Compilation of Memories (Memoirs)
End of WWII – Details of Murdered Family
On Lag B’Omer, May 1945, the World War in Europe ended. The murderers, Hitler, Mussolini and their helpers were destroyed by the Allied forces that captured all the parts of the world in which they fought. At this time our Post Office opened and I hoped to receive news from my son Aaron who was in Holland with his son. Nobody that I knew, informed me that he was in Holland. I contacted the Bliss Company that had business dealings with my son as well as N. Bienenstock. To my sorrow they informed me that the last time that Aaron was their guest was in 1938. Up to the beginning of the war they were in contact by mail. Since then they heard nothing from him. They both requested that they be informed of his fate.
The truth of what happened to my son Aaron and his family and to the family of my daughter Taube I heard from an eye witness. He was the son of the Rabbi Naftali Ehrlich זל , the Rabbi of the town Dalatin. The son came to Eretz Israel in the month of Ab 1945. He visited me in the beginning of the month of Alul and from his mouth came the words of Job. He told me that at the beginning of the war, he was with his family in Dalatin. He met my son Aaron while the Russians were there in 1940 and Aaron was there on business. He was a clerk for the Russians in his profession. The Rabbi’s son knew my daughter Taube and her family and had good relations with them. On September 12, 1941, was the first “Aktsia” (German killing of Jews) in Dalatin. About 400 inhabitants were killed. Taube and her family survived but her husband was not found in the town. The Rabbi’s son was sure that my son Aaron and his family survived the Action, managing to escape but no one knew if they were now alive. This meant that if no one knew of them, then they met the fate of our Jewish brothers in those terrible days. After this information, was there any hope for good news? This is in spite of the letter that I received from Aaron and Taube via the Red Cross on November 11, 1941. They said that they were well and asked me to send them news by telegram. The horrible news that we hear of the fate of our Jewish brothers in all the areas including the towns of Dalatin and Stanislau has turned my heart to despair. I have no doubt that the murderers reached them. My heart bleeds, my tears flow for the bitter fate. Who can know what horrible deaths they endured? Were they drowned in the Prut River? Were they strangled? Burned? Sent to the Gas Chambers? With tears running down my eyes, I want to write memories of their lives.
My only daughter Taube was born on ט טבת תרנה (9th Tevet 1895). At the time I lived in Lukovitz, Bukovina. She was educated according to my wishes by her modest mother, religious and secular. When she was six/seven, I sent her to Jacob Shatner in Kuti to attend the elementary school and to learn Hebrew studies from him. Shatner’s sister was a piano teacher and Taube studied several hours a week. In 1907 she moved to Stanislau and studied German in the School “Clear Language”, Hebrew and religious studies. At that time she was very happy. She advanced in her studies and suddenly over night became a beautiful woman. Her mother died when she was fourteen and the clouds and shadows of this tragedy dispelled her joy. She lost her soul mate, her mother with whom she was very close. Until I was able to bring a step-mother into the house, there was a heavy load on her shoulders to take care of her four brothers, the youngest of whom was three. Despite this she continued her studies and skillfully managed to take care of the house.
When the war of 1914 broke out, she and her two brothers, Nathan and Aaron, escaped to Vienna. She suffered until she found work in a government office. Her brothers did not find work and the 150 Keter that I gave them for their way, disappeared. They found an apartment and their sister Taube supported them with her salary.
In 1916, the second time she left Stanislau with her two younger brothers aged fourteen and ten. They found shelter in Parlitz, Moldavia. There she found work as a nurse in the hospital. Her work was with sick people who had infectious diseases. She also had the burden of her two brothers. One of them fell sick with Typhus.
At the end of the war in 1918, she returned home with her two brothers and renewed her activities. She reached a mature age and I had not yet found a suitable husband. There were men who asked for her hand but I did not like them. In her eyes there was one that she liked but he betrayed her. A suitable man was found, Benjamin Block, son of Shara Yehoshua, an upstanding wood merchant who owned three Gatricks wood cutting machines in a sawmill in Tartov. The groom was 29 and my daughter was 27. He studied accounting and bookkeeping and was a clerk in a large sawmill and had savings of several thousand dollars. In 1923, they celebrated their wedding, Mazal Tov. He invested the money in his father’s business and found pleasure with his wife and hopes for a happy future.
In the beginning of 1925, Taube gave birth to her first daughter in my house, she was called Hadassah. In the beginning of 1927 she gave birth to her second daughter Devorah in Tartov. They were pretty girls and she educated them according to her spirit which was religious and secular. After her husband Benjamin lost his money and his job, they moved to Dalatin. Their apartment had two rooms and all the facilities but they had no income. About 1930 my son-in-law found a job as a buyer and chooser of wood for non-Jews and received a salary. If not for her brother Aaron with his pure heart, they would have suffered real hunger.
Taube was a “valiant woman” (אשת חיל), a dear mother, baked the bread for the week and challah for Shabbat. She cooked, cleaned the house and kept it pure. About 1931 she gave birth to her son Joseph. She took care of three children and gave them the best education she could. From the day I left Stanislau and came to Eretz Israel, not a month passed that I did not receive letters from them. The letters were handwritten by my daughter in her beautiful language. When her daughters, Hadassah and Devorah, reached the ages of ten and twelve, they also wrote letters, songs in Hebrew. Later even little Joseph wrote. It is understood that I remained in constant contact with them with my letters. There was great joy when I came to visit them for several weeks. This was three or four times. In the summer of 1939 we enjoyed several days in the village of Zalana in the hostel, Alter Arber. We had wonderful conversations in Hebrew and we went on trips in the Carpathian Mountains. It was difficult to part and we did not dream that we would never see each other again. This was in the beginning of August 1939. I hoped to visit them in their home in Dalatin but after a few days the war broke out. I had no possibility to go anywhere. I remained stranded in my son Aaron’s house in Stanislau and was not blessed to be able to part from them forever with kisses and tears
Taube’s husband, my son-in-law, Benjamin is the son of Yehoshua Bloch, grandson of my Uncle R’Chaim Zev, and my aunt Kenya. May their memories be blessed. זל Benjamin was born about the year 1894 in Zalana, close to Nadvorna. He was educated in his father’s house as were many young men in the small towns of Galicia. He studied in Cheder, elementary school and as a young man studied accounting and bookkeeping. He worked for his father as an accountant in an important factory where he was able to save money. He married my daughter in my house and he invested a large amount of that money in the mill in Tartov and lost everything. He lived a religious life influenced by his wife. He laid tfillin every day and went to Beit Knesset on Shabbat and Holidays. He was a good husband to his wife and a loving father to his children. He never wronged a soul and lived peacefully with his neighbors.
After the Russians took over Galicia in 1940, he made a living with them as a clerk in a lumber mill. He was sent by the government to Lvov to finish his studies in accounting and received a degree. He was not involved in public affairs. My daughter, when she matured, was involved in community activities, especially in Dalatin. Her house was always open to the hungry and she gave shelter according to her ability. She helped those in trouble in the difficult war years of 1939-1942.
I still expected to see them alive after I received a letter in my daughter’s handwriting written on November 20, 1941 that came in 1942. She wrote that they were all healthy and well. This was after the first killing of 1,400 men women and children that were brought to their deaths on the way to a mountain which leads to Nadvorna. I hoped that when they stayed alive, I would help them to come to Eretz Israel and build them a house on the plot of land that I bought many years earlier for them in Schunot Mercaz Company. As with all false hopes, the murderers probably killed them. Their fate was the same as all the Jews of Galicia. In the bitter September of 1942, thousands and tens of thousands of Jews were thrown in cattle cars and brought to the gas chambers of Belzec and Auschwitz.
You my son, my son Aaron and your gentle and beloved wife, the daughter of R’Abraham Fogel (זל), my daughter, my daughter Naomi, where are your sons, my beloved grandchildren, Menachim and Joseph? Did the murdering hands also touch you?
Aaron my son my son with your bright intelligence, could you not save your soul and the souls of your family, why did you not take a stand and save your family from those chasing you?
Woe to me and woe to my soul, you tear me apart, my son my son. When did you go to the slaughter, in the days of the holidays of 1941 when the evil ones killed masses in Stanislau? Did the murderers take you with the others to be massacred? Did they take you like cattle to be killed, slaughtered or were you taken to slave labor in the cattle cars to Belzec, Auschwitz or others, in the months of August/September 1942? The knowledge of the details of what all the family suffered on that bitter day when you went up to the gallows and where can we find your graves, if they are to be found? With all this, my heart weeps and bleeds. I will say Kadish and repeat your names and memories as follows.
My son Aaron was born on December 24, 1897 (תרנח) in the small town of Yablonov which is between Kolomyea and Kosov. At that time I was a clerk in the firm of Langenhahn from Chernovitz. We lived in a house in the area of the wood warehouse of the Austrian government. Aaron was educated as were all my children in small villages, in Cheder for his Jewish education and in the Baron Hirsch School, where secular subjects were taught. He did not learn in any gymnasia (high school) because wherever we lived there were no such schools available and I didn’t want to send him to another town to have strangers watch over him and educate him. The experience with my son Nathan who received some of his education with strangers did not please me.
Aaron seemed to be a bright boy with many talents and received good marks in school. While his mother was alive he seemed full of life and pleasure but with his mother’s death (זל) at the age of twelve, the darkness of the world hit him. At the age of thirteen I sent him to a Baaron Hirsch agricultural school in Slobdaka-Lazna for young men to study farming, work the land, plant, etc. My purpose was that after three years of study, I would send him to Paris to finish his degree as an Agronomist at the Baron Hirsch School and then to make Aliyah to Eretz Israel. Even though my intentions and those of the principal, Dr. Rosenach, were to encourage him in these studies, he had no emotional interest in anything. After a few months, he left the institution and returned home with the agreement of his older sister Taube.
In order to find some future for him, I gave him an education in what I was doing, which was in the nature of forests, trees and wood. At that time, I bought a large amount of wood to be cut in a sawmill of Weiner-Gottlieb in Zadava, Bukovina. Aaron adjusted to this profession and was outstanding in his work and in helping me. Afterwards, in other places, he became my assistant and could take my place in every way. I was very satisfied with his work.
At the outbreak of the horrible war in 1914, he and his brother Nathan and his sister Taube fled to Vienna. Aaron was sixteen. With his talents, he found work in a large sawmill of an important wood company. Aaron found work for his brother and sister until his brother Nathan left Vienna and Taube found other work to make a living. After about a year and a half of work, he became a soldier at the age of seventeen and a half and was sent far away to Hungary. He had the hard work to care for two horses and to teach horse riding.
After some time at that task, hard work for his body and soul, he was sent to the Italian Front, and was under artillery fire. When the war ended, he returned home at the end of 1919, wounded in body and soul, suffering from the fear of death and the horrors that he saw around him for three years. We cared for him until he came back to himself.
After rest and vacation, he began to deal with various businesses that did not succeed and he lost money. He then returned to our profession, the sale of wood, where he really had knowledge and for various reasons he failed.
In 1923, when I went to Vienna to check with the doctors about my prostate problem, I had to stay somewhere but I was worried about the cost. I was in Vienna for several months. Every day or every other day, I received letters and telegrams from Aaron asking about my health. What Aaron did was similar to the love and care he gave my brother Naftali. The year that my brother Naftali זל came to me deathly ill. Aaron and I brought him to Lvov to a specialist and Aaron stayed on to take care of him for several days.
When he returned to his house in Zablotov, Aaron stayed with him, until Taube came to relieve him and she stay and cared for him until he died, several weeks later.
Before I left Galicia to make Aliyah there was a Shiduch proposal for Aaron with the daughter of R’Abraham Fogel, an honorable man. The woman was good looking, educated in religion and haskalah and after I came to the house to see and talk with her I agreed to the match. Before the final engagement, I left Stanislau and I could not attend the wedding of Zissel Naomi and my son Aaron when they celebrated their wedding on January 11, 1925.
Naomi received a partial inheritance from her father זל, a $1,500 dowry, as well as an apartment. They started several businesses and did not succeed. Later Aaron went into partnership with his brother-in-law Chaim Fogel in the wood cutting factory in Dalatin. As the manager he made a high salary and shared in the profits. In 1925, my situation in Eretz Israel was very difficult and I asked him to return home and take care of my business. I needed his help to sell, wood with the agreement of Aaron’s partners. He tried to help in every way despite lies and disagreements with his partner, his brother-in-law. I once again earned a decent living until I returned again to Eretz Israel.
In June 10, 1926, Aaron’s wife Naomi gave birth to her first son Menachim. In the month of Nissan 1928, she gave birth to their second son, Joseph Shimshon. The boys were educated according my spirit in religion and haskalah.
At the time when he was the manager in Dalatin, he found a job as a clerk for his brother David as well as his youngest brother Jacob, who had come from Eretz Israel.
In July 1934, the partnership in the wood factory in Dalatin, ended. Due to the bad relationship between the partners and various incidents, Aaron lost everything. He came to Eretz Israel. He lived together with his brother David and since my situation was not good, I could not help him. Everything was difficult with his family. He found a job as an ordinary worker with a small salary with the help of my son David, who at that time was working for HaArgaz. Unfortunately, Aaron’s wife Naomi continued to pressure for them to return to Stanislau, even though Aaron had his doubts. Aaron agreed to leave on condition that at some time in the future they would return. While they were in the country, I enjoyed my two grandsons who went to the Mizrachi School and succeeded in their studies which greatly pleased me.
When he returned to Galicia, his extensive experience helped him to contact several companies, particularly one in Holland. He bought wood in Poland and sent it to those companies. He got a salary as an agent and also shared in the profits. He once again made a good living and was able to save a lot of money. Several times I was invited to come and enjoy with him and his family and to vacation in the Carpathian Mountains. (Yarmtz Mikolitchin) I accepted their invitations.
In 1939 my son Aaron and my daughter Taube asked me to come as I did every year to enjoy the Carpathian Mountains and the family. There were a few important tasks I had to fulfill. The son of my son Aaron, my oldest grandson Menachim, would have a Bar Mitzvah in the month of Alul and it was my duty as a grandfather to participate in this important occasion.
This is the first grandson in Galicia who will fulfill the Mizvoth and obligations of becoming a man on his thirteenth birthday.
My son Aaron had to travel to Holland to settle his account and those of the partners Bliss and Klaber. This was for the amount of wood that he bought for the account of the partners. He went to Danzig and from there to other countries. I had to fulfill the debt and take care of all the bookkeeping for them and take Aaron’s place in his office. These were matters that no non-Jew had to know. I filled the task as well as taking care of my business. I came in the beginning of August to Aaron’s house in Staninlau. For several days I sat in his house taking care of accounts. My daughter and her children went to Zilana to breathe the fresh air where I joined them. From there I went to Yarmtzi to join my daughter-in-law Zissel Naomi and her two daughters who studied in Mikotitchin at the Hebrew Gymnasia of Stanislau. My grandson Menachim had a Bar Mitzvah and I brought him to the Beit Knesset and helped him arrange the Tfillin with the blessing of the Torah. We celebrated with a drink and sweets with his friends, teacher and those who were praying. We decided that the party would be in Stanislau the following year. Now came the rumors of the impending war and I hurried to return to Stanislau to take care of matters so that I could go home. My son Aaron traveled especially to Lvov to get me a Romanian visa. It took two days to get it. He also got permission from the Polish government to leave the country by train. The war began and Aaron could not leave to travel to Holland. On כח אלול we parted, a man from his brother, his wife and his sons, no words to describe the parting, the tears and the kisses, a father on his son’s neck with the grandsons and the mother. The heart is full of fear for the future that bodes evil. Who knows if this meeting will happen again?
(Note* right before the war started in the West, Germany and the Soviet Union made a non-aggression pact which also divided Poland. Galicia was on the Russian side of the divide. The Jews in Galicia thought they were safe from the war. DK)
From the day that I left them, all hopes for them ended, which was very depressing to my spirit and my heart. We had rumors of the annihilation of the Jews by the murderous Hitlers. After the Russians occupied Galicia, I received a letter from my son Aaron that they were all alive and well. I also got a similar letter from my daughter Taube. My son also told me that he found work as a high clerk with the Russian Government, to oversee several sawmills in the entire area. He helped my son-in-law Benjamin and my daughter to get jobs. My son with his good heart, helped all who asked for help just as he did when he was in charge of the mill with his brother-in-law Chaim Fogel. He asked the owners, the partners, to donate wood for heating for the many poor. He was good to the workers even those who were non-Jews. I blessed the blessing for the deliverance from danger. (ברכת הגומל)
Aaron’s wife had a wonderful husband who loved her with all his heart and soul. They enjoyed their life with all the changes, different situations and the pressure of life. They joined hands and fought the war of survival. His wife’s family and especially his brother-in-law, R’Chaim Fogel, was an honorable man with a good heart, famous in the community for his generosity. Aaron worried about making a living and supporting his family. Their sons were educated according to the times in Torah and Haskalah. They studied in the Hebrew Gymnasia in Stanislau and were outstanding in their studies.
They studied religious subjects several hours a day with a special teacher. I hoped to see these boys devoted to God, to his Torah, to the Jewish People and to be righteous, educated people in the society of man.
His wife Naomi (Zissel) was a pretty woman and was about ten years younger than my son. She was the daughter of R’Abraham Fogel, an honorable learned man and a follower of the Admor of Atania. She was the youngest of his daughters and he gave her a good education. In addition to religious studies and some knowledge of foreign languages, she studied piano. He bought an expensive piano for her. She loved her husband with all her being, was a Valiant Woman in her housekeeping, had a generous heart and raised her sons with understanding and honesty. She was a lovely daughter and treated me with the honor due to a father, cared for things that were important and served me the food that I liked regardless of cost. They kept a kosher house and Aaron put on the Tallit and laid Tfillin every day, Shabbat and holidays. He also attended Beit Knesset.
Every month, my son and I exchanged letters. I also received letters from my grandsons Menachim and Joseph Shimshon in Hebrew and I answered them in Hebrew. The last letter I received in Aaron’s hand was at the end of 1941, that was the end (נסתם הגולל). I did not know that the impure had touched them in 1942/43. The final sentence of the murderers was imposed on them, to kill and wipe them out. Where did the sheep sin? Even on them, sentence was passed, without mercy they were brought to the sacrificial alter of Moloch (sacrifice of children by the Ammonites), the devil Hitler, may his name be erased. (יבש). To my everlasting anguish, when the hand of the murderers slaughtered the son and his younger brother, the angel’s voice was not heard from the heavens. “Do not kill my sons!” (This is all in reference to the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham) Both of them were killed together with their father and mother and thrown into the trench together with thousands of other Jews. Woe! Woe! May God take vengeance on the blood that was spilled and complete the circle for us. May their memories be blessed.
World Mizrachi in Jerusalem and Hapoel HaMizrachi renewed the old tradition from ancient days to fulfill the mitzvoth of “Hakahal”. As it is written in the Torah, at the end of seven years, when we come to the year of Shmitah (שמיטה), all the people, men, women and children come up to Jerusalem to hear, to care for and to do everything that the Torah proclaims.
In order to implement this holy idea, the two organizations asked the government to arrange for two trains, for 2,600 passengers, to go up to Jerusalem from all the Yishuvim on a specific day, the second day of Succoth. The first train left at 6:00 A.M. from Tel Aviv and other places. The second train left about an hour later. I and Mordechai Keusch, my nephew, traveled on the second train. We were among the 1,200 travelers, men, women, children that went up to “Hakahal”. We prayed and sang publicly on the train, and our voices were heard in every car until we arrived in Jerusalem at 10:30. There were trucks waiting at the station to bring people to the central Yeshurin Beit Knesset. The men and the women’s sections were crowded. At 11:00 o’clock, the president of World Mizrachi, R’Meir Berlin, opened the day of “Hakahal”. R’Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Herzog spoke after him. The last one to speak was the Sepharadi Chief Rabbi, Maran Rabbi Meir Ben Zion Chai Azuel.
All the speakers at the Beit Knesset Yeshurin spoke about the value of this holiday in following the Torah, Mitzvoth and the efforts to build Eretz Israel according to tradition. The purpose was also to help the Aliyah of our brothers who escaped the murderers in the Diaspora. At about 1:30 in the afternoon, all those from the Beit Knesset, a large crowd of about 1,000 people, walked to the Western Wall. From the Wall we went to eat lunch in a large Succah that was prepared for us in the Old City. The Chief Rabbis joined us in the meal and spoke about Torah.
At about 4:30 in the afternoon, a group of about 100 young religious men from “HaMishmar” gathered on Rechov Yaffo and spoke about the value of this day and the need to respect the importance of “Hakahal” which I lived to see renewed in our country. From there, the young people walked to the train station and at 5:30 returned home. Mordechai traveled in a second train and reached home at 11:30 at night. How wonderful it was, this meeting in Jerusalem on the second day of Succot יז תשרי תשו (1945). Who will allow us in the coming year, the right to go up to Jerusalem to the rebuilt Temple in a Jewish State? Amen.
On the September 30, 1945, the people from Stanislau from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and surroundings, gathered in the Arlozorov Hall, Rechov Ben Ami, for a memorial. They came to mourn for our people slaughtered by the Nazis, Poles and Ukrainians that started in 1941 and continued until the end of the war. Mr. B. Weiss and Mr.M. Gelerter from Jerusalem, previously from Stanislau, eulogized the dead and remembered the important Rabbis. The son of R’Israel Greif, the carpenter, survived, forced labor in Stanislau and described what happened to our people. He saw with his own eyes the killing of thousands and saw others who were sent to the death camps in Auschwitz, Belzec, etc.
In the month of Iyar 1944 we heard of the horrendous tragedy to our brothers in Stanislau and had a memorial. According to the last letter I received, I still had hope in my heart that that my son Aaron and my grandson were alive. Now, hearing from Greif, who had recently been in Stanislau, I understood that my son’s fate was the same as all the others. Woe to my sorrow and my pain. After two hours of eulogizing, the Chazan sang “El Malai Rachamin”. (The prayer for the dead) I said Kadish תנצבה
Content last updated Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 05:58 PM Mountain Standard Time