[1]

A Letter from Hell

by Yehoshua Weiss

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Footnote at the bottom of the page:

This letter was written by Yehoshua the son of Berl Weiss shortly after the first aktion. He signed it with the pseudonym Bin-Nun[2] and sent it to his brother Professor Avraham Weiss in New York. After the war, Professor Weiss gave it to the Yad Vashem Archives in Jerusalem.

First Intermediate day of Sukkot, September 28, 1942

From the great misfortune on Yom Kippur until now, I have not been able to collect my thoughts. I should realize in what type of a situation we find ourselves. I cannot now comprehend the tragedy of the recent events, but I can only see now the 1,100-1,200 victims of Yom Kippur, which includes my own two victims, namely our parents, Father and Mother. G-d's wrath has not yet completely quieted, and dark clouds float farther. As recollections flash by, I will express my bitter heart and my feelings on paper. Maybe I can describe this in words for my readers.

The clouds of a pogrom had been fluttering over our skies for several weeks already, with everybody worried about not being able to find a place to hide where they might be able to be saved. I myself was also worried about this. At that time, Father was overtaken with toil and fear of death. Mother intended to remain in the house, for she had enough of suffocating in the hiding place every time. I also realized that we would be separated, for one cannot know if it would be good and if there would be enough time for me to come. I had indeed surmised the situation correctly, for things indeed happened that way. A few days later, on Yom Kippur, they took us away. Two days later, every area was closed off. Father also did not want to go to the hiding place anymore. His state of health had declined and he had become completely bedridden to the point where he could no longer leave his bed. The eve of Yom Kippur arrived. It was completely calm. I was with him one time. That last time, I told him that he must not fast even for a brief time[3]. On the Monday of Yom Kippur, at 7:00 a.m., they came. I was still in bed. We remained in hiding that night for a long time, and we went to sleep when the day began. It was said that the city was surrounded and the pogrom was raging. I only had a few seconds to go into the hiding place, and I could no longer think about my parents. If I were to have resisted, I would have certainly fallen and lost the chance to get to the hiding place, I reckoned. My discussions with my parents had been proven correct by the statements of the co-residents. The co-residents further said that they went to him in bed – and suddenly wild shouts were heard from the (one word is not legible) murderers. I jumped up and took a look from the window, and they already saw how they were taking out the victims. During the same glance, they entered to my parents, who were already worshipping, for it was indeed a holy day. My mother and the other residents quickly entered the hiding place. Mother then went up to the roof. Suddenly, to her great misfortune, she decided to return inside. Immediately thereafter the murderers went inside and shot Father while he was in bed, enwrapped in his tallis. His soul departed with “echad”[4]. Mother also prepared to become a victim. The other residents remained in the hiding place for two days and two nights, and were saved. I was also in the hiding place for two days, under the fear of death. Only on the second day in the afternoon I unexpectedly encountered the many unfortunate victims, among whom was also my mother.

At the same time I was informed that the Judenrat, whom this time did not let people know, had gathered together the martyrs and was preparing to bury them in a mass grave. My holy father was among them.

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After our fright, I ran to the cemetery and searched for the holy martyr. I removed him with my own hands from among the corpses which had already begun to decompose. I helped the uncircumcised one to dig the grave. Then I went into the grave, and with my own hands I laid the martyr to his eternal rest, and covered it over. The uncircumcised one did not move a finger. He would not show me anything, so I bid farewell to the martyr for the last time. Kaddish was not recited for there were only two Judenrat members present. There were only 9 people at mincha, so I included my almost 9 year old son and recited the first Kaddish. I did not know how much longer this could last, so I finished up with my holy father[5]. Things were much worse with my mother.

When my holy father gave up his holy soul, my mother was immediately led to the gathering place, where she languished with everyone outside for the entire day. Their dark fate was known. They were led on foot to the train station like sheep. The elderly, children, and ill people were sent by bus to Belzec. They had a premonition that this was to be their death journey to martyrdom. As one says, they had something up their sleeves. As I was told, the victims were ill treated, beaten badly, and treated like material. Approximately 1% succeeded in escaping, some of whom did not make it. You can imagine my feelings when I found out that somebody saw our mother, when she had the merit of having a place and location to end her life[6]. There were more difficult situations, where parents lost all of their grown up children, and were completely bereft of their children, but they continued to live on…

My voice also became hoarse. But one sickness does not heal the other one. The survivors were put to work for as long as the terrible situation and oppression will last. We were locked up, there was terrible hunger, there was a lack of means of living (one word is illegible) and so on. The youth collected the few things that were left over from the Jews. The threat of death overwhelmed every section of the imagination. This added to our insecure life. As well, I must say a few words about the Judenrat. The Judenrat was an institution that had a bloodthirsty spirit for Jewish blood. It went way beyond the bounds. It was responsible for many victims, not only on Yom Kippur, but indeed throughout the entire time. It has Jewish tears and indescribable agony on its conscience. For anyone that survived, the Judenrat is a cause of “weeping for generations”, a terrible word that cannot be described in any human language. When one says “a member of the Judenrat”, one understands this to mean Jewish robbers and Jewish tormentors. When one would hear about a Jewish institution or a Jewish home with Jewish leadership – one should flee to the wilderness of the “Sahara”, where one would not encounter a single living soul. People understand this to be the worst thing in the world, living with wild beasts from the wilderness. I could portray this in much darker terms, but unfortunately, I do not have the power of words to express it.

I have not only described this particular Judenrat, as far as I hear. Good things do not come to my ears, for word travels from ear to ear. The Judenrat does indeed move around in this region.

With this very short portrayal, I have described only “a drop from the sea of tears”. After this all ends, then all the accusations will come out in detail. I am not a professional writer, and do not possess literary talents. Second, human life is too short to describe on paper all the events in general, and the Judenrat in particular. Perhaps G-d will help me and I will be able to give it over orally. Amen.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This article is written in very atypical Yiddish, and many words and phrases were hard to identify. Furthermore, it was obviously written under a great deal of stress. Parts of my translation may not be accurate, but I hope that I was able to portray the ideas appropriately. Return
  2. Bin-Nun is a reference to Joshua (Yehoshua) the son of Nun, of the Bible. Return
  3. On Yom Kippur, a critically ill person is not supposed to fast. Return
  4. Echad is the last word of the first line of Shema – so this reference means that he died as he recited the Shema. Return
  5. I believe that this means that he found it impossible to continue to recite Kaddish. Return
  6. A difficult phrase, but I believe this means that she ended her life among her own people and surrounded by people she knew. Return

[Page 233]

Four Years of War and Destruction

by Genia Shourz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Germans came to us in 1941. I was 9 years old when I began to experience the terrible times. During the first days after their arrival, the Germans did not behave so badly. The Ukrainians organized a Ukrainian police force and began their mistreatment of the Jews. They dragged children in chains to the harshest labor. They beat, murdered and mocked. However, this did not last long, and the Germans took control after a week.

It is impossible to write how we suffered. I remember one day when I went with my brother, and they took him away from me. I did not know where they took him. I shouted after him that he should run flee. He listened to me and escaped. They shot after him. He hid in a barn. They asked me in which direction he ran, and I pointed them in a different direction. They saw that I tricked them and one of them beat me over the face with a whip to the point where I started to bleed. I remember how the blood sprayed from my face onto the wall. However, this still was not the worst. After two weeks of hard labor and great fear, the Germans decided that this was too difficult for them, so they approached the Jews with a project – that they should set up a Jewish police force that will carry out all of their orders. Shortly thereafter, a Jewish police force was founded that carried out every order that was issued by the Gestapo. In return the Gestapo promised them that they would remain alive and nothing would happen to them. This was even worse – to be captured for hard labor in the camps by our own brethren.

This lasted for an entire year. Then an order came that the Jews from the entire city must gather in one street that would be designated as a ghetto.

It was very crowded there, with ten people living in one room. A typhus epidemic broke out, from which many people died. The Germans would come to search the ghetto, and they would shoot in bed anyone who was ill. I was very afraid, for there were many sick people among us, including my mother and father. I saw that my mother was languishing from hunger, so I jumped out of the ghetto in order to purchase some food. I purchased a loaf of bread, but on the way back my former schoolmates saw me and beat me until I bled. I did not let the bread go from my hands, for I knew that I could save my mother with it. I arrived home bloodied and caused my mother's heart to palpitate.

I forgot to write that when the ghetto was created, our house was included in the ghetto. We owned a mill, and my father made a plan to build a bunker in the mill. After two weeks of hard labor from all of the 50 people who lived with us, the bunker was ready. The bunker constantly saved the men from the conscriptions to the camps. Our bunker was not only the best in the city, but also the best in the entire region of the city. Once more that one night, the Germans dug through the entire house. They were anxious to find the bunker but they did not succeed. Our Jewish police also did not succeed in finding it, even though they made every attempt, to the point of life and death, to find it. They said that they would not send the men to the camps if someone would show them where the bunker was located. However, we did not tell, for we knew that what they said was a lie. Thus did it go until Yom Kippur. People worshipped at our house. I went out onto the street and waited for my friend who was supposed to come to me. I already saw her from afar, but she quickly began to flee to her home. I looked around and saw that she had fallen down as she had been shot. At the same time, I heard cries of mothers who were searching for their children. I ran home

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and told everyone to go hide in the bunker. They immediately stopped the services and entered the bunker. We heard shouts and automobiles traveling around for the entire night and throughout the day. We went out onto the street in the morning and saw that blood was flowing throughout the ghetto. 600 Jews had been transported to Belzec. This was the first pogrom in the city.

From that day and onward, we stood on guard day and night. One night, I was standing with a girl on the attic. Suddenly, we saw that the entire ghetto was lit up with reflectors. We realized that this was a pogrom. We quickly woke up everybody from bed, and everyone fled in their shirts. My grandfather, who could no longer look at this, told me: “I do not want to go into the bunker. I do not wish to live anymore.” I begged him to come, but then the Germans began to knock on the door, and I fled while he remained. One child suffocated on my knees, for he was crying and someone placed a rag in his mouth. The aktion ended after 24 hours, and then I first realized that the child was dead. I became crazy from fright, for I also wept about this.

During the second aktion, 2,000 Jews were shot in one pit behind the city. The third aktion came after some time. We once again remained all together. When we came out after the third aktion, everything was completely different than after the previous actions. The ghetto was surrounded by Kubans – who were Russian captives who helped the Germans murder the Jews. An order was quickly issued that within 24 hours, a Jew must not be found in the ghetto. Where should we go? They said that if we do not go somewhere within 24 hours, any Jew who would be found in the ghetto would be shot. We realized that they wanted to shoot us all. 600 Jews remained in the ghetto, and all fled like wild men, for everyone had seen death before his eyes. We counted the hours, how long remained for us until death. We tried to bribe the guards, but it was not possible. We saw that they were preparing knives with which to slaughter us. We saw that there was nothing else to do other than await death. This was the most terrible moment in life, to await death. People went crazy. My friends ran about wildly in the streets. Blood flowed. People poisoned themselves, and whoever did not have any poison felt unfortunate. Very few people remained. Everyone poisoned themselves, killed themselves or stabbed themselves. We had no poison with which to poison ourselves. We bid farewell to each other and wept because our lives were about to end. I recall that the will to live of the children who bid farewell to me was very strong. We went out the nearby window and could not believe that we must go to death in a short time.

I remember the conversation among the children. One said, “It is so nice outside, but not for us.” A second one said that his joy would be to eat to satiation once in his life, and then die. One said, “Who knows if we will meet again in the next world.” We said that as soon as they would shoot us, we hope to immediately meet again in the next world. Thus did we converse until morning.

Germans entered the ghetto in the morning and issued an order that all the Jews in the ghetto must present themselves in the place at 11:00, and then they would go through the ghetto to see if there are any other Jews. We were somewhat happy with the hope that they might set us free. We could not go to the place because my mother had broken her foot. She told us, “Children, let us go into our bunker, and stay there until we die, for we will not survive in a different ghetto.” We agreed with this course of action, and the entire house decided to remain in the bunker. We had two hours. We began to bake crackers in the kitchen. We had water in the bunker, for there was a spring there.

We entered it quickly. We took as much food as possible, and we spread the best things on the floor of the bunker.

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An hour later we heard a great deal of shooting. The Germans shot the Jews who presented themselves at the designated place according to their command.

Thus did we sit in the bunker for two weeks. We choked because there was a shortage of air. However, it got worse later when the food and water was used up. The situation was indescribable. Everyone was almost like dead. People tore at the walls and beat one another, until two young people, including my brother, left the bunker. They quickly returned with the news that nobody was wandering around the ghetto, but it was still surrounded by guards. First and foremost, they brought various scraps of food that they had collected from the ghetto. We remained in the bunker in that manner for a few more days. When this food also ran out, we all went out to search for something to eat. We found some flour and other dry products, which we decided to cook. As we were cooking, Germans came and knocked loudly at the door. Within one second we returned to the bunker. They searched thoroughly and did not find the entrance to the bunker.

On one occasion, my brother went out of the bunker and met a local German (a volksdeutsche). The German wondered how we were able to hold out for such a long time and told him that since they were able to hold out for such a long time, he would not turn them in. He further said that we should wait until he returns, and then he would lead out from the bunker out of the ghetto. We waited for two days until he came around midnight and told us to divide ourselves into two groups and come to the fence of the ghetto. There, upon receiving his signal, we would begin to jump out. We gave him a great deal of money, gold and jewels even though he did not request it. The first group exited out successfully. Then it was our turn. I recall that I was the first to leave the house, and a group of people followed me. In the interim, Germans came and I became separated from the group. I began to flee, and they pursued me. I did not even look for my parents. I ran and felt that they were catching up to me. However, I soon heard them running in the other direction. I turned around and saw that they were running after the group and not after me. I fell down on the street and relieved myself. I had received a strong knock on the head from a German. I thought that I had been captured, but he thought that I was dead and left me. I stood up and ran farther from the ghetto. I stopped in a destroyed Jewish house to catch my breath a bit, and there I met my father who succeeded in escaping from the group. I was very happy that I was not alone. We both began to flee in the direction that our eyes led us.

We sat down in a small grove, and there I first noticed that we were without my mother and brother, so I did not want to go further. I wept at why I had fled from them. I felt the childlike attachment for my mother. As we were sitting and weeping, we heard some shooting. I began to cry out, “Mother, they are shooting you.” I was full of terror and cried out for Mother the entire time!

I recall that terrible moment that I endured. Then I heard a voice calling my name from afar, “Genia!” I was so happy, like a person who had lost her mother and she suddenly came back from the grave. I could not lift myself up out of weakness, so my father left me and ran in the direction of the voice. Thus were we once again united. I could not believe that I still had a mother and a young brother, for in truth I could not conceive of this. This must only be a miracle, or a dream…

They told us how they were saved. Germans chased after them and almost captured them. However the German who led us out returned and led the Germans further away from the ghetto. Mother did not know where we were. All of the people went into the forest where there were already groups of Jews who were organized with weapons

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against the Germans. I hoped that this would end our experiences. We went into a field and sat down until night fell. It was raining hard, and we had to remain motionless, hiding in the hay.

When night fell, we decided to go to a gentile acquaintance. The gentile was actually a stranger, he only saw us in the ghetto through the fence, and we liked him… He told us that if we ever find ourselves in a hopeless situation, we should come to him; not all of us, but only two of us. However after such an experience we decided not to separate. Either we would all live or we would all die.

We began to go. Our clothes were wet from the rain. Thus did we drag ourselves on for 10 kilometers until we came to him. He took us into the attic and gave us food and drink. The gentile was 24 years old. We were afraid of him, but we had no other choice. We gave him gold, money and other objects, asking him to hide us until the liberation. He dug a bunker for us in the barn. It was so small that we sat in it one on top of the other. The only consolation was that we were all together. He gave us food for the first few days, but later he told us that two can remain and two must leave… We all got dressed and wanted to leave together. He took a look at us and did not let us leave. He almost stopped giving us food, and we began to endure difficult times.

Our suffering was indescribable. Once a day, we received a small pot of food, without bread and without water. We had no change of clothes, so we became filthy. We remained there for five months. We did not see any light for the entire time. I remember that I found a small mirror, and when I looked in it, I wept and cried out that this was not a human visage at all. We could not hold out anymore. I became ill and could not stand up on my feet. The weather became freezing, and my father and brother went out without the gentile knowing, and they brought food from other gentiles. Once I left a bit of bread in a pot, and Mother gave the pot with the piece of bread to the gentile. The gentile saw the bread, and realized from where we were obtaining bread. The gentile became angry and began to choke my father. We took control, and my mother began to run to him and fight with him. He left us alone, and we shouted at him that he should leave us alone, for he is worse than Hitler. He wanted to kill us with hunger.

From that time, he related to us a bit better. However I was already sick, and we looked like skeletons. We said that if one of us were to die, the rest of us will take revenge on the gentile after the liberation and not let him live. However, after ten difficult days of hunger, thirst, cold and illness, the long awaited day arrived. On March 28, 1944, the gentile came with the news that the Russians had marched into our city. We did not even rejoice, for we looked like corpses from the other world. They dragged me by hand 10 kilometers to our city, for I could no longer stand on my feet.

When we arrived in the city, we found several Jews. From our bunker, only one girl remained, a cousin of ours. The rest were murdered by the Germans, the Ukrainians and the Poles. She alone survived from among the 600 people who were murdered by the Ukrainians. She dug herself out of the pit and remained alive. One can write a book about how she survived. One can become grey listening to the stories of what she experienced.

However, the Russians retreated on March 15, 1944, and we followed them.

In 1945, we returned to our city of Podhajce. The only thing that we could do was to erect a monument over the pits where our dear, 10,000 unfortunate Jews were buried. Now I live in a camp. I am now finishing the sixth grade in the school where we study Hebrew. Our common objective is to set out for our own country, the Land of Israel.

(From the Yad Vashem Archives).

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Baptists Save Jewish Refugees

by Sima Weisman

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I was born in Podhajce in 1913 to religious parents. The city had 6,000 Jews. In October, 1939, on Yom Kippur, the Russians entered our city. We lived calmly and peacefully until July 6, 1941.

The Germans entered our city on that day. From the first day of their arrival, a series of difficulties and tribulations began for us. On the first day, the Ukrainians ruled over us. They immediately began to steal Jewish property and goods which they found in the homes. Their second task was to capture males between the ages of 16 and 50, and send them to the camps of Borki Wielki, Globaczow and Kamionka, where they were forced to work at very hard labor, such as digging clay in deep quarries, forest work and building highways. There were cases where the men were buried in the clay quarries.

One week later, on July 13th, the Ukrainians summoned a convocation of farmers from 72 villages around Podhajce, and began their known anti-Semitic agitation and incitement to the point where they prepared for an actual pogrom against the Jews in Podhajce. A terrible bloodbath was averted thanks only to the great efforts of the Podhajce priest Aidikewicz, who worked against this with all his strength.

In the camps where the men worked at very hard labor, the rations were 100 grams of bread with a watery soup in which a few moldy potatoes were swimming around. Obviously with such work and with such rations, people quickly became sick, but they were afraid of lying in bed for whoever did not show up for work was quickly shot. At this time, women and children between the ages of 13 and 16 were employed in the city at various jobs: gardening, field work, cleaning for the Germans, etc.

One month later, on August 6, 1941, when the Germans took control of the government, the German gendarmes ordered that white armbands with blue Magen Davids 10 centimeters high must be worn on the left arm. At the same time, the Germans set up a Judenrat with 24 Podhajce Jews, consisting of fine householders and members of the intelligentsia. Leibush Lilienfeld was the chairman.

The Judenrat served as the intermediaries between the German authorities and the Jewish victims. On August 10, 1941, the Germans imposed on the city a contribution of a half a million zloty in addition to other products including one cubic meter of soap (this had to be “layered” soap), two cubic meters of sugar, coffee, manufactured goods and even eau de Cologne. The Judenrat and the Ordnunsdienst worked faithfully for the benefit of the German authorities. They helped to search for Jewish means and made sure that the contribution would be paid in full. These Jewish officials always demanded the contribution with an extra amount, for they often behaved immorally and filled their own pocket with money. On September 25, 1941, an order came from the German authorities via the Judenrat that all men's furs, pelts, women's furs, valuables, etc. must be turned in. When a Jewish woman named Vishe Roth hid her fur with the Pole Dinawski, the Pole reported her and she was shot. Thus did things go for almost the entire latter half of the year, with the Judenrat religiously carrying out all orders of the authorities, whether to provide people or to turn over materials, and products. There were two well known murderers from Tarnopol among the Gestapo men, who were the commanders of the upcoming actions. They oppressed and turned the screws on the contributors with taxes until the last breath. The name of one of them was Herman Mueller.

On Rosh Hashanah 1942, the Judenrat requisitioned 50,000 zloty as a second contribution. As they later explained, the 50,000 zloty was intended to pay for the bullets for the first aktion. On the

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afternoon of the eve of Yom Kippur, the liaison man and militia commandant Avrumche Milch came to us and assured us that no harm would come to us. After this assurance, the Jews gathered together to worship. In the morning of Yom Kippur, when all of the Jews were dressed in there tallises and kittels, praying to G-d in heaven, the first terrible aktion began. It took place as follows: They removed all Jews from the Beis Midrashes and private dwellings and took them to the designated place in the market. Everyone had to sit on the ground. They sat in that manner from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Then they were taken by transport truck to the train station, and loaded on the wagons. The doors were locked behind them, and they were taken to Belzec. Children suffocated along the way due to the great crowding and poor air quality.

In Belzec, the 1,200 people were tossed into the electric rooms[1], and soap was made from their fat. I and my family, which consisted of five sisters, two brothers, our mother, and a brother-in-law, were saved from the first aktion, since we were well hidden in a bunker. One of my sisters, Chana Rosman, was already loaded upon the transport truck and being taken to the train station, jumped off the truck. She was slightly injured, but she returned to Podhajce in the morning.

On the morning after Yom Kippur, the ghetto in our city was created. The ghetto was created in the following manner: They designated a side street, surrounded it with tall wooden fences, and placed barbed wire on top. The remaining Jews were enclosed there, 20 people to a small room. The residents of the ghetto were let out twice a week for two hours at a time so that they could purchase things. Whoever would be found on the street after the two hours, or in other days when it was not permitted, would be shot. The camp was guarded by the Jewish militia. We lived from our stored reserves or from the things that we sold in order to purchase necessities. Whoever had no reserves or things to barter went around the ghetto begging for donations. Various epidemics, such as typhus, scabies and various fevers, broke out on account of the hunger, cold, and filth. Those who were ill could not lie in bed, for anyone who lay in bed was shot.

The Germans gathered Jews from all the towns and villages around Podhajce and stuffed them into the ghetto. Thus, there were up to 4,000 Jews there. After approximately six weeks, that is on November 1, 1942, the second aktion began. After the first aktion, almost all of the Jews went into hiding in well designed bunkers, for they anticipated further actions. Thanks to the devoted, diligent assistance of our Jewish militia who went around with axes and crowbars, all of the bunkers and hiding places of the unfortunate Jews were exposed, and they were given over to the hands of the German murderers. This time they were led by foot to the station, where they were loaded on wagons and taken to Belzec. There, they were murdered in the same manner, in electric rooms. This time there were 1,400 people, including my mother and my sister Taube.

The winter of 1942-1943 began, a difficult, cruel winter of hunger and cold. Through the means of the Judenrat, all elderly men and women were gathered and sent to the camps of Borki-Komionka and Globaczow, where they were killed. The remaining young women and men remained in the Podhajce ghetto, where the Germans used them for a variety of jobs.

This continued until Shavuot, 1943. Then they gathered together all of the Jews, men, women and children, and took them to the Podhajce cemetery to shoot them. Thus did they finish off the Jews from our city of Podhajce.

On the day of the last aktion, when all the Jews were gathered together by the Judenrat according to the command, we – three sisters and 33 other men, women and children – were hidden by an acquaintance of mine, who was a volksdeutsche, a student named Barshtash. We sat in a bunker in the ghetto for 14 days. Barshtash brought us food and drink throughout the 14 days, in exchange

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for money. After 14 days, that selfsame Barshtash led us out from the bunker into a forest behind the city, we found 40 other people. We remained there for three weeks. The farmers from the villages gave us food in exchange for good money. After three weeks, a Podhajce Jew named Yisrael Silber came and led us out from this forest into a second forest 12 kilometers further, for Silber said that the camp here was not secure. Indeed, the next morning, the selfsame farmers who had provided us with food surrounded the forest and murdered everybody. Yisrael Silber as well, who had gone there to provide a few people with some food to save them from starvation, was murdered there along with 34 people. We, three sisters, were together with 12 others, together making 15 Jews. Silber left behind three children.

One of our group, Grau from Podhajce, knew a about a group of “believers” of Ukrainian extraction who were called “Baptists”. He went to them to discuss our situation, and from where we could obtain food supplies so that we could survive until the liberation. The Baptists were located in a village not far from Podhajce. Then one of the Baptists, Sev Biletzki, came himself to us in the forest, took with him a Bible, and read to us about their creed. He read to us that the Jews are a sinful people who were rejected by God. Therefore, they came to such a fate. “And if you return to believe in God”, he told us, “You will be saved from death”. He sung to us holy songs and Psalms, preached morality, spoke to us words from his heart, and indeed related us in a good natured and honest fashion. Willingly or unwillingly, we began to believe in them. Then, when this Baptist saw that we were his people, he led us further into his forest, for he told us that it was dangerous for us here. He found us an appropriate location there, brought us all sorts of implements, helped us to build underground bunkers, got us set up, brought us pots so that we would have in what to cook and conduct our household, brought us straw in a wagon so that we would be able to sleep – and most importantly, he brought sacks with food every day.

Aside from this, they would sit with us for the entire night, sing songs, read the Bible, and preach religiosity and belief. They told us that we, brothers and sisters, would only be saved in that merit. Later, when they saw that we were already their believers, all the Baptists would come to visit us. They called us sisters and brothers, and talked only about belief, about God, and about good deeds of man. They brought food not only to keep us alive, but also lots of butter, cheese, herring, meat, eggs, white pastry, etc. They also brought four more lost people from the forests, who were almost at the point of death. They also found the three young orphans of the aforementioned Yisrael Silber and brought them to us. We were already 22 people.

We three sisters supported almost all of the 22 people. Then something took place that made us lose hope. They began to track us. The Baptists noticed this and took us to their home, where we were hidden in a hiding place for six months.

In one word: we cannot describe it enough. The pen cannot write so much to describe what these people did for us. No father, no mother, no sisters or brothers would have been able to do what they have done.

Thus did things continue until the liberation came in March 1944.

Bad Reichenhall, November 12, 1946

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In the Borki Wielki Work Camp

by Shlomo Teicher

Translated by Jerrold Landau

(From the Yad Vashem archives)

It was the beginning of November, 1941. In accordance with an order from the S.S. command in our city of Podhajce, the Judenrat had to provide 500 Jews for a special work assignment over and above the contingent that had to be provided daily for work. Only 150 men were gathered by the designated time. The only people who came were those who had families and were afraid of persecution that might come from their closeness to the German military authorities. I was also among those who gathered together.

Shortly after our arrival in that place, we were surrounded by the armed S.S. and Ukrainians. The highest in command of the S.S. group ordered us to line up five in a row and march. We went for two kilometers and arrived at the train station. There we were forced into wagons. A short time later, our train started to move. We traveled from our station to Tarnopol. The train stopped in Tarnopol and we were forced off the wagons. This was at night. The night was dark, and we heard an order to mount the tall, open wagons which were located close to our train. It was impossible to climb onto the wagons, especially for the elderly Jews who were with us. When the S.S. men noticed that we slipped back when we tried to climb, they began to beat our heads with the butts of their guns. Three Jews who did not climb quickly enough were beaten for so long that they died. Shortly thereafter, our train started to move.

We arrived in Borki Wielki after another day and a half. The work camp was located close to the railway station, near a stream. At first when the authority was taken over by the Germans, the camp was used for Russian prisoners of war. Then it became a work camp.

After entering the camp, we went through an inspection by the S.S. guard. Each of us received beatings over the head by a gun. Many fell down bloodied, and they were immediately taken away.

After we entered the camp, we were met by the representative of the camp veterans, a Jew from Lemberg. Without any questions, he took everyone and beat them over the head with a thick stick, accompanied by various curses. Then he told us to gather together in one place. He then began to deliver a speech to us in Polish: “Sons of bitches, do not think that you are here in your homes… You did not come here for rest. Here you must work and be obedient, and we have sufficient means here to make you into people. And if any of you attempts to escape, another ten will be shot.” After the lecture, some S.S. men came and ordered us to line up five in a row and march into the barracks. When we arrived in the interior of the barracks, the air was stifling with a terrible stink. As we looked for places in the dark, we only found places on the rear cots; the rest were already occupied by Jews from Lemberg, Buczacz, Mienica, Ozerna, Skalat and Wodszemolow.

There were already 1,000 Jews in the camp. We were awakened before dawn to go for coffee. After drinking the meager, bitter coffee, we went to role call. It was autumn. The seasonal strong rains had already lasted for weeks. We were forced into a field which was in a ploughed up state after harvest time. There we were held for two hours every day, performing various exercises until the point of torture, until the S.S. leader came and counted us with the light of a flashlight. Then we were divided up into workgroups, and we marched to work under the vigilant guard of the S.S. and Jewish police.

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Our work was to build a railway line. Day broke by the time we had reached the work place. That is when we first realized the terrible appearance of the Jews who had arrived earlier. During the short period of time that they were in the camp, they became terribly emaciated. Their hair grew wild, their clothes had become disheveled, and they looked like people who had given up on life. The area in which we worked was full of clay. If one unfortunately put a foot in the clay, it would be impossible to remove it. When we carried the planks or the rail links, we had to rush through it. We would indeed leave our shoes or boots sticking in the clay, moving only in bare feet. If we wanted to retrieve our shoes later, we would be beaten by the Jewish police or the S.S. to the point of unconsciousness, for they said that we were holding up the work that had to be conducted at a quick pace. We were also forced to carry 12 meter rail links with a small number of people. It was impossible even to lift them with such a number of people. Whoever displayed any weakness was beaten to the point of bleeding, or was even shot. People who could not run quickly back to the camp after a 12 hour workday would also be shot. Every day there were about ten victims who died of shooting, beatings, hunger or hard labor. Most of the arrivals were Jews from Lemberg. The Jews from smaller towns of the regions would somehow have food sent to them from their relatives, but the Jews of Lemberg would have to live off the 200 grams of bread and the bit of watery soup that we received in the camp. Indeed, almost every month, transports of Jews would arrive to replace those who died.

Once when there was an ambulance with a large number of sick people, they were shot before our eyes as we were standing at role call and being sent out to the field. This served as a warning for us that we must not become ill…

If a person fled from the camp, the remaining people would be held responsible. The first time that someone fled from the camp, the remaining people would be placed ten in a row during roll call, and every tenth person was shot. This was the penalty for escaping and as a warning if we were going to prepare to escape. In a second case of escape, when the person who escaped was caught, he was hanged publicly in the yard. With the passage of time, the S.S. guard was replaced by Ukrainian and Polish police. From that time, the camp was no longer crowded. Jews were shot on a daily basis when they needed a target for target practice. When one of the workers would ask the police during work hours for permission to go to rest, the police would shout at him, “Run faster”, and immediately shoot him in the head.

As we were returning from work, they would shoot at the group, and we had to take the shot people with us.

At the beginning of July 1943, we heard strong sounds of dismantling at night. The next day, we found out that the partisans who were in the area had conducted a large aktion. They tore down all the railway bridges and freed the Jews that they found from the Kamionker forced labor camp. The partisan aktion caused a panic among our camp leaders, and they began to talk about the work ending, and that we would be transported to Tarnopol.

On July 10 at night, the work ended. A Polish policeman came to my group and said that we would not be going there to work tomorrow, and it is possible that we would not have to work at all. It was further possible, he said, that we would have to give over to him the valuables that we were hiding. We regarded this as a sly trick, thinking that his intention was to deceive us out of our valuables, despite the fact that we did not have any. That very night, as we were sitting in the barracks, we heard the loud noise of trucks. Immediately thereafter, armed S.S. men came to us in the barracks and began to force us outside. As we in the yard, we received an order that we

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must sit down half kneeling, five in a row. After receiving the order, the first group of Jews was forced back into the barracks. Two S.S. men accompanied them. Shortly thereafter, we heard a series of shots, accompanied by human cries. The two S.S. men returned, took another group of five, and the same thing repeated itself. A group of men tried to escape, however they were immediately shot by the S.S. men and Ukrainians who had surrounded us. They even shot the Jews who made the slightest movement.

I was sitting among the last groups, opposite the window of the barracks. The window on our side was open. As one of the S.S. men was driving us out he could not stand the bad smell in the barracks, so he broke the window. Seeing that my turn to be killed was coming up, I thought about how to save myself. The first thing that I did was to remove the wooden shoes from my feet. I then removed my work clothes, and immediately jumped out of the window into the barracks through the open window with great speed in a swimming position. I heard shots over my head. One bullet even grazed my back. Then I fell on top of a mound of shot Jews. The S.S. took me for dead, because one who was standing at the side of the window shouted out, “He is kaput”. I was afraid of lying near the window, so I snuck into the rooms that were further on, which were already filled with shot Jews. I heard the wheezing of the dying people. I snuck into the corner of the room of the work supervisor. In that room, I noticed an open door to the attic. With extraordinary strength I quickly climbed up and lay down in a corner of the attic. I waited for the end with a fluttering heart.

After all the Jews were shot, the commanding voice of the camp director Wojciech was heard, stating that he was going to burn straw. The straw was to be spread out next to the barracks and ignited. The S.S. guards responded that they have no straw. They only had straw sacks. The camp director agreed to spread out the straw sacks, and they immediately began to drag the sacks. The barracks in which I was hiding stood near the fence. The straw was spread to on the side of the yard. After bringing the straw sacks, the camp director ordered that the barracks be spread with the kerosene that was located on the trucks, and the straw was set on fire.

A few minutes later, the thick smoke began to choke me. I jumped outside through a small door in the attic and lay on the ground for several minutes. When the smoke got thicker, I began to shuffle in the direction of the fence. I shuffled to the lavatory and went inside. As I came in, I heard that a man was crawling quickly back through the lavatory pit in the closet on the other side. I realized that he was also a Jew who saved himself. I waited for several minutes, and then crawled to the other side through the pit in the closet. When I was already outside, I began to run with wild speed after seeing that they were throwing rockets in all directions around the camp. I threw myself prone on the ground and slithered on my stomach until I came to the corn stocks. I lay there until the second evening, and when it got dark outside, I set out on my way.

Through the 18 months of the existence of the work camp, more than 4,000 Jews died there.

[Page 243]

Podhajce Under German Occupation

by Leah Feldberg

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, a large stream of Jewish refugees who were fleeing from western Poland arrived in our city. Our community made strenuous efforts to help the homeless families whose fate brought them to Podhajce. Many of the local families gave over a room for the refugees. Efforts were made to find employment for them, and thus were they helped to endure the difficult days of the war.

A short time later, the entire area of Eastern Galicia was taken over by the Red Army. Shortly thereafter, the Sovietization of the entire life began. Business was nationalized, Jews lost their sources of livelihood and had to change their entire way of life. This caused a great unrest among the Jewish population.

On one occasion, the Soviet offices announced a sensational piece of news: the refugees who wish to return home can register, and they would be granted the opportunity to travel home. However, it turned out that this was a trick from the regime. One night, those refugees who registered were taken from their houses, transported to the train station and sent to Siberia and other far off places in Russia.

On a hot summer day in June, 1941, we suddenly heard the powerful detonations of bombs in the nearby region. It quickly became clear to us that the Germans had declared war on the Soviet Union, and they were bombarding the flight locations in the region. The panic among the Jewish population was indescribable. Anyone who was able fled eastward to Russia. Unfortunately, only a few were able to flee, and a few days later the city was occupied by the German army.

The hell for the Jewish population began immediately after the arrival of the Germans. The first to demonstrate their animalistic instincts were the Ukrainians and Volksdeutschen. They began by extorting money from the Jews and beating them mercilessly without any reason – solely to express their sadistic tendencies. Later, when the S.S. men began to busy themselves with their bloody work, the Ukrainians and Volksdeutschen helped them faithfully and diligently.

The first night with the Germans was completely peaceful, but everyone was very tense, knowing that no good was awaiting them from this. The military civic authorities came the next day and the commandant summoned the Jewish representatives and ordered them to set up a Judenrat. At the same time, an order was issued that all Jews must wear an arm band with a Magen David.

After the establishment of the Judenrat, S.S. men came from Tarnopol and imposed a large contribution which the Judenrat had to collect from the Jews in the city. Everyone gave what he could, thinking that thereby they would redeem themselves from their hands. A short time later, S.S. men came again and ordered that they must provide 80 workers; otherwise they would kill 500 Jews. The Judenrat had no choice but to carry this out. My husband Yehuda Tzvi Feldberg of blessed memory and my brother-in-law Chaim Baruch Ridkes of blessed memory were among the unfortunate workers. They were all taken to the Borki Wielki forced labor camp, where they were worked to death and then murdered.

Thus did things go for over a year. Every time the S.S. men came with new orders which one had to fulfill in order to save one's life. The first large scale aktion took place on Yom Kippur, 1942. The streets were abruptly surrounded by armed Germans, Ukrainians and Volksdeutschen. They tore into the homes and the synagogues, and ordered everyone to come with them. Whoever attempted to stand up to them was shot on the spot. The aktion lasted for the entire day. From among my neighbors on Schlossegasse they took away at that time the Horowitz, Fiszer, and Kohen families, the two Fuchs brothers with their families, their sister and her family, and many others whose names I do not remember. An S.S. General named

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Mueller led that aktion. Upon his order, they forced the unfortunate people onto trucks and drove them to the train station, from where they were taken to the Belzec extermination camp. I was hiding with my children in the attic, for I did not want to leave young children in a better hiding place, lest they cry and thereby betray the hiding place. A great miracle happened to us then, for they ran by my house like wild beasts many times, but they did not open the door and did not go searching. Throughout that day, I heard from my hiding place the weeping of the unfortunate people who were dragged out of their hiding places.

A great fear pervaded in the city after the aktion. Everyone was making a fuss. Many families were affected by the aktion. There were husbands without wives, wives without husbands, and children without parents. However, the Germans did not let us be. They came with new demands every day. Once time, they demanded that everyone who has gold or silver turn it in. The second time, they ordered everyone to give over their entire set of food serving utensils. The penalty of not carrying out the order was death. My husband was in Borki Wielki at that time, and I gave over our entire set of food serving utensils in order to not risk my life and the lives of my beloved children.

After the large aktion, the survivors were forced into the ghetto which was created in a small section of the city. The crowding was very great. Several families had to crowd into one room. The hunger got worse, and a typhus epidemic broke out that did not skip over even one family. Every day, there were victims from malnutrition and the lack of medical care. From time to time, there were also victims of the German murderers.

Everyone began to realize that the only place to hide from the Germans was in a well fortified bunker or somewhere outside the ghetto. Such a bunker was prepared in almost every house, but this was no simple matter. There was a big problem with the elderly who would often cough in the bunker, and with young children who would cry in the bunker, and might thereby turn in all of the people. Indeed, people gave cough medicine to the elderly, and the children were injected with medicine that causes drowsiness. There were also cases where young children suffocated during the aktion, for their mouths were covered so that they would not cry.

A short time before the last aktion, I went out to the forest with the help of Yisrael Silber and Breines. They built a large bunker in the forest, primarily to save young people who would survive the misfortune and then go to the Land of Israel. They took me because I promised to help them with money.

This did not last long, for the Ukrainians discovered that there were Jews in the forest, and they began to search for them. Every night we had to wander from one grove to another, until we found a large forest. There we were divided into three groups in order to make it easier to escape in the event that we were discovered.

The Benderovches somehow found about the second group, of which I was not a part. They disguised themselves as Russian partisans and thereby approached the bunker of the second group with the pretext of uniting with them. Silber and Breines were not in the bunker at that time, for they had come to us. They returned shortly and began to shoot at the Benderovches when they saw them. This barely helped, for there were a larger number of Benderovches. They brought everyone out, two at a time, to a pit and shot them. Silber was also murdered at that time. This was told to us by a Jew who was hiding in the forest not far from the place where the misfortune took place. Only one girl was miraculously saved out of all the people. She is now a sister-in-law of Mrs. Shourz and lives in America.

When we heard about this, we ran to Ukrainian acquaintances that night. We fell into the hands of a bandit who gave us over to his brother-in-law. He apparently said he would make a hiding place for us, but before the bunker was ready,

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he went to the police to turn us in. Jews who were hiding in his attic saw him returning from the police at 6:00 a.m. Shortly thereafter, German and Ukrainian policemen attacked us. When we heard the police we fled, but two of us, one of them a pharmacist and a brother of Pushteig, fell into their hands. The police took them out to be killed.

After they took them away, the murderer who had apparently hidden us came and ordered us to leave the bunker. As we were leaving, we encountered the policemen who began to shoot at us. Silber's wife and her brother unfortunately fell, and the children – my two children and Silber's three children – succeeded in escaping. The bullets did not hit me, but I fell onto the ground like a corpse. Later, two Ukrainians passé by, and I heard one say to the other, “The woman is dead, we must bury her…”

After they approached me, I crawled father away from that place and waited until it got dark. In the evening, I went out to search for a bit of water and something to eat. I encountered an old Ukrainian woman who took me in to her barn and brought me food and drink. She held me for three days until I calmed down somewhat.

I left the woman, and did not know where to go and where to search for my children. I did indeed decide to go to the gentile to whom we went in the first place, to see if he perhaps knows something about the children.

When I came to him, I did indeed find all five children with him. We remained with him for a long time, but we suffered very greatly. On one occasion a Jew came and told us that there is a bunker nearby which he left behind, where there are potatoes and a kitchen to cook. We could go there if we wished. I did not think for very long, and we went with the Jews so that he could show us the bunker.

This was at night. In the morning, a Ukrainian came. He seemed like a good man, and said that he would go to fetch us something to eat. I believed him, and I told the children to go into the forest to bring some wood so that we could cook something. In the interim, I saw the Ukrainian returning with an axe in his hand. I immediately shouted to the children to escape, and began to escape myself. The gentile caught us and captured Silber's older son. He removed the boots from his feet and wanted to drag him to the police. However some people came by in the meantime, and he let him be. The child escaped from him.

We fled into the forest and waited there until it was dark. Then we began to think about where to go. We ran into a Pole who treated us well. He told us, “It is good that you did not run into my neighbor. Just yesterday he turned a Jewish family in to the police.”

Thus did we have a different adventure every day, and life was dangerous. We could write an entire book about the miracles that the Master of the World performed for us. For example, once we were quite frozen, and we dared to approach a gentile to ask him to give us something warm to eat. He left us in the barn. As we were sitting there, suddenly a number of people came with flashlights in their hands. We did not have any time to escape. The people entered the stable and shone the light in our faces, but they did not say anything, as if they did not see us.

Thus did we live with miracles and great suffering – so much so that we often thought about turning ourselves in to the police. We had some contact with a few Jews who were hiding in that region – altogether 23 Jews from various cities and towns.

Finally we survived until the day of the liberation, and we returned to Podhajce. There we found a small group of surviving Jews who, like us, miraculously survived the total destruction. Like all of the cities and towns in Poland, Podhajce gave up its part to the altar of the murdered Jewish people.

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Family Reflections from Zlotnik

by Chaya David (Rauch)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

I, Chaya David (nee Rauch) lived for many yeas in the town of Zlotnik. Hundreds of Jews lived there and the Jewish settlement there existed for centuries. In the town there was a large synagogue, a kloiz, a Jewish community, and every Jewish family there was well and properly established.

The First World War broke out in 1914, and the calm life and property were ruined. The wild war took no account of sentiments. The Jews suffered greatly from the Russian invasion. After the war, we began to rebuild everything anew. Our energy and zest for life returned in the wake of the bloody war. People worked diligently and industriously. It was not long before the image of the past had changed, and a new life was built up. My father was among those who rebuilt our destroyed home and set it up anew. However, unfortunately, Father did not last long. He died young, and left behind four children – three daughters and a son – along with our mother. The house which we had built up served as our fabric store aside from our residence. We continued to conduct our household and our business, and thus did several years pass.

In the meantime, my older sister got married. My sister's husband was a liquor distiller by trade, and was commissioned by the regime in the manufacturing of liquor. Sorrow once again afflicted our house. Our dear beloved mother died. Our only brother obtained independent work and left our house, so only I and my younger sister were not taken care of. At that time, I decided to go to the land of Israel. After leaving the town, my younger sister went to live with my older married sister.

I recall those fortunate days when we were all together in the home, in the bosom of our family. Everything changed in the month of May. In truth, we were left alone after the death of our beloved parents, but there were close relatives such as Dr. Nachman Rauch, Yaakov Grynberg, and other more distant relatives. Prior to my departure for Israel, our family decided that my younger sister should also go to Israel. To our great regret, that fine and good hope did not come to be. Merely one month after I arrived in Israel, the criminal Nazi hordes entered Poland and destroyed everything. They robbed our dearly beloved ones from us. Everything was destroyed and burnt. All of our close relatives and friends were murdered with a cruel and unusual death.

I came to Israel with the illegal immigration, having only what I was wearing on my body plus another two pounds. This constituted my entire possessions. This was around the month of July, 1939. From that time on, I bore with me the fantastic idea that perhaps, just perhaps, someone of my dear family might have been saved from the hands of the murderers. However, unfortunately, the Nazi murderers devoured even the one year old son of my brother. I am the only survivor of my entire family. Only the yahrzeit, which falls out three days before Shavuot, will always remain etched in my memory and also in the Yizkor book that will be published by the natives of our area in Israel as a memorial. G-d should punish the murderers and murderous nation for the innocent and precious blood that was spilled for no reason.

This Yizkor book must serve as a monument that the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis is not a legend. It is possible that in a future generation, some people will ask about what type of people these were, who could not defend themselves. Indeed, these were people with understanding, but they had nothing in their hands with which to defend themselves from the murderers.

My memories of my family members are still fresh, and I am certain that I will never be able to forget them.

Translator's Footnote

  1. Evidently, this is referring to gas chambers. Return

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The Memorial in Bad-Reichenhall

Translated by Jerrold Landau

On May 22, 1947, a gathering took place in Bad-Reichenhall (Bavaria, Germany) from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

This was a memorial for the martyrs who were murdered in the Podhajce Ghetto during the Hitlerist German occupation (1941-1944).

At the same time, a meeting took place with the participation of those people who came to the memorial. The following protocols were issued.

1. 79 members were registered who took part in the gathering (the list is given at the end of the protocols).

2. Yehuda Weissman, the member and founder of the provisional Podhajce committee in Bad-Reichenhall, the initiator of the memorial, opened the meeting and proposed the following persons to the presidium: 1. Izak Fink, 2. Oskar Eisenberg; 3. Yeshaya Friedman, 4. Yitzchak Weitreich, 5. Yitzchak Shourz, 6. Nathan Brecher, 7. Moshe Zawalower, 8. Nathan Kermish, 9. Marcus Shulman.

At the same time, the member Yehuda Weissman proposed that Mr. Izak Fink should be the honorary president of the gathering, and that Mr. Oskar Eisenberg should lead the gathering, and that member Yeshaya Friedman should be the secretary.

The decision motion was taken by the gathering, and they demanded that the member Yehuda Weissman also take a place on the presidium.

Mr. Oskar Eisenberg read the proceedings of the day:

1. Yizkor, Kaddish. Reflections on the experiences in the ghetto.

2. Elections to the Landsmanschaft committee.

3. The behavior of the Jewish militia in Podhajce.

4. Discussions.

5. Resolutions.

The proceedings were accepted by the gathering without change.

Oskar Eisenberg said the following:

“Brothers and sisters! We, Jews of Podhajce, Zlotniki, Wiœniowczyk, Zawalow, Gorzhanka and Tustowawa, have gathered here today in Bavaria in Germany, in Bad-Reichenhall, where fate has by chance brought us together, to survey and understand who from our city and region has remained alive after the barbaric murderous deeds of the Nazis. We have undertaken to determine the exact time when our beloved fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children were murdered by the German murderers, and thereby, throughout our entire lifetimes, we will know when to say Kaddish.”

At the time when the appropriate honors were offered to the fallen martyrs, Cantor Ronner recited the appropriate prayers accompanied by “El Maleh Rachamim”[1]

The eldest member of our committee, Mr. Izak Fink, recited Kaddish for the murdered Jews of the city of Podhajce.

Mr. Yitzchak Shourz received the right to speak, and said:

“Dear Podhajcer brothers! It fell in my lot to remain in Podhajce when the Germans entered our city. It was my lot to see Jewish blood flowing through the streets of Podhajce. I was hunted and harassed. I did not know where to hide in order to save my life. Despite this, I am among the living, and I survived the attacks of the murderers.”

As he briefly surveyed various images of the Podhajce Ghetto, of the life and deaths of the Podhajce residents, Yitzchak Shourz mentioned that those present must always bear in mind that the majority of the Ukrainian population helped the Hitlerist German barbarians in Podhajce to murder Jewry. Therefore, he shouted out: “Jews! Do not forget. Seek out the war criminals and take revenge on them.” (By bringing them to justice before the authorized institutions.)

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The member Yehuda Weissman received the right to speak and said:

“Dear brothers and sisters! Four years ago at this time, our city passed through its final death throes. Four years ago at this time, the last Jews, who survived all the slaughters, walked broken and crushed along their final path. With false promises and deceit, as was their way at all times, the Nazis gathered our weary brothers and sisters, pretending to transfer them to the ghetto of Tarnopol. However, the final journey of our brothers and sisters soon ended. Behind the city, in Zahajce, our beloved ones gave up their lives. Tortured, shot, plundered by the Nazi Germans and Ukrainian and Polish Volksdeutschen – thus departed 5,000 Jews, our dearest and most beloved.”

“We, the small group, are gathered today from all over Germany in order to recall and remember our close ones who were so cruelly murdered.”

Mr. Weissman showed the gathering the monument upon which was inscribed: “Remember what Amalek did unto you! Let the nation of Israel remember its 6,000,000 martyrs who were murdered and burned in sanctification of the Divine name and the nation. Avenge the spilled blood of your brethren!” He continued on saying, “This is our Kaddish, our Shloshim[2], and our ancestral grave! We stand today with bent heads in front of the communal monument. Recall well what our beloved endured; never forget the war criminals who murdered our beloved people.”

Aharon Schwartz (of Zlotniki) received the right to speak, and said:

“My heart weeps inside of me as a look around at the small group of Jews from Podhajce, Zlotniki and Zawalow who remain after they lost their dearest and most beloved people. I have no place of rest. I am in the midst of a journey. Two weeks ago, I was at the Warsaw memorial ceremony. One week ago, I was at the Lemberg memorial ceremony. And today I am at the Podhajce memorial ceremony. The Jew weeps and weeps! I believe, dear brothers and sisters, that our place is in the land of Israel! We must not be scattered and dispersed in all corners of the world! We must be together, and create our home, our Land! Today I recite Kaddish here, and I express my heartfelt wish that next year we will recite Kaddish in the Land of Israel.”

In his discussion, Mr. Moshe Zawalower (of Zlotniki) pointed out that there is no equal to the tragedy of the Jews during the German occupation in the annals of world history. However, the world must know that Jewish blood was not only spilled in the ghettos and the crematoria. Jews also gave of their blood on all the fronts, where our brothers and children fought heroically for freedom and against injustice, and helped with the defeat of the German fascists murderers.

The chairman, Mr. Oskar Eisenberg, moved over to the second section of the program (elections to the landsmanschaft committee).

It was proposed that a committee of seven members be chosen, with its headquarters in Bad Reichenhall. The following natives of our city were proposed as candidates: 1. Oskar Eisenberg, 2. Izak Fink, 3. Yeshaya Friedman, 4. Yehuda Weissman, 5. Nathan Brecher, 5. Munio Schwartz, 7. Moshe Zawalower, 8. Marcus Yatshes, 9. Yitzchak Shourz, 10. Motia Schulman, 11. Hersh Rellis, 12. Yitzchak Weitreich, 13. Yaakov Gross.

After a brief discussion, the following townsfolk were selected for the committee: 1. Yeshaya Friedman, 2. Yehuda Weissman, 3. Oskar Eisenberg, 4. Yitzchak Shourz, 5. Yaakov Gross, 6. Motia Shulman, 7. Moshe Zawalower.

The chairman moved on to the third agenda item.

The member Yaakov Gross received the right to speak about that point.

“You, friends, were in the war during the time of the German occupation. However, we know that certain residents of Podhajce collaborated with the Germans and did evil to Jews. I request that those present who know about any of them speak up.”

The members Yitzchak Shourz, Getzel Blecher, Yerucham Shulman, Leib Frenkel, Sala Sperber, Yitzchak Frenkel, Yossel Pistreich and Zigo Lateiner noted that some of the Jews of Podhajce who survived were members of the militias during the German occupation of Podhajce and inflicted a great deal of harm upon Jews. There was even a case where a Jewish woman revealed where 50 Jews were hiding during one of the aktions.

[Page 249]

Then the proceedings ended, and there were discussions about the resolutions. The following were the resolutions.

a) The 3rd of Sivan will be the memorial day for the martyrs of Podhajce and the region of Zlotniki, Zawalow, Wiœniowczyk, Zawalow, Gorzhanka and Tustowawa.

b) The members Yitzchak Shourz, Getzel Blecher, Leib Frankel, Yerucham Shulman, and Yosel Pistreich were requested to compose a description of life in Podhajce during the time of the war, and of the murder aktions that were perpetrated in the Podhajce ghetto during the German occupation. This composition will be sent to the committee for assistance of the Podhajce Natives in the United States and Israel.

c) Those gathered expressed their heartfelt thanks to the members Yehuda Weissman, Yeshayahu Friedman, Shimke Fink and Yaakov Gross, who were the initiators and organizers of the memorial gathering.

d) The committee that was chosen at this meeting was asked to turn to the assistance committee of Podhajce natives in the United States with the request of material help for the needy among the refugees of Podhajce. The relief committee should send the assistance individually to those in need, and should communicate this to the Podhajce committee in Bad Reichenhall. The newly selected committee should inform the Podhajce relief organization in America about who from our members are in the greatest need of assistance.

e) Those gathered determined that the aforementioned Podhajcers (who are alive) were members of the militia during the German occupation and thereby helped the Germans. A Jewish woman revealed to the Germans where 50 Jews were hidden. However, we wish to believe that she did this out of fear that she should not lose her life.

f) The committee must take the necessary steps in short order to turn in to the appropriate authorities the Ukrainian war criminals who are walking around free in Germany.

g) The gathering asked Yeshayahu Friedman to produce the minutes of the gathering and send copies of it to the assistance committee in the United States and in the land of Israel, and to all members of the committee who were chosen at that gathering.

Honorary president – Izak Fink
Chairman – Oskar Eisenberg
Secretary – Yeshaya Friedman

Members of the committee: Yehuda Weissman, Yitzchak Shourz, Yaakov Gross, Motia Shulman, Moshe Zawalower

The List of the Podhajce Survivors who were present at the memorial in Bad Reichenhall

Eisenberg Oskar
Blumenfeld Shimon
Blumenfeld Mina
Blecher Getzel
Bloch Edzia
Berg Marcus
Brif Moshe
Brecher Nathan
Ginszberg Moshe
Gross Yaakov
Gruber Mietek
Horowitz Hersch
Hutes-Hirsch Misia
Wassermil Binyamin
Weissman Yehuda
Weissman-Rozman Sima
Weitreich Yitzchak
Zawalower Moshe
Zawalower Feivish
Tenenbaum Yehuda
Yotshes Marcus
Yotshes Dova
Lateiner Zigmund
Lifschitz Fani
Lifschitz Munia
Lipman Zalman
Mandler Sala
Mandler Yisrael
Milch Dr. Bunio
Milshtak Mordechai
Meltzer Moshe-Yossel
Segal Leib
Etlinger-Kover Chaya

[Page 250]

Fogel Zigmund
Fogel Mendel
Polak Yeshaya
Pasternak David-Shlomo
Ptashnik-Meltzer Uka
Fink Izak
Fink Genia
Fink Shimon
Pistreich Yossel
Pistreich Leon
Feldberg Leah
Peltz Meir
Friedman Yeshaya
Frenkel Yitzchak
Frenkel Leib
Zimmerman Yaakov
Zimmerman Krantzia
Korn-Weinstein Chaya
Kupfer Hersch
Kupferman Zigmund
Klein Yitzchak
Kermish Nathan
Kermish Gusta
Rozman Choma
Rozman Donia
Roth Moshe
Roller Isser
Reibel Adam
Reibel Yosef
Reibel Perl
Reibel Mina
Rinder (Mossberg) Aharon
Rellis Hersch
Shulman Marcus
Shulman Yerucham
Shourz Yitzchak
Shourz Henia
Shourz Aharon
Schwartz Aharon
Schwartz Immanuel
Shtamler Aharon
Shtamler Fishel
Shtarkman Marcus
Sher Yaakov
Sperber Hela
Sperber Sali

The gathering of the Holocaust survivors of Podhajce Jewry in Bad Reichhall


Translator's Footnotes

  1. The traditional prayer for the souls of the dead. Return
  2. Shloshim is the traditional 30 day mourning period for close relatives. Return

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