The Testimony of Menachem Bartel,
Child Survivor of the Holocaust (Cont'd)

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I Make Aliyah

I had no family. The only relative I had was my mother's sister, who was in America. Somehow I managed to get in touch with her. Someone gave me her address and until this day I am in contact with her. In Europe, we were a very big family and we lived in Skala and other places. But there was no one left. Perhaps there were very distant relatives, but it was clear to me that no one remained for me. I didn't expect that I would meet any relatives.

I joined this group of children and they took us to Germany. Since all of us were in need of medical care, they took us to a place in Germany that would be good for our recovery. The name of this place was St. Otylien. I think it once was a German army hospital.

I stayed there for half or three-quarters of a year. We were being cared for by UNRRA [the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency]. We got all of our equipment from them, including food and clothing. We were organized into a children's commune, as if we were on a kibbutz.

We also were assisted by Zionist organizations. Every movement tried to assist us, so that when we got to Palestine, we would join their group -- HaShomer HaTzair or Ma'pai. We were in Dror [the Labor Zionist Youth Movement]. We had a counselor. We began to study a little and everyone recovered well. We played sports and went on some trips and we waited until we could go to Palestine. We constantly were promised that we would have certificates, but it took a long time.

Finally, we moved to another place, mostly because it had become impossible to stay for an extended period in St. Otylien. There would be official visits, to determine if people really needed to be hospitalized. We already were healthy and organized, so they took us to another place, also in Germany. In this new place, there were a lot of youth organizations from different movements. We waited there for another half-year, hoping to emigrate to Palestine.

In total, I was in Germany a year-and-a-half. Then they took the entire group of us to France. We lived some place close to Paris. After Paris, we went to Marseilles. Finally we left France -- not from the port of Marseilles, but from some other port. It was an illegal emigration.

This was in the beginning of 1947. We traveled in a very small boat with a lot of people until, as often was the case, the British caught us. They transferred us to their ship and took us to Cyprus. In Cyprus we lived in a fenced camp for seven or eight months. There was a youth facility there. At last, we were allowed to immigrate legally to Palestine. We joined Kibbutz Galil Yam near Herzliyah, which was part of the Aliyat HaNoar movement. We studied for half a day and worked the rest of the day.

We were there more than a year. In 1948, the War of Independence broke out. Some in the group who were a little older wanted to enlist in the army. If everyone declined to enlist together, they planned to enlist on their own. Aliyat HaNoar representatives told us that we were not expected to enlist because we were too young, but that if we were needed, we would be drafted. Some of the older boys in the group left and enlisted in the army. Afterwards, the kibbutz decided that, in order to keep our group together, it would be better if we all enlisted.

I was about 16-and-a-half when I enlisted in the army. We were in the Pal'mach [the regular fighting force of the Jewish underground army during the British mandate]. The kibbutz sent us there because it was easier to keep the entire group together, as a division in a battalion of the Pal'mach. We participated in battles in the Negev and, towards the end of the war, in the mountains of Jerusalem.

Then we were given a choice: whoever wanted to was able to leave the army and return to the kibbutz. Whoever didn't want to return was allowed to finish his army service. The group split up. Some chose to go to the kibbutz. I stayed in the army until I finished my service.

In Israel, I managed to find some relatives. I stayed with them for a while and then I lived with a cousin who also was a refugee. I began working in a factory and I studied in the evenings. Eventually, I received my high-school equivalency diploma.

I worked, saved some money, then enrolled in the Technion. When I entered the Technion, my life became somewhat more orderly. As a student, I was not supposed to work. Mostly I studied, but I did work a little. In 1959, I finished at the Technion and after that I worked in my profession, as a building engineer in Tel Aviv. I got married and I had two children.

Click on photos to enlarge

Menachem Bartel

Paul J. Blank
Menchem [Bretschneider] Bartel was the only member of his immediate family to survive the Holocaust. His parents, Sheindel and Avraham [son of Josef Aron and Udel Bretschneider] and his sister Edzia, were murdered in Skala, the city of their birth. His oldest brother, Hersh, was murdered in a camp in Lvov. His middle brother, Aron, was captured by Hungarian troops towards the end of the war. His fate remains unknown.

SRG member Paul J. Blank translated the testimony of Menachem [Bretschneider] Bartel. Paul is the grandson of Yoel Blank and Ester Leiber (or Leibhardt) of Lanovitse. He visited Skala and Lanovitse in the summer of 2006 and noted that Lanovitse is "right down the road from Skala." His grandmother Ester's sister Sheindel married Avraham Bretschneider, moved to Skala, and had four children: Hersh, Aron, Edzia, and Menachem. This is the story of their struggle to survive during the Holocaust. All but Menachem perished.

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The testimony of Menachem Bartel was taken in September, 1965, when he was interviewed in Tel Aviv by Miriam Tov.
The transcription of his testimony was translated by Paul J. Blank in July, 1999 and was edited by Helene Kenvin in 2006
The text is copyrighted by Menachem Bartel
The translation is copyrighted by Paul J. Blank
This page created by Max Heffler
Updated Dec 12, 2006. Copyright 2005 Skala Research Group. All Rights Reserved.