by Regina Hader Rock
Marvin Rock had this translated as a tribute to his mother, Regina Hader Rock
The author of this account was educated and raised in Podkamien. She and her family were exiled to Rohatyn and survived the liquidation of the ghetto in Rohatyn. She was among the few survivors who returned to Rohatyn after the war. She aided in discovering, arresting and prosecuting the local Poles and Ukrainian collaborators who assisted the Germans in annihilating the Jews of Rohatyn
From Podkamien to Rohatyn
The Germans entered our town on 21 June 1941. During the first week the one hundred Jewish families of Podkamien were ordered to move to Rohatyn, about eighteen kilometers from Podkamien. We harnessed our horses and buggies and moved to our new location; several families took up residence in one house.
On the first day in Rohatyn, the Ukrainians drove us into a large synagogue; they searched every person in brutal fashion and seized all our valuables. They beat us brutally. They forced the Rebbe of Rohatyn, Reb Eliezer'l, to crawl on all fours, and several healthy Ukrainians rode on his body. This was done in the synagogue in the presence of the town's Jews. At that very same time, Ukrainians looted Jewish homes.
There were about ten thousand Jews in Rohatyn. Six thousand were townspeople; the others were from adjacent towns, refugees from the western portion of Galicia. It seems likely that the Ukrainians undertook the above actions on their own, independently, as the Germans forbade such measures when they heard about them.
The Rise and Fall of the Rohatyn Ghetto
In the fall of 1941 the ghetto was established; the Jews were crowded into several small streets. The crowding was really tight. The hunger was real, especially among the refugees. Our family was not that hungry, since a Christian employed me as a seamstress and I had the opportunity to supply my parents and family with food.
In February 1942 the Germans ordered us to dig two huge pits not far from Rohatyn. We didn't know why; only later did we realize the purpose of these pits. On 26 March the SS and the Ukrainians sent three thousand Jews to the pits, including the elderly, children, and pregnant women. This pogrom lasted all day; people were slaughtered with knives and axes; blood flowed freely in the streets of Rohatyn. Several hundred Jews were ordered to stand still, their heads bowed, in Lenin Plaza for six hours. Many froze to death there; the rest were shot near the two pits.
Our ghetto was not fully sealed. Thus, many Jews had the chance to escape that day and hide in the surrounding areas. On that tragic day I was working as a seamstress for a Christian friend in Podkamien. I soon found out what had happened in Rohatyn and hid in the cellar, as the police in Podkamien knew where I was. Thus, I was saved from certain death.
The next day I went to the ghetto in Rohatyn and found the streets littered with hundreds of dead bodies. I recognized my father because of his clothing. Samuel Leib Karp told me that my mother, brother, and sister were shot near the pits. He also told me where my parents had concealed some valuable items.
After a period of time, as things calmed down in the ghetto, Jews started returning. They were required to swear that their apartments were theirs before moving back in. I was scared to go back to Podkamien and remained in this now much smaller ghetto in Rohatyn.
Several weeks later I became friends with a young man, Anshel Dorfman from Lipica near Brzezany. He was a soldier in the Red Army and had been a German prisoner of war, but he managed to regain his freedom. One time the Judenrat got an order from the Germans to supply one thousand Jews. These Jews were all transferred to Belzec (a death camp) and killed. This "action" (roundup and massacre) chiefly affected the elderly and poor who were dependent on the Judenrat and the Jewish community for sustenance.
Two months later another action took place, this time aimed at children. Children were forcibly removed from their parents and deported to Belzec to their deaths. Every few days there were inductions into forced labor. These people were sent to forced labor camps. We had bunkers in our houses where we hid during these actions.
At the end of October 1942 we learned that the Germans were planning a major action. We fled to Podkamien, where we hid in a well-concealed cellar in a Christian home for six months. On 8 December 1942 the action really did happen, and two thousand Jews from Rohatyn were deported to the Belzec death camp. Afterwards we decided to leave our bunker and return to Rohatyn. Another similar action occurred at the end of December of 1942 when another two thousand Jews were deported. By a miracle, my boyfriend and I were hiding in a bunker and avoided this action.
Jewish police from Tarnopol came to Rohatyn and behaved as badly as the Germans.
On 6 June 1943 the ghetto was liquidated. We heard rumors to this effect earlier, and many Jews had prearranged suitable hiding places with Christian friends. However, this action started suddenly; no one really survived. My boyfriend stood guard duty all night. In the morning he heard a shot that was the signal for the start of the action. He woke me, and almost naked we ran to the river. The Germans shot after us. We went into the water and crossed the water. We managed to hide in a field for a whole day while hearing constant shooting. We assumed that the ghetto was being liquidated; yet we hoped that we could return to our home after the action.
We had on us several hundred Deutsche mark. We left our valuables and had no contacts or friends. My boyfriend also had nothing, as he had been a prisoner of war. Our only hope was to return to the ghetto and find our hidden valuables.
At night we heard explosions and saw flames from grenade explosions; the ghetto was in flames. We realized that we had nowhere to return to. Tired, frozen, and wet, we set out on our way. Even though we knew the area, we got lost. Finally, at dawn we arrived in Podkamien to seek shelter.
Back in Podkamien
I was well liked in Podkamien; yet I was not sure if anyone would take me in. We sneaked into a loft in a stable where we stayed seven days and nights, almost without any food. Our only food was a daily egg a hen lay not far from our hiding place.
The barn belonged to a well-known farmer, Piotr Jozefin. We knew this farmer killed Jews who escaped from the ghetto. Therefore, we were scared that Jozefin would do the same to us; yet, after seven days of hunger we took a chance. At midnight we knocked at his door and after much crying, pleading, and begging, he took pity on us and gave us some bread and potatoes. This literally saved our lives. He told us to leave, as he could not hide us. He gave us some food for the road. He really was desperate to be rid of us. We pretended to leave but soon came back to the barn, where we hid for another ten days.
Thereafter we again knocked on his window and told him that we were hiding in the forest and begged for food. He gave us bread, potatoes, and a bottle of water. He told us that two militiamen lived at his place so it was dangerous to be there. After that we left his barn and hid in an adjacent building for fourteen days.
Meanwhile, life in Podkamien normalized. Jews were no longer being sought in bunkers, and the murders ceased. So at night, we sought out a Ukrainian farmer, Ivan Daio, and without his knowledge, we broke into his potato cellar. We lived there for two weeks, living off chicken feed. One day his wife discovered me as I was about to remove a plate of chicken feed. She told us to leave; my tears didn't help. She urged us to hide in the cornfields. She gave us half a kilogram of bread, a little whiskey, and three buds of garlic.
The fields were not safe; we went back to the same farmer's farm and hid in an area of straw and haystacks for five days. Then we went to another Polish farmer, Jan Bielinski. He knew us for many years, so we hoped he would let us stay in his hay barn. Soon, the very next day, our host's son noticed us. He saw that the chain was unlocked from the outside. Right away he told his parents, who came up to us and told us that just the day before there was talk in the town that there were Jews at his place. Therefore, he asked that we leave at once.
We cried in front of them, we kissed their feet and promised to give them our house. . . and the farmer said to us that since the third house from his was uninhabited, he thought that it would be best for us to hide there and that he would see to it that we had food.
In an Empty House
The first four days he supplied us with food as we had arranged. On the fifth day he no longer came, and for four days we had no food. We found some stalks to eat. I decided to go to Jan to find out what happened and tried to disguise myself, wearing my boyfriend's hat. Jan told me that he had been in Lemberg (Lwow) and many Christians were shot for hiding Jews; thus he, too, was scared to bring us food. He didn't like my male disguise, as partisans were being sought by the Germans. Yet, he gave me food and arranged that I could come to him every other day for food. As we were talking, his son-in-law arrived; we were at a loss as to what to do. I pretended to be a forest beggar asking for food. He screamed at me, and I hastened off, carrying the food he gave me.
So it was for two months, as every two days he gave us food, and sometimes we got food from Ivan Daio who lived nearby. One day, the sister of Jan discovered us in the barn as she attempted to remove the hay. She was scared. I called her by her name, as we knew each other. She ran away and told another farmer about us, and, regardless of how it looked, she soon came back with milk for us and ran away immediately.
I was scared that she would give us away, so I dressed up as a man to see her. Her name was Zofia Maksymowicz. At night I knocked at her window; my appearance scared her, and she refused to come to the window. I then went to Jan and told him what happened, and he promised to talk to her. The next day he told me that she was now living with him, as she was scared of us.
My boyfriend went to see her to urge her to keep our presence a secret, but she didn't want to talk to him either. But she eventually promised to keep our secret. She also told my boyfriend who the farmer was who gave us the milk. I soon went to him and thanked him and asked him to keep our secret. His name was Pagoda. While I was there, I heard someone knocking at the window. I rushed out. Later I learned that this was my cousin who was hiding as a Christian; he, too, was knocking, seeking food.
We arranged that Ivan would tell Zofia that we left to go into the forest and that we would not knock on his window, but that he would bring us food. A month later, Zofia and her sister, the owner of the house, Tekla Fedirka, found us in the barn. They were scared of us and left without hay. We were at a loss, for Tekla's husband was a real murderer (by trade he was a smith); if she told him about us, it would be the end of us. Meanwhile a month passed; she had not informed on us to her husband.
One time while waiting for food, my cousin, Alek Fenster (twenty-two years old), suddenly appeared. I learned from him that he, his mother, and sister had been in hiding for eight days in a bunker in Rohatyn, while the ghetto was being destroyed. Later, they left the bunker; his mother and sister were too weak to travel, so he went on his own.
I asked him why he came, and he said to get food. I criticized him for trying to take away our food; but, he said he had given this farmer a valuable item, whereby he promised to give Alek food. But Alek soon left.
On 15 August 1942, a Volksdeutsche (person of German origin living in Poland) company of German soldiers arrived in Podkamien. The fight was enormous. The farmers fled to the forests. At the same time Alek came back because he could no longer stay with his farmer. Our farmer told us to get out because the Germans would search all the buildings. We were in a dilemma here at least we had some food and shelter. What should we do? What would become of us?
In Cellars, Lofts, Sheds and Pits
At nightfall we left; we walked a kilometer and hid in an empty potato pit. The floor was wet, so we stood all night, not having anywhere to sit down. The next day we saw the farmer's wife gathering potatoes. We knew she would soon find us, so my boyfriend left to hide someplace else. My cousin and I knew her, and we stayed on, hoping she would give us some food.
After much pleading she gave us bread, kasha, and garlic. We thanked her and told her we were in the forest. Her name was Franka Banarin. She was the lover of the local priest, a notorious anti-Semite who warned the farmers against harboring Jews.
The potato pit was really no place for us. Alek said he had left some possessions in one of his hideouts, an abandoned Jewish home. If they were still there, it would indicate that no one came there, and it was safe.
However the possessions were not there; thus it was not a safe place. Nevertheless, we slept there that night. Alek left to find a new shelter, but he didn't come back. I now recalled that a certain Dzegala Kazszik had told me that if we wanted to leave the ghetto, we could come to him, and he would hide us. We started out for his place, meanwhile hiding in a loft under hay.
After staying there a few days, we realized someone else was staying there, too, as the farmer brought him food also. We soon saw my cousin, Alek, to my shock and amazement. We now, too, appeared before the farmer, and he brought us food but said he really couldn't hide three Jews one Jew at most was his limit.
We stayed there another day, but he told us that we couldn't stay any longer. Having no place to stay, we went back to the attic of an empty Jewish house and hid there for two weeks, living off plants and shrubs.
After fourteen days the Germans left, we went back to our old hideout, and we had food from both of our farmers (Mielinskiy and Ivanin), enough for both of us not to starve. One night I was out searching for cucumbers in a nearby garden when I head the owner unlock the gate to our hideout. My boyfriend jumped out and hid in the garden. After he left, we went back there. I soon noticed that from my dresses that were drying there, there were things missing. Thus, the owner knew we were there, so we had to leave, as this man was a fierce anti-Semite.
We lay in a cabbage patch, and soon rain poured over us, drenched us. A boy noticed us and called his parents. They came, and we pleaded with them to help us. They did not know us; yet they brought us food and allowed us to tear some cabbage but told us to leave the garden.
After two weeks a man by the name Tatanczuk came to the loft. He didn't notice us, but we now knew he probably wanted to use the loft. In fact, one day he came back with wagonloads of hay. We left, and when we came back, the loft was full of hay. We were there until November 1943, but as the hay became less and less, we were concerned about being discovered. We soon built a phony wall in the loft made from hay where we could hide; and my cousin decided to confront the farmer to see what he knew about us.
The farmer didn't know that we had been hiding in the loft; he even urged my cousin to use the loft as a hideout; but my cousin told him that for now we were in the woods. We decided to remain in the loft. The next day, the farmer came to the loft, called Alek by name, but we did not respond, and the farmer soon left.
At the end of December, the farmer came again, shouting and screaming. Alek came out; the farmer asked Alek as to who else was there, and I soon appeared. After our making monetary promises to him, the farmer agreed to assist us and would bring food from time to time. At first he kept his promise, then he stopped. Then we got scared that we would be caught as criminals. Ten days later he came again with some food. He told us he was Vice-Chairman of the local Banderowcyand had killed many Poles; while he was in the field he could not come to us.
He was very cynical about murder, but our promises of giving him our homes served us well. He helped us, brought us food and even newspapers, and even more important than food, the good news that the Russian war effort was very successful. For this we kissed his hands.
Arrest and Escape
On 10 January 1944 the extreme frost literally broke bones; worse yet, I had to search for food in this frost. I was not dressed properly, and the path was dangerous. Many times I would have rather gone hungry than take the risk to search for food on these dangerous paths.
On 26 January 1944 my cousin and I went to look for food. We neglected to close the door to our hideout. My boyfriend was too weak to do so. Soon the Banderowcy arrived, saw the door, beat up my boyfriend and forced him to admit that he had two partners in this hideout. He was taken to the militia, and soon the militia returned to our hideout to ambush us.
I was returning with bread and cabbage, potatoes, and some milk, and my cousin was also returning with some food. Usually I filled a bottle with drinking water, but on this day I was too weak, so I asked Alek to do so. As I was approaching our hideout, I was seized by the Banderowcy. They asked me, Who gave you the food? and beat me very badly. All three of my tormentors were known to me. I started screaming, hoping to warn my boyfriend and cousin. One of my captors, Bilczow, hit me with the milk can, breaking two of my teeth, and he stuffed my mouth. I soon named two of the farmers I hated the most as having been my benefactors!!
My screaming worked, as my cousin escaped. They took me to the militia and on the way asked me if I had hidden gold, indicating that they were ready to spare my life if I would tell them where. I told them that my boyfriend knew this information and if I were taken to him, I'd give them all the gold. After torturing me, they threw me into a dark chamber, where to my shock I soon found my boyfriend. After we related to each other what had happened, we looked for ways to escape.
I lifted myself to the window and saw two Polish guards. I asked them to help us, but they said that they could not. Their replacements, two relatively mild-mannered Ukrainians, gave me some matches. We lit them and noticed an opening in our cell. We dug and dug and finally created an exit by removing piles of bricks, etc. My boyfriend decided to escape first, which necessitated jumping down some four meters. He left his shoes with me so as not to alert the guards. He was undetected and escaped.
I jumped next but was noticed by the guards. They shot after us, but we were saved by the darkness. The militia was alerted and chased us. The snow covered our tracks but at times gave us away, too. We managed to escape. Soon I arrived in a small hamlet, but my boyfriend was not with me. He lost his glasses and could not find his way. I went to a well-known Christian woman who gave me milk and told me to go away so as not to bring disaster on her home.
I lay down in a pile of hay, tired and depressed. I soon noticed the militiamen, and they followed my tracks to the Christian woman
Retracing the same snow tracks, I left for the potato cellar of my friendly farmer who used to give me food, and they could not follow me. The mistress of the house came to me and told me to leave and get out as fast as possible.
The Death of My Boyfriend
This happened at 10:00 A. M. If I left now, then everyone would know who I was. I was bloodied, dirty, my dress was torn; I hadn't changed my blouse in fourteen months. A child could tell that I was a fugitive.
Lying in the hay, I could see what was happening in the yard. The farmer and his son came from the forest with an axe, searching for me, but they didn't find me. They stuck the hay but in the dark still didn't locate me, and I soon fled. I made my way to another farmer's not far from there and hid in a potato cellar. The dog started barking, and the farmer came running; he didn't find me. Before dawn, I left again for my previous place, to the farmer who wanted to kill me, hoping he would save me, as I hadn't given him away despite being tortured earlier by the militia.
However, the gate was blocked, as he seemed to be ready to prevent my return. I hid in some hay; a neighbor noticed me and told me, not looking at me, that my boyfriend was shot yesterday and buried. He left some bread; I was too distressed to eat and cried all day. When it got dark, the farmer's son came and told me his mother wanted to see me in the barn; she told me I could stay there and gave me some milk, speaking nicely to me.
I became suspicious of their friendliness and told them I would leave. They brought me bread, a dress, and some of my possessions I had left with them. They urged me to stay. I went into the barn but refused to be locked in, as was their wish. From the open barn door, I saw the farmer go to his neighbor; I crawled in on all fours and heard their conversation: I can't do it; you can do it, and she will only leave before dawn. I fled to the farmer Jan Bielinski and hid in the hay barn in a wall of hay.
At night I heard footsteps and recognized the two farmers; one had an axe with him. I quickly jumped down and escaped. I hid in a large pile of hay belonging to a poor farmer and stayed there. Soon a dog came and started tearing at the hay.
I once again saw death facing me, but the dog soon left. I lay like this for six days and ate the bread I had with me. I ate three bites, three times a day. On the seventh day I took a risk to get a drink of water at the well; I found a pot, but to my chagrin it had holes in it. Each time I lowered the pot, it came up empty, retaining only a few droplets of water. I hid myself another two days, my mouth dry, hungry, and in pain from the loss of my two teeth. I was in poor condition. After two days without water, I went to the well again; this time the farmer saw me and shouted at me; I forgot about the water and hid in the hay again.
In a Doghouse
My situation was now intolerable. I was determined to surrender to the militia and let them shoot me. One thing just stopped me I was almost naked, as my clothing was completely torn. I was ashamed of my nakedness, even in front of the militiamen. I now was determined to find a new dress.
I decided to go to my classmate, Danusia, now a teacher, the daughter of a wealthy farmer, and ask her to give me an old dress. In the ghetto I thought of hiding with these people of fine character but now after a loss of hope, all I wanted was a dress.
By various means and non-means, I got to their home, which was locked. I knew that only the mother and daughter would help me maybe but not the father. He too had joined the Banderowcy and was no better than the rest of the gang. I hid in some hay near a broken window, but soon a dog started barking; the father came out, and I fled. I noticed a doghouse; it was wet and dirty there. The dog wanted to go in, but I prevented him. He didn't bark but stared at me wide-eyed, as if to wonder what has become of humans, wanting to live in a doghouse? He stared and soon departed.
I soon noticed the mother come out of the house. I called to her in a low voice. She was amazed to see a human in a doghouse. I told her all that had occurred to me, that I had been on the verge of death. She allowed me to stay, brought me several pierogi (filled dumplings), milk, mashed potatoes, and water. More than the food, she offered hope by telling me that in two weeks things would change for the better.
I realized it was foolish to think that I could survive. Surely, the father's teenage son of seventeen would have seen me or will see me and give me away. Meanwhile, I lay in a crouched position in the doghouse; it was dirty and filthy.
That day, the mother didn't return. I thought she regretted her help. The next day she said she had guests and could not come. She brought me hot soup, some bread, and potatoes. She brought the food open, so as to pretend she was bringing food for the dog. The hot pot warmed my feet; at night she brought me soup and bread.
After two weeks in the doghouse, the dog no longer came, as he was no longer the resident of this house. Crazy as it sounds, in the two weeks in the doghouse, I felt I was getting fat because of the three meals I was getting.
Only the mother and daughter of this family knew about me. She (the daughter) visited me once, telling me that if the father and brother did not become aware of me, I could survive the war.
Again in a Potato Cellar and Loft
I was in the doghouse for four weeks; with tears I implored the mother to allow me to move to the potato cellar. I allowed the dog back in, and I crawled out on all fours, out of the doghouse. I couldn't stand, so I crawled into the potato cellar and lay there. I felt good stretching my limbs. Only the mother came for the potatoes, so I was safe.
The next day the mother told me that perhaps her husband or nephew would come to the cellar, so we had to create a bunker to hide in the cellar. I dug myself in the cellar. I had a problem with my physical needs, but the mother brought me a special pot for this purpose. And in the course of two weeks she treated me like a nurse treats an ill person. In the doghouse I had removed my waste with hay and straw.
The cellar was warm; my feet hurt because they had previously been frozen; I had suffered from frostbite. I had back pains, I couldn't even think of standing or walking. My Christian friend brought me butter and spread it on my feet. After two weeks my feet healed, and I was able to walk and stand. There were lice in the cellar, and I couldn't sleep. My guardian brought me dried fruit to nourish me.
On 25 February 1944 at night I heard wild noises. In the morning, my guardian told me that the Ukrainians had made a pogrom on their neighbors, the Poles. With knives and axes they killed sixty Poles, all men. Her brother was a Pole (her husband, a Ukrainian), and he fled, so the Banderowcy would certainly come here to search for him.
I hid again in the doghouse. It snowed that day, so the hut was covered by snow. The Banderowcydid come but did not suspect anyone of hiding in the doghouse because of the snow. I got food once a day when it was very dark.
The village was turbulent as the Ukrainians sought the fugitive Poles and killed and robbed mercilessly. The screams of the Poles were unbearable. Living in the doghouse, I had feelings of revenge, as the Poles had killed Jews. Let them now get a taste of their own medicine. At the same time, I realized that many Jews who had been hidden by Poles must have been hunted down in this latest action. I started to think about my fate.
On 10 March 1944, my former Ukrainian farmer told my present guardian that he thought I was still alive. Another neighbor heard this, Janka Kardat she was the girl friend of the militiaman who knocked out my teeth. She wanted to kill me so that I would not take revenge against her boyfriend.
She searched all over for me, including my present guardian's yard. But the owner's wife demanded to know what Janka was doing on her property. At first she said she was seeking a lost hen, but then she said, Shmuel Leib Karp is hidden at the local priest's, and the Ukrainians were searching for him all night. People also say that Rivka Hader is hidden here, but because you pay off the Banderowcy, they don't search earnestly. When she later told me this story, I assured her that if I were caught, I would not implicate her for hiding me. This put her mind at rest.
The next morning I told her that I could no longer remain there, as the snow was leaking in from the roof. I begged to be hidden somewhere else. I was soon transferred to the barn and hidden in the hay, as the daughter stood guard during this transfer. I felt glad and happy about my new residence.
The next day I saw the husband come to clean the doghouse. I couldn't believe my good fortune and the miracle that happened to me. Had I still been there, I would have been caught. Seeing G-d's miracle, I decided to take a vow to fast every Monday and Thursday while I was in hiding as a way of showing my gratitude to G-d. I told my guardian of this vow and told her not to bring me food on these days. I fulfilled my vow faithfully and completely.
The farmer woman brought the food to me, and I would take it to the loft. At the same time, the Ukrainians burned seventy Polish homes. One can understand my fright, seeing all the light in the dark night.
The next day, the farmer woman told me she was worried; her brother's (the Pole's) home adjacent to hers would be burned, and I would be found out, and she would be killed for hiding Jews. I assured her that I would rather be burned than be discovered and give her away. This reassured her. She had a daughter and a son-in-law, a Pole. During the anti-Polish riots, he managed to escape. He soon found out about my hiding place, too. The daughter now had more feeling for my plight, as her husband, too, was in hiding.
During Easter she brought me good food and told me that the news about the war was good. When the Russians arrive, her husband would return. She told me that the Russians had freed four villages in the Tarnopol region.
I need not say that these news stories gave me hope. I later heard the priest's servant tell my guardian that the Russians gave a concert near Tarnopol. The sun shone brightly. Eight days I waited for the liberators; on the ninth day my guardian informed me that the Tarnopol battles were tough and who knows how long they would last. She told me to go to Tarnopol. I was in no physical shape for the one-hundred-kilometer trip, and besides, how was I to get through the front lines? I cried and begged for mercy. I remained in the loft, and once again I doubted that I would survive the war.
Back to Being a Seamstress
My guardian told me she had no field workers, as no one wanted to work for money that was worthless. I told her I would be ready to sew for the workers as their pay. Since her husband was a tailor, it would be presumed that he himself did the work. She soon brought me the stuff and implements, and I was at work in the loft. I felt that I was now honestly eating and boarding: I was paying my benefactor back.
At the end of April, the German troops started marching to the front. One unit stopped in our hamlet; they stayed in the villagers' homes. My guardian had three German guests, one lieutenant and two ordinary soldiers; I saw them from the loft. Their uniforms and faces scared me. The Germans made minor attacks in the area, and the prisoners were sent to work. Many farmers joined me in hiding. Several members of my guardian's family even hid in the same loft as I. However, they soon departed without discovering me.
After a month, the Germans left, and I was hopeful again. Even when the Germans were in town, I helped by knitting. On 14 June 1944 the Banderowcy, sensing the imminent arrival of the Russians, set fire to the last Polish house, the one that belonged to the brother of the woman helping me. Now I was very hot, instead of very cold, as this house was next to where I was hiding. Soon the yard was filled with people trying to put out the fire.
They poured water from the roof. I was in great danger of being discovered. I jumped off the loft, my guardian came to my rescue, wrapping me in a cloth and hiding me in the weedy area of the yard. I lay there twelve hours from midnight to noon. Finally my guardian told me I could return to the loft, and she watched over my return. However, the food situation worsened as my guardian brought me only several pieces of bread once a day.
Liberation Draws Near
On 5 July 1944 the retreating Germans advised the civilians and my guardian to leave, as the Russians were drawing near and a major fight would result in civilian casualties. On 8 July the Soviets started bombarding our village. My guardian and her children fled to the woods. Only her husband remained to guard their property.
She promised to bring me food, but the bombardment was so sudden that she fled without leaving food. She told me to stay out of her husband's way, but hearing of liberation, who thought of food at all?
I was frightened of the master, as he was a thief who hid his loot in the loft. Several times I had to jump from the loft and hide in the garden. Lying on the ground of the garden, I saw him come to collect berries. I crawled out of the garden, back to the loft. He must have noticed something, as he soon came looking in the loft but found nothing. The bombardment reached a crescendo on 13 July. Reflectors lit the sky and ground as the Soviets were after the Germans trying to halt their retreat and kill them. This indeed had the desired effect.
Scared of the bombs, I hid in a cellar for a night. In the morning I heard the Russian language. With great enthusiasm I left the cellar and very carefully looked about. I saw the grizzly Russian soldiers, only slightly resembling humans. These were the Russian frontline troops. I was scared of them and didn't approach them.
My guardian came back and gave me food. At night I went back to the loft and slept. In the morning she told me that the Russians took her horse. I proposed going to the Russians and telling them that she had saved my life and to return the horse. She was scared and said no, as she didn't want her husband to know and was scared of revenge by the Banderowcy. I remained in the loft three days while the Russian army kept marching and advancing.
On the twelfth she urged me to join the Russians so that in case of a retreat, I could go back with them. This was good advice; she made it possible for me, therefore, to get bathed for the first time in sixteen months. This made me happy as I felt better about myself being clean. I said goodbye to my rescuer and cried. I kissed her hands for a long time and promised never to forget her kindness.
I was scared as soon as I started to walk. I was not accustomed to walking, nor did I know where to go. Finally, I saw two Russians; I ran in their direction shouting, I am Jewish, I am Jewish. At first they were frightened, then they calmed down and looked at me, astonished, not understanding what I wanted. Soon more Russians came; they told me they had to march on and could not help me. I refused to leave, demanding to join them, since my life was in danger as I was the only Jew here. A wagon came, and I was told to sit and that they were going to Chodorow.
On the way, the wagon stopped, and the officers went into an abandoned house and ordered me in. They soon started to accost me. I realized my troubles were hardly over. I begged them to leave me alone, as I had suffered in the war. I cried and cried. Finally, the order came to march, and G-d rescued me from them.
Not having anywhere to go, I decided to go back to the loft. Using side roads I made it back half alive and dropped in my old lodging place. You can imagine the look on my guardian's face when she saw me there after two days. I invented a story that a Russian captain ordered me back and to stay put. I asked her to let me stay, and having little choice, she agreed.
I was convinced that I was the only Jew in the region. I asked myself what to do, where to go. I was there five days. Finally I decided to go to Rohatyn.
At midnight on 22 July I set out for Rohatyn. I soon realized that I was in no shape for the trip. I heard a car approaching. I waved it down. Several Russians sat in the car. I told them I was a Jewish woman and during the German occupation I survived in hiding. They took me to Rohatyn. There I was told that in the house of a certain Amarant there were several Jews. There I met the following people:
Yissocher Huizer, my boyfriend's brother-in-law, with his two children; they were from Lipica. They had been hiding in the woods. They looked more like animals than people. Sara Hauser from Lipica with three children; they looked like the other family. Mrs. Libke Haber and ten-year old son, from Rohatyn. Mrs. Reizhe Stryjer from Rohatyn. Rachel Bal from Lipica. Bernard Kessler from Lipica. Moshe Blech with his ten-year old son Bumek, from Rohatyn. Leibush Blech and his wife Cyla Blech from Rohatyn. Sznycer from Rohatyn, brother-in-law of Moshe Kreisler; Hesio Altbauer from Rohatyn; the Schweller family from Lipica, six people. Shmuel Acht, Dr. Sterzer and wife, Grina, and son Menashe; Ciucia Tennenbaum; Dr. Hodish and his wife, from Tlumacz, Paulina Mark from Rohatyn, and others. Pepka Kleinwaks, who later went to America and died there; Chaim Srul Modlinger died in an accident in Berlin in 1946.
They all looked like skeletons. I kissed them all, and we told each other our tragic tales. On the second day we got a hot fatty soup from the Russians and got stomachaches. On the fourth day we encountered Czech soldiers and Jewish officers who brought us the best. They stayed with us several days and acted like real brothers. I then became aware that my cousin had surrendered to the Ukrainian militia on 25 July 1944. He could not bear the hunger and was shot by them.
I discovered the fate of Hirsch Kamerling, born 1913 in Zolczow. He died fighting in Stalingrad in 1942; Schlome Kamerling, born 1924 in Zolczow, finished a Red Army officer's school and was seriously wounded on the Kharkov-Kursk front and recuperated in a hospital. In January 1945 he was recalled to the army; his brother Zev got a letter from him, but he has never been heard of since. I was the only one of my town to survive. My cousin's brother, P. L. Furchsters also survived, but in captivity in Budapest.
After three months in the town, regaining strength, I first went to the NKVD (Russian Secret Police, now known as the KGB), to take revenge on those who killed our brothers and sisters and fellow Jews. I worked with the NKVD and turned over fifty farmers, also Dr. Melnik of Rohatyn, all who collaborated with the Nazis and the Gestapo. He received twenty years in jail. Many of the others were shot.
Then I went to Lemberg (Lwow), where I married Yonah Rock. Together we went to Cracow, thereafter to Bytom; then we secretly crossed the border to Germany, and we stayed in a displaced persons camp in Echwege, Germany, for three years. My son, Moshe Rock, was born there. We arrived in America, New York City, in February 1949.
Translated by Binyamin Weiner
During the Shoah, one of the bunkers in our city was set up in the district town-hall, in the same building that housed the Gestapo command center. A Ukrainian named Bruduvay from the village of Pujatince, who was the watchman, helped set up the bunker in the cellar of the building, where the council archives were kept. Thirteen Jews were housed there: Yehoshua Glutzer and his two daughters, Lucia and Ruzia; Avraham Haber, his wife Libtse, and their son Yisrael; Reize Streier and her son Yosi; Rachel and her brother Moshe-Yosef Bal, and her cousin Bernard Kosler; Sarah Rokeach, and Chanina Zunenshine.
The Ukrainian also concerned himself with the provision of food for those hiding in the shelter. But once he could not see to this for many days, and the hidden came to know the wretchedness of hunger. The first victim of hunger was Avrumtsi Haber, who was buried in the shelter itself.
[Photo #1, p. 321 : Yosi Streier]
There was no choice but to venture out of the shelter a few times, to look for food. Chanina Zunenshine was the first to be caught. The Nazis demanded that he reveal the hiding-place, and when he refused they killed him. He was eighteen years old when he fell. The second, Moshe-Yosef Bal, went out for the same reason and was likewise caught and killed when he refused to reveal the location of the shelter. He was seventeen when he died. After them, it was Yosi Streier's turn. He managed to obtain a small amount of food, but was caught coming back to the bunker, and suffered terribly till his soul took flight. He was not more than fifteen. May the Lord avenge their blood.
As the upper floors of the building grew too cramped for the Nazis (who had opened a hospital there, in addition to the command center,) they requested the use of the cellar. But the influence of this same Ukrainian, Bruduvay, protected the nine remaining Jews. He managed to convince the Nazis that it was not possible to destroy the archive cabinet (which hid the entrance to the bunker) because it concealed rare documents. Miraculously, the Nazis were persuaded to forgo their plan. This Gentile should be well remembered. The glimmer of God had not been extinguished in his heart, one of the few among many
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