לזכר יהודי צ'ורטקוב שנספו בשואה
|בחזרה לדף הבית|
משפחות ברגמן, וויזר Bergman, Weisser familys
This is a simple translation by Daniel Bergman, but to even get it done I made it very simple. All marks [ ] are made by me and are things that is not impossible to translate or gives info in swedish that gets lost in translation. Sometimes it might seem a little confusing, some of it is probably because my english is not the best and some of it is because the script is kind of confusing in swedish to and I tried to direct translate it with making as few language corrections as possible.
Flashes from our familys lifes
When are you going to start writing mother? Is a question I gotten during the years. I thought a lot, but was and still am scared, not to write good enough, my swedish is not perfect. But now I am in a hurry.
Daddy Genek is gone. He past away november 11 1993, for me during very tragical circumstances. When I got to Södersjukhuset [hospital in stockholm] were he was after an heartattack, I found him after a lot of searching, dead in the bathroom. It felt like this was the end of our destiny. But I will do my best and begin with the beginning.
Everybody search for thier roots. It is not easy to go way back in generations. I will tell what I know.
On my mothers side do I only know that my grandfaher was born in Czortkow, where he lived his whole life. His lastname was Weisser, and we called him Seide. His given name was Isak, but as a child he was very ill and because people in those days were pretty superstiotious, they started to call him Seide wich means grandfather and they hoped that he was going to be old. So for the rest of his life his name was Seide Weisser. I remeber his sister Jente and he had three brothers. Adolf and Leon who lived in Vienna (Czortkow belonged to Austria before the first world war), Chaim lived in Germany. Leon the youngest of my grandfathers brothers, escaped with his young wife to USA when Hitler invaded Austria. Adolfs children were also supposed to go to New York. Chaims family came to Poland when Hitler deported all jews who came from Poland.and everybody got killed in Warsaw.
My grandmother came from Dolina; her lastname as a girl was Hessel. She had three sisters. Two of them did I know, Kaila and Dwora. The third one died young and left a doughter Rózia, whom I liked a lot. She was engaged with my uncle Sami, but got divorced during for me unknown circomstances.
My grandmother used to come and stay with us once a year for a couple of weeks. The last time I saw her was the summer 1944, the germans had left and the russians came back also to Bukovina and Czortków. My grandmother and her two sons with there familys were deported by Hitler-friendly Antonescko fascist goverment to a camp in Transnistria.
Your uncle Moritz who lived in Czernovitze had got the information that my grandmother and the younger son and his family were in a school, were all the people who had returned from the camp stayed. Moritz told me that she was there and he took me there. When I entered the room she was in, she lied on the floor on a bed made of straw. I had brought 1000 rubel, whom she hided in her blouse. The sight of my grandmother has followed during the years, that was the last time I saw them. The other brothers in the family got killed in the holocoust.
My parents lived in Skala, a small town on the border to the former Sojvet Union. The river Zbrucz was the natural border. We were only allowed to swin on our side of the river. My fahter was a doctor, he came to Skala after the first world war. He had an aunt there. He marrried my mother they lived there until 1937. Then they moved to Czortków, 40 kilometers from Skala. There did my grandparents [on my mothers side] live. There did I live, when I as a ten year old I got accepted to High School [When grandmother who wrote this, its seems like High School in Poland at that time, was more what I think you call middle school our Junior High School]. Because there was no high school in Skala. The communication was very bad, with train the trip took about six hours, with horse cab about four or five hours. As a little girl I was in Czortków a lot. For a long time I was the only grandchild and woreshiped by my grandparents. I was a happy and well developed child even though I lived under tough disciplin. I knew that everybody loved me. When I was almost seven, I had a baby brother in mars 16 1928. His name was Arnold Nataniel after my grandfather but called Nolek. He was a sweet child and I loved him. When he got older he adored me. I was like a little mother for him. I brought him to my friends, but sometimes I wanted to be alone and then my parents took care of him so I could go out. As time past I also got two cousins, Gisela and Janina, children to uncle Munio, married to Dora born Kleiner. My oldest uncle Chaim was married with Rozia born Haber, sister to Adela Schorr. They did not get any children. My youngest uncle Sami had a little boy, Juiele, the summer 1938. My uncle Sami lived in Warsaw, married to Ruta born Spiewak. She and the boy died in the ghetto of Warsaw, while he were abroad on a business trip and could not come home because of the war. Later on he came to USA and survived the war.
We were such a happy family: good ecnomy, no fighting, lots of relatives and friends. My grandmother [on the mothers sid] got type 2 diabetes, but it was under control. When I was ten I finished litte school and got accepted to High School in Czortków. They changed the system after two years, so I had to go back to first class in high school. After four years could you continue to lyceum. I choosed humanistics as a mayor because I wanted to study medicin and then you had to know latin.
After two years, 1939 at the age of 18 did I graduate, in Poland they called it matura. You had been mature. But it was not a big party like in Sweden, I just got home and told my parents that I made it. Nobody doubted that I would, except me. I got exellent grades.
Now was my life supposed to start. My dream was to become an doctor but it was what they called numeros nullus for jews [no jews were accepted at the university]
After the holidays were I anyway going to Warsaw, where my uncle Sami lived, with an promise that I would be accepted att dentistschool, for a start. During the summer the situation in Europe got worse every day. 1938 Hitler invaded Austria and then a part of Czechoslovakia. Poland were next. Strangely nobody believed in an german invasion. I made my self ready to leave and my bag was already packed. Then came the orders in Poland to start mobilies and the first september 1939 the war broke out. I stayed in Czortków
Just a couple of days before the war broke out did I meet Genek for the first time, my to become husband, your father and grandfather. My aunt Dora was cousin with his sister in law Donia, Hermans wife, and they introduced us.
Now I going to tell you a little about Geneks family. I knew many of the members of the Bergman family. All his sister counted from the oldest, Jeanette, married with an architect Euril Liebling. Their two sons, Lolek and Olek, both a bit younger than me. His next sister Sara (called Salla) married with Salomon Salzinger, their two doughters Zanka (Joanne) and Rena. Next Sister in age was Bella married with Altheim, no children, then came Bronia married with Strober. They had a little boy about two-three years old, Lonek. The youngest sister were married to the agronom Ostersetzev. The oldest brother Moritz were married to Sala Silber. They lived in Czernovitze, wich belonged to Romania after world war one. They had two doughters Helen and Gina and two sons Ulo and Lonio. Next Brother was Herman, who lived in Lwow married to Donia Witaszka (She was a cousin to my aunt Dora from Tluske). They had two children: Truda about my age and Ludvig six or seven years younger. Next in age was Isak married to Mania Weissberg, a sister to Sara Reifeisen. They had three children: Lolek about my age (I knew him a long time before I met Genek) Genek and Sylvia. After came Israel, I met him before the war. He was not married a charming man and so kind that he would give away his last shirt. The last boy before Genek, Jeremias, medicinstudent, very competent and hansom, am I told. He came to Borszvzow, were they had to stay during the first world war in a small place because their big house and mill Uscie -Biskupie had been burned to ground by russians during the invasion. At that time there was an typhus epedimi. Both grandfather and Jeremia who had come from the farm in Biala next Czortków died short after. Your grandmother [Geneks mother] lost her husband (at the age of 54) and her beautiful and talented son.
However, life goes on. When the war ended the family moved to a big house in Czortków. “Helena” by ul Grunwaldska 16 a couple of kilometers from the farm in Biala. All doughters got married after the war and everbody stayed in Czortków. Of the sons Israel was the only one who did not get married. Genek went to a High school in Lwow after the war. He had an small apartment next Herman and his family in their house. Herman was like a father to him and Donia loved him very muched, like their children Trudzia and Ludvig. I think thoose nephews were the most loved maybe in competition with Zanka.
The Bergman family were very rich. Your grandfather Leon (Liebisch) Bergman were known to be wise and have a good nose for business. But if you ask me he must have been a little lucky. If and how much he inheritaget I do not know, but most of what he owned he had bought him self. Except Biala outside of Czortków, he had a smaller farm in the south. Everything got nationalised by the communist (the russians) when they invaded in 1939.
Many of the houses that the family owned in Lwow, also got nationalised. But I am sad to say I do not remeber the adresses.
At the house in Czortków there is an russian document saying that we own it. Becouse we left russian document saying that father Genek owned the house, in Czortków at Grunivaldska street 16. I had gotten a paper to proof that my father owned the house in Skala. The point with all this was so that we would get similar houses in Poland, but we never demanded those houses, because we left Poland in august 1946.
Like the Bergmans lost everything they had, so did my family. But now I am telling this story in advance of what happend, and described when the russians nationalised everything. Before Hitler went in to Poland, he had made a deal with Stalin, the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, where they divided Poland in two. We lived close to the russian border, about 40 kilometers. September 17, it was a Sunday, did the russians marsch in to our town with their big tanks. But somehow it felt better than if it would have been the germans. Two days after they marsched in, did they arrested my uncle Chaim, he was the president of the new nice mill. My uncle Munio was on a business trip to Romania and did not come back. His wife Dora and the girls Gisela (called Gizia) and Janka moved in with us. They lived in the same house on Kolejowa 2. Half off that house belonged to my grandfather. The other half belonged to the Sokalskli family. It was a big building, with many apartments and shops. They had to leave their apartment because my uncle [on mothers side] was gone and they were a part of the Weisser Family. My old grandfather who had lived alone in the house since my grandmother died, not far from us, had to leave his house as he were, he could not even bring a shirt. He did also move in with us. Because my father was a doctor did they count him as a worker and they needed doctors, so we could stay in our apartment, but only keep two rooms. The rest of the apartment, my fathers practise, his waiting room became homes for the families of russian soldiers. After a while did they start to deport all landowners with their families to Sibiria.
Chaims wife Rozia (she was Adela Schorrs sister) had have to leave her apartment and flee to Lwow to not be deported.
Your father Genek was always afraid he was going to be deported, everytime that you heard that the cattle wagon by the railroad were going to disinfection. Then you kneew that you should leave your apaprtment and hide somewhere. My old grandfather had to spend a couple month in a small village called Cygany, close to Skala. Where my parents lived until 1936 when they moved to Czortków. I already lived in Czortków since 1931 with my grandparents, when I started high school. The life during the russian occupation was hard. The saluary was not even close to enough. My father worked as a doctor. The family was big and there were a lot of stomachs to fill. When I was done with nursing school, did I start to work as a nurse with an minimum wage. We had to change things and cloth for food. The rantions was small and already at three a clock in the morning did the lines start, when rumors spread that they were going to give away bread or something else. Sometimes did a patient from one of the villages have some butter or meat or something else you could eat. But we did not have to starv. In the spring of 1940 did I apply to medicin school in Lwow, but I did not get accepted because my grandfather was a “capitalist”. In the commite who went through the applications were a guy from Czortków and he informed who was worthy and who was not. I continued to work at the hospital, working the night shift, I lived one day at the time. Many of our friends came to our home to listen to BBC broadcasting from London. One of them who used to come was Genek. My father and he often worked jour together at the clinic and because Genek and my father were born in the same town Usai Biskupie, was my father a bit sentimental towards him and took him to our house, to make him happy again.
As the time passed by, Genek started to show an interest in me. He was so charming that I just could not, not be moved by him. At a proom, organised by medical union where I went with my father did he dance with me and said that it was a shame “Nusienka” that it was to late. I thougt he was kidding and answered with the saying “late is better than never” though I really did not meen anything with it, but Genek took it seriously. He told my father that he could go home and that I would get home safely with him. My mother was not home. She often went to Ternopol were my uncle Chaim was putted in jail, while he waited to be deported to an russian camp. She brought clothes and food for him, that you could leave some days of the month.
Genek and I started to go out more seriously. I was 19 years old and impressed that such a charmer like Genek had choosen me. New years eve 1940-1941, he took me to a restaurant and we drank champange and got engage, without telling anyone. My father did not want me to get married during the war. The winter of 1941 was a difficult time in many ways. That spring rumors were being spred that Hitler were gattering his army at the new border to the Sovjet Union from 1939. I was drafted as a nurse, and placed in the medical part of the army, if it would be new war. Genek was in dispare, because it was now clear that Germany were going to attack Sovjet. The war was a fact June 21 1941, I was summond two days later. Genek wanted to take me to the hospital and operate my appendix, but my father did not want that. On the morning of june 24 were I at the gattering by the city park. My whole family followed me and while we waited an russian soldier came up to Genek, who were one of his patients and asked, what are you doing here, are you summond? I am the the adminstrator in the medical batalion. Genek said, No but my fiancé is. Then the signal came and we went to the monastery where we were going to practise before we were being sent to the front. Genek tried all sort of ways to get respite and win time. At four a clock in the morning did they wake us up to start our training and Genek stod there and looked at me in dispair. Then the day came when the adminstrator who were boss of our group came up to him and gave him an proposal. Their dentist was on vacation and because they needed one did he offer to go with him to “Wojenkomat” headquarters of the army so he also got be drafted and join the batalion to the front. Genek was really happy. But the answer from the headquarters was no, it was not yet his turn. He was called unreliable because he owned land and they did not want him. But Genek did not just stand still and do nothing. He got a permit from a doctor that my health were bad and the adminstrator got a gold watch “schaffhausen” and I did not have to go for another two weeks. In a week the russians had retreated, hunted by the germans who aproached with speed of light and then they came. The medical batalion whom I was supposed to follow were bombed and only one nurse survived, she was ukrainian and got back to Czortków.
When the germans had taken the city, the ukrainians became their allies and very privileged. They formed a military group with help from the germans and hoped that they could found their own country. In return did they inform the germans about the jewish population and participated in the capturing and massacres of the jews.
A few days later after the germans had entered Czotków, did the ukranian police and gestapo go in to a couple of houses surrounding ours and took all men, about 20 of them. After a few days did we get the reports by some polish witnesses that they all had been shoot in the forrest Czarny Las, just outside of the city.
At the same time did the germans start to organise what was called judenrat, wich was suppose to be the jewish authority to rule over jewish community in Czortków, at the time a population of 10 000 to 12 000 people.
Almost all cities had there own Judenrat. Because Czortków was “kreishaupt”, capitol for a larger area and had a big prison and the local headquarters for gestapo, did gestapo establish an kreisjudenrat with member from diffrent cities, who became the link to gestapo. Judenrat in Czortków included prominent intelligent jewish citizens and as supervisor for this “gouverment” lawyer Kruk was choosen, a very good lawyer and a respected older man. Nobody understood the evil thought behind this german idea. A couple of days after Kruk was choosen did he get arrested and nobody understood why. Somehow it slipt out that he have had to send couple of jewish men to be killed. He did not do it and a couple of weeks later did action against all academic jewish take place except, doctors and dentists. One morning did Genek come running to our house, he lived in his house on Grunwaldzka 16 and we lived in the center of the city on Koljolwa 2. He told us about the action and had heard that somebody was looking for an Szapira. He thought they were looking for me even thou I was not an academic. Later we found out that they were looking for another person with the same last name who had an bachelor in philosophy. We saw gestapo go in to our house, we all stod and waited. After a while did they come out on the street with my piano teacher, Platze and her neis who also had degree from music college.
Tragical and shaking but we could breath out, it was not me they were looking for. Everybody who were captured were shoot in the forrest at the same time including Kruk. That was the start of life under the terror of gestapo. They started to organise the ghetto. All jews had to move to the poorest part of the city, gathering in very small area. Genek moved to our house, his four sisters Jeanette with her two boys Lolek and Olek (her husband had died during the russian occupation after an operation) Bella alone (her husband joined the intellgentia, Bromia with her boy Lonio three years old (her husband were in Buczaer afraid of beeing deported to Siberia) and Basia (her husband were in another town) did also move in with us. The house was big and half of it belonged to my Grandfather [on mothers side]. The polish people who lived in the other half had to move because the house was a part of the ghetto. We had an exit to arier side. A man from the gestapo Köllner were a so called judenreferrent and knew my father who curred his wife and because he was greetful he added our house to the ghetto. All jews including the children had to wear the star of david on the arm and were freathend to get killed if they found without one. Doctors and dentists were allowed to wear a “Arzt” next to there star and were allowed to go around with more freedom. Everybody else were forbidden on the mainstreets. You had to trip on your toes in the alleys to get to work. The ranson cards for jews to buy things i the ghetto were not enough to surrvive. We had to change clothes for food. Genek was the only dentist in the city so he was allowed to stay in the poli clinic who were under german rule as a “versicherungskasse”. I begun to work with another jewish doctor at the same clinic. The doctors name was Bunek Margulies a specialist in surgery and gynecologist. The administrativ boss were a ukrainian by the name Manikiewicz. The head doctor was an old alcoholist, ukrainien but a good man. His wife was polish and a skindoctor. Because they were short of arian doctors, did they have to have some jewish doctors at this poli clinic. At the hospital was the jewish head doctor Krantz and all other jewish doctors fired. My father was the only doctor at the infection clinic who were placed in the same area as the poli clinic.
The infection hospital was filled with people suffering from spot typhus, most of them prisoners from the prison, because an epedemi had broken out there as well as in the ghetto. Everyday came rumors about different actions, wich means that they collected jews and sent them away in railway wagons.
Later we heard that some of them were shoot, some of the younger and stronger men came the camps, where they went under after some time. One of the camps were Krzemionka. Lolek Liebling came there, Geneks nephew. But he never came back. My grandfather was ill for a long time, aesophogas cancer and the end of his life were getting closer. He knew that he was about to die, but he really wanted to see my wedding. He liked Genek and wanted to give him his blessing
A fast decision were made, that we were going to get married the 7th december 1941. All Geneks sisters with their children, my parents, my brother, my aunts Dora with her girls, Rozia and a couple of good friends [I think my grandmothe means that they attended the wedding]. My poor mother tried to get the ingridients for a cake, a strudel with nuts and honey. A so clled rabbi came, he was not a rabbi but he had the right to marry people. It was a tragical wedding in the shadow of my grandfathers death and rumors about an action.
They who had work maybe would be sparred. Most people did not have one or an unimportant one. I remember our wedding night very well. It was windy and the door who were not looked hit the doorpost over and over again. We thought it was a gathering for deportion. But it was a false alarm this time. A week later my grandfather died, 71 years old. The sorrow took a grip on our family. The harasments increast. Genek had a small private practise in the apartment. A lot of germans came and got the care for free, some of them were acctually kind of nice. When the ghetto were closed hermentically in the beginning of 1942 did some jewish doctors (there were only a few arier doctors left in the city) and Genek were the only dentist get permission to open a practise for arier in a house outside the ghetto on the opposite side of street of the church.
The house was owned by a jewish doctor Blaustein, he was dead and the city hade taken over his house.
The winter and the spring moved along in constant fear. Everyday did they take jews to labor in the gestapo and many times they did not come back. The atmosphere in the ghetto were panic. My father, Genek and I had work. My brother Nolek who only were 15 had got a job sorting fur. But all Geneks sisters and their children were to young and did not have work. You just waited for the big action. Some built or arranged hidouts. We thought that my mother might be alright because my father worked. But my aunt [on mothers side] Dora with her girls Gisella and Janina, aunt [on mothers side] Rozia, Chaims wife, who after he got arrested by the russians had fled to Lwów. But came back when the germans invaded and stayed with us. We had three rooms, one were I and Genek lived it was also his practise from the beginning. In the other two rooms were there mostly beds. In the same house when the ghetto was formed did also Geneks sister Jeanett live , who just had become a widdow. Lolek were in the camp, Bella, Basia and Bronia with her boy Lóncio. The parents of Zanka, Sala her mother and Salomon her father and her older sister Rena lived in another house in the ghetto, who also have had to leave their houses in the arien part of town. There were some rumors that doctors and dentists and families who worked for the germans would not be targeted at the moment. Then one day in June did we notice that the ghetto were surrounded by gestapo ukraine police and polish people from krimimal polizei (were only polish worked). We sent all Geneks sisters, my aunts and some other whom lived in the house up to the attic. Were we had arranged a hidout. My parents and my brother who worked in a german bussines that they still needed, Genek and I stayed in the apartment. Geneks sister Bronia with her little boy Lóncio did also stay in the apartment. They were not allowed to go to the hideout because we were afraid that the little boy would start screem or cry and betray everybody. We did not have to wait long until they knocked on our door. In came germans and pols from the kriminal polizei, one of them were one Geneks patients.Bronia and the little boy hided under a bed, they told us to follow them. We did not know what waited us, even though we were given a lot insuranses we thaught that this was the end. I told Genek to bring the coat it was a cold night in june. It will not be needed where we are going, did he answer. The polish man we knew from krimal polizei calmed us down and asured us that our time had yet not come. We came to the place in the center of the town where there were already many jews. The germans screemed and punched people. Kreiskautmann Lutschuger walked around with a gun and shoot randomly. It was night. My father, Genek and I were let through. They wanted to separate my mother from us, but Köllner recognised my father and my mother could follow us. We came to a group doctors, pharmacist and academics. My brother did not come with us. We stod there and waited. New people arrived all the time , it started to be light again. Where my brother was did we not know.
People surrounding us were placed after profession and where they worked. In the morning did they start to remove people from our safe group. Some of the people they took were jewish doctors, a family without work. We, a small number of people, some doctors, a pharmacist and some others just stood and waited. After a while did they escort us to the clinic. We were saved, but we did not know where Nolek was. We could not go back to our house, the killings continued all day in the ghetto. In the evening did my father and Genek go all the way through the city to the company where Nolek worked and he was there. They came with him to the clinic, but we did not know what had happend to the rest of the family. When we came back to our house the next day, was it empty. All our relatives, Geneks sisters, the little Lovicio were shoot on the spot. My aunts, the children and all the jews who lived in the house were gone. Zanka with her parents Sala and Salomon Salzinger and her sister Rena did not live in the same house. But left were only Zanka and her father Salomon. The people who were not killed were gathered in cattlewagons on the railroad without water and food. Many adults and children were stomped to death. The trains did we know later went to Belzec to the annihalation.
One of my clasmates Stefa Palek, she lives now i Australia, were thrown out of the the train by her mother some how. Just outside of Rawa Ruska close to Lwów. She survived and told us after the war how she survived. When the train was just about to go in to Belzec did it stop because there so many trains from different citys, with thousend of jews. The train had to back out, that was when her mother pushed her out. She felled in to a field, there were a lot people that worked there. They helped her to Rawa Ruska a city close to Lwów. There she knew a pharmacist family, they were friends to her father, he was also an pharmacist in Czortków. Because she looked lika an arier did they arrange a arien fiancé and hidden her with the jewish pharmacist family and thats how she survived. Back to Czortków. That night in june did they bring 6000 jews from Czortków to Belzec not counted the ones that were killed on the spot in Czortków. The ones who still were alive in our familys were My parents, my brother Nolek, Zanka (Joanne) and her father Salomon Salzinger, one of Geneks nephews Olés the younger son of Jeanette Liebling. The ghetto were now getting smaller. The empty apartments i our house were filled by survivers. Zanka, her father, Olés, Goldbergs (Lola and her husband Manek their little son Celus (Mark) and her mother) and Zwi (Rysiek) Weinaub with her mother Sala. His father were in the russian arme. The house were filled with people who just lived for the moment. We understood that the final solution were not far away and the whole of Poland would be “judenfri”. It had passed two month and rumors about actions started. In the apartment did we have a big larder, we built a wall and made a hideout for a number of persons. Zanka, her father and some others was going to hide in the larder. My father took my mother, Nolek and us to the clinic were he had a on call room. My parents stayed in the on call room and I, Genek and Nolek climbed up to attic in the nearby morgue house. I think it was a Saturday night, but I am not sure. The rumors were true, gestapo surrounded the ghetto and took another couple hundred people. The ones who hided in the larder survived and we in the infection clincs morgue house did to. We knew for sure that it was just a mather of time before the germans were going to strike again. Typhus and hunger had its grip on the ghetto.
It was a typhus epedemi in the jail to. They had to send the prisoners to the infection clinic and make it bigger. My father was the boss for the clinic and my mother did also get a permit to work there as an assitant, so she also could get out of the ghetto.
In november 1942 a man came to Genek with a suggestion. He was a jew from Zaleszczyki, a town by the border to Romania, his name was Scharfstein. His sister was ingaged to an german engineer and hidden by a polish female duke in Kraków. I do not know if the german wanted to make money or saves jews. He contacted the brother to his fiancé and told him about a mayor in the german arme, who right now guarded the romanian border. The mayor wanted a huge sum of money for every person and promised to help everybody who payed over the border in a truck. The german enginner went to Czernowice where my uncle [on father side] lived and visited him. They were going to wait on the other side of the border. Genek had enough dollars and gold to pay for us, my parents, my brother, Zanka, her father, Olek Dr Rosenzweig and some other. One of them Scharfstein him self with his girlfriend. Then the night came when we were leaving. The mayor came to our house and told us that everything were arranged for the trip. Then suddenly I say that we are not going. I do not know what happend to me, maybe an explanation was a dream I had a couple nights before. I had told Genek about it the same morning. I dreamed that I looked up upon the sky, the sky opened up and it was so beautiful. Soon it got dark and a figure apeard and said “I am Job”. The morning after I told Genek and said that the sky is opening is a good sign for the trip, but Job means bad news. Genek said that he thought that I was just talkin nonsens. If it was the dream or not, there were we all who were leaving and with an unusuall decisiveness I said we are not going. I remember the german mayor standing in the door with his gloves in one hand raising them and said in german “sie werden es bereunen, you will regret this”. Zanka and the others thought I had gone mad but my father said that “if that is how she feels then we are not going”. After I while did I start to think, what have I done. I started to cry and bug my self for it. Genek tried to calm me down. We had gone to bed but I could not sleep. Then we heard the germans coming in to our house and hitting on the door to our apartment. If they were from gestapo or some other uniformed part do I not know. They started to hit us, worst beaten up were my father. “Where are the money, that you were supposed to pay for the trip?” did they ask or screem. We did not have the money, that is why could not go said Genek. The money (gold dollars) did we hide as soon we decided not to go in an can in the water silo for the toilet, placed high up just under the ceiling. The germans searched, smashed things and searched all areas, took our watches wedding rings and left. Why they did not take us is a mystery. The next day we found out that every on who had joined the truck had been killed at the border. Dr Rosenzweig and a friend of his that were going did not because we did not go. After the war he called me his guarding angel. We were shaken but happy for the moment that we had survuved.
The situiation in the ghetto got worse every day. They with a arien look got papers that showed that they were arien. They went to other citys where they were anonymous and unknown to the people. Men were more likelly to get in to trouble. If a pole or ukrainen reported to gestapo that they suspected that somebody were jewish, they could always see if they were surcomsized and that ment death.
Females could also get in to trouble, but it was harder to prove. Greek ortodox nuns working with my father at the infection clinic told my father that I could stay with them in a monastery in Halicz. But I did not want to leave the family.
My father had treated the wife of a fireman, Lukaiewicz. He was a pole and when she got better did he come with an proposal. He was willing to dig out an basement below his house outside of the city (that part was called Wygnanka) where we could hide. Of course he counted that if we surrvive and the germnas loose the war, then he would be rewarded with money. He knew that there was a big fortune in one big and one small mill, two brick factorys and a lot of houses if Poland would be free. It was now 1943. Spot typhus was a big problem for the few in the ghetto. The infection clinic where my father worked were crowded with typhus ill guards from all around. My father had spot typhus during the first world war, when he participated as an newly examinated doctor and he thought he now was imune so he just vaccinated the rest of the family. Sadly he was wrong. He got ill and laid on the infection clinic. He got unconcious and we (my mother, my brother, Genek and I) stayed in the same room and watched him all the time. We did not think that he would make it but suddenly he got better and we started to hope. We were happy that he was concious and felt better. During that time Nolek got ill in typhus. We all sleept in the same room. But he had taken the vaccin and was young 16 and soon he got better. Our happines was short my father just felt better one day. On the evening of february 13 1943 did he get ling embolia and a few hours later he was dead. There were no medicins and we were helpless. I was shocked and in dispair, I thought I was going to take my own life. Nolek cried and screemed “Daddy don’t leave us”. But he was gone. The day after we burried him in the jewish cemetary by jewish traditions. My mother was totally broken. She kept on working at the infection clinic without saluary. She and Nolek sleeped somestimes in my fathers old on call room. We thought that would be safer than the ghetto. Genek and I sleept in the apartment and walked to work every day. In the apartment did Zanka and her father, Olék and one of Geneks nephews live. Isaks son from Lwów, Lolek my age I knew him before the war. The whole family, Isak and his wife, Loleks parents his brother Genek and his sister Sylvia. Lolek got arien papers and stayed with polish an woman even though he did not look arien. He survived the war, got married with a russian and stayed in the Sovjet Uninon after the liberation. He was Sara Reifeisons nephew.
Back to the time in Czortków. We knew that very day could be the last one. They took people to work camps every day. Then they formed a camp in Swidowa a couple of kilometers from Czortków close to the city of Jagielnica. Many were moved there, some doctors who did not work for the germans and some others. We stayed in Czortków and figured that we could hide in Lukasiewicz basement. The few that still were in the ghetto were supposed to go in group to to work under survailence of the jewish police in service of “Judenrat”. Genek and I used to go by our self to work. One day came a commanding from “Judenrat” that nobody could go by them self from the ghetto to work. Everybody had to gather on the square infront of the “judenrats” office, if you did not do as they said you would be punished. Genek did not think that we should go the gathering point. That night I dreamed that my grandmother [on mothers side] came to me and said and told me not to go to the gathering point.
Genek listend when I told him about my dream and insisted that we should go by our self as ususall to work, through our own door to arien side. But I wanted to be solidaric with the others and we went to the gathering point. My mother and Nolek were at the hospital so atleast we did not have to worry about them. When we left the ghetto, gestapo surrounded us, people tried to escape and started to shoot. Everybody were going to jail. I saw that at the end of the group did Köllner go, “judenreferent” who knew my father. I brought Genek to the end of the group until I came to Köllner. I went up to him and said in german “I’m the doughter of Dr. Schapira and this is my husband” I started to plead to him that he would let us go to work. He asked where my father was. When I told him that he was dead did he get effected somehow and told me with some compassion and a bit of surprice in his face that he was sorry. When everybody continued to the jail did he stop at the croosrad (one led to the jail and the other to our work) and said “I will stand here and you are going to work”. Our time had not come yet and we could breath out for another couple of days.
My mother and Nolek were worried because we were very late and understood that something had happend. Genek was angry with me because I wanted to be solidaric. I felt guilty, we did not have to go through this. We understood that the end was very close. One day did some germans from gestapo come to the clinic, gathered all jewish doctors and nurses in one room. This is the end, did all of us think. They looked at us and laughed, made us really nerveus and after a while they leave and let us go back to work, it was a game of cat and the mouse. Some doctors have had to leave their homes in the ghetto and had to go to the camp in Swidowa, a camp close to the city of Jagielinica 20 kilometers from Czortków. We who worked for the german health care were still left. Genek had a german patient, a commander of the custom for the old polish border to the Soviet Union. A old cultivated man, with a high rank before the war. His name was Grunervald and liked father Genek and me a lot. He promised to tell us when it was time to disapear. In june 1943 did they intensivly take people to labor camp in Kamionka.
Rumors of the defintite shut down of the ghetto seemed more realistic. We sent my mother and Nolek to the polish family Lukasiewicz and the basement he built. To get there you had to walk through the city, Wygnanka that part of town was on the other side of the river Seret. The house was small and the basement two square meters with a bench and bucket for your needs. Genek and I waited. One day did we stand at the window of his practise, that were in the doctors house on the arien side next to the church. Some gestapo men looked at the house pointed and discussed. I understood that now was the time to disappear. The next day I borrowed the nun dress that a greek ortodox nun had promised me. She had promised my father to do this and walk with me as a nun through the city. The children said “blessed be Jesus Christ” to us in polish and I answerd “in eternity”. Genek wanted to wait for Grunerwald who were away on a inspection trip and would be back in a couple of days.
I beged him in dispair. I bit through a cigaret holder and said if you you are not coming with Lukasiewicz when he were coming to get him that night, then we will never see each other again. He were convinced and came that night. Now there were four of us in the basement. That day did they shut down the ghetto, all doctors working at the clinc were killed. One, Dr Akselrael surrvived. When he came through the backdoor to the ghetto did he see that gestapo were there and ran away and hided in an old cementary behind the clinic. Czortków were “judenfri”.
The time in the small basement started. Dark narrow all the time on the bench next to the bucket.
The family Lukasiewicz had two small boys and they did not know that we existed. You could open the door only if they sleept or were out, to give us some food. A couple of month passed by. My mother had a hard time breathing. The air was bad and we laid on the bench all the time. Sometimes she could get up in the house to sleep. When I now think of that time, can I not believe that we managed, but you wanted to surrvive. The news from the front told us that germans were pulling back and we just lived on the hope that soon would our misery end. A day in october 1943 came Lukasiewicz and told us that he had met a guy day that told him “you are hiding jews we have seen how much food your wife is buying on the market” he suggested that we should leave the basement so that he could show the man that there were no jews there, later we could come back. But were should we go? Lukasiewicz neighbour were Miras (she later lived in Israel) her husband were Staszek Wasyluk and their were some suspicions that he were hiding his wife Mira. It showed that he also hided her sister Regina, later married to Dr Tiger and living in Israel. Wasyluk were ukrainien and the ukrainen police gave him protection in some way, so that gestapo never found out. Lukasiewicz went to Wasyluk with our problem. Wasyluk and Mira were very grateful to my father who saved Mira during the birth of one of their children. Wasyluks hideout were not far away from ours. At a woman who lived with her doughter, there he had placed Syncis and Túska Schwartz and a aunt to Túska with her little doughter, for a good amount of money. Wayluk arranged that we could leave the basement one night for the new hideout.
We all sat in the room. There was a small space below the floor, where we could hide if someone came. But we never had to use it did, we found out. We did not talk, sometimes we whispered. We got food so we were not hungry. We all laid on the floor side by side.
The sanitarian circumstances were a problem with that many people. But it was a little better than in the basement. We all sat and not all the time in the dark and could move. When Lukasiewicz told Wasyluk that he had showed the people that there were no jews in his apartment did we decide to go back. It was harder then we thought to get used to lay down on the bench all the time in the dark. My mother had a hard time breathing. The rumors said that the germans were pulling back so we hoped and wanted to surrvive. At the end of november did we decide that wanted to get back to the place where we hided with the Schwartz. When we came there everybody was gone. We were alone my mother, Nolek, Genek and I. It might have worked out, if not... (to be continued)
December 7 our wedding day. Mira and Regina came with a cake and tried to cheer us up. But now I have gone to far in the story. After one or two weeks when we came back and found out that our freinds in misery were gone did Túskas with the girl come back. She had left a clock to Wasyluk to sell. But because she did not get any money she had to leave their new hideout and she went back to Wasyluk to clame the money. Probably she told them where she was going to hide. Genek did not want to let her in, because she might tell somebody where and who were in our new place. Yes he was right, as it showed. I felt bad for her and thought that they could stay. Rumors spread that germans had lost the war and maybe, we hoped it was true.
December 8th 1943 the day after our wedding day was the biggest tragedy in our whole life. Around dinner time did we suddenly hear german and polish voices and a few germans in uniforms and one pole without uniform came in to our house. His name was Pytiarz did we get to know later.
They took everything we had, gold diamonds and disapeard. We understood that this was our last mooment in life. My brother Nolek jumped out the window (later did we hear that he got shoot in his shoulder). We were all very confused. I grabbed my coat and went out to look for Nolek. It was wet outside, no snow. I walked around and looked for him, asked a woman if she had seen a guy. Suddenly I heard german voices. I wore a green-yellow coat, that looked a little like the green-yellow gras. I laid down in the busches on the ground and heard the woman say “she was here just a minute ago”, they looked around and walked away.
I walked silently passed that womans house and went back to the place where I left my mother and Genek. When I got back to the house, the hostess and doughter stood in the backyard and told me that gestapo were back. My mother and Genek were just about to leave the house one by one, so that they would not draw attention to them. Genek had left, but just as my mother was about to leave the gestapo came and took her. Hurry and disapear said the women in the same moment as gestapo apeard infront of the house. They looked for me because I was still missing. Ifront of me was a high hill Górna Wygnanka and that was the only way I could escape. I climbed with all my strength and germans shoot after me, but they did not hit me. When I after a lot of trouble came to the top, did I see a lot of gestapo men there. They looked for me. This is the end did I think. They did not look at me, they thought I looked like somebody else. I passed them very calmly without looking at them and continued until I came to a shattle. It was dark outside. Inside the shattle did mices and rats run around on the floor. I was in dispair I did not know what to do. Now I do not undersand why I just did not turn my self in, but aperently life was important.
It got dark outside and I dared to go out to the houses next door. I knew the people that lived there. I asked if they knew if gestapo had taken Genek to but they did not know. Then I sad if they took Genek I will turn my self in. The people in the house could have called for gestapo but they were nice people. They told me, next to shattle were I was were a little house where a jewish woman lived, maybe she could help me.
I knocked on the door and out came a woman I knew. She was not jewish but married to a vetrinarian whos parents had converted to catholicism when he was born. But according to the laws of Nürnberg was he a jew. He was one of father Geneks patients. His wife hided him in the house and would not let me in. I understood that she was scared. So I went back to the shattle and the rats.
Out of nowhere did the door open and the woman came and sad follow me. It showed that besides her husband did she hide Syviciosk Túska Schwartz and Henrik at the time only ten years old. When they had heard my voice had the they talked the woman in to let me in. I stayed for a week or ten days, then I made a decision to leave that place. One reason that they were very short of food and I wanted to get in contact with Zanka to find out if she heard anything from Genek. Zanka hided at high school teacher Wisniewskis place since the shutdown of the ghetto. The house where she hided was on Szkolna street i centre of the city. I walked in the dark winter night before christmas from Górna Wygnanka down to the city. A long way. It was a cerfew in the hole city so I tried not get in to the central streets. I walked all the small alleys I almost did not find the way in my own city. I came from the wrong direction to Szkolna street where my old school was. Then I found out there was a german stronghold there and some germans guards just a few meters in front of me. I turned around and found the other way to the house where Zanka was. Zanka huged me and told me that she knew nothing about Genek. It was about one week before christmas 1943.
I asked Wisniewski if I could stay a couple of days. Professor Wisnievski was a good man, he knew me from school. But it was the wife that ruled in the house and she did not want to let me stay. But on the other hand the germans where really pulling back and it was just a mather of weeks before the russians would reach Czortków. I promised her that I could get her some fabrics if she let me stay. Half of the house at Kolejowca 2, a cross the street from the bazaar belonged to my grandfather [mothers side] and the other half belonged to polish Sokalski family. When that house became a part of the ghetto, the Sokalskis had tho move. My mother had given them a lot of fabric and other valuble things, with a hope that if we would need anything they would give something back. One of the Sokalski brothers lived on Szkolna street not far from the Wisniewskis. I looked him up and asked for a piece of fabric. He was very unpleased by my visit and scared. He gave me the fabric told me in a sharp tone not to visit him again. But I had not reached the bottom of humiliation. I went back to Wisniewskis and I don’t know if her husband or destiny or the fact that the russians where getting closer affected the wife. She took the fabric and let me stay over christmas. Zanka stayed in a room where misses Wisniewskis’s senil mother lied in bed and I was given pardon to share this room to. We sat there quite and waited. The old grandmother was completly senil and all friends to the family knew that so nobody came in to that room. During the holidays they had some guests. We sat quite and very hungry. One of the christmas days were the family somewhere else, they had a boy about eight years old. I and Zanka sneaked in to the larder. It was a lot of food there but the only thing we dared to take was some bread and spread some pork fat on it. So that the wife would not notice it, we heated the fat again so all the marks from the knife would disapear.
The holidays passed and I found out that my mother and Nolek got captured. But I still knew nothing about Genek. One night after new years 1944 came an old couple with a letter to Zanka from Genek where he asked her if she knew anything about me. I read the letter and spoke to them. Their name was Steiner and they lived outside of the city in Bzarnyla. Their son with his wife lived with them to and they hided Genek and some other jews.
They left and came back the other day with a letter from Genek. He wrote that there were 10 to 12 jews in the house that was placed by it self in the forrest. He wanted me to think twice before I walked with the old couple on the long and dangerous way to their house. I did not hesitate. I walked between Mr and Ms Steiner in the middle of the night the long way to their house without any trouble.
When we got to the house and I met Genek, I can not describe the feeling. It was like we met after death. We talked all night, the others were annoyed but we could not sleep and we whispered all the time.
Then Genek told me that when Nolek jumped out the window and I went looking for him, did Genek think that I was trying to escape. When I was gone did gestapo get to the house, only Genek and my mother was still there. They asked where the money was, we had gold and diamonds. Up on that shelf sad Genek. Probably it was not gestapo just a german in uniform. When he reached for the top of the shelf did Genek take the gun from his hand and shoot him, sadly he did not die as Genek thought at the time, but he did get seriously wounded. After the liberation we heard from a superior doctor at the hospital that they took him there and that he survived. When Genek had shoot the german did he and my mother decide that should escape in different directions to draw as little attention to them selfs as possible. He got dressed and with the revolver in his hand did he run to Kolejowa street close to the train station. My mother got confused for a moment and during that time gestapo found her and captured her. Rumors spread that they had found us. It was Sunday and people went to church. He met some railroad police officers but they thought that he was a part of the polish police. But the kids understood that he was jewish and ran after him screeming “jew”. According to his story did he meet and old female friend that managed to get the kids quite and took him in to an alley, before the bridge over Seret that led to the centre of the city Nadizeczna street. There lived someone he knew. He did not dare to let him in, because his wife would never allow it.
On that evening did Genek decide to go through the hole city to what we called “folksdeutsche” a pole of german heritage. His wife was a host [my grandmother might mean assistant or housekeeper] to a jewish doctor Dr Anderman. They had built a hideout for him. But he got shoot when Czortków got “judenrein” [free of jews]. Genek had left som golds coins at Hoffmans house for later. Hoffman was jew friendly even though he was of german heritage.
It got dark and he walked through the almost empty streets to Szpitalna street where Hoffman lived. Just when he was about to turn of the mainstreet did he meet the boss for the ukrainian police. He was one of Geneks patients. Genek saw death walking up on him, he could shoot him on the spot. But he just sad “Good evening doctor” in ukrainian, then he made a militaristic turn and walked in the oposite direction to show that he was not going to follow Genek.
Then he arrived at Hoffmans who lived in a house in the beginning of Szpitalna street. Hoffman had a lot of money that he had got after Dr Anderman died and wanted to get a deal by contacting the Steiner family i Czarny Las. They hided jews for money and promises of whealth if the enemy came. Hoffman contacted Steiner who got gold coins, kept by Hoffman and he were taken out to Czarny Las at night.
The house was by it self with no close neighbors. When Genek arrived were there already two doctors, Dr Akselrad (he later moved to Ramat Gan in Israel), Dr Maigulies, a family of four and two other girls.
The rumor told Genek that I would take my life if my husband got captured. After that had he desperately tried to reach me. Then the Steiner came to the Wisnieskis and we got reunited. Now that you know all about our destiny am I sure that you understand why we were so close even though all the arguments we had. Arguments normal in life with somebody else and we always been together in a life that have united us more then ever. So much that only death could do us apart. Now when your dad is gone and it feels like life ended.
I later heard what happened to Nolek. He got hurt in his arm when he jumped out the window. He went to a polish doctor that knew us very well. He helped him with his arm, but would not hide him. He tried at another place, lost his hope and gestapo found him. After the liberation did a guard at the jail tell me that my mother and Nolek got exececuted and got dumped in a mass grave. My mother told the guard to look me up if I surrvived and tell me that she thought of me and wished me all good. I live with this and now that I am by my self and have time to think over my life and the difficult times do I understand that I tried to deny everything and build a new life for my children. Now everything is coming back to me. To get back to time after our reunion at Steiners, is there not much more to tell. I came there in middle of january. We knew that that the germans were pulling back and it was just a mather of weeks not to be detected at last minute. It was winter and we slept on the attic with our clothes on tight together to keep warm.
One night a couple germans knocked on the door. The house was by it self in the forrest and we thought our last time had come, it felt very bitter to have fought so long for nothing. We held our breath. It showed that it was soldiers pulling back asking for directions. The russians came in the middle of march. We left the house in Czarny Las and walked by foot to way in to the city. A russian soldier stopped us and asked us in russian “who are you”. We sad that we were jews and he let us pass. We later heard that he had shoot a couple jews when had not gotten who they were.
We came to the city, in our house did an ukrainian doctor live . We only had the clothes that we wore and later on we started to work and found a place to live.