Monday, January 09, 2006

Bukovina (now Ukraine)- Romania's Holocaust.(1)

Ciudin/Ciudei, Bukovina, Romania (formerly Austria, before WW1) my mother's birth-place suffered its pogrom at the beginning of WW2. Hereunder is the first part of an eye-witness account of the events which led to the murder of my grandfather and my mother's only sister.
More info. re Bukovina and Czernowitz, its regional capital, see: of Czernowitz Jewish Community

Ciudin:A PARTY
Before the war broke out, we had large dances for all the young people.
Sheleachs would visit from Israel to promote Zionism, one of whom was the
Wiznitzer Rebbe's son. He said "Kinder, kids, we need to have a land. Its better
to wear a torn coat that belongs to you then a beauty that belongs to someone
else. We must have a country!" They started to talk about Israel, Israel,
Israel. They provided literature as well.
One asked "Asiu, would you be willing to go to Krasna to solicit funds?" and I
said "Sure!" One got as much as one could, two dollars, a dollar, five dollars.
We went all around; to all the districts: "This is for Erez Yisroel, the Land of
Israel", for the Keren Kayemet, to gather as many donations as possible. We
started to hear ... a person came along to tell the story of Dreifus, we heard
what was transpiring in the world. We knew about Hitler.
Near us there was a Dr. Nestman, a lawyer, a German, and there our neighbours
would have Hitlerist meetings. We could hear them singing their songs. Once I
bought one of these guys a beer and asked him what he thought of Jews. He
replied "We have no problem with those that are worthy!" We could feel that
things weren't right.
The Poles had retreated after the war started, and there was a smell in the air
that things were not right.
On a Saturday night we had a party for all the young men and women at Bergman's
salon. He had a restaurant, and we drank and ate, and carried on and danced. At
about four in the morning we made our way home; it was Sunday morning. I got
home, unlocked the door and laid down to sleep. And as I started to fall asleep,
I heard some stirring in the house. I thought it was my father up to say his
Tehillim, as was his early-morning custom.
All of a sudden he was at my bedside, saying "Siniku, my darling son wake up. We
are at war." I got myself up and we got a radio to hear what was going on.
Germany had made a friendship pact with Russia, and through this agreement North
Bukovina was to belong to Russia, including our village of Ciudin. On the other
side where Netty lived would belong to the others.

But as soon as the war broke out...oh my goodness; Germany had invaded Poland
without declaring war. The Poles started to run , and many came through Ciudin.
We asked many who were coming through and were told that in Poland the Jewish
ritual way of slaughtering animals to be kosher had been declared unlawful by
the Germans. Many trucks came through, and people were in a panic, selling
things off for a pittance because they were in such a panic.
What was going on you cannot imagine; it was a real tumult. As we were going
home from that dance, I saw the Russians riding their horses at great speed, and
airplanes overhead, and we believed it to be a maneuver. As soon as my father
woke me from my sleep, we saw how things were not the way they should be.
Prior to that the Russians had started to take young people to train them to
shoot and so on. Until the very end they had not called me up; many had already
been sent to the front. Bertha's relatives, my in-law, had already been on
maneuvers for three weeks, and was due to come home. As the war broke out more
and more were drafted for military duty.
As the soldiers came through to go to the front, my father stood with a cistern
of water, and gave drinks to those who wished. There were many Jews among these
troops, on their way to the front, to the border. After a few days of this
continual movement, as I told you, the late Osias advised that it would be best
to flee. Others said that to stay was the answer. Well, we ended up staying.
You know I had a horse there, hidden, for us all to flee. Tatte asked "What if
they torch the house?"
"Tatte", I said, "they will burn it. The Russians are burning everything behind
So he told us to prepare water. We had cisterns of rainwater filled to the brim.
I pleaded "Tatte, it's no good. Let us pack up and go." I thought we could go to
Czernovitz, because what could be done to forty-thousand Jews, could be done to
us too. We were so close to the border, and the late Osias said that as soon as
they invaded, we would be the first to be killed. And that's how it happened. He
was a very smart man this Osias, very smart...

On the fifth of July, 1941, the Russians retreated. We were about 12 kilometers
from the border of north and south Bukovina. North Bukovina was occupied by the
Russians, and we were in Ciudin about 16 to 18 kilometers from that border.
My brother Osias had said, "It's not good for Jewish people to stay here,
because the Roumanians and the German army are coming in. They'll be
blood-thirsty and we are the first Jewish people here."
Osias hired a wagoner, and paid him some money, and boarded a wagon with a
little horse, and drove away to Strojinetz. Strojinetz was 16 kilometers from
Why did he run away?
He said "I don't want to be here because I'm afraid that we are the first Jews
on the border". So he drove away with his wife Pepi and his four year old
daughter Ruthie, and everyone laughed at him, asking, "Why is he running away?
The Roumanian officers love money. They'll be bought off, so everything will be
O.K. and we'll stay at home."
Osias drove away, and we stayed in Ciudin. We stayed, and on the eight day of
Tammus, the third of July, they came in.
As soon as they came into Ciudin, my friend Bubi's mother and father, who had
some fields near town, said "It would be better if you went away to a man named
Gherman." He had been an invalid from the First War, and had lost his left hand.

Bubi's mother went to ask if it would be alright if we could come up to his
place to hide out and he said we could come "with pleasure". So Bubi and I went
up there, and we stayed overnight at his place. That was a Monday.
Tuesday night the Roumanians and the Germans came in. We could here a great
tumult "Hurray, Hurray, Hurray! Traiasca Romania! Long live the Roumanians" And
so on.
And as we walked to this Ghermans' house, we saw many young people, Gentiles,
running with pitchforks (to stick others), sticks to hit with, and sacks on
their shoulders to rob, and when they saw us going in the opposite direction,
they said "You're running away, we'll find you there too." We didn't say
We sat at Gherman's, and we asked him if he would go down to town to see what
was going on. So he went down, and he replied: "Everything is O.K. The Jews came
to greet the Roumanian military with Sefer Torahs, Holy Scrolls, and it's quiet
in town."
That was Wednesday night, and Bubi's mother came to see us and told us that
everything was fine and that she would come and see us the next morning.
So we went to sleep, and I said tomorrow is Thursday, and we'll fast tomorrow,
so G-d will help us to get through this. So we ate something that night and we
agreed to fast the next day.
So we slept at this Gherman's, and on Thursday at about 5 A.M. Bubi's mother
came running and she said "Asiu, Bubi you stay here, the military came in and in
the meantime all is still. At about 10 o'clock I'll come again."
It didn't take long, maybe twenty minutes to go from our town up to this

So we stayed there, this was Thursday, and at about 10 o'clock comes running
Bubi's mother all out of breath and sweaty. It had been a very nice day.
She said "Kinder zis nisht git" "Children it's not good!"
"What's going on?"
"They're robbing and killing and beating and it's not good!"
"So what should we do now?"
She said "You stay here, or if you want come home and I'll hide you in the
I said "No, its' better that we stay here. So Mrs. Risenberg said she'd go now
and return in the evening.
At about 12 o'clock in comes this Mr. Gherman and says in Roumanian "Get out of
my house".
We asked "Mr. Gherman, where shall we go?". And he says "Get out because we're
not allowed to hide Jews, they'll shoot us along with you! Get out!".
I took my windbreaker, and Bubi also took what he had and we left the house, and
we hid in the field near his house. The corn was about a foot high, and we lay
down. We were lying about twenty yards away from a walkway that led from the
outskirts back to town, and we heard people running and yelling "From the time
the Roumanians came in, it has been a big holiday".
People were carrying flowers, and milk for the soldiers, and one was coming from
town and already carrying stolen things.
One was carrying a huge mirror. Someone asked him "Why did you take such a large
mirror? What for? It does not even fit in your house."
And he replied "It's better broken than to leave it with the Jews."
One asked "Did you hear? They took Shuler who owns the mill, and they put chains
on his feet, and they cut off his ears and his nose, and he was led into town
like that."
"Did you hear that they shot Dudel Schachter?"
"Isser Sumer, a poor teacher was shot, and his wife had to lay him on a
wheelbarrow to take him away to be buried in the holy place". Our cemetery was
about 400 meters from town on a hill.
And I hear all these stories they are telling each other, and I'm lying with
this Bubi under the hot sun, and praying that it would already get dark.

The day seemed to last a year.
In the afternoon it started to rain a bit, and thank G-d when night finally fell
and it got dark we went back to this Gherman's, not to his house, but into his
barn. When he came in to milk his cows, I said "Mr. Gherman, what's happening in
He said "The Roumanian military has come into town, and they're very mad at the
"Because the Jews are Communists, and they sabotaged the bridge." Of course the
Russians had blown up the bridge on their way south.
So I asked "Mr. Gherman, what will you do with us?" So he said "What can I do
with you? Go up in the hayloft, but if anyone comes, don't say I told you to go
up there, because they can kill me along with you. You will have to say that you
hid up there on your own."
So we said "O.K., but maybe it would be better if you made a hole right here in
the barn that we could crawl into?". He said that it would be better in the
I asked him if he could give us something to eat, because we had been fasting,
so he said "O.K., I'll bring you something."
So we stayed there, and as he went into the house, along comes the son of Shmuel
Katz (he was a smith, he fixed locks and keys, and fashioned hooves for horses),
a little boy. He must have been about eight years old, with another little guy
about ten years old. And as they were running by, I yelled his name "Chaiml!"
(that was his name). "Where are you running?"
They said "Oh! It's great we found you. We are coming from the heights of town."

They had been in their home, along with their mother and father and three
sisters. "They came in and took out our three sisters... probably to rape them,
and shot our mother and father, so we ran away." And these kids were shaking
So I said to them "Go down right here to Moishe Chaim Laiser and there you'll
find my father and my sisters."
This Moishe Chaim was a transporter, a poor man who owned only one horse, and he
hauled this and that. Maybe to take something to a mill, like to take 500 kilos
of maize to the mill, to take it and to bring it and that was his livelihood.
So I said to them "You go down there. Our house has been locked up." And my
father said that we should all be down at this Moishe Chaim's, out of town, not
in the middle of town where we lived.
"There you'll find my father, and tell him where we are, that we are here, and
tell him that Bubi's mother, Mrs. Risenburg was supposed to come this morning
but we haven't seen her again."
The older one was such a smart little boy, and he said "Asiu, are you saying we
should go?"
So I said "Sure, you're kids what are they going to do to you?" So they left,
and if maybe they had stayed with us...
This was the beginning.

That night when it got dark, he brought us a bit of milk, and we went up in the
hayloft, and it started to rain. As it rained, and just as we were getting up in
the loft, I heard Jews going by ...Yes!
Even when we had been lying in that field as I told you, as we lay there I heard
Janiu Adlersberg, a dentist, who had been going by with his wife and two
children, and the children were crying hard.
He was saying "What can we do? What can we do?" He had run into other Jews that
were already coming back, and saying to someone, I'm not even sure who he was
talking to, "Don't go, because wherever you go they won't let you in. They won't
let in any Jews"
We heard him say "Let's go in to this Gherman's, and maybe he'll give us a
little water for the kids to drink". This is what we heard from this Janiu
So we were sitting up in this loft that night, and at about 9:00 or 9:30 at
night we heard some Yiddish being spoken.
I said to Bubi "I hear Yiddish being spoken. I'll run down." You know Bubi had a
lung disease, and he often panted heavily. I said "You wait here, I"ll run down
and see who these people are."
I come down and it's Betti, Herman's wife [Editor's note: Herman was Eisig's
brother] with Marcel, a little boy aged six years, and the child is crying...
and she says "Asiu, [Editor's note: Asiu was Eisig's nickname] what should I do?
I'll go home, and whatever G-d will give, that what will be. Wherever I go, they
won't let us in."
I asked "Where is Herman?" She said that they had come in and started viciously
beating, and people began to run here and there; in the middle of all these
beatings we got split up." And she doesn't know where my brother Herman is...
We stayed where we were, and she went away, and it got dark and it rained and
I said to Bubi, "I don't want to stay at this Gherman's anymore. I don't believe
him anymore. I don't believe him. Don't you remember the way he pushed us out of
his house..."
I said "We can't stay!"
So he said "What shall we do?"
I said that we would go further. I knew that in the year that the Russians had
been with us, people had worked in the woods, and I had helped in a bakery
there. I had distributed bread. Everything was Communist then, and I had been
paid for food for my horse and for coming and going and bringing this bread
there. And I had been very familiar with the forest.
So I said "I know a place there where it's really narrow, where nobody can see
you. We'll go down there, and stay there a day or two, and whatever G-d gives
after that will be."
He said "Alright", and we get down, and as we get down to the door we find that
it has been locked. And even the door where the hay is thrown out, was locked.
But there was a hole, where they throw out the animal dung, and I said "Bubi,
this is where we'll crawl out of here. We can't stay at this Gherman's any
longer." And we crawled out .

As we get out onto the fields, wherever there are houses we couldn't go, because
dogs will bark, you understand. On the road we obviously couldn't go, because
someone might have run into us there.
So we went far from the houses, and not on the road. And then on the road came
two fellows, and they were going to town, also to rob, with sacks, you know, and
sticks. One had something like a shovel, to kill with. They run into us and ask
us where we're going.
So I said "We have to go somewhere."
They said "You're going to hide. We'll find you." I was strong, from home, and I
could have taken one to beat the other, you know, so they didn't confront us.
They continued up to town, and we went on.
Poor Bubi was asthmatic, and was panting while he was going like this "Hhhhhhh.
Hhhhhhhhh". I said Bubi, you're going to bring us doom, be quiet!"
He replied "What do you want from my life. Come back and my Mother will hide us
in the loft in the hay. I can't go on any longer. I can't..."
I said, "We're not far now. Soon enough we'll be in the woods."
So we went on like that and G-d helped us to go the whole night like that, and
on Friday morning we arrived at those woods, and that's where we stopped.
We're sitting in these woods all day, and I said to Bubi "Tonight this can't go
on." I had become very hoarse, and he could barely speak. I said "Tonight we
have to leave the woods."
With G-d's help it became Friday night, and we were moving to the edge of the
woods, and I heard talking outside. I heard soldiers saying that tomorrow
morning the recruits would be called. They were not to go into the woods because
there were Russian partisans and Jews hidden there who could be firing on them,
and it was forbidden to go into the woods until tomorrow's recruits arrived to
comb the woods.
So G-d helped us to sit there the whole night, but we didn't sleep. We had gone
to the other side, but we also heard talking there, and every where we went
there were voices and we knew that we shouldn't go out, and we'd have to stay
When Sabbath morning came, I told Bubi that we'd have to hide ourselves well,
because they would soon be coming. So we searched for trees that you see
sometimes, ones that are open. However, just at that moment we couldn't find any
kind of tree to hide in and not be seen.
We couldn't find such a tree, so we agreed to get into a kind of ditch, close
together. I gathered various kinds of branches and sticks, and put them on top
of us. He lay down next to me, and we started to cover our feet, like this and
like that , and completely covering our faces. And that's how we lay there.
It got to be around 10:00 or 10:30 in the morning , and we were lying there,
maybe it was more like 11:00 or 11:30, and I heard some talking behind us. What
we hadn't realized is that not too far from us was a path, and all of a sudden
we heard something like footsteps, and we lay there trembling terribly.
Through the branches I could see civilians wearing the clothes that had been
designated for the civil defense, a white shirt and pants. I also saw soldiers,
and as they went by us we shook terribly. Thank G-d they went by, but as they
did I could hear one of them saying, "No one is here".
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