Holocaust and Survival
We, the Holocaust survivors, our children and grandchildren can be divided into two groups: those who talked and
continue talking about the horrors and those who could not utter a word. Here, on our website we provide a podium to members of our community to share their painful memories as we listen to them in awe and with broken hearts.
Holocaust in Drohobycz
The historic facts are these: The Germans occupied Drohobycz in September 1939 and then left about a month later as a consequence of the Ribbentrop-Molotov non-aggression pact.
Their place was immediately occupied by the Soviets. The Soviet occupation marked significant changes for the Jewish population. Community institutions were closed, activity of the various political parties was prohibited, the refineries and Jewish oil companies were nationalized or closed. Jews were ordered to leave their private homes and large apartments. The community, Zionist, business and industrial leaders were forced out and exiled into Russia.
Communists who had previously been imprisoned in Poland were released and assumed key positions in the new administration. Ilana Snir-Wishintzki tells us in her testimony that many Jewish refugees who had fled to the area from western Poland were deported in the middle of the night to the Eastern Russia (see: Interview with Ilana Snir-Wishnitzki-Hebrew).
Germany broke the non-aggression pact by invading the Soviet Union under the code-named Operation Barbarossa on June 22nd, 1941. It incorporated eastern Galicia into the General Governorate (German: Generalgouvernement) , its name for occupied Poland. When the German troops arrived, they found the prisons of many eastern Galician towns full of the bodies of prisoners that the Soviet occupiers had murdered shortly before their retreat. A great number of these had been political prisoners, among them many Ukrainians who opposed the Soviet regime. The discovery of the bodies sparked Ukrainian and Poles to go wild, killing Jews who were collectively blamed for supporting Bolshevism. This brutal pogrom was led by Ukrainian nationalists commemorating "Bandera Day". (Stepan Bandera was a leader of the Nationalist Ukrainian Organization (OUN) that supported Nazi Germany). The pogrom continued for three consecutive days leaving dozens dead and many more wounded (Bernard Mayer).
During these terrible three days it was raining non-stop as if the skies were weeping (see: "The destruction of the Jewish Drohobycz" by Dr Simcha Margalit and D. Dornshtrauch-Hebrew). The Germans immediately imposed many restrictions limiting Jews' movement around the city and their ability to make a living. Many were ordered to vacate their homes and were not allowed to trade in the Drohobycz market. The Drohobycz Gestapo immediately started its terrorizing activities.
In his testimony, Naftali Bakenrot-Bronicki talked about the extreme brutality of Felix Landau, who was in charge of the Jewish Labor assignments. The dominant Gestapo officer in Drohobycz was Karl Gunther, the man who later shot Bruno Schulz.
In September 1941 Jews were ordered, under penalty of death, to wear a Star of David identification armband. A Judenrat (Jewish Council) was established. Drs. Isaac Rosenblatt, Maurycy Ruhrberg, Bartz and Barnfeld, who had been pre-war community leaders, were appointed to head it. In November, the police arrested, tortured and later killed the leaders of the social elite. In October 1941 the Judenrat and Eberhard Helmrich agreed to open a dairy, fruit, vegetable and poultry farm in Hyrawka under the leadership of the engineer, Nafali Bakenrot. Later they added a rabbit breeding facility. About 250 Jews were stationed there, among them, many women. Employment there gave many Jews an opportunity to survive. The farm ceased operations after nine months and its workers were mass-murdered in the Bronica forest.
On November 30th 1941, 320 Jews from Drohobycz were shot in the Bronica and Tustanowice forests. Many young people were taken to labor camps in Skole, Stanislawów and Ternopil (Tarnopol).
"The Germans conducted "a rehearsal" ... those without a job had to report to the synagogue ... they were to be employed ... people lined up innocently ... there was no precedent for such a crime ... When assembled, the police surrounded the trucks ... when the trucks returned with pieces of their clothing, we realized what had happened ". (Alfred Schreyer).
Ilana Shnir-Wishnitzki (see: Interwiew with Ilana Snir-Wishntzki-Hebrew) testified that while playing with friends in a field near a forest, she saw German trucks full of Jewish men, women and children coming from Drohobycz. After the trucks had disappeared into the forest, she could hear shots that lasted a long time. When the trucks returned, they were empty.
The fall of 1941 and winter of 1942 were especially difficult. Food supply into the ghetto was severely restricted. Jews who did not work in the refineries or were not declared to be "essential workers", starved. Bernard Mayer recounts that in order to survive, people traded whatever pieces of clothing or any other "valuables" they had to buy food. Those that had nothing to trade perished of starvation, disease and the severe, cold weather.
In spring of 1942 the Germans started harassing any Jew who was not working. The Judenrat was able to reach an agreement with the Ukrainian mayor to establish a few workshops producing brushes, brooms, baskets, bricks and established a few garages, which employed several hundreds of Jews. These actions by the Judenrat had some effect on deterring the Germans' goals although not for long (see: "Humanity in Doubt" by Phillip Weiss).
The first transport (Aktion) took place at the end of March 1942. Under the guise of transfer to other areas, the Judenrat was ordered to provide a list of 2,500 persons. That number was eventually negotiated down to 1,500. These people were crowded into the SOKOL building on Mickewiecz Street and detained under appalling conditions without food or water before being herded onto trains to Belzec. There they were executed. In order to cover up evidence of the atrocity, the Germans told the victims first to write post cards to their relatives describing their "new life". In her testimony, Ilana Snir-Wishnitzki related how she was able to survive with two younger cousins by posing as Ukrainian children after her parents and siblings were kidnapped by the Nazis (see: Interview with Ilana Snir-Wishnitzki-Hebrew).
The Germans increased their harassment of those without work, while the Judenrat stepped up its efforts to arrange as many jobs as possible. Leon Tennenbaum and Dr Joachim Hausman, the leaders of what was left of Drohobycz's Jewish community institutions along with the Judenrat tried to help the needy as much as possible, however, the needs were enormous and the means were few. More horrific facts - The second and big Aktion started on August 6th thru 8th, 1942, and lasted sporadically until August 17th. It also included Jews from Medenice, Truskawiec and Stebnik. People were methodically dragged from their homes by the German and Ukrainian police. They were transferred by truck to the train station where they were loaded onto trains and sent to the Belzec (Bełżec) death camp (see: "Entombed", Barnie Mayer).
Babies, women and old people were killed during this Aktion: 600 were buried in a mass grave in the city, 2500 were sent to Belzec and killed. During September and October of 1942 Drohobycz Jews were ordered to move to the ghetto whose boundaries were the streets Kubalska, Gwarska, Kraszewski, Skudnicki and parts of Sienkiewicza. Overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions caused an outbreak of typhus resulting in many deaths. Another Aktion took place on September 23-24, 1942: 2,300 Jews were shot and killed and another 200 were shot in their hospital beds. The fear and despair were immeasurable and unfathomable (see: "The destruction of the Jewish Drohobycz" by Dr Sincha Margalit and D. Durenshtrauch-Hebrew).
During the Aktion of November 6th and 7th, the Gestapo demanded delivery of 100 Jews per day to the Komarner synagogue on Gwarska Street. Berthold Beitz, the "Drohobycz Schindler", tried to free some of his workers and their families.
On November 18, 1942, a Jewish pharmacist, Reiner, attacked a member of the Gestapo. On the next day the Germans avenged Reiner's action by randomly shooting 230 people in and around Nura Street. Among those shot was Bruno Schulz, the writer and artist who taught in the Jewish High School in Drohobycz. Approximately 2,300 Jews were sent to the Belzec death camp during October and November 1942. The Gestapo sealed the ghetto completely. People who left, were shot on the spot. Words truly cannot describe the despair, fear and hopelessness. At the end of 1942, about 5,000 Jews remained in the Drohobycz ghetto. Very few worked in what were deemed "essential jobs". Some started to look for hiding places and digging bunkers in the forest and the city. Many Ukrainians searched for these hiding places and reported their locations and people to the Gestapo. Some even murdered those hiding and looted whatever they could. As in Boryslaw, some Jews tried to cross the border to Hungary, but very few succeeded. Others were captured by local farmers and handed over to the Gestapo.
During the Aktion of February 15, 1943, 450 Jews were kidnapped from their homes. Among them were 300 women and children and most of the Judenrat members. They were shot in the Bronica forest. The remaining Judenrat members tried to work with the mayor in an effort to open some workshops where Jewish artisans could work and produce goods for the Germans. One such workshop was established on Garnciarska Street where Jews produced shoes and clothing. In his memoir, Bernard Mayer talked about similar workshops that were opened in Dachówczarnia, Hyrawka, Beskiden and Jana, as well as about some Jews who did menial jobs for the Germans such as washing horses, making repairs and cleaning (see:"The History of the Mayer Family"-Hebrew).
During the first half of 1943, however, the Germans cut the number of these workers to 150. In March 1943, 800 of the Jews who worked in the Dachówczarnia camp were shot. The rest were transferred to the forced labor camp Koszary in Boryslaw.
Another 250 Jews worked in the Klinker cement plant. The few hundred Jews who continued to work in the forced labor camp of the oil company (Karpathen Oel AG) servicing the major oil companies of Polmin, Nafta and Galicia, were transferred to two camps on Boryslawska Street and Jagielonska and Gonczarska, which were kept under heavy guard. These Jews were required to wear a badge with the letter "R" (Rüstungsarbeiter) as essential workers for the German armaments industry, thus winning a temporary reprieve.
The Gestapo together with the Ukrainian police attacked the ghetto on May 21, 1943, in order to liquidate it entirely. They systematically emptied the homes and set fire to any structure in which they suspected Jews were hiding. Until the end May, the Germans rounded up all the Jews, including the Judenrat and the Jewish police, and shot them in the Bronica forest and in the Jewish cemetery. The locals were instructed to capture, hand over and even murder any Jew suspected of escaping from the ghetto. During this time 1,000 Jews perished.
After liquidating the ghetto, the Germans turned their attention to the forced labor camps. Between July and September 1943 they liquidated the forced labor camps of Hyrawka, Gorka, Klinker and most of the oil industry camps. The Jews were rounded up in the courthouse plaza and from there sent to their death in the Bronica forest. Thus, the last 2,500 Jews of Drohobycz were murdered and the town was declared "clear of Jews" (Judenrein) on July 15, 1943. From that date on, the few remaining Jews, including those with the "R" badges, were systematically murdered or sent to the Plaszów camp. The Karpathen Oel AG workers were murdered in September 1943 and the refineries workers in January 1944. The very few remaining tried to escape, hide or do anything to survive in any possible way, but were often ambushed by Ukrainians and Poles.
Survival in Drohobycz
In Drohobycz Jews tried to survive by finding and digging hideouts.
Alex Haberman talked about such a bunker. "The bunker was originally designed for 15 people and finally 46 people found refuge there. All of them survived after spending 14 months in it. The building belonged to a Jew before the war. He handed ownership over to a Ukrainian named Ivan Bur in exchange for being allowed to stay in the building's underground cellar with his family and other Jews".
Ivan Bur provided them with food and other necessities for which they, of course, paid him – Shimona Godorov.
Bernard Mayer talked about his experience in a bunker. Since complete silence had to be maintained during the day, most activities in the bunker were carried out at night. In Drohobycz, as in several other places, a few risked their lives to hide and provide for Jews.
Eberhard Helmrich, an officer in the Wermacht, was in charge of supplying food to the German army in the area. He was also in charge of the Hyrawka farm "employing" Naftali (Tulek) Bakenrot-Bronicki and other Jews from the Drohobycz ghetto . Helmrich protected some of his "employees" during the aktions by hiding them in his house and was able to gain release for some others who were imprisoned by declaring them essential.
Berthold Beitz, the German director of the Beskiden-Öl oil company took various measures to protect the Jews who worked for him (see: "I Believed I Would stay Alive" by Bezalel Linhard- Hebrew).
He was recognized by Yad Vashem as a "Righteous Among the Nations" on October 3, 1973 and his wife Else was recognized on February 5, 2006.
Philip Weiss recalled other civilian employees in the company who helped hide Jews during the Aktionen and deportations. The most renowned among them was Agon Schultz (see: "Humanity in Daubt" by Phillip Weiss).
Gildner, an SS officer and the deputy commander of the employment office in Drohobycz, tried to save 20 Jews by hiding them in his yard. The Polish couple Izydor i Jarosława Wołosiański, Righteous Among Nations, will be remembered forever for saving the lives of 39 Jews between the years 1942-1943, whom they hid in their cellar on 9 Szaszkiewicza street.
The few survivors, among them the last remaining Jews who worked in the oil industry, were sent to their deaths in the Plaszow camp in April 1944. The chilling, indisputable facts are these: when the Russian army re-entered Drohobycz in August 1944, only 400 Jews survived out of the 17,000 who had lived and worked there before the war. They now dared to emerge from their hiding places and the surrounding forests.
Holocaust in Boryslaw
About a month after the German invasion in 1939, the Germans and the Russians signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov non-aggression pact by which they agreed how to divide and occupy Poland. The Germans withdrew from Boryslaw and Drohobycz to their agreed side of the new boundary and the Russians arrived, taking their place.
"A new era has arrived. A different world came to Western Ukraine ...political parties were banned without exception and their leaders exiled to Siberia. People were afraid to talk to each other freely ... the management of drilling projects quickly changed ... "(see: "Remember experiences" by Abraham Hauptman-Hebrew).
"Life was bearable. Those who worked could live in dignity ... The Jews had somewhat of a reprieve... officially they could not be harassed, cursed, etc...Life under the Russian regime was pretty good, especially for the youth" (see: "Exit From Hell" by Mordechai Marakel-Hebrew ).
After a few years under the Russians, the Germans broke the pact in June, 1941, invading once again. Things changed immediately for the worse. The retreating Russian army destroyed the power station, set fire to the oil wells, and murdered about 20 Ukrainian nationalists who were imprisoned in the cellars of the police and the NKWD headquarters. This massacre led to a pogrom against the Jews of the city whom the residents blamed for the crimes of the Russians and their regime.(see: "I Believed I Would stay Alive" by Bezalel Linhard- Hebrew).
For 24 hours the new German regime stood by while the locals attacked the Jewish population at will, looting, killing, and setting fire to property. Many Jews tried to hide, but at the end of that day of horrors, 182 Jews were dead and many more were wounded (see: "Exit From Hell" by Mordechai Marakel-Hebrew and "The History of the Mayer Family"-Hebrew).
Michael Hertz was appointed head of the Judenrat in Boryslaw. The Judenrat divided the city into blocks and organized lists of workers from each block. Bribes to representatives of the Judenrat soon became a bargaining chip to evade forced labor primarily of building roads and repairing bridges. A large number collapsed while engaged in this hard physical labor. In addition, the Germans and Ukrainians beat them with rifle butts and clubs, killing many each day (see: "Exit From Hell" by Mordechai Marakel-Hebrew).
On November 27th the Germans started a three-day systematic liquidation or Aktion of Boryslaw's Jews. German and Ukrainian soldiers loaded 1,500 people onto trucks which took them to the nearby forests of Tustanowice and Mraznica where they were shot. People just could not imagine that such horrors were possible (See "A Pan Bog Przymknal" by Leszek Schaeffer- Polish). In his memoirs, Mates Heilig talked (see: "Janowska-Lemberg Forced Labor Camp" by Mates Heilig, Translation to Hebrew by Zvi Heilig)
About the second "big" Aktion where a special unit of the Einsatzkommando, German and Ukrainian police and Jewish-Ordungsdienst, went from house to house and systematically removed men, women and children and marched them to the train station where freight cars were already waiting. Those unable to walk were shot on the spot. The horrors of this Aktion were described by Mordechai Marakel in his memoirs(see: "Exit From Hell" by Mordechai Marakel-Hebrew).
The Gestapo and the Ukrainian and German police gathered 5,000 to 6,000 Jews, then loaded them on freight trains that transported them to an unknown destination. Only later, after the war, the truth came out: Those Jews were transported to the Belzec death camp, gassed in the trucks, and buried in a mass grave.
"After this Aktion we came to realize what was happening. After the previous pogrom, in which some 800 people, including my mother, were taken from their homes, we still deluded ourselves that they were taken to a labor camp somewhere. It was hard to imagine the murder of innocent people for no reason, just because they were Jews. We wanted to believe they were alive ... After the Aktion in August, we had no more illusions. It was hard to imagine that small children and the elderly were taken away for work. News about the existence of death camps started to reach us. The victims of August were transported to Belzec." (see: "Janowska-Lemberg Forced Labor Camp" by Mates Heilig, Translation to Hebrew by Zvi Heilig)
"The Germans designated certain neighborhoods to comprise a ghetto. It included part of Lukaszwice Street and the main bridge area, and the entire Dobry (Debry) neighborhood. All Boryslaw Jews had to leave their homes and move to the ghetto. The ghetto was not enclosed by a wall or barbed wire fence. The entire area was completely open on all sides, with free entrance and exit. However, Jews were not allowed to live outside the ghetto boundaries. So those Jews who were still alive after the second Aktion began to flock to the ghetto, to try to claim an apartment. Two or three families lived in one apartment, that is, an entire family lived in a single room ... Almost every night the Germans would enter the ghetto to rob - if there was still anything left to take. They would beat people to death, shoot and kill them. The situation was unbearable. Hard work during the day, without reasonable work conditions, without enough food, during cold winter weather, and on top of this, no hope for survival". (see: "Exit From Hell" by Mordechai Marakel-Hebrew)
The winter of 1942 was particularly difficult. Starvation and disease ravaged the Jewish population. "Due to lack of food, the filth and contaminated water, a typhoid epidemic broke out and claimed many Jewish lives. Every day many people died of starvation in the streets. Because of lack of food, their faces and feet swelled and they dragged themselves until they would fall dead on the pavement. Those were horrible sights. People screamed, cried, and sometimes erupted in a ghoulish laugh. At those days each person could think only about how to survive; people did not help each other. The situation had reached the point where Jews feared other Jews" (see: "Exit From Hell" by Mordechai Marakel-Hebrew).
"The poor, who had nothing to barter, suffered the most and were dying of starvation" (Daniel Hochman) - "They
wandered the city streets hungry and no one came to their aid. Many died in the streets. The Judenrat cart collected the bodies and buried them in Jewish cemetery in unmarked graves." (see: "I Believed I Would stay Alive" by Bezalel Linhard- Hebrew)
During this period, the remaining Jews were concentrated into two smaller ghettos, surrounded by barbed wire in Potok, Wolanka and Wysypy. Michael Hertz, head of the Judenrat, was replaced by Henry Kahane. Bernard (Walek) Eisenstein was appointed head of the Jewish police. Many of the Judenrat Jewish police officers were replaced. -"The head of the Jewish police was now a Jew named Jonas, and the second in command was Walek Eisenstein. They were two crazy Jews who did not care about anything or anybody. They were worse than the Germans themselves" ((see: "Exit From Hell" by Mordechai Marakel-Hebrew).
"After a string of persecutions and arrests, the Germans limited the remaining Jews to living in the old Jewish Quarter in the northern part of the city. Being caught outside these limits without a permit carried a risk of death. Wherever the Germans were in control, they limited the Jews to small designated quarters, thus facilitating more efficient implementation of their extermination plans. Jews from the neighboring towns and villages were also forced into the ghettos of nearby cities The living conditions were terrible. Overcrowding, the large number of persons in each room, and deplorable sanitary and nutritional conditions caused the spread of disease, especially typhoid which had broken-out even before the transfer to the ghetto. People were forced to do hard labor in the mistaken belief that the work would save their lives. We convinced ourselves that the war machine needed working hands and therefore, if we worked, we would stay alive. The Germans as well as the Judenrat encouraged us to believe this myth.
" Those Jews who had steady work (such as at Beskidian Oil Company), were issued white arm bands with the letter "A", standing for "Arbeiter" (worker), which they had to wear on their right arm. About 1000 Jews were issued these highly important "A" letter armbands. The Beskidian workers were moved to a work camp in Limanowa. (see: "Exit From Hell" by Mordechai Marakel-Hebrew)
"Two more Aktions or round-ups took place in October and November 1942 which also included Jews from Schodnica and the neighboring towns... They were sent to Belzec and Linowska (in Lwow).
During the Aktion at the end of November, 1,500 people were taken to the Coliseum movie theater where they were held under inhuman condition while the Germans carried out a selection of those that could work. That Aktion lasted a month and 2,000 additional Jews were sent to their deaths". (see: "I Believed I Would stay Alive" by Bezalel Linhard- Hebrew)
"After the third Aktion, the ghetto's area was reduced and the population density became even greater. The remaining people were mostly young men and women who had lost their families. The war of survival started again". (see: "Exit From Hell" by Mordechai Marakel-Hebrew)
"Two homeless orphans, without a mother or father, we were wandering inside the ghetto that was no more. We hid at the sight of anything or anybody, scared by our own shadow. What if some bastard identifies us and points saying: 'Here are some dirty Jews!' We would be doomed." (From a diary by Tamar Sokol-Diamant-Hebrew)
Approximately 600 Jews were shot near the slaughterhouse between February 15 and 17, 1943. On May 25th and June 2nd an equal number of Jews were shot in that same location. -"The hard labor, which was more than we could endure, hunger and disease without any supply of medications, and "capturing parasites" (mainly women and children) gradually emptied the ghetto. The Germans stopped pretending and were shooting people in the streets and near the slaughterhouse" (see: "Janowska-Lemberg Forced Labor Camp" by Mates Heilig, Translation to Hebrew by Zvi Heilig).
"The Germans with the help of the Judenrat rounded-up the Jews in the Coliseum movie theater for three days and then trucked the victims to the slaughterhouse. There they were shot and buried in pits that had been pre-readied. It was the first time the Germans killed Jews without moving them to another location. They no longerbothered hiding their true intentions".(see: "Two Monuments" by Abraham Hauptman- Hebrew)
The ghettos were emptying. Only 'essential' employees with the surviving members of their families were moved to a labor camp in the city that was now under heavy guard. -"Along with preparations for the liquidation of the ghetto by the SS, the Beskidian Oil Company started to select workers needed for the German war effort. ... Selected Jews received a protective document called "R" ... (Ruestungsindustrie - armaments industry). The "R" symbol together with an ID bearing the same number, promised those who managed to get them a chance for survival in the near future. The selection was carried out by Herr Keller. ... the kind of people able to receive the coveted letter "R"... were wealthy people with much money". (see: "Two Monuments" by Abraham Hauptman- Hebrew)
"The Germans moved the remaining few Jews into a forced labor camp (Zwangsarbeiteslager) in Mraźnica. In the past, Koszary was a place of tenements and stables owned by the Silvaplana oil company" (see: "Janowska-Lemberg Forced Labor Camp" by Mates Heilig, Translation to Hebrew by Zvi Heilig).
"The Germans continued their plans to get rid of the Jews. They established a forced labor camp in Mraźnica... it was entirely surrounded by barbed wire fences... the Ukrainian police guarded the camp... there were some large halls with concrete floors that had previously been horse stables. They placed about one hundred people there, built some double bunks, organized a clinic and a kitchen and toilets. Slowly, the young Jewish men who worked for Beskidian Oil flowed there. In fact, this camp provided the manpower for the massive oil industry in Boryslaw." (see: "Exit From Hell" by Mordechai Marakel-Hebrew).
"This camp was under the jurisdiction of the Drohobycz Gestapo and Hilderbrant came for inspections ...the local police (Shutzpolizei) conducted inspections of the camp, primarily by officer Nemetz, who also commanded the Ukrainian police. In spite of the gifts lavished on them, they always found "irregularities" and would punish and kill those "parasites" who could not work because of weakness and disease. We were led to and from work under guard and it was forbidden to leave the camp... We worked ... We received no wages. On the contrary, there were those who paid private employers out-of- pocket to get work permits. We lived five to a room in crowded conditions, but the place was relatively clean and warm. The letter "R" was attached to our chest... that was supposed to protect us from being caught on the streets and gave us a false sense of security. The "R" was clearly designated for professionals, but was often obtained through bribes." (see: "Janowska-Lemberg Forced Labor Camp" by Mates Heilig, Translation to Hebrew by Zvi Heilig).
"In the long corridors of the second floor people sold cakes that the women had baked and couples were intimate, even openly. People gambled for money..." (see: "I Believed I Would stay Alive" by Bezalel Linhard- Hebrew).
Out of the 14,000 Jews of Boryslaw, only 1,500 remained by the spring and summer of 1943. The survivors were closely guarded by the Ukrainian police as they moved in and out to their forced labor jobs. There was no trace on earth of the rest of 12,500 Jews of Boryslaw. Andwhat about below ground? The town's residents used to say that the ground above the Jewish mass graves was moving... [referring to the movement of earth caused by victims still not dead and buried alive].
"One hundred people were pushed into each freight car. Women and children were crying, but the SS were herding them in while screaming their commands. Those who were not fast enough were beaten with clubs and rifle butts. They were using dogs and many Jews were bitten. The Ukrainian police especially excelled in this...The car was crowded. There was no place to sit on the floor. Only two openings at the top of the car, which were wrapped in barbed wire, were the only source of clean air and the only contact with the outside world.
We relieved ourselves through two holes in the floor of the car. Those that could not reach them relieved themselves where they were. Between the cars, the Ukrainians police were keeping guard and would shoot towards us from time to time for no apparent reason, perhaps to dissuade us from any thoughts of escape. They wounded numerous people. During the nightly stops they passed by the cars and gesturing to their throats they demonstrated our fate. They demanded watches and other valuables saying that we no longer had use for them". (see: "Janowska-Lemberg Forced Labor Camp" by Mates Heilig, Translation to Hebrew by Zvi Heilig).
The final liquidations were carried out in April 1944 when the last Jews from the forced labor camps in Boryslaw were sent to Plaszow and Mauthausen. The last transport of those who were caught in the forests and other hiding places in town was sent to Auschwitz in July 1944. A few days before the Red Army entered Boryslaw in August 1944, the Germans carried out the 12th and final Aktion, capturing the few remaining survivors. They were led to the slaughterhouse and shot.
Survival in Boryslaw
After the 1942 murders it was clear to the surviving Jews that the Germans' plan was a complete annihilation.
"It was obvious that the Germans would kill all the Jews. It was clear that first they would eliminate the women, children and older people, and then the young people's and workers' turn would come. There was no longer any doubt. So even though we did not know for sure where they took the two transports of Jews from the second and third Aktions, the Gentiles rumored that the Jews were deported for extermination. Having no choice, we got used to such rumors and accepted the fact that those who were gone would never return". (Mordechai Marakel's memoirs - in Hebrew)
Various attempts were made to survive. Small groups of young people tried to cross the relatively close Hungarian border. Many of these were handed over to the Germans by the local guides they had hired. Others were caught by local farmers. They too were handed over to the Gestapo and executed. Others tried to hide in the woods. Such hiding places could be something as simple as a hole in the ground covered by branches or as elaborate as a structure that enabled a more prolonged stay. The main challenge was to get food, water and essential supplies.
"In the spring of 1943, the tides of the war on the eastern front turned against the Germans. In spite of the relative calm, it was decided after many discussions that we could no longer sit back. The Germans would not allow us to "meet" the approaching Russians. They would liquidate the camp and its inhabitants at any time they saw fit or we would be sent westward. We needed to start thinking of ways to escape. People considered hiding with the Gentiles, fleeing to Poland using false (Aryan) papers, or building shelters ("bunkers") in the surrounding forests. We rejected the option of hiding among Gentiles due to both lack of confidence and lack of money. We knew of cases where Gentiles took money and property from Jews in exchange for shelter and then handed them over to the Nazis. The truth is that hiding Jews was extremely risky and punishable by death. Travel to western Poland with forged documents was dangerous too... So, the option of building a shelter in the woods was the one that many of us chose, even though it involved a great risk, given the hostility of the local Ukrainians. Most foresters were Ukrainians. They would kill those they encountered and steal their remaining property, or give them up to the Germans." (Mates Heilig's testimony - in Hebrew).
"Dozens of Jews were in the forests. The bunkers were dug by different groups. Individuals from the bunkers would go to the villages to buy food. Overall, it was very difficult and dangerous. Occasionally they were caught by the Germans or the local Gentiles would catch them and give them up. The Germans would torture a captured Jew to force him to disclose the group's hiding place and sometimes, after severe torture, the person had to lead the Germans to the bunker". (Mordechai Marakel's memoirs - in Hebrew).
"A forest council (or committee) was established. It was headed by Mundek Schwartz from Boryslaw. The council's task was to find a hiding place for any Jew. The council members assigned people to the various hiding places and established new hideouts for those that had lost theirs..." (Frieda Koch – in Hebrew).
Today we can hear the stories of the "bunkers" thanks to the few who survived this way. The stories of others are lost forever.
Bezalel Linhard (in Hebrew) says: -"It is appropriate to make known the story of the young Jews from Boryslaw, brave heroes, who saved about 300 Jews from the city. It seems to me that this was the only case that such a significant number of Jews were saved by the actions of young people who took it upon themselves to build hiding places in the surrounding forests".
Gustek Gershon Helmuth (Halpern - in Hebrew) says:-"It was decided to leave for the surrounding forests ... we sneaked from the camp at night, especially on the night between Saturday and Sunday, to build the bunker. ... Construction took about a month. When the bunker was dug, covered, hidden and camouflaged, sleeping bunks, a stove and pots, heating materials, food and water were installed. On an especially dark night we sneaked out of the camp ... We led the women to a bunker in the woods where they were left alone under the ground ... alone until April 1944 ... We had advance knowledge of the future liquidation of the camp ... A few days before, we smuggled nine more people to the bunker, among them a 13-year-old orphan boy. And so thirteen people began their lives underground, in a " residence" whose size was 5 meters by 2.5 meters ... The food supply came from thefts at night and goods purchased at inflated prices from a bribed Ukrainian peasant ... A month before liberation our bunker was discovered ... By German and Ukrainians with dogs."
The late Arnold (Nunio) Distler said in his testimony: -"We needed equipment and construction materials, food and weapons ... I can attest that in the work camp, there was almost nothing you could not get for money.
Abraham Hauptman (in Hebrew) tells us: -"Since August 1943 about twenty people hid near the village of Smilna in a hut dug in the Carpathian forests. They were people of all ages (but no children), both women and men from various backgrounds. They managed to organize in a way allowing a basic, minimal existence in terms of food supply and distribution of practical social functions, hoping to reach the moment of liberation by the Red Army. The critical problem was getting food. Travel by foot was hard for people carrying 30-35 kilograms of supplies through the mountains, hills, forests and fields, in the dark, in the rain and sometimes in deep snow. ... Sudden blizzards occurred in the Carpathians and there were cases where people lost their way and froze to death."
The late Arnold Distler said in his testimony: -"After five or six weeks in the bunker...We heard the sound of a forester approaching...He wanted clothing...I told him I would get him new clothing...I brought him pants from the bunker...He leaned his rifle on a tree...His legs became caught in the pants as he was trying to pull them up. I jumped on him and started choking him, the rest of the people from the bunker finished the job".
The late Wanda Wincygster (in Hebrew) testified: -"We were pretty deep in the forest, there was a hiding place - another bunker that my father started digging, but construction was not yet completed – it was still open at the top. That was not long after we had escaped from the first to the second bunker where a farmer, from whom my father used to buy food , betrayed us and other Jews who were hiding nearby. He came to our hiding place with the German and the local Ukrainian police with dogs."
The late Tamar Sokol-Diamont (hand written in Hebrew) wrote: -" What did our 'palace' look like? The entrance was an opening of about half square meter. Inside it was dark and the smoke from the stove stung our eyes. We were given two wet wooden bunks...It was wet and moldy everywhere, the mud was ankle deep, the children were crying...We would go out for a little while after dark"
The late Arnold Distler testified: -"There were human issues in our first and second bunker... many bunkers fell apart because of friction and personal issues among the occupants. Many people lived together within a very small space and under a lot of pressure. Discipline was one of the main issues" There were attempts to build such hiding places not only in the forest but also in the ghetto and in the city.
Mordechai Marakel (in Hebrew) says: -" I was eighteen at the time and kept thinking how and where could we build some type of bunker or hiding place in or around the house where we lived so that when the time came, we could get there quickly and hide"
Bezalel Linhard (in Hebrew) says: -"My father started thinking and planning for a hiding place immediately after the move to the ghetto. Based on my father's plan, we dug a huge hole in the yard and covered it with logs...We worked day and night until the hole was covered and the interior was also ready...The Germans knew that almost every house had a hiding place..."
Professor Shewach Weiss (in Hebrew) tells us how three years of his childhood were spent underground... He and his family spent 21 months hiding in various places in the city. Towards the end of the war they were joined by friends and neighbors and hid in a cellar under a school Here in Boryslaw, as in Drohobycz, there were a few acts of kindness, actions of a few, brave souls who risked their lives and the lives of their families to save Jews.
Shewach Weiss (in Hebrew) recalls Yulia Lasotova, Anna Goral, and Maria Potezna, who helped and hid him and his family during various periods during the Holocaust. Manka, a Ukrainian woman, hid Mordechai Marakel's (in Hebrew) mother and grandmother for two months without any compensation in a cellar under a brothel she ran; Wladek and Olga Grzegorczyk hid Natalia Hochman (nee Blum) her parents and brother, as well as two other Jewish families in their attic in 1943 – 1944. The Naideks, a Polish couple, used their attic to hide Zeev Mayer and the Wilfs. But the gut wrenching, the undeniable fact is, that when Boryslaw was liberated on August 7, 1944, only 200 survivors remained in the city and in the surrounding forests. They were joined by about 200 more Jews who arrived with the Red Army and others who had managed to escape into Russia at the beginning of the
Holocaust in schodnica
medenice, urycz and the area The horror did not spare neighboring areas surrounding Drohobycz and Boryslaw. The Germans entered Schodnica, Urycz, Medenice, Truskawjec and the neighboring villages on June 30, 1941. Ukrainian and Polish gangs murdered, looted and burned Jewish homes in June 1941. In that pogrom, on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Tamuz. 166 Jews were killed. -"In the meanwhile people died everyday of starvation and disease. On October 22nd, 1942 the survivors in Schodnica were ordered to leave. Schodnica became "Judenrein" (clean of Jews)" (Joseph Kitai memoirs - in Hebrew).
The Jews from Schodnica were transferred by trucks to the train in Boryslaw and from there to Belzec and the Janowska camp in Lwow. Many from Urycz and Pereprostyna were killed in July and August 1941 during the Ukrainian pogroms and other pogroms afterwards. -"In the Hebrew month of Elul 1941 they gathered the Jews from Urycz and Pereprostyna, and killed them by machine-gun" (Joseph Kitai memoirs - in Hebrew).
"The initiative to murder the Jews from the villages of Urycz and Pereprostyna was that of the notorious SS officer Menten" (Abraham Hauptman's memoirs -Two monuments - in Hebrew).
400 Jews lived in Truskawjec when the Germans arrived in 1941. 60 were transferred by train to Boryslaw in August 1942. The rest were ordered to leave the village on August 23, 1943 and taken to the nearby forest and the Bronica forest and shot. On June 5, 1943 dozens of Jews from Medenice and Opary were murdered - most of the Jewish population. Never forget And so the flourishing communities of our ancestors and our families in Drohobycz, Boryslaw and the dozens of towns and villages surrounding them came to an end. We are here to remember, remind, continue our own lives but never forget.
Chronicle of the Holocaust in Drohobych Borislaw and surrounding:
World War II and After
About the Holocaust of Boryslaw's Jews:
Boryslaw of our Youth
Surviving under extraordinary conditions: Holocaust in Boryslav (1941-1944) (Ukraine)
More about Boryslaw Jews
- Boryslaw - Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Poland, Volume II
About the Holocaust of Drohobycz's Jews:
Drohobycz- Information centre about the Holocaust
Drohobycz - Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Poland, Volume II
About the Holocaust of the Surrounding Jews
The Destruction of Schodinca and Surroundings
The testimony of Varda Grajower-Nordlicht (Roza Wachtel)
Chronicle of testimonies from Yad Vashem
For More Reading-
Chciuk, Andrzej / Atlantyda : Opowieść o Wielkim Księstwie Bałaku Chciuk, Andrzej / Pamietnik Poetycki GIZA, STANISLAW / NA EKRANIE ZYCIA HERT[HELD], LEOPOLD / A TYSMIENICA NADAL PLYNIE MUELLER, STANISLAW ANTONI / HENRYK FLIS Weiss, Phillip / Humanity in Doubt Leszek Schaeffer / A Pan Bog Przymknal Oczy The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe