In what way were you personally affected?
A Ukrainian militia was formed. They began wildly grabbing the Jewish men in the streets. The Jews who were caught were made to do the most despised work. Some of them never returned. Some Jewish men were beaten. Jewish women were made to clean the public toilets with their bare hands. Why make shovels and buckets dirty when there were Jewish hands?
One day my cousin Jozik and I were caught. I was 11 years old. I was beaten because I didn’t know how to use the cleaning tools. When I finally exited, I promised myself I would not be caught again.
Several days later I was walking outside, not far from our house. Suddenly I saw two militiamen coming toward me. They ordered me to approach them. Remembering what had happened the last time, I became scared and started to run. I ran towards the unoccupied factory buildings. Behind me I could hear their cries, but to my great joy I was not shot. I quietly ascended to the upper floor.
In this building there was only one stairway. It was impossible to go down and not encounter them. I was cut off. I tried to think of a hideout somewhere in the building, while they were searching for me downstairs. Knowing that a huge tree grew near the factory’s wall, I planned to jump from the window onto the tree and from it to the ground and run away into the fruit garden and the swamp. I decided to jump to the nearest branch. I hoped it was strong enough to hold my weight.
I heard the militiamen climbing the stairs. I jumped and caught the nearest strong branch. The branch broke and I fell to the ground. Once on the ground I felt a very sharp pain. My right elbow was broken.
I ran to the far edge of the fruit garden where I hid. In great pain I waited in the bushes for what seemed like a long time. When I didn’t see anybody entering the garden, I hoped they had given up their search for me and departed. I was surprised that my parents were not searching for me. I slowly started to sneak towards the rear entrance of our house. From far I saw my mother pacing about impatiently. I made a sound which my mother recognized and I waved to her. She indicated that I could approach her. When I did she noticed my broken elbow. When I arrived home I found out that one of my parents had seen the militiamen run after me. My father’s loyal workers from the factory had seen it happen too, but they were afraid to interfere.
My father spoke with one of his workers who shortly thereafter arrived with a horse and wagon. My father and I sat in the back seat, while the worker sat in the front. The driver took a blue and yellow band from his pocket. He put it on his arm so that it was conspicuous. Whenever we met a group of Ukrainian nationalists, the man with the band on his arm lifted up his hand and greeted them loudly. “Slawa Samostijnoj Ukrainie — Glory to independent Ukraine!” This password enabled us to continue and to pass two such [check]posts. The fact that they didn’t find any luggage in the carriage prevented suspicion that we were trying to escape east together with the retreating Red Army. The sight of dead bodies on the road made a shocking impression on me. I shrank into the blanket that was covering me and cried.
New orders were imposed on the Jewish community. Everyone was required to wear a white band on his sleeve with a blue Star of David on it. All radios were confiscated. It was forbidden to walk on the sidewalk. There was night curfew and it was forbidden to leave the city. There was a mandate for a daily supply of workers.
The Judenrat was established the same month. Their duty was to please the German authorities; to supply all their demands and to distribute the food rations. Jews began selling their possessions to get food. A special department of the Judenrat collected valuable things like carpets, furniture and crystal to satisfy the Germans who visited the city at random.
To be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness