Pages From The Zabludow Yiskor Book:
Zabludow; Dapim Mi-tokh Yisker-Bukh , editor: Nehama Shavli-Shimush, Published by Former Residents of Zabludow in Israel, 1987 (Hebrew)Translation from Hebrew by Ziva Rosenhand
Tilford Bartman's Memorial Web Site: Remember Zabludow !
Message from Tilford Bartman
The Old Synagogue of Zabludow: 1635-1939, a Model by Moshe Verbin, Kibbutz Yakum
Our Dear City of Birth and its Convulsive and Terrible Demise
As one of the few Zabludow sons that survived and as an eyewitness I take it upon myself, as a holy obligation, to describe in the Yizkor book our long-lived city and her last years’ bitter struggle for life. A struggle filled with horror and torture before the Nazi oppressors destroyed it. May their [the Nazis] name and memory be erased.
May the citizens of Zabludow forgive me for calling them by their nicknames since I no longer remember many of the family names.
I would like to say, "May you be strengthened" to our friends, Zabludow’s citizens in Argentina who published the "Yizkor" book in memory of our city that was destroyed. Future generations should know what Amalek did to us.
On Thursday, the 19th of June 1941, I arrived with my cart to a place where an airport was being constructed on lands that belonged to the Catholic and Orthodox Church and were confiscated by the Soviets. I was one of the cart drivers that hauled rocks to the construction site. There I was notified that the original site was too small for the airport and it was decided to confiscate parts of the Christian citizen’s fields and the Jewish cemetery.
On my return home I notified my father, Israel Moshe (may he rest in peace) of the terrible news. He ran immediately to the Rabbi to convey the news. The Rabbi was of the same mind as me that he alone could not help much and proposed to send a delegation of elderly citizens to Margolin who was in a position of authority for the city. My father was acquainted with Margolin since he and Margolin’s father studied together in the Yeshiva in previous years. They talked and decided to talk to Margolin the following day on Friday to ask him to remove the terrible decision. But early the next morning, when we were ready to leave for work, we heard that the "wealthy" Jews were removed from their homes and supposedly taken to Russia. And these were: Zvia Robbins and her children and the families of Chaim and Eliezer Velvel Miller. They only took Eliezer Velvel’s wife since he and Chaim were previously arrested and imprisoned in Russian jails. Eliezer was imprisoned in Minsk, released when the Germans invaded, returned home and after a short time died.
Those who were expelled to Russia were lucky and most survived. Nachum Lapetshei and Reuven were rescued. The butcher Zelig Yanovsky, who was imprisoned, was released but died on his way home. On the day that we were notified of the expulsions we couldn’t work well. Everyone was afraid because there were rumors that expulsions would continue next week. In spite of all these events, the delegation proceeded to Margolin. His reaction was friendly and he asked to return on the 23rd of June.
The elderly, as was their custom, joked and predicted that if they are dealing with the dead then this is their end. And their predictions came to pass.
Many Russians who worked at the airport and also officer’s wives whose husbands were off on military maneuvers lived in Zabludow. On Saturday the 21st of June there was a Russian holiday. They celebrated and at night they had parties with dancing and they drank till they were drunk. We too, the young crowd, stayed awake till morning.
I returned home and thought to go to sleep. Suddenly I heard a strong explosion. I ran outside. I didn’t see a thing. People stormed out of their houses in panic. They said this was the army maneuvers. I responded that this could not be possible. This was an echo of real explosives that, apparently, were being directed at Bialystok. I discerned well this explosion, since I was at the war front in 1939 with the Germans. A minute did not pass and my assumption bore out. Christians who came out of Bialystok said that the Germans had indeed bombed the city.
The Nazis had surrounded the city on the 22nd of June 1941 at the time the citizens were asleep. They bombed all the Russian quarters. In Bialystok, bombs fell on the zoo where the Russian army had encamped nearby. The fish market as well was damaged and many civilians had been killed. The airplanes had also appeared above Zabludow where they overflew the city at low altitudes. However, they did not bomb our city.
The city was in turmoil. The Russians started packing. The Jewish residents did not know what to do since the Russians were disconcerted by the sudden attack that had befallen them. Many children from our town were, at this time, outside of their homes and especially weaker children staying at rest homes at a place called Drusknik. Their worried and helpless parents looked for help. The panic increased. Leible Tavels was going back and forth looking for someone who was willing to go with him to Hurashitz where his daughter was visiting with in-laws. But no one was willing to accompany him since the road to Bialystok was already in bad condition. Since I knew the village roads very well, I took it upon myself to bring the girl.
I just entered the fields with my wagon and I saw scared soldiers lying in the fields. They allowed me to pass. But when I arrived to the big forest, army units blocked my paths. I could not proceed…A similar picture came to my mind in the days of the Polish army in 1939. We would lie in the forests hiding from the bombs. At this time a huge army found itself in the same situation and this army does not have the strength to withstand the enemy.
I drove back home. It became dark in Zabludow. When I got home, I was instructed to join the army immediately at the garden of the wealthy mansion. Many men from the surrounding villages gathered and we were ready to be sent to the front. Margolin, the city’s deputy, spoke to all and said: "There is no importance to the fact that the Germans had crossed the border. We are retreating, although at some point we will attack. Suddenly, in the middle of this speech, a German air squadron appeared and started to bomb the airport. Many bombs fell on the city. Immediately the whole area, where the Catholic and the Pravoslavic Church stood, caught fire. Two of Nachum Mendel Zaltzman’s daughters were killed immediately. Shalom Chaim Ostrovsky’s grandchild, Leiba Bartash’s son, Rachel Binder’s son and many Christians. On Monday, the first victims fell. The Russians dispersed quickly and there were no army units to join…That night the army dispersed to the four winds and the Germans bombed non-stop and spread fire on the roads.
b. The German invasion of Zabludow and the first horrible acts.
The next day, on Wednesday, there were rumors that the Germans entered Minsk, and us, the few Jews, didn’t have any choice but to stay in place. Those who tried to escape to Russia were forced back; many of them died on the roads. In Zabludow there were big merchandise warehouses, the Christians entered them and robbed them. We tried to at least prepare some food, but the urban Christians stood against us. In spite of that Avrahamel Baker and I took a sack of flour forcefully and hid it, the Christians took carts full of leather to their houses, the didn’t miss any opportunity, meanwhile there was no government in Zabludow and the Jews possessions were made unclaimed property.
On Wednesday evening Avrahamel Baker came to split the flour, and people were saying that the murderer Nazis entered Zabludow through Bilsk Street and that they were now going around and making order in the town in order to prevent robbery. Anyway there was nothing left to rob; we hid underneath our house’s balcony. Avrahamel asked me "do you have a gun? Give it to me, I must end my life. Anyway our lives aren’t worth much; we know what they are doing to the Jews everywhere"… I dissuaded him from doing it, but what’s the use of my intervention, if we will be murdered later on…
The first patrol group of the Germans left the town and warned: to keep the order, and tomorrow morning the army will come.
In the middle of the night we heard again shots. In the morning, my father, alav-ha-shalom, may he rest in peace, took his tfillin and went to the small beit Midrash. The big batei Midrash were confiscated by the Soviet regime and were turned into warehouses for crops. Suddenly he heard shots in the streets. People were hiding in basements. My father came running and shouting to get out from the basements; the whole city was burning, we tried to save whatever we could from our house, but whatever we saved was for nothing, because later on we were forced to leave everything…
I quickly connected the horse to the wagon and I brought out my paralyzed uncle, Abba Daniel, from the house. It was impossible to drive in the city, all the houses were burning, I went through the park and there I saw Zeidka Melawidski lying on the ground and moaning, I ran to him and he told me that a minute ago a German shot him. I put in his mouth a piece of sugar and ran to the river to bring some water; but when I came back it was too late. I went to the hiding place behind the windmill, and there I found many people from Zabludow with their bundles. I left the wagon with my sick uncle and ran home; maybe I could save something… I met my father, his hands and face were burned, he wanted to take out the books from the house, I saw, near by, the old lady Lapetshei lying there dead after being shot. Wounded people were running looking for help; it was like a horror scene. The town was totally burnt: the batei Midrash around the old synagogue, all the houses, even the bathhouse that was surrounded by walls was burnt. Only the very old synagogue stood still, and the fire didn’t catch it. Me and my father, may he rest in peace, are looking, wondering, and imagining- it’s a miracle!
It was but an illusion, suddenly the hooligan Nazis arrived, may their name and memory be erased! They spilled gasoline around the very old synagogue and they lit it on fire… that is how the very famous Zabludow synagogue burned and was erased from earth. A synagogue that existed four hundred years, one of the rare surviving art structure. The only remaining was the big rock that stood in front of the synagogue, now standing there like an orphan.
c. The torturing of the town Jews and their attempt to run away.
That’s what the Nazi’s did the next day to the Jews in Bialystok. They forced two thousand Jews to enter the synagogue and they burned it, everyone was burnt…including our teachers that taught in Tachkemonie School. Who doesn’t remember the teacher Kapustein and other teachers? Also burned alive was the famous chess player Aharon Zabludovsky.
And in Zabludow we didn’t have a roof over our heads anymore, whoever could save anything brought it to the Christians, in all Zabludow there were left on a few houses in Bilsk Street: the Rabbi’s house and beit haMidrash. A large amount of Jews gathered there and lay there close together. The Germans forced their way into Rabbi Jochanan Mirsky’s house, may he rest in peace, they dragged him to the street and started beating him… a few Christians tried to help and with a lot of effort they were able to release him.
The Nazis confiscated the Jew’s horses and wagons, they told the Jews to go to their offices to get the compensation. Some went and they got a bitter ‘reward’, by miracle they stayed alive. I, from the beginning didn’t want to go, my heart warned me of the trap.
Later on we started gathering the dead and bringing them to burial in the cemetery, Leshca Gorosh’s wife got killed, Bartzia Bartnovski got shot when he came out from the basement, Chaim Feivl, the water pumper was burned in beit haMidrash, he was hiding in the attic.
Many of the Jews from Zabludow ran away to the near towns where they had friends. To Narba went: our Rabbi Jochanan Mirsky, may he rest in peace, with his daughter and grandson Jacob Zesler. Moshe the author and his wife, Babca Chaya daughter of Dvorka and her family, Chaya Ashka, the baker, with her sons, and some more families. To Bilsk: Leib-Hersh, the barber and his wife, Chenneh Herschel Zesler and his family, Moshe Hersh Glatshtein with his wife, Zelig Herschkesh’s wife and her children, Pesach Flicker and his family, Yankle Hoppervorn and his family, Yitzchak Bagel and his children, Avremke Tentzer and his children, Esther and Bayla Formen, and other families that I can't remember their names. To Bialystok went: Moshe Baruch Zesler and his family, Feivl Zesler and his family, Amtasha and Shmuel Leibtshik, and their families, (his son was killed), Dovid Epshtein, by himself, his wife and little daughter were killed, all the Dralis family, Eliezer Reznik and his family, Eizer Tzerolnick and his family and brother, and some more people.
Some people escaped to Bialystok because they were afraid that the Polish would tell on them that they had jobs at the Russian regime, Noah Feder was already in the ghetto in Bialystok when the Germans caught him and killed him. Many families ran away to Arla and Michaelova among them: Leeka Casanski and their families, David Arlenski’s family, Shmockler Sander and Zalman’s sons, Eeche Meir’s children and their mom, Ese Scharbabre with his child and wife, Feivl Patlin and his family, Nachum and Miama Arelgoat and their families, and Bishka, Yoel’s son "Dar Starker" the strong and his family. But the Germans found Bishka and Miama Pashami and shot them, and so Zabludow’s Jews spread all over the nearest towns and cities. People who were travelling with wagons, their horses were confiscated and they had to push the wagons, their cows were also taken. In Zabludow the Jews were ordered to give their cows, but my mom said ‘whatever will be, will be…’ she is not giving her cow to them, and so she took the cow to Bialystok. She got to Dieleed, near Bialystok, without problems, but then the Christians robbed her violently, she fought them until she broke her leg and fell helplessly. She lay on the ground the whole night, coincidentally Itshke Sukionic saw her, and he was also was on his way to Bialystok. Itshke quickly told my brother-in-law, Chaim Menashe Parashovski, the news. He quickly took a hand wagon and immediately went to help my mom; he took her to the hospital in Bialystok. I will never forget the sad scene that I saw when we went out in the morning from Zabludow; we were a few Jews with our bundles on our shoulders. We were chased by all kind of scams, grabbing the bundles from the hands of the weak and beating them to death…that was our situation when we dragged ourselves from our dear Zabludow…we were humiliated, robbed and persecuted…and that’s how we got to Bialystok.
d. The first miracle.
I came to my sister Chana’s house. Right then the order came out that the Jews have to wear the yellow patch. I put on the patch with the Star of David and went to the hospital to see my mom, on the way there were Christians, laughing at the Jews that were wearing the yellow badge… the first visit passed with peace.
The second time I was caught by the Germans, they beat me to exhaustion…I’d like to say how I was saved from a certain death. I think it was a miracle, the first miracle.
They were talking about making a ghetto in Bialystok, so I went out with my sister’s son, Avrahamel to Reemecatz to buy some food from some farmers that I knew. We were hiding in the crops, we saw, in the village, Chaim Gerber, Bartash and the husband of Leiba Bartash, Nachum. Germans were in the village; they left Nachum pass. They thought he was Christian. They killed Chaim because he looked like a Jew.
We heard the shootings and immediately went to the path leading to the village that we knew very well. Some farmers gave us flour, barley, and butter that I thought to bring to my mom in the hospital. Early in the morning they took us through the path where we could go to Bialystok, but there was no way to pass by Halmond village that was near the city. The minute that we got close to the first house, with hope that we could hide in the granary, suddenly we heard the German language, before we had time to look we heard an order "Stop! Damn Jews!" We stopped immediately, I felt a strong blow to my face and I couldn’t see a thing. The Nazis ordered us to throw our bundles, I begged them to leave us alone, I said "our house was burnt, I'm bringing a little food to my sick mother in the hospital" it didn’t help, they told us to take their motorcycles.
They were walking behind us with their pistols aimed, taking us to the forest…I felt that my moments alive were limited. I whispered to Avrahamel "let’s throw the motorcycles and run to the forest. We have nothing to lose, we are already going to die if we don’t do anything, maybe it wont be easy for them to shoot us with a pistol" suddenly one of the Nazis stopped me and ordered me to go to the nearest tree. When he started tying me to the tree I released my hands with despair, I raised my hands upwards to the sky and I screamed "My G-d, help us!" "How is it that, you are not a communist, you believe in G-d?" asked the Nazi, and immediately loosened the rope from my hands, I showed him my Russian passport where it says number eleven, the sign for merchant people.
The Nazis decided to bring us to the Gestapo headquarter that was in the ‘Olanim’ base (cavalry force).
There were lots of Russian prisoners of war, they took us to their officer and said "we have two Jews prisoners of war" I wanted to say something, but I felt a strong blow from behind and I fell to the ground, they kept hitting me until I fainted. When I opened my eyes I say that I was lying in a river of blood, I tried to get up, but I couldn’t. The Nazis picked me up and one of them pushed me out with his rifle. I thought, this is the end, they are going to shoot me, and the Nazi left me out and went. I dragged myself to the road; some Christians that stood there and saw me started crying. How I looked made them pity me, I was very wounded, with one eye closed, I thought I was blind. The pain was unbearable; I looked for Avrahamel but couldn’t find him. Maybe they beat him to death. The thought troubled me. How shall I go home without the boy? Then I saw a Nazi hooligan pushing Avrahamel out, he was ‘broken’, wounded, and exhausted. With a lot of effort we dragged ourselves to my brother-in-law’s house. They didn’t recognize us. We were bloated, we couldn’t sit or lie, they covered me with bandages until I felt better. A few days later I went to the hospital, Dr. Rottenberg was very surprised. How could I have gotten such horrible beatings, and still survive? On my next visit to the Bialystok hospital I did not see Dr. Rottenberg, he committed suicide when they decided to build the ghetto.
e. The suppression of Zabludow’s Jews.
We lived at my sisters house in Bialystok on Mitzcevitz street, the Nazi’s started to enclose Jewish whole Jewish quarters, they used to kidnap the men and promise to release them for ransom. They collected the money, but we never saw the kidnapped men, one Saturday they kidnapped about two thousand men, among them were Zabludow people: Feivl Zesler and his son, Velvel Glatshtein and his son, his son-in-law Shlomo Gorosh, Leib Yashtkikes, the husband of Etel Shaitsheeks, her two sons and son-in-law and some other people from Zabludow. The Nazi’s demanded ransom, the women gave them their rings and earrings, and were hardly able to gather the demanded money, but our dear men did not return… those victims were called ‘the Sabbath victims’. A song was written for their memory, later on we learned about their fate. They were taken to a place in the mountains that was called ‘Patrasha’. They were forced to dig a grave, and then they were shot.
Meanwhile an order came out. The Jews had to move to the ghetto, everyone tried to find a place there. We, the people of Zabludow didn’t know what to do. Most of us didn’t want to go to the ghetto, there was a rumor that the ghetto would be closed, on the other hand they said that it was impossible to establish a ghetto in Zabludow and it was possible to live in the leather factories and in other houses. We decided to go back to Zabludow. But first I helped my brother-in-law move to the ghetto, I will always remember the sad picture of moving to the ghetto. The poor people of Bialystok went sadly, dragging their small possessions. Christians watched, laughing, while trying forcefully to grab their bundles, beating them and the Germans watched and laughed…
In spite of my warnings, my father ran to my sister-in-law Menucha. He wanted to have a minyan in her room in order to say Kaddish for the memory of his son, my brother Leib, to his misfortune the Germans caught him and cut half of his beard off along with his cheek.
After I helped move my brother-in-law to the ghetto Isar Zerolnick and his family, and my brother-in-law Michal and his family were waiting for me, and we all went back to Zabludow. Close to the town we met some Christians, and they told us that the Nazis gathered Jews in the big local market where there once was a water pump. Stalin’s statue was standing there, the Nazis ordered to behead the statue, and shatter the rest of it. They beat the Jews cruelly who were busy taking out the order. Later on they ordered to do a Jewish burial… they had to take the head to the cemetery and bury it… and so Stalin was buried in a Jewish world. During the burial, again they beat everyone, we stood there, embarrassed, we didn’t know where to go, it was to late to go back to Bialystok, and we had no choice but to go to Sarnatzkin’s factory. We met their few families and stayed to sleep there. The next day we started to get organized, finding housing for each family. We walked around the burned houses, we took out iron plates from the rubbish and we made a cooking stove. Other families went through back ways to the village to get some food. I managed to get a job from Vintzig Volnetzvick, the Christian; his workshop was in the last house in the shoemaker’s street. His son-in-law, Chashick, promised me that if I stayed with him I wouldn’t have to work for the Germans, I slept in the barn and meanwhile I could get at least some food for my father and sister. There were families who gave their sons to the Christians to be employed as shepherds. They were satisfied that their sons wouldn’t suffer from hunger.
Once in a while we heard bad news about the Nazis horrible things, and the Jews in Zabludow were ordered to establish ‘Judenrat’. Shimon Weissotsky got the role of being head of the ‘Judenrat’. Other members of the ‘Judenrat’ that I remember are: Zalman Rogivsky, Yaacov ‘Deban’, Aharon Crutnik, Reuven Baker, and others. Elchanah Epshtein was the secretary, and Yudel Packstein was the police. Each day people were sent to pave roads. Many worked in the Bialystok Volcovsic road. The German company, ‘Cercov’ was in charge. Zabludow’s Jews were ordered to supply ten men each week. The workers sometimes came home on Sunday; Zabludow’s Jews asked them to buy food from the farmers. I used my employer Velosoviches wagon to bring the food; I risked myself, because I went as a Christian, without the yellow patch.
The hardest job was in the winter. The Germans wanted to widen the road by three times from Bialystok to Moscova; they never got to see the new road. Meanwhile they needed more stones to build the road, and therefore the Germans started to take apart the Jewish Cemetery. We used to secretly enter the Rabbi’s and the ‘Tzadikim’s’ tents, and cry bitterly about our catastrophe.
I already said that Zabludow’s Jew scattered in the abandoned factories and also in houses that weren’t burnt: in Shafsella Weisofsky’s house and Yaakov Coplinsky’s building, David Levin's house was confiscated by the government, the Bilsk Beit Midrash and the Rabbi’s house were taken by the Christians.
The town now had a curfew. One evening the butcher Shalom Epshtein, left his house, and to his misfortune he bumped into the Nazi officer. He was stopped, was taken home and was shot in front of everyone. We lived in Sarnatsky’s factory; one evening we went outside for a minute; me, Eliyahu Patkin, Zeidka Baker, David Glatshtein, and a craftsman that lived across the street. Suddenly the Gestapo appeared in front of us from out of nowhere. They ordered us to go to their office in the morning. They said "don’t forget anyone". We ran to Shimon Weissotsky for his help. He promised to go with us and talk to the Gestapo. In the morning we went to the Nazi’s office, they took us in, one by one, and beat us without mercy until our souls left us.
I asked Shimon Weissotsky not to send me often to work, but it was to no avail. He did so in spite of the fact that I saved his life in 1939, when he hurt his leg during the war with the Germans. Everyone had left only Moshele Brenner and I stayed with him, and we carried him all the way to a farmer’s house. That’s why we couldn’t find our army unit, and the Germans captured us, and miraculously, we were saved. The farmer took Shimon to the hospital, and when he got better he returned home. From then on I held a grudge against Shimon, had he forgotten everything?
F. Our Ties with Bialystok.
My mom was still in the hospital in Bialystok, the first young lady that risked her life and went from Zabludow to the Bialystok ghetto was Sarah Coplinski. Other people tried their luck and went after her; they entered the ghetto with groups of Jewish forced laborers, or by jumping over the fences. In the ghetto it was still possible to get necessary supplies like soap, we especially needed soap because we lived in close quarters in the factories, and it was very dirty.
My sister got very sick, she lost her appetite because of fear. One day Vinchick, the Christian that I lived with drove to Bialystok, I didn’t think twice, I took off the yellow badge and joined him, that’s how I got to the Bialystok ghetto, and immediately went to the hospital to see my mom, when she saw me she burst into tears, she asked me to take her out of the hospital because she lay in the hallway because the hospital was full of sick people, and there were no beds. I asked my sister, but she lived in very close quarters too, because in the ghetto they gave only one room to a whole family. I went back to Zabludow and with the help of the Christian, Chashick, who worked with the Nazi officer, I got permission to move my mom to Zabludow, I brought her to ‘our home’, the factory.
Somehow in the ghetto they solved the food problem, the Jewish forced laborers took with them to work suits and all kind of valuable things, sold them to the Christians, and bought food with that money. Sometimes we had ‘a good week’ when we succeeded to bring home a lot of food. Also the Christians from Zabludow sold us food, and later on we smuggled it to the Bialystok ghetto. And by the way, I’d like to mention that the Christians in Zabludow bought the houses of the Jews that weren’t burnt very cheaply. They helped each other with the house business, mostly so that they could control the Jews possessions.
Meanwhile, an order came out that all the Jews must live in one place. Until now we were scattered in different houses in the burnt city, they forced us to gather in the leather factories that belonged to Bialistozki, Hertzke and Yidleman. However the Nazi murderers didn’t let us live even those hard lives – life of sorrow and suffering. New winds started to blow and black clouds appeared above the Bialystok ghetto and the near by towns. The Germans took out a lot of Jews from the ghetto ad transferred them to Proshna, among them were Jews from Zabludow. Avraham Dralis and Herschel Bazruk, with their families were spotted in the wagons; also the Jews from Narba were taken to Proshna. The expulsion policy of the Nazis reduced the population of the ghetto. They also tightened the security in order to prevent any escapes from the ghetto. One day Herschel Bazruk and Avraham Dralis came by foot from Proshna to Zabludow asking us to help Rabbi Jochanan Mirsky and Yaakov Zesler. In spite of the fact that we were in horrible condition we collected some money and gave it to them. Many survivors from Proshna are probably able to tell about many Zabludow Jews who lived in their houses.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were approaching, I got sad news about my family, my uncle, Daniel Korovski, died exactly on Rosh Hashanah, my brothers-in-law, Melech Ztirolnick and Yona Eder had also died. My sister, Chanche Porosovski’s wife, hurt her finger while trying to climb the ghetto’s fence, she got blood poisoning and it was impossible to save her life.
We, as forced laborers, had a chance to be in the palace near Dobreneovca village on Yom Kippur, where we were cutting trees for firewood. We used the opportunity and secretly had a minyan. We prayed carefully, so that the Nazis would not suspect us.
Zabludow’s Jewish women went to the Christian’s field to get some potatoes for the winter. They couldn’t imagine that their end was so close… this way the days of awe passed with suffering and torture.
g. The Expulsion from Zabludow.
I think the expulsion happened on November first, 1942, a week after Sukkoth. Some people that stayed in the Bialystok ghetto, among them Yosef Introligator said that there is a very tight security guard in the Bialystok ghetto, and they don’t go out to work anymore. From the Christian we learned that the Germans ordered many wagons, in order to expel all Zabludow’s Jews that next morning. They told that they were going to transfer them to Proshna, others said that they were going to be transferred to other towns, to where? No one knew exactly. I asked Velosovich, my employer, if he had heard anything, he said he didn’t know anything; but when his son-in-law, Chesheck, will return from work at the Nazi officer’s, then we’ll know everything.
Meanwhile it got dark, I went and told my parents that tomorrow Zabludow Jews would be expelled, we were wondering what to do. My parents offered that I should hide; they wouldn’t be able to join, it would be hard for them to hide, and who knows how long it would take. I couldn’t even help my sister that had, by then, gotten very weak, I asked my brother-in-law, at least to give me the kids, maybe I’ll be able to hide them, I said, he refused and said that the kids would stay with them, wherever they’ll be. We parted quickly; I went to Shimon Weissotzky and asked him if anyone would like to hide with me, he responded that it’s not possible. First of all, he is the head of the ‘Judenrat’, secondly he has a wife and a child, that’s why he must stay, but he asked me to take his brother-in-law, Yosef Introligator. His wife is in Bialystok; maybe he’ll be able to see her.
We hid in Vinchick Velosoviches barn, deep in the hay near the wall facing the leather factories and workshops where we were able to see what was going on outside.
We saw that near the barn, across from the factories stood a Gestapo guard, whose job was to prevent escapes. We were lying down in the hay, our teeth were chattering with fear; Velosovich entered secretly and told us that his son-in-law confirmed the rumor about the expulsion. He advised me to join the expelled… later it will be too late…If the Germans found that he was hiding Jews they would shoot him. I begged him to let me stay, at least until I had the opportunity to escape. He had no idea that Yosef Introligator was hiding in the barn too. That night we couldn’t sleep, we listened to the Nazi guard’s steps and conversations.
In the morning the villagers’ wagons started to arrive, the expulsion occurred on Monday, November second, 1942. Panicked voices of anxious people were coming out from the factories. Some were running to the Christians to get their children that worked there as shepherds, we were looking through the barn’s holes, we saw everything from our hiding place.
Here they are throwing bundles on the wagons, hearing screams and cries; the Nazis hurried them, "quickly, quickly!" Around everyone there was a ring of Gestapo people, this was the last time I saw everybody. Here is my mom coming out; she cant climb onto the wagon; she is being helped… they are taking out my weak sister and supporting her arms… they are carrying Tilka Rogovski, that just gave birth… The wagons are leaving. I see my father walking near the wagon, leaning on his cane, and under his armpits a tallis and tfillin. Looking back one last time at the barn where I was hiding…
The wagons were going to Bialystok, I don’t understand where they are taking them, firs they said to Proshna, and now they are heading towards Bialystok. We lied there quietly and were bothered by the thought of where they were being taken. Vinchick entered the barn and told me to stay quiet, the Nazi guard was still there, they are searching the factories, thinking that maybe someone was hiding there. Vinchick brought me food, but who can swallow food at a time like this? Just now they took from me people who are dearest to me… I’m asking him to find out where they are taking the Jews, he only knew that they were heading to Bialystok, in the evening we heard non-stop shootings, we found out that Yitzhak Herschel, Meir Vaniavski’s son, hid in Plovoski’s factory, and in the evening he went out of the building for a moment, and immediately was shot. Also Avrahamel Finemen was caught and shot on the spot. Those were all the news that the Christians brought me. After a while he brought me information from the wagon owners that drove the Jews, they took the Jews to Oranian a camp where the tenth cavalry force stayed in the past, and we don’t know what happened to them there.
H. My Escape from Zabludow and My Wanderings.
We laid in the barn- me and Yosef Introligator, thinking about our situation, we didn’t know what to do. Information was coming that the Nazis were about to kill all the Jews. They were saying that they were taking them out from Warsaw and bringing them to gas chambers… expelling the Jews from the small towns to the Bialystok ghetto, and the ghetto is closed. The helpful Christian’s wife came to the barn begging me to leave "there were whispers in the city that you were not seen among the people in the wagons, saying that you are probably hiding" she asked that I pity her, because if I would be caught her family will be held responsible, and they will be punished severely. I was able to convince her to let me stay until Sunday, I assumed that on Sunday it would be easier for me to escape, she had no idea that Yosef Introligator was hiding in the barn with me. In the middle of the night we looked around to make sure that we didn’t hear any people’s steps, we parted and Yosef went out secretly from the town. I listened tensely, to see if I heard any gunshots…
I stayed in the barn by myself and waited until Sunday, and in the night slipped away from the burnt and destroyed Zabludow that had no more Jews. I passed through gardens; I wanted to get to the cemetery, I stayed there for a good hour, and I wept bitterly. Then I turned sideways to the nearest village.
I came to Novosad village, I knew a good Christian there. My appearance scared him, and immediately he told me about the order that they have to bring any Jews without delay to the Nazi headquarter, "I have to be very careful" he said. He gave me some food and took me to a place behind the barn where I could escape. When evening came I arrived at a new village; I had a friend there who I had known since the time we were imprisoned. He too took me in courteously and brought me food, but refused to let me stay. Fearfully he gave me food quickly and begged me to leave.
I continued with my wandering, and I sneaked in to some farmer’s barn that I didn’t even know. I hid deeply under a pile of hay, it happened that the farmer entered the barn and coincidentally stood on that pile. I lay there without moving, and I was very tense… later on I had the opportunity to find shelter in an agriculture farm of Christian people I knew. I left the place when they told me that the Germans were hunting the area and were planning to sleep in their house. I wandered all night through fields and forests until I got to ‘Baranke’ village, where my father used to live. A farmer, a good acquaintance that we knew from the past took me in nicely. I shaved and bathed; they even provided me with clean clothes. I hid in the side section of the house where no one lived. Suddenly I heard wagon wheels, I looked through the window, I saw Germans in the wagon. The Christian ran to me and told me the ‘dear’ news, that they are going to the head of the village and asked me to stay quiet. I thought they wouldn’t come here, but I was mistaken. The farmer’s son came panicking and told me to run away quickly, the Germans are approaching the house. It was impossible to get out through the door; the only escape was the window. I opened the window and escaped, holding my boots that I hadn’t had time to put on. I ran barefoot in the snowy fields until I got to the forest. It was freezing outside, my toes froze. I stayed in the forest until the evening, and then I came back to the Christians, the Germans were not in the village anymore, but the farmer didn’t let me stay and take the risk. I wandered again, and soon I got to another agriculture farm and stayed there a couple of days. The farmer didn’t allow for me to stay with him; he was afraid that the children might talk and risk giving him away.
From there I moved to a farm near Araje, I found there David Orlianski’s son-in-law. His wife and son didn’t know about the expulsion of the Jews from Zabludow, and they went to that town. In Baranke village the Germans caught his wife and son. The wife asked for mercy, and was able to save her life and her children’s life. The Germans took her to the Bialystok ghetto, also, Moulia Bloch tied to get to Bialystok, but he was arrested by the Germans and shot. The farms owners gave me shelter, I knew his son from the old days when we were both captured by the Germans. For a while I was able to rest, when the Christians holiday came I took part in the ceremonies, and I acted like them. I hoped that I could stay in the farm until things got better, but my hope didn’t come true.
In the forests there were a lot of Russian Partisans that once in a while entered the villages to get food. It looked as if there were spies in the village that reported to the Germans about the Russian soldiers movements, and that is why the Nazi’s frequently used to ambush the partisans and punish the farmers who were suspicious of aiding the. When I realized that the Nazis raided around the farm where I was staying I decided to escape. I didn’t know where to go, in my wandering I got to a big village by the name of Zavick. I slipped away secretly to the barn and laid there until the morning. The barn’s owner found me, but he was a good man who was ready to help. He took me to his house, fed me, and helped me hide. It was a secret basement under the dining room, it was impossible to find the entrance to the basement, the area was covered and a bed stood on it, to my misfortune the Nazis searched the village and came to the farmer’s house. I heard their steps above my head. I was saved, but in the morning the farmer came to me and told me about the Nazis visit. They were looking for Jews and partisans. That night the Brineski Jews that left their hiding place in the forest got caught and most of them were murdered. They wanted to go to the Bialystok ghetto, because it was hard to stay in the forests for a long time with children.
Meanwhile I stayed in the basement under the protection of the good farmer. I’m thinking how will it all end? I stayed in the hiding place for a few days, I was asked to leave by his wife who had started to cry, saying that I was putting her family in danger "I’m a mother of six children" she said "if they’ll find out that I am hiding you they will kill us, I’ll give you food and drink and be on your way, have pity on us, and save your soul." I promised her that I would leave that night.
I parted with them at night, I went in the fields and my legs sunk into the deep snow until I got to the previous farm from which I had escaped. The frightened Christian told me that the night I escaped the Nazis searched the house and even looked in the ovens and in the barn. They stuck spears in the hay; I was lucky that I was warned ahead of time.
It was dangerous to stay in the village, where to go? I decided to go toward Bialystok, on the way I stopped at different villages. I tried to get some information about Zabludow’s people that were taken to the tenth cavalry camp. I’ve been told that trains took them, to where? Nobody knew. They said that it was quiet at Bialystok, the Jews leave for work, cleaning the streets from snow.
The Christian that told me the news was ready to leave the next morning with his wagon to bring food to Bialystok, I asked him to take me with him in his wagon. His wife gave me bread and fat. We left early in the morning so that nobody would see us. We passed by the tenth cavalry camp. Germans are coming. I tried to stay calm; I greeted them and looked at the camp where the people of Zabludow stayed. I saw too many new graves. Who knows? Maybe our dear ones who were murdered by the murderer Germans are buried there.
I. The Way I Entered the Bialystok Ghetto.
When we approached Bialystok the farmer got scared and asked me to get off the wagon. I got off, raised my collar and continued by foot until I got to Sosnova. Jews with the yellow patch were sweeping the snow. I asked them while I walked how I could get into the ghetto. They told me to go to the Camartova, over there worked a brigade of Jews, and that I should join them when they went back to the ghetto. I went according to their advice. I found people from Zabludow in the brigade, Gitel Fishbein and Zalman Miller. I heard from them that the people who were expelled from Zabludow were kept for one week at the tenth cavalry camp and then they were taken to Treblinka, and almost all of them got killed. Coincidentally some succeeded in escaping: Issaschar Bobra, Shneor Mendreck, and Motel from Michilova, they came to Bialystok and told everything, how they were pushed into large showers, and how they were killed by gas… no one believed them, they wanted to throw them into the ghetto’s prison…
I arrived in Bialystok the same day that the train cars arrived from Treblinka, those cars had the possessions of the victims, in the notebooks and in the little Siddurim it was written, "you must revenge our blood". We were shocked; we stood speechless and dumbfounded.
Issaschar Bobra also told that in Oranian, in the tenth cavalry camp they gathered also the Jews from the nearest towns, and were all taken to Treblinka. He met there my father, may he rest in peace, he was very skinny, and he didn’t want to eat any traif food. The Nazis killed Zalman Rogovski and Gershon Slotski died. The Jews from Zabludow arrived at Treblinka on Tuesday, on the new month of Kislev, taf, shin, gimmel (the tenth of November 1942), and on that day they were all killed, except those who died in the Bialystok ghetto. In "Acstiot" in February 1943 and in Proshna part of them got killed in January 1943.
I put on a few yellow patches on the fur coat and I joined the brigade that was heading towards the ghetto. Usually they entered the ghetto through "Chista" gate. We saw that somehow the brigade was going to Vashilcuba Street, to Ostrofski’s courtyard, where the Gestapo’s headquarter and its leader, Friedel, may his name and memory be erased, was. They took in to the headquarter groups of five people; they checked to see if people were hiding any things or food; we heard, outside, screams of beaten people. I was petrified, I was still holding a Russian passport, and I also had some money, bread, and fat. "If they catch me I will not come out alive." Suddenly an idea of running away sparked. I asked Zalman Miller, who stood behind me to take from my back the yellow patch. I took off the patch that was on the front of my jacket, and in one certain moment, when the Gestapo men turned, I snuck away from the brigade. I crossed the gate of the headquarters courtyard and I started to walk on the sidewalk. I saw from far away a big brigade, I went over to it, and mixed in with the people. It had started to get dark, this brigade was not stopped to be checked, and by miracle I survived and also succeeded in entering the ghetto.
I sighed with relief, and I hurried to my brother-in-law. They welcomed me with emotion and hugs, all the family members and cousins were with him, but my sister; Chanche was not alive anymore. If she were alive, my family members that were taken to Oranian, the tenth cavalry camp, would have been, without a doubt, rescued. Many were taken out from there; Shimon Weissotsky was saved by Barash- the head of the "Judenrat" in Bialystok. Osnat Goldshtein and her children were also released. In a coincidental way Eitsche Coplinski rescued himself from captivity and stayed alive, (now he lives in Israel). Also Nisel Baker, a leather manufacturer in the past, got out from there and also people that I don’t remember their names.
When they took the people from Zabludow to the tenth cavalry camp, Isar Zerolnick influenced his son to try escaping. He succeeded in escaping, and was able to enter the Bialystok ghetto. Esther, the youngest daughter of Paltiel, the barley maker, and Chava, Mordechai Mendel’s daughter, and Leizer Norsizts daughter had worse luck. They got stuck, coincidentally in Michilova at the time that the Jews were expelled from the village, they escaped to Zabludow, and on the way they were told that the Jews were taken out of the town. After much annoying delays they came Bialystok. They wandered around the ghetto, but were not able to enter because of the tight guard. They went to the tenth cavalry camp, from there they were taken, with all the Jews, to Treblinka, Zalman Voiles, and his son, arrived at the ghetto after a successful escape. In spite of that Channah Levine and his family that hid in haystacks got caught and murdered. David Levine hid with a Christian farmer who, after the end of the war helped him cross a river and the pushed him into the water and caused his death.
To other people who had found good shelters had more luck. Among them Yosele Levine, living now in Australia, Shmuelle Gerbe and Shimon Levine, living now in Israel. Many didn’t hide because they didn’t want desert their families. Yitzchak Gerber, for example, could not think about escaping, because he had to take care of his little girl after his wife’s death. Nata Vuoniovski, who had the obligation of caring for his brother-in-law’s wife who had died and left his small children. Nata Vuoniovski who took care of his brother-in-law’s wife and children had the same situation Yitzchak Gerber.
But, there were Christians who received money for hiding Jews and then killed them, the daughter of Menucha, my sister-in-law, was hidden with a Christian from Bialystok, when he heard that the Jews were expelled from Bialystok he cut the girls throat…
j. The Events in Bialystok During the Actions Days.
Issaschar Bobrow came and told me that the situation in the Ghetto is worsening. There is news that the Germans are about to take two thousand men from the Ghetto: "We, Zabludow’s people will probably be the first of the expelled. We have to save ourselves". I answered him; "It’s impossible to hide in the villages. We have to run to the forests and join the Partisans". And indeed, we started to think of the escape plan. We spoke with Khrinker and with some fellows from Treistin that agreed to escape with us. We needed rifles that could be purchased.
In the Ghetto, the situation worsened. I was in the brigade that worked in the oil factory. We used to take some black seeds secretly. One day the Nazis decided to search and they found a few seeds in two workers’ pockets. They hung them in the Ghetto in front of the all the Jews. One of the victims was Leefa, the oats merchant. Because of the tough situation, it was necessary to leave the Ghetto quickly. I offered my brother-in-law to accompany us and he said that they [the family] have papers in proper order. They are working and there is no fear that they will be transferred from Bialystok.
We needed a vehicle yet it was hard to get. From outside the Ghetto the weapons were ready. One evening, Issaschar Bobrow and some other fellows got out of the Ghetto and tried to locate a vehicle. But they could not return because at night there were guards posted in anticipation of the Actions that they would execute on the 5th of February 1943. The Nazis started the preparation for the first Actions by demanding from the "Judenrat" two thousand people for expulsions. But since the "Judenrat" refused this demand, the Nazis began to hunt down the Jews. Many Jews hid in various places. However, the Nazis had Jewish police officers and with their help they were able to round up most of the Jews to bring them to the trains. Whoever refused to get out of the bunkers was shot instantly. When the Nazis saw children, they didn’t want to waste a bullet. They would simply throw the children from the upper floors or tore them to pieces. There were Jews who ‘ratted’ on their own people and showed their hiding places because they were promised not to be expelled.
On the day of the hunt, there was a case of resistance that resulted in many victims. The Nazis entered a courtyard in 29 Kopitzka Street to search for Jews. Very young and brave men, Yitzhak Malmed decided on revenge. He drew an acid bottle and threw it on one of the Nazi’s that was coming after him. The Nazi beast was blinded; in spite of the serious wound the Nazi tried to shoot Malmed but Yitzhak ran and the bullet killed another Nazi that participated in the hunt. The cruel Nazi officer in charge reacted wildly. As revenge he decided to execute 100 Jews; men, women and children from that courtyard. They were taken out from the courtyard and were brought to "Prague’s Garden" and there they were shot to death at the in the wall the Beit Midrash. The victims were thrown into one large pit; for a long time the earth covering the bodies quivered because not all had died immediately. Among the victims were Motke Zabludovski and his family, the baker and his sister, the honorable lady Beila Zesler and her two daughters, Lilly and Sollie. May they rest in peace? This great tragedy occurred on Shevat 30 Taf Shin Gimmel (5 February 1943).
To this day I see in front of my eyes the sight of the victims sprawled on the ground.
When Yitzhak Malmed saw that because of him, thousands of Jews are in jeopardy, he went to Nazi headquarters and turned himself in. He was tortured cruelly and was hung in Kopitzka Street. His body remained hung for one week. Friedel the murderer was caught at the end of the war, was tried in Bialystok and was executed at the gallows.
The Action continued from Monday to Friday. Day by day, from morning till evening they searched the houses and took their victims. The hidden ones sneaked out at night from their hiding places to see who in their families were taken away. You can imagine the horrible scenes when they couldn’t find their dear ones any more. I too, experienced this horrible shock. Quickly I arrived at my aunt’s house but no one was there. In the evening, the sons and the daughter arrived secretly. The daughter who escaped from the train and came back to the ghetto was caught with one of her brothers in one of the last Actions. Another brother, who hid in the forest, entered the ghetto to save people but was killed during the uprising in the Bialystok ghetto.
In the first Action, the Nazis trapped almost all of the citizens of Zabludow. Only the pharmacist Gaber and Asher Slotski survived.
I hid in a "hiding place" with Moshele, Shmeryl Binder and Motel from Michalev. With us were Zalman Wallace and a young doctor and his wife who lived in Zabludow. The "hiding place" was in 44 Fabrichna Street at Eisenstadt’s horse stable not far from the Ghetto’s fence. We thought we might be able to sneak out. In the "hiding place" we lay down pressed into each other. I suffered from lack of air and I was afraid my coughing would reveal all of us. I climbed to the stable attic and found among a pile of furniture a closet where I hid. And then I heard the murderers enter the stable and coming up the attic. My heart stopped pounding. To my luck the stairs were broken. The Germans sent the Jewish policemen and shouted to open the closet…and I was lying there. The policeman sees me. I give him a sign with my hand. He slams the door, as if after checking, and says: "No one is here."… I stayed in the attic till it was quiet. When I descended to the stable, the others greeted me with joy and we all hugged. They thought the Germans took me.
Meanwhile there were rumors that Jews who had work certificates should not be worried. They would be able to work in the Ghetto. In contrast, those without papers were in bad straits. Also, according to the certificate a man could take his wife to work and vice versa. But those who were saved, thanks to the "hiding place", could not go out to work and believed that they would not be found. In the last day of the Action, the Nazis uncovered the "hiding place" and caught everybody. And I was saved because one lady took me to work in the factory. I wanted to escape but could not find people willing to join me. I don’t know what happened to Issaschar Bobrow who went to the forest. I’m afraid they were killed in the war between the Nazis and the partisans.
And what happened to those who found shelters in Christian homes around Bialystok. Moshele Flicker, Pella Lafta, Itshke Koplinsky survived. Pella Lafta had no luck after the war. He fell in love with a Christian girl. They decided to get married and move to an agricultural farm. A large celebration was organized for them. This news arrived to the anti-Semitic Polish organization AK (Army of the State). Members of the organization set the house on fire during the celebration. They killed the girl and wounded Pella and his friends. In the same attack, Moshe Flicker was killed. This is how the anti-Semitic organization avenged the Jewish survivors. Their goal was to destroy any survivors.
In the Bialystok ghetto, Jews were seeking new ways to be rescued. Very few succeeded. Shimon Weissotsky tried to run the ghetto fence and was shot to death. Shimon Introligator and his family were taken to the death train. There were those who committed suicide rather than be taken by the murderous Nazis. Moshe Velvel Miller from Zabludow hung himself.
The ghetto was tightly guarded. It was impossible to escape. After the Action there were bodies strewn everywhere. We gathered them and buried them in a mass grave in Zhavia Street. I found children whose parents choked them because they were afraid that their sounds would reveal them to the Nazi hunters.
Whoever survived the Action was assigned to a job. I asked Subotnik, the Zabludow Rabbi’s son, who filled an important role in the Ghetto to send me to a work in the Unit 42 camp. I believed it would be easier from there to escape to the forest. And indeed, he placed me on the Unit 42 list. However, I couldn’t find anyone else who was willing to risk with me an escape to the forest. I became friendly with a man that was a relative of the "Judenrat" leader Barash. He told me that meanwhile there were no plans to take Jews out of Bialystok, but if the situation worsens, he will notify me.
We continued with our work. When we returned we tried always to smuggle some food to the ghetto. We took risks. Sometimes there were inspections at the ghetto gate. They would take all and hit mercilessly. I too was caught and was beaten murderously from the hangman Friedel. In spite of this we ignored the risks and didn’t stop smuggling food.
In one incident I was confronted with a life-threatening situation. One that day they wiped out Grodno ghetto, and their Nazi officer, Stravlov came to Bialystok, he himself stood at the gate, and pity the man who they found with food. I was equipped with a lot of food that I put around my body, I tied food to my boots and I had some hot dogs in my pants. Seeing the danger, I decided to sneak away from the line, I entered one of the courtyards and got rid of the food. The Jew officer from Grodno who was brought to the Bialystok ghetto noticed me, he said "if Stravlov had caught you, he would have shot you on the spot."
l. The Expulsion from Bialystok.
One day the Nazis came to check the ghetto’s fence, there were rumors that they were about to take Jews out from the ghetto. I spoke with some people about escaping from the work brigade on Monday and going to the forest, but on Sunday the ghetto was surrounded by guards, we were trapped. On Sunday night we walked around the fence with the hopes of finding an opening in the fence, but it was for nothing. The next morning we didn’t go out to work, we were ordered to go to the square with the threat that whoever wont come, and will be found, will be shot immediately. They announced that all the Jews would be transferred to work in Lovline. I decided, with my escape partner, that we will take tools and break the train car and we’ll jump off while it’s still moving. Meanwhile the murderers entered the ghetto and started to remove the Jews from their houses. This time they encountered resistance, a rebellion erupted in which many Nazis were killed. I was wounded; a bullet hit my left arm and entered my back. I was forced to retreat. My cousin was killed while holding a machine gun; the Nazis suppressed the uprising. The fighters who got caught were executed.
Finally they brought us to Petrasha’s field, a big group of Ukrainian hooligans forced us to run to a field, they tortured us, and beat us mercilessly… took off boots from the dead people. They pierced the women with spears; many choked from the oppressive and dense condition. If one person fell then the entire group collapsed on the person, and artillery surrounded us. It was impossible to escape. All that night we were together in the field, my brother-in-law, his children, my cousins and their children, and all those who succeeded in hiding in the first action days. The next day the murderous Nazis gathered all the small children in one spot, and whoever ran back to their parents was caught by his neck with a hooked pole and thrown to the ground… the screams of the children and their mothers still echo in my mind. They ran the children like a flock of sheep back to the ghetto, and kept them there for two weeks. With them were the "Rabiner" Dr. Rosenman and the head of the ghetto, Barash. Then they took blood from the children and used it to transfuse blood to the wounded German soldiers. Dr. Rosenman and Barash were taken to Auschwitz. They have told "you were good Jews, therefor we are not going to send you to the gas chamber, but we’ll shoot you" that was the end of the Jewish Bialystok, the city became "Judenrein" (pure from Jews).
m. The Journey to Majdanek- the Suffering in the Camp.
From the field where we were gathered they used to send big groups to the extermination camps. I stayed with the last group. When they locked us in the train I understood that they were taking us to a place of no return. The train was going toward Treblinka, my friends opened the doors during transit and tried to escape, but the murderers were on top of the cars and shot nonstop from their machine guns. My friend from Valcovsk and was immediately shot. The Nazi’s shot, also, inside the train, and some of my friends were murdered. I gave up on the escape plan. I squeezed into a corner, so that I wouldn’t be shot, and then we arrived to Treblinka. We saw a big sign: "work camp". The cars with the women were separated. They were taken off the train in Treblinka, and we continued in our journey. Once in a while the train stopped, we asked for water, because the heavy heat bothered us, I was hot, also, because of the bullet that was stuck in my back. The situation was unbearable, I begged the murderer Ukrainians to give me a drop of water, I was unbearably thirsty, they asked for money. We indeed gave them the little money that we had, but we didn’t get any water. At night we got to Lublin, they kept us in the closed cars until early morning. Then, the doors opened and we were ordered to get out and take the dead bodies out of the cars. Then they lined us up and the S.S. people made us run to Majdanek extermination camp.
I dragged my tired feet and I barely got to the camp. Pursued and beaten we were put in an area surrounded by barbed wire. We saw smoked chimneys and the air was filled with the smell of burnt human flesh. The heat was unbearable, and the suffering was horrible we screamed endlessly: "water!" they brought a bowl filled with hot coffee, everyone thrust themselves toward the coffee, but in the panic of pushing the coffee spilled onto the ground, some got burned, the murderers looked and laughed. We gathered with our handkerchief’s pieces of the ground that was soaked in coffee and we squeezed it into our mouths. We had to wet our lips with any kind of liquid, because it’s been days since we drank anything. I was feverish and wounded. I prayed to G-d not to let me suffer any longer, and to put an end to my anguish…
A big group of Jews were brought by beatings and curses to one of the bunks. They were ordered to undress near trunks full of gold, silver, and watches, and to throw inside every valuable thing. I threw into the trunk the rest of my money, I kept only a diamond earring that my mother, may she rest in piece, kept for a long time, and gave me when we were separated. "Maybe" she said "it will help you, maybe it will save your life", I tied the earring to my belt. They took from us everything, we had to hold our belts between our fingers and stand with our mouths open, in that position we entered the bunk where they cut our hair. The barber asked me if I hid anything under the bandage that covered my wound. I could leave it with him, and he’d give it back to me when I came back from the bathhouse.
In the narrow entrance to the bathhouse stood two tall Gestapo people, they looked at each one of us and decided our fate, right- to life, left- to death. I told the barber that I had nothing, and asked him to take off the bandage, he said it was impossible, because the Gestapo saw me, and I have to pass by them, and indeed the minute I passed they stopped me. One pointed to the bandage and asked, "what’s this?" I answered "a bullet wounded me", he asked if I could raise my hand, I raised my hand, even though it caused great pain. Now he asked what my profession and my age was. I answered "I am a carpenter, and I’m 26 years old". The Nazi wanted to let me pass, but suddenly his friend yelled "left!" Nothing helped, I asked him to let me drink some water, they agreed to let me, I drank so much water that they burst in laughter. It probably looked strange that I was drinking so much water before my death.
They handed me short pants and directed me to the bathhouse, through the hallway that leads to the oven where they burnt the victims. When I entered the hallway I was stunned, I saw all the wounded, old people and those who were burnt from the hot coffee, and now I’m among them. They pushed me from behind… wanting me to walk faster, I asked "Don’t push me, I have a bullet in my back, let me stand near the door."
While I was standing near the door I opened it a bit and turned to the Jewish ‘capo ’ that stood there "please, save me, I’m so young" he asked, "do you have anything valuable?" I showed him the earring "take the bandage off, fast" said the ‘capo ’ When the ‘capo ’ noticed that the Gestapo people weren’t paying attention he quickly took the earring and let me into the real bathhouse, I washed my hands that had dried blood on them. I got some underwear, wooden shoes, and a round hat. I ran to the courtyard as fast as I could where I saw about fifty people that were ready to go and I mixed in with them. I was feeling feverish and emotional that I had managed to escape from the oven, it was a real miracle. It cant be believed only if it’s told.
We walked to the bunks. The head of the block was there to meet us, he was a porter Jew from Warsaw that held, in his hand, a stick and used it for every little fault that we did. The beds were one on top of the other times three, and each bed was meant for two people. I couldn’t sleep with someone else in a single bed because of the pain in my back, and I asked the ‘capo ’ to let me sleep in a bed by myself. He asked if I had "swallowed something, gold or diamonds" he said that he would take care of it if I had, I answered that I had nothing but a gold crown on my teeth, I’m willing to take them out. The ‘capo ’ agreed, and gave me the upper bed.
In the morning came the block register and announced that every sick person must sign and go to the doctor. Some people did sign, I sneaked away, but the ‘capo ’ forced me to sign and yelled "If you have a bullet in your back, you must go."
I noticed that they signed the sick people in the doctors room, the Ukrainian doctor sent me to the other doctor who was Jewish. I got closer to him, then I noticed that he blinked to me with his eyes, I got the hint and walked slowly to the door. I went back to the bunk, the ‘capo ’ asked, "what did the doctor say?" I answered "to his opinion the bullet is not harmful, I only have to be careful of being hit." I was in bunk 29. In bunk 30 were my cousins from Voshilcov and some other relatives. Over there, there was also a doctor, Cleimantovski, doctor Rottenberg’s helper from Bialystok. I asked him about the bullet, he said that it’s possible to take it out with a simple knife, because it wasn’t deep, but no one has a knife, everything was taken from us, even a spoon to eat the didn’t give us. We ate with our hands from the bowl. Doctor Cleimantovski advised me to talk to the doctor that saved me, I didn’t rest all day, I looked for him until I found him. I went to him, and he told me in Polish "sir, you are smart, you got the hint, if you didn’t you wouldn’t be here talking to me now. Smell the smoke, all those who signed are currently in the oven."
I asked him to take the bullet out from my back, "it’s easy to do" he said "but I am forbidden to do anything, if someone will find out we will both go to the ovens." He calmed me "you have to get used to the situation and be careful of any hits, and if they’ll ask any people to work, be amongst the first to arrive. Those who do not go to work stand all day on their feet without food and drop like flies. The workers, at least, get some food. The Christians are also selling food, the Jews steal things from the warehouses, and meanwhile continue to live." The doctor was from Warsaw, he also didn’t survive. I listened to him, everyday that they asked people to work I was there immediately. We stood there a whole day and took orders "put on your hat and take off your hat." Standing in the terrible heat had weakened us. Some people fainted and fell. One day, when we stood in the wide field in Majdanek the ‘biggest’ murderer Hoffman arrived on his white horse. We were not allowed to move, if G-d forbid he realized that someone moved he went over to him and started beating him with his lead whip until he fell dead. Hoffman, may his name be erased, was caught after the war and hung in Lovlin.
n. In Belishin Camp
Hoffman came one time to an inspection and yelled "Tailors- raise your hands!" I didn’t think much, I raised my hand, relatives from Bialystok asked, "are you a tailor?" I said, "In the army I used to sew the nice buttons or the ranks on my sleeves." Those who raised their hands were separated from the workers. Among them were tailors, carpenters, and other craftsmen. They pushed about 60 people to train cars, threw a few loafs of bread and some coffee bottles, and they were ordered to take them to Radom. We passed Radom, we are still traveling… it’s getting dark, finally, in the evening, and we arrived to the new camp. SS people and Ukraine murderers were waiting for us. We were in "Belishin" where many Russian prisoners of war were murdered.
They turned "Belishin" into a work camp. Tailors, shoemakers, carpenters and so on worked there. I was put in a shoemaker’s bunk. Jews from Peotracov, Kils, and Radom were there. A shoemaker from Peotracov made me his helper. I used to hand him the raw material and I took the product to the warehouses. On Sunday they had inspection. They checked if anyone was missing, in "Belishin"the capo Jew was in charge. The Nazi’s came at night to inspect and to lock the bunks. Counting of the people was done in a special way. Everyone passed through a narrow door; those who stood behind him were pushed in line because they wanted to get to the place where the daily soup was distributed. One day when I stood in line the capo beat me with a stick. I fainted from the pain, when I regained consciousness and the capo learned that I had a bullet in my back he immediately brought me to the doctor. The doctor looked at my wound told me to lie down an put me to sleep. When I opened my eyes he showed me the bullet. It was forbidden to lie in the hospital for a long time, I quickly returned to work.
Near the warehoused where I used to bring the products there was a fence where Christians used to bring their food and secretly the prisoners traded stuff from the warehouses. Near the warehouses it was possible to find potatoes or beet that I used to hide for the swollen, starved workers. One day I came to the warehouses, suddenly I heard shots from across the fence, I looked and saw a young girl running and the Nazis after her, and she was falling. The girl came from Bialystok dressed as a "shicksa" along with other young men to organize the smuggling of Jews from the camp. To her misfortune the Polish people recognized her and started yelling and pointing at her "she’s Jewish." The young girl ran, but the murderer’s bullets got her… three people from Peotracov that were in my bunk escaped from the camp. The Polish got them and handed them over to the Nazis. They were tortured cruelly and were shot in front of our eyes. In spite of that three young men from Bialystok succeeded in escaping.
o. In the Radom Camp
When I was loading rocks I had an accident, a rock fell on my leg and I was wounded, when I returned from work I saw people standing in the inspection field and selecting. I sneaked from that place so that they wouldn’t see me, but the capo saw that my leg was wounded and told me to get out of the line, I begged, "let me stay, I’m better" my words had no effect on him. I had to leave, I was brought to an empty bunk and they locked the door. After an hour came the Nazi officer and his followers, and according to the Nazi officers order they took from us our good clothes and instead we got rags. We thought that it was a bad sign, they are probably going to shoot us. We started to beg for our lives. The Nazis are calming us; nothing bad is going to happen to us. They said that they are going to transfer us to another camp, no one was able to sleep all night, out of fear. We had the feeling that our end was near. In the morning an SS officer from Radom came, he ordered us to run like horses in a fair in order to see if the "merchandise" is good. Later we were put in cars and taken to Radom. I was saved again. The bad plot of the capo is cancelled.
In Radom they first brought the people to a bathhouse. We got better clothes and were sent to an ammunition factory.
I worked in a group of ten prisoners that built a shelter for the "main massacre"; there was no ghetto in the city. The Jews were sent away to extermination camps. The survivors were gathered in bunks. We got more food. All together the situation was relatively "not bad".
In those days there was news that the Germans were absorbing casualties on the Russian border. People who came to Radom told that the Soviet army was rapidly approaching. A spark of hope flickered in our hearts, maybe; after all we will survive.
All of a sudden there were guards around the fence, no one could leave. There were rumors that the Russians were standing in the entrance of Warsaw and that the prisoners will be taken to another place. We could hear the thunder of the cannons. It looked as if the salvation is nearing, meanwhile there was an order to go out for marching. Many wanted to hide in the bunks, but we found out that they would be burnt before the evacuation. In one bunk that was used as a hospital there was a woman from Bialystok, her name was Venacor, the Nazis murdered her and buried her quickly.
p. The Big March to Germany
When we left Radom many of us thought about running, one man tried to hide in the wheat field, he was caught and shot to death. The Nazis hurried us so that we would walk faster. Some got very weak and couldn’t continue. The doctor pretended to care and with his good heart kind of gave them permission to ride the wagons that rode behind us. They had a bitter end. The wagons that were filled with the weak people were taken to the forest and they were shot. We passed by different towns and at night we stopped in the fields. My legs swelled from the tiring walk. Coincidentally I had a cover from fabric, I took the opportunity and tore stripes from the fabric and after I dipped it in water I made myself bandages around my legs.
We continued to walk until Tomashov, in that city they closed us in a silk factory. The crowdedness was awful, it was impossible to move, closed, choked… even our bodily needs we took care of right there…we thought that our end was nearing.
But the suffering continued, somehow they got train cars and pushed everyone in them. The train took us to the well-known death camp, Auschwitz. When we saw the big chimneys we were certain that our fate was sealed, they’ll burn us. They stood us by the cars and the selection started, who was to live, and who was to die. They took out of the line the old people and the small children. They were killed in the gas and were burnt. Parents were devastated, they saved their children from so many death camps, and now, after so many troubles and tortures they were unable to save them. Among the victims there was a child of an acquaintance that I knew well, Friedman, that was exhausted during the long walk and I helped him to carry his son.
Some people were lucky, the officer from Radom was their advocate, he recommended us as good workers. Wearing striped clothes we stayed in Auschwitz for a whole day. Our food consisted of a slice of bread spread with margarine.
From Auschwitz we were taken by train to Germany, to work. The train wobbled for two days and nights until we got to a station near Stuttgart. From there they took the prisoners to hiding bunks in the mountains. They were hidden from the American bombers. We were divided into two work groups. One group installed cables, and the other carried rocks. My job was to fill the train cars with iron and cables. The food was poor: a little bit of water and kohlrabi. I saw many fruits in the fields that had fallen from the trees, but it was forbidden to touch them. Once one of the workers climbed the tree secretly and tried to pick a fruit, he was shot immediately by a Nazi sniper.
Where we worked there were Russian prisoners, we heard from them that the Russians conquered Warsaw already, and we are so far from her. American planes are flying above our planes day after day and bombing German cities. When the planes appeared we ran to the fields. It’s impossible to describe our happiness when we heard the news that Stuttgart was bombed. We had a strange feeling "if it is our fate to die- it’s better to die by the Americans than by the Germans."
All of a sudden they gathered a large amount of Jews and transferred them to another camp in the high mountains. Every day we had to walk six kilometers to work, and then return to the camp. The Germans built factories in the mountains, our mission was to put dynamite to bomb the big rocks and to remove the earth by train cars. It was a hard job. They didn’t let us rest at night. As we put our heads down the murderers came immediately and ordered us to organize the bunk, and whoever didn’t get up was beaten cruelly.
One day Polish prisoners who took part in the rebellion at the time of the siege on Warsaw arrived. They told us about the ghetto Warsaw rebellion and about the elimination of the ghetto. The Polish prisoners were not used to the work and the nonstop sadistic treatment broke them. They dropped like flies. Those who tried to escape were shot immediately. Most of them were associated with the intellectual circles. We were more immune, we ate whatever we came across, we used to gather potato peels in the kitchen. Just in order to survive.
The winter is approaching and still there is a little hope for being saved. The Americans are progressing at a slow rate, and we are suffering in the deep mountain mines. One morning they announced that a group of prisoners would be transferred to a new camp, they started to select the candidates. I had an idea to hide in the bunk’s attic. In my hiding place I heard the capo’s Jews screaming, "where did the Leechvat disappear?" In order to fill the quota they took another man instead of me. Most of the Bialystok people were sent. When I came out from my hiding place the person in charge of the block said "so, it will be, for now you are saved."
The capo’s wanted to turn him in to the Gestapo; a Bialystok lad saved me. He was a messenger boy for the Nazi’s, and they liked him. He pleaded with them to leave me alone, and because of him I was saved. Almost all the people that were transferred to the other camp were killed, "well, it was determined that I had to be tortured for some more time."
There were rumors that the bombs on German cities increased. In our camp we had to stop working once in a while, after the bombing of the big train station in Ludvigsborg they sent us to clean the ruins. There were cars full of good things, it didn’t occur to us to take anything, we were looking for only food, and when we discovered food a fight broke out among us. People were grabbing food from each other; we turned into animals, each one thought that that was the way to save themselves. It took us a long time to get to Ludvigsborg walking there and back was hard and very tiring, and whoever couldn’t make it was shot by the Nazi’s.
One night there was a terrifying atmosphere in the camp, they woke us up and ordered us to get up immediately. We found out that they were sending the prisoners to another camp, there was the last camp, Kanandorf, Germans, accompanied by dogs greeted us, and immediately they made us run to the bunk and ordered us to get undressed. The clothes were taken, as if they were to be cleaned, but first they were checked to see if there was anything there, and they took whatever was. We stood naked for a whole day, they brought a metal heater, and everyone pushed to get closer to get warm. Someone pushed me from behind to the burning heater, and I was burned badly on both hands and my knee. There was no medical help. At night we got our clothes back, they moved us to another bunk for the night, I couldn’t close my eyes because of the pain. The next morning they sent us to work building railroad tracks. Of course, those who got burnt were not able to work. This time we got better treatment, they bandaged the wounds, and sent freed me from a few days of work.
I stayed in the bunk, but the capo ordered us nonstop. We had to clean the bunk, inside and out nonstop under the supervision of the anti-Semitic capo that beat me cruelly. I preferred to get back to work. At work we were sometimes able to steal beet- a thing that, in the camp could bring a disaster upon us.
There were moments of rest at the time of the American bombings. Sometimes the American planes fell not far from us, and their pieces scattered all over. We are looking for redemption, but we couldn’t see it. Escaping was out of the question, we were in the heart of Germany, and we wore striped clothes…
One day we came to work and we found out that we do not have to work. Again we are on the way, to where? Different rumors. Someone said that we were going to the Switzerland border, they are going to transfer us to the red cross, others said that the new destination is the death camp, Dachau.
Again we drag our tired feet. And the food- one slice of bread. The murderers are pushing us and yelling for us to walk faster. There were no trains, and on the way there were German pedestrians that left their houses, fearing the Russians. When the airplanes appeared above our heads we scattered and ducked in side roads.
The escaping Germans were loaded with bundles; the Nazis are forcing us to carry those heavy bundles. They loaded me with one package, but I couldn’t carry it, my feet hurt, I squirmed with from pain, and I felt as if I was about to collapse. My pleadings to the Germans didn’t help me. "Have mercy on me, I cant carry it anymore"… the German is yelling "Chatter Jew" and he pulls his rifle, in order to hit me with the gun. Instinctively I raised me left hand to take the beating. The gun hit my hand and broke my hand. I started screaming from pain; a few Germans came to me, looked at my hand apathetically. To my good fortune there was, among them, a French doctor, and he bandaged my hand with a wet bandage and tied it tightly. The bandage hardened and it eased on me.
There is no end to the hardships… We heard on the way that Americans entered the last camp that we had emptied. Once in a while the planes flew above us, but did not bomb when they saw our striped clothes. They took us to a forest; we stayed there for three days with no food. The spring was approaching, so we found some rotten nuts in the forest that brought our lives back. After three days, at night they brought from the village some containers with soup and cooked potatoes, there were fights on the potatoes, we were starved. On the next evening again they made us run to the train station, and in the morning the train moved. As we drove for a few kilometers the American ‘birds’ appeared and started to bomb, the train car got squished, and many of us were killed or wounded. When they recognized our striped clothes they left. It was impossible to continue with the train, we had to walk. Behind us were the Nazi animals that beat those that couldn’t walk, and whoever sat a little bit to rest did not get up anymore, he was shot immediately. We passed through different villages; occasionally we got an uncooked potato with some beatings on the head with clubs. It was a tortured walk, and that’s how we were dragged ‘til Agusbourd in Bavaria.
r. The Long Walk from Agusbourd to the Release.
We entered at night to Agusbourd, the city that was bombed is lighted with fire flames with blazing fire. We dragged ourselves with our last strength to the train; we drove all night, lying crowded in the cars, pushed and squished to each other. In the morning I opened my eyes and saw; around me were lying a lot of dead people, among them the fellow from Minsk that I helped the whole way. Where are we going? No one knows. In the morning the airplane appeared, and started shooting the train. We prepared striped fabrics, and we wanted to wave them, as a hint that the train has camp prisoners, but the train stopped because the locomotive was badly damaged. They opened the car doors and let us scatter in the field, we attacked the flower buds and picked and ate the green leaves.
We need to walk again. I made a few steps and felt that I was about to faint. Two people from Radum, a father and his son, supported me under my arms. They entreated me to make an effort to stay conscious. I didn’t have any strength. I needed and there was none. Suddenly, as if a miracle, I saw at a short distance a river. I ran with my remaining strength to the river. I bent down to get water with my hat, but from fatigue I fell into the river. When they took me out, I was a different person. My strength returned to me. In my anguish, I need to say that the beginning of the march from Koennedorf camp we were about 2000 people. When we arrived at the Alach camp near Dachau, we were no more than 200 people. From those only 80 survived.
In the new camp we had a feeling the end of the war was near.
But what kind of value does that event hold for me?
I’ve very sick…my hand is broken…and though they don’t take any more people to work, we see that the Germans are confused. Not far, a few kilometers from the camp, was Dacha – the death factory. The fear is great…We want after all to live…We know the most close and dear people are no longer alive. Despite all this I want to live and see the revenge on Amalek – let their name and memory be erased. I lay as if paralyzed without being able to move a limb. Many people walked around in the bunks and searched for friends and relatives. I too found a relative – Yosef Zabludovsky.
But I was very sick. They took me to the hospital and gave me a bath. They opened my bandage. The doctors determined that my arm bones had wrongly reconnected. They connected it again and cast my arm. The Nazis that still controlled the camp left me in the hospital. For the "healthy" ones, there was still no rest. They continued to march them, this time to the Swiss border. To our luck, some Jewish doctors were left in the hospital that took care of the sick. They were told that the Americans were very close…and the redemption was near…
On Saturday April 28, 1945 – a day that I’ll never forget – we lay in bunk beds one on top of another. The Americans had attacked the camp and the German soldiers continued to show resistance. The American artillery hit the hospital. Many patients were killed a few hours before the liberation. I fell from the bed on the floor and lay there till morning. The bunk was dark. The patients were crying. I comforted them with my father’s words. "Yeshuat Adonai k’heref ayiin" --- God’s redemption in a twinkling of an eye.
In the morning, Sunday April 29, 1945, the American army entered the camp victoriously. The soldiers saw us and stood in shock…Our situation was very bad…and we cried from joy…finally the torture and suffering came to an end. We are free.
Many prisoners charged the food, got sick immediately and it was impossible to save them…I was very weak and skinny. One leg was thin as a stick, the other one swollen. I was a skeleton. I was transferred by ambulance to the hospital in Dachau. They gave me small portions of food. They gave me blood transfusion. And slowly I recuperated. Dachau, of terrible notoriety still had a sign: "Arbeit macht das leben zies" (Work sweetens life). There Hitler (may his name and memory be erased) murdered hundreds of thousands of Jews. I saw piles of bodies that they did not have time to burn.
I lay in the Dachau hospital for a few weeks. Those who recovered were free and were able to leave, and even to go home…I was not able to stand on my feet. That’s why I was transferred to St. Autlian hospital near Landsberg. I stayed another full year in the hospital. They fed me like a small child until I could get back to myself. I met there by coincidence Itschke Koplinsky who was ill with jaundice. He was transferred later to Vildheim and from there would visit me. From Vildheim others from Zabludow who survived came to see me: Gedaliah Lynn and his bride, Meir Ruppa, Chaim Bazruk, Eliyahu Zesler and Nechamia Gladstein.
From the hospital I moved to Vildheim and there I participated in Meir Ruppa’s wedding. In Paldaping camp I met with other survivors: Bamolia Bernstein, Avrahamel Baker, Velvel the son of the Hassid and Moshe Wallace’s daughter. These were the few, like me, who were lucky enough to live and by a miracle were saved.
Some traveled to different countries: Israel, America, Argentina. Other survivors traveled to Warsaw in the hope of selling their possessions in the town…I didn’t go…I had nothing I possessed…Zabludow was burned to the ground. She was erased by the murderous Nazis may their names and memory be erased! There were no survivors from those who were most loved…
Some ask the survivor: "How did you survive? How did you save your soul?" My story is witness and answer to the question. That’s why I wanted to write in the Yizkor book all the suffering and hardships that happened to me and all my experiences so that they will be remembered to eternity. All the suffering and hell that the survivors experienced are very similar. People survived due to miracles.
In Vildheim, I met my wife. Later we immigrated to the United States to build our lives anew. The golden chain should not be severed, but I remained a broken soul, ill the rest of my life. Our children should know and remember the order: "Remember what Amalek did to you". Remember what Hitler’s Germany did to us!
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