(Contnd. Ciudin pogrom- and eyewitness account.)
THEY HAD GATHERED TOGETHER ALL THE JEWS
So we stayed there, and lay there with 'gehacte vinden', the same way an invalid does, until about sometime in the afternoon when we realized nobody was around. So I got up, and shook off all the branches, and I looked over and Bubi was lying there looking like he was dead.
I shouted to him "Bubi, what's with you?" And he didn't say a thing because he couldn't talk anymore.
So I started shaking him a bit, and telling him that when night would fall we'd get out of there. Thank G-d it got dark again...Oh yes, wait: when, on that Shabbos, Sabbath we had begun to cover ourselves, that was the time that they were shooting everyone in our town.
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Shabbos they had gathered together all the Jews, and they had herded them into the rear of the courthouse where there was a jail. And they took all the Jews there.
I knew about where that jail was because there was a guy there called Laba, whose son was a tutor, and my father, (since unfortunately there was no school) had said that for education he was a very rich man. For a while we studied at a Mrs. Weshler's, and another time at Moishe Schachter's, and one time at this Laba's, because his son was a tutor who gave me lessons. They lived right where the jail was because his father was the jail-master.
He had showed me where the kitchen was for the criminals, and there was a long corridor with iron doors to the left and to the right, and in each door was a small peep-hole, where one could look in at the prisoners. He always showed me this stuff, and from one side of this jail you could look right into our garden. We were the third house from the courthouse, and from those top-floor windows you could see right into our place. There were times that I looked up there and could see them looking out from behind the bars in the tiny windows.
This is where they took these poor people on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Shabbos, and when we were getting up from our hiding in those "graves”, we heard such a tremendously loud echo that the whole woods trembled. That's when they shot all our people. First we heard a terrible yelling and screaming. We weren't far; about six or seven kilometers away. We thought they were shooting men, but not women and children like that.
We knew that the Romanians were thieves and I knew who we were dealing with. When we went to school, I knew they were all anti-semites, the teachers were all anti-semites. The principal was one called Niagu, who instead of teaching us would take us out onto the fields to hoe his fields with crude sticks.
One time when I was doing this, he came over to me and grabbed this stick and gave me such a smash...if it was today they'd kill him. I was even ashamed to tell on him at home. If I didn't know something at school, he'd take me by the "payes", the sidelocks, and say "Moishe, Itsik, Chaim, numela personale".. That is to say tell me people's names, but he'd make fun of the Jewish ones.
And the other Gentiles would also say "Mai Jidane Paduchios", "You lousy Jews should go to Palestine" and things like that. We didn't get along well with them, but we were strong, and we took a few boys, and we beat the hell out of them, and they were afraid of us.
So Sunday morning we're going, not walking, but crawling on our bellies. As we crawled, Bubi couldn't talk anymore, and we crawled and crawled on our bellies.
After a few hundred meters, we came to the first little hut, and as we came close, I saw Georgie who had worked in our store. We had owned a store that sold grains like corn, wheat, maise, all sorts of flour and he had worked for us. Wagons had come, and he had worked there. When I saw him I was overjoyed, and stood up on my knees and motioned for him to come over. So he comes running from his hut, which was surrounded by a fenced-in garden that kept in the animals.
He comes running and I says "Georgie, what's happening at our place?" So he says, "Come in, come into my house". We got up and I helped Bubi get up because he was so weak he couldn't get up anymore, and in we got to his house.
As we come in I could hardly talk, and there was his wife or his daughter. And as we sit down I motioned like this: to give us something to drink. So she brought us a clay pitcher with milk, and some sort of a saucer, and I pour some milk for myself, and I give some to Bubi. I drank the milk, and she had brought us a piece of bread, but we couldn't eat it. When I finished that milk I started to talk a little.
I said "Georgie, what' s happening in our town?". So he says, "You stay here and I'll go and come right back". So we're sitting there looking like corpses out of the earth, starved, torn clothes from these branches, and so on.
It didn't take long, maybe a half hour or so, and he comes back ... listen: with a whole patrol of civilians, not military, but with rifles.
"Oh!" says one, "You were in the woods. We knew you were hiding. You shot at our army"
"We shot at their army?! " I said "We didn't shoot at anybody!", and "What are you going to do with us?"
He says "We have orders to take all Jews that we catch to town", So I thought to myself, "Very good, they're leading us to town; it's not far, and then I'll be able to go home"
Meanwhile someone took my jacket, and I had a watch on my hand, which was also taken, and ...what else did I have? I think I had a little ring.. also taken. No... the ring was hidden and they didn't find it. They lead us out on the road, and as we got to the road I thought, "It can't be far to town, about two kilometers or so, and we'll be in our stetl."
I see a Romanian patrol approaching, and I start to shake. We hadn't seen them for over a year, those Romanians, because the Russians had been there, not the Romanians. And as they came over these Romanians asked "Who are these guys?"
The others replied "Jidane”, "Jews”. “We caught them in the woods and they shot at our soldiers."
I said "That's not true...its not true". So one came over and gave me a slap and for the first time ever I saw fire in my eyes.
A LITTLE FURTHER
He said "O.K., you go back to where you were going", to these civilians, and "We'll take care of getting them back to Ciudin".
They asked me in Romanian ,"Have you done military service?"
"Where did you do military service?"
"In the cavalry."
He says "Attention!" So I stood at attention.
"Directia Ciudin!" That means we should go in the direction of Ciudin.
I felt very encouraged because we started to march to Ciudin.
Not long after we started out they started to push us with the butts of their rifles, and they started to hit us right here. They threw us into a ditch, you know, and we start walking across a field.
And they lead us and lead us, and I hear them whispering about something "Over there, just a little further..." He was saying that at the top of the next hill was where they would shoot us, you understand.
I heard them conferring in this way, and I started to cry, and to beg, "We're not far from our home...and G-d will help you. This is a war, and when you return to your homes it will be good for you" and so on.
One of them came closer, and I had another little watch and a ring hidden, and I gave them away.
So one came over and opened a rucksack, you know the kind that soldiers use to carry bread, and so on. So he opens this rucksack and takes out a bottle of about 3/4 of a litre of liquor, real 100% proof liquor. He says "You should know that you are being led to be shot, and you won't live long. But since you gave us these things, drink this...if you want drink it all, and between the two of you, you won't feel a thing".
LIKE AN ANGEL
So, go drink whiskey before your death! I started to moan and beg, and fell to their feet and kissed them...and so on. So one says " Do you have enough strength to go on to Ciudin?"
So I said "Yes, certainly I can go!"
"And he won't speak?" So they beat Bubi because he couldn't speak. Poor Bubi couldn't manage to speak. So one says "Are you sure you can go on?"
I said "Yes!!"
So he says "Run over to that tree!" And he shows me a tree about twenty-five metres away that he wanted me to run to. So if I could run it would be good, and if not...not. I don't know from anything and I start running.
And just as I start to run I hear "TRRRRRRRRRRRRR " A machine gun!
Out of terror I fell to the ground, and stopped running, and at this point crawled back on my belly. I crawled back right back to them, and poor Bubi was lying there. And I start crying and begging, and kissing their feet.
One of them was like an angel. He says "Lets take them back to Ciudin. To hell with them! Let's take them back to Ciudin."
And they ordered us to get up, and they led us back across the ditch onto the road, and they led us back to town.
WHERE IS THIS STETL
When we got to town, we saw that the desecration of the Holy Temple was nothing compared to what had happened there.
Every house that we knew all those years… if you looked through the front, you could see through to the back. The windows were gone! The doors were gone! The bricks were missing. And you couldn't see a dog , or a cat. No people! Nothing!
I asked myself "Where is this Stetl? Where are the people?"
They led us to the centre of town. At the centre of town was a large building and near that building was our house. And they led us to this building, and which had belonged to a man called Schachter, who had owned a store that was attached to his house.
In front of the place was an officer , and I knew him from before. He searched us, and found one last watch that I had hidden in a secret pocket. When he took it, I asked him "What's happening here?"
He says "You'll hear all about it. You'll be told."
We were led into this empty store, where everything had been robbed, and it was totally empty, and there's my teacher Guttman. The Hebrew teacher from my Stetl. He had been a very good teacher, and I had liked him very much. I had received good grades for my studies, and he liked me. I find him there with Lezer Guttman, his son, and Ruchale, his daughter.
I find them there, and they start to cry, so I ask them "Why are you crying? Where are the other people?"
They said "Don't ask about anybody".
"What do you mean!?"
They tell me not far from there had lived a farmer who had been very rich. When the Russians came in they had sent all the rich Gentiles to Siberia... Jews too; those who had been rich were given a passport of some kind and they were all taken away from their homes. Just over there was a home that had been taken away from this gentile, they had taken away the whole family, and it was empty.
Guttman and his family had gone up to the loft of his barn and hidden themselves there. From that hiding place they had been able to look down into the jail where they had seen Jews being led, and had known something was going on.
WHY DID THEY TOLL THE BELLS?
This had started Thursday, and on Friday she had said...this Mrs. Guttman, that she would go down to hear what what going on in the stetl.
So she went down, and Moishe Schachter had been there with his family too, so Mrs. Schachter went down with Mrs. Guttman to find out what was going on, and said they'd soon be back to the loft.
After they left, these people waited and waited, all day Friday, soon it was evening, Shabbos, and they're not coming back. They too had been captured and taken away.
Guttman told how on Saturday at 4:00 p.m., in looking down at everything that was going on, they saw how everybody had been gathered together, how people were been led, and more and more people were being brought, and they had pushed all of these people into those cells that I have told you about in that jail, and at 4:00 in the afternoon, the bells of the churches started to toll very loudly.
Why did they toll the bells? So you couldn't hear the cries of anguish of these people.
And that's when they pushed machine guns through those little windows in the doors, and they started to shoot. The Guttmans could see what what was going on from there!
Now, imagine for yourself...not everyone...had the luck...to get a bullet in the heart or in the head. My father...and my brothers and sister had to watch their own children dying...
And the children had to watch how their parents died...
And after a few hours the Guttmans watched as they started to throw from this balcony, how they started throwing down the people, throwing and throwing.
A few hours before they had watched them digging...graves. They could see from up there in that loft this digging and wondering if they were digging fortifications. But that wasn't it. They were working on the mass graves. It wasn't far from the jail where they dug these...five ... mass graves, and that's where they threw in these people.
And later when they saw them replacing the earth...they could see ... the earth moving... they weren't all dead. That's how they were buried.
So... when we came down that Sunday, this is what they told us. I started to cry terribly... and so...
A List of the Martyrs of Ciudin, including Hedy Schachter, my mother's sister, who ran out to look for my grandfather and never returned is on the Jewish Gen site. My uncle survived Transnistria and later died in Israel).
Written with the help of my friend Eli Rozenblatt from Ciudin.
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