As told to Mrs. Chaya Feigy Grossman
When was the ghetto built?
We lived at home until 1943. In October of 1943, when they began deporting people, my parents sewed money into our clothing in case one day we would need it.
When the ghettos were formed, all the men who worked in the quarries were taken to the other side of town. We worked for a Munich firm. My job consisted of chopping stones and putting them onto small carriages. They paid us until we went to the Ghetto.
The Germans instituted a curfew of 9:00. After 9:00 anyone found on the streets would be shot. We were careful to stay in the house.
Then the announcement came. There was an empty palace in our town, and we were all ordered to gather inside the palace. The gates were locked, and the Ukrainians would stand guard, making sure that no one escaped.
Those boys and men who were from the ages of 16 to 35, and part of this working group who were destined to be murdered, were to form a group outside the palace gates. Our group was instructed to turn around. They didn’t want us to see that the rest of the people were being loaded onto cattle wagons. They didn’t want us to see the atrocities that were taking place. Children and babies were ripped away from their parents and thrown onto separate trucks.
No one returned from that selection alive. My estimation would be that it was about 2,000 people. Within a few hours, the whole town was liquidated. The only ones who remained alive were those fit for work, simply because they needed us.
My father was able to push my younger brother in as part of my group because he knew one of the German officers. My father took off the watch he was wearing and gave it to the German as a bribe to take my brother, who was small in size, and only 14 years old. When we came in front of the gestapo, the German officer took the watch from his pocket and gave it to my brother, urging him to give it to the gestapo. The gestapo took it and in return he stamped my brother, giving him the chance to live.
There were mass shootings as well. They would gather large groups of families, line them up in the forests and shoot them into mass graves. A day earlier, my group of men were given the job to dig these graves. Little did I know that the next day my parents would be part of this mass murder. When we heard that the Judenrat were seeking people, we wished we could hide, but where to go?
Who was part of the Judenrat in your town?
The Judenrat in our town was comprised of Mr. Shtuff, the owner of the lumber yard in our town, and Mr. Buchrat, a big businessman, along with five or six other people. Their role was to feed the Germans with as many workers as they needed. They easily supplied them with any household item that they required. They would knock on our doors and let us know what they would be taking.
Did your father serve in the military?
My father was called to serve in the army, but my grandfather was able to bail him out. However, my grandfather had sent my father’s oldest brother to America to escape the draft. He married in America, a girl who he brought along with him from Europe.
When was the ghetto liquidated?
In the end of December of 1943 our ghetto was liquidated, and we were taken to a larger ghetto. We traveled by cattle wagon for a few hours. We remained here for a few months. Instead of paying Polish workers, each day a group of people were taken from the ghetto to various factories outside the ghetto, to work.
Every so often they would systematically empty the ghetto of elderly people and young children. Then, one day, an order came that a few hundred people were needed to build, in a concentration camp. My brother and I realized that with time the ghetto was getting smaller and smaller, less and less people. So, we volunteered to join the group.
We worked for a while, until the Russians began to invade on the German border. Our camp of 600 people was transported to Auschwitz.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.