Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
Impending War – 1939 - Final farewell to family and friends – Last ship from Constanta, Romania
Aaron’s return trip was delayed because of the threat of the impending war between Germany and Poland. On September 1st the war began. I was in Yarmitz, together with Zvi Fogel’s family and others who came to enjoy the fresh air. There was utter confusion as we all went to the train station. Everyone tried to get home. After two or three day of war, Warsaw was conquered. There will be destruction of Warsaw and West Galicia. Airplanes are bombing and the tanks and artillery are rolling over the country. A government proclamation came out in Stanislau that everyone was to dig trenches to protect themselves from the bombs. A few days previously, all the populace without regard to sex, race or age came to take part in digging in all the parks. That same day we heard the siren that enemy planes were on the way and to hide in the basements everywhere. I decided to return to Eretz Isael as soon as possible. Aaron came to Lvov that same day. With great effort and a lot of money he just barely received a Romanian visa. I went to the office of the ship “Har Zion” in Constanta to get on the ship that was leaving for Eretz Israel on the September 8. There was no room but there might be a place on the ship leaving September 23. Since I didn’t leave, I decided to spend Rosh Hashanah with my son and my beloved family, to pray with my Mizrachi friends in the Beit HaKnesset and to leave the city after the holiday. There was no end of frightening rumors, the horrible lightning war (blitzkrieg) causing untold damage to some cities in Poland.
Three German planes flew over Stanislau on September 4. The noisy sirens frightened the people who ran to the dusty tunnels. Bombs were dropped on the outskirts of the city killing two people and setting fire to several small houses. With the increasing danger, I decided to go to Romania, but in order to leave anywhere outside the city required a special permit which was very difficult to get. For several days Aaron stood in line for hours until he got a permit for me. I asked him to also get a permit for himself. Jews had no right to travel on the trains in times of emergency, despite the fact that several hundred non-Jews did get permits. I wanted to say goodbye to my daughter Taube before I left but it was forbidden to take any trip even a short trip from Stanislau to Dalatin. From September 4th through the 12th, the day I left town, there were noisy sirens, hour after hour. We went down into the basement and into tunnels in the yard. The newspapers from Warsaw and Lvov were closed and all that we heard on Aaron’s radio brought the smell of blood and burning.
The fate of Job was imposed by the German enemy on the conquered cities. Refugees from the occupied cites of Western Galicia came with terrible news of killing and destruction of people and property especially against Jews. Every face was filled with horror and shock. The enemy is coming. The joy of Menachim’s Bar Mitzvah was cancelled.
Before I left, many friends and acquaintances came to say goodbye and to give regards to their family in Eretz Israel. Among them came R. Pahan, M. C. Block and C. Fogel, all of them with heavy hearts and distressing thoughts of going from the jail to the gallows. We parted, man from his brothers. At noon, Aaron and his family accompanied me to the station house. They had received permission to go to the train but the soldiers who were guarding the entrance said they could not come with me. Aaron in some way managed to get permission to go with me and help me with my suitcase which was very heavy. The train from Lvov through Stanislau, did not come. The train manager sent a special train for several hundred passengers, most of them Christians, to the border of Poland. Hard to describe my parting from my son at that moment, hugs, kisses and unending tears.
As the train was arriving in the station of Kolomyea, the air raid siren sounded and we ran from the train into the fields until after the danger passed and we could continue on our way. When we reached the border at Zolitch, we were carefully examined by the border police. Toward evening we came to the Romanian border at Ashana.
I hoped that as usual, as a free man in a free country, I could go to Chernovitz, only a half hour away. I would spend the night there, receive visitors and spend Rosh Hashanah there. Here we face a new problem. The border guards arrested the 37 passengers that were traveling to Eretz Israel. Since these were days of emergency, days of war, they required that we be guarded and taken to the ship that was to sail to Eretz Israel and suck our blood. We had to pay 4,000 units to the police. (Note* he uses the abbreviation ליי but not sure what kind of money it was. DK) Who knows when they will allow us to go on our way? Will we receive the proper permission from the high clerk in Chernovitz? In the meantime, we remained here under guard. Our passports were taken from us. We slept on the benches in the porch and sat in the waiting room. We heard that the ship “Har Zion” was not permitted to sail from the port in Eretz Israel. Most of the passengers going to Eretz Israel had tickets for the ship just as I did. We didn’t have a penny in the pocket. Permission to leave Poland cost ten gold pieces. Even though we had orders not to move from the station, we found a Jewish hotel nearby, to spend the night and pray סליחות (atonement).
The next day we were informed by the police officer that there was an order to send us to Constanta and he demanded money. Whoever had any foreign coins or local money gave his share. I gave him 150 (local money?). The majority had no money. We decided to approach the British Consul and ask for help. The British Consul and his secretary came to hear our problem. The Consul met with the police officer who told him of his order to keep us under guard. The consul took 4000 local money out of his pocket and divided it among those who needed. He gave an order to the British Consul in Constanta: all the citizens of Eretz Israel, those who had no tickets and those who had tickets for “Har Zion” would have passage arranged with the first ship to Eretz Israel.
I requested that I be allowed to stay here since I was a religious Jew and it would be a sin to travel on Rosh Hashanah. I would travel at my own expense to Constanta at the end of the holiday. He answered me politely that there was no such possibility and advised me to hurry to escape as fast as possible from this dangerous place. Since I had no choice, I agreed and the trip was set for nine o’clock on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.
I called my brother-in-law, M.L. Meltzer, that he informs my friends Sternberg and Bitman to come to the Chernovitz station that night and bring me the needed sum of money. The train came to Chernovitz at ten. Chaim Meltzer, Sternberg and Bitman brought me the money. Since the train was to remain two hours in Chernovitz, I got permission to go to my brother-in-law’s house due to the efforts of his son Chaim. The entire family, sons, daughters, and grandchildren, of my brother-in-law Meltzer gathered in his house, greeted me with great love and warmth. Meltzer and his wife ordered wine and a holiday meal for me. I enjoyed the celebration, the meeting, the pleasant hour’s conversation and we parted as brothers with love. Chaim accompanied me back to the station and at midnight, the first day of the lunar month (ראש חודש) 1940, we left Chernovitz. The trip on the train was satisfactory and all those going to Eretz Israel were in the same car between the second and third class cars.
The prayer for Rosh Hashanah on the train was very upsetting. There were twenty men and only one joined in the prayer. About three in the afternoon we arrived in Constanta and I hurried to the office of the ship “Har Zion” in order to exchange the ticket for the ship “Bessarabi” that would sail that night to Eretz Israel. The man in charge dismissed my request as he did those of the other passengers. He said that he had no authority and no desire to accede to our request and the office in Tel Aviv would refund the ticket cost. I was barely able to get a third class ticket at the cost of 6.500 Romanian coins which about five lei. Several friends who had money in their pockets bought tickets for the ship “Bessarabi”. Most of them appealed to the British Consul, who promised that the government would pay and send them to Eretz Israel in a few days.
Content last updated Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 08:10 PM Mountain Standard Time