Chapter 10.A



 As others, I too, dream while asleep.  Some were good and some bad, some I had forgotten immediately, some after a time.  A few stayed in my memory forever.  Still I never believed in them.  Although my mother’s dream of MOLLY FEINBERG’s falling off the ancient shul (synagogue) in Shershev did come to pass, I never paid much attention to it.


    In the middle of January 1943 I had a dream.  I was on a train.  The train stopped at a railway station.  The station itself was a non-descript one story quadrangular building with two square windows on each side.  It had a low leaning roof in all four sides to the center and the walls plastered in a gray color. I did not know why but that building seemed very repugnant to me, yet in the dream I knew that I would have to get off there.  I woke up in a distressing mood and bitter taste in my mouth.

    Due to the increase in guards around the ghetto fence, the shortage of many articles became acute.  The first victims were the refugees, many of whom depended partly on the Judenrat.  In those January days of 1943, my diet consisted of the few potatoes my mother used to cook the previous evening, the piece of bread we used to get going out of the ghetto to work and the soup my mother used to concoct and save for me for when I got home.  What the other members of the family were eating that January, I did not know and now, ashamed to say, I did not ask which I regret even today.  Not that it would have helped them anyway.

      When in the third week of January the military truck came on its weekly visit to pick up the soled felt boots that were being made in the ghetto, they did not bring with them any raw material.  That was a bad omen for the ghetto.  There were those that made nothing of it.  Others shrugged their shoulders.  I am sure that among them were many that have much earlier saw the unavoidable impending catastrophe, but did not want to say it aloud not to make the gloomy atmosphere in the ghetto more depressing.


      The few groups of partisans that have so far got out of the ghetto into the forests had a hard time.  Some of them have been accepted into the established partisan groups, others tried to fend for themselves.  They used to get food from the peasants, sometimes by persuasion and sometimes by force, but being always on the move between attacking and escaping the Germans, they were hard on their clothes, especially the footwear.  The best and safest place to get some was the ghetto.  To be more precise the Judenrat, which had to have leather and leather boots at all time to pacify the Germans.      Nobody in the Judenrat was surprised when during their late night meetings a couple of Jewish partisans used to appear asking for good clothing and footwear.  They used to get it and get out of the ghetto that same night under the cover of darkness.  Of course such transactions used to be conducted in total secrecy, for in this case on secrecy depended the existence of the ghetto and the life of its ten thousand habitants.


     Tuesday, the 26th of January is according to the Jewish calendar 20 days in the month of Shvat, my 20th birthday.  My loving and devoted mother never failed to remind me of my Jewish birthday even in the darkest and last days of the ghetto.  The next day Wednesday, we, the six workers, held a meeting with some of the group of future partisans. It was held again in the quarters of the Kamieniec-Litowsker couple, across from the offices of the Judenrat.  The meeting did not last long as nobody had any new plans or ideas and secondly we did not want to walk in the street late at night as it was prohibited to be outside after dark.  Nobody cherished the idea of coming face to face with a Nazi at night.  Even though we used to start our meetings after dark, still one could claim that one is coming from work up to seven o’clock, but not later.       The meeting was over at eight thirty and we started down the stairs.  The exit led to the yard.  From the yard we walked to a wide gate that opened into Kobriner Street.   The wide gate was higher than a man and there were no cracks in it that one could look out into the street.  In the gate itself was a little door which we had to open carefully as the door used to squeak.  As soon as we touched the door we heard an auto stop across the street in front of the Judenrat.  In the deathly quiet of the ghetto night we heard as the doors of the auto opened and a voice saying; “Willy keep guard,” sounds of steps as they ascended the porch.  There was a loud opening of a door and five-six seconds later, several shots.  We remained frozen to the ground, for up to now we had not heard a single shot fired in the ghetto.  No more than two minutes later we could hear the Germans getting out of the Judenrat, into the auto and pulled away.  We immediately heard talking and yelling in Yiddish.   Opening the little door in the gate, we noticed a crowd gathering in front of the Judenrat.  It did not take long to find out what happened.  As the Gestapo men entered the Judenrat they found most of the members present including the president ITZL YANOVITZ (Janowicz).  Among the present were two armed partisans who had come from the forest with a list of things they needed.  As fate wanted, the Gestapo men walked in on them.  The two armed partisans seeing the Germans enter, jumped up and ran out the back door.  The Germans noticing armed men running out pulled out their handguns and started firing indiscriminately, killing one member of the Judenrat, the night watch man and wounding several others.  The Gestapo men in the excitement forgot to say what they came for or maybe they wanted to play cat and mouse with the Jews.  Whatever the reason, all they said was that they wanted the partisans by eleven o’clock that very evening.  Otherwise they have their own method of dealing with the situation.


      All the Judenrat had were a couple of hours.   Who the two partisans were was known.  One was MORDECHAI BEAR SEGAL, the second was a young man from Bialistok whose name I do not remember.  Those two partisans had family in the ghetto and on their way out they stopped over and took along a couple of their brothers.  They got out of the wired fence minutes before the Nazis reinforced the guards around the ghetto.  Whoever tried to follow them just a few minutes later was shot at the fence.  The Judenrat called a hasty meeting at which it was decided to arrest a member of each of the two partisan families, in the hope that meantime they will pacify the Nazis for the time being and be able to negotiate with them later.  Thus getting out of the situation it suddenly found itself into.  In the worst case scenario they would sacrifice the two men as supposedly the two partisans, which they demanded.  Everyone in the ghetto realized that the Germans will not let us off with the delivery of the two supposedly partisans.  But that was what they initially demanded.  After hanging around the Judenrat for an hour and having found out this much I went home to my parents, sisters and brother.  This time I did not have to be careful walking the dark ghetto streets.  The ghetto was not asleep.  It was swarming like a bee hive.  The reinforced Nazi guards around the ghetto could plainly see it but did not react.


     No one in our room was sleeping, nor anyone in the whole house.  My parents were too upset, too depressed and two nervous to be able even to sit down, so they stood in the middle of the room looking at each other and the children unable to say anything.  After telling them what took place in the last hour (not that they did not already know), for the first time I revealed to them the fact that I belong to a group that is planning to run to the forest and join the partisans.  The expression on their faces did not change.  My mother turned to me and said: If there is a chance to save yourself, try it, may G-d help you.


     I went out to see if there is any news.  The Kobriner Street where the Judenrat was, was full with people, especially around the Judenrat.  It was about ten thirty in the evening, half an hour before the dead line.  Suddenly the main ghetto gate opened and a German auto drove in and stopped in front of the Judenrat.  Although it was night and Jews were not allowed to be outside after dark, nobody made a move or attempt to go away.  I was wondering if we have suddenly become so brave or have we resigned to our fate.  A couple Germans got out and walked into the Judenrat.  Everyone was waiting in tension to learn the reason of this visit and wondering what calamity will befall us now.  What new decree?  A minute later they came out, proud and arrogant as if they have just conquered the world.  In a military precise gait they step down to the auto, the driver opens the door and salutes smartly.  They pull away.  Before any one has a chance to ascend the steps of the porch, the door of the Judenrat opens. One member appears and announces that the Germans revoked the demand for the two partisans, for in any case the ghetto will be evacuated (the German euphemism for slaughter or kill) beginning tomorrow.  The evacuation will last four days during which two and a half thousand people will be taken away daily.  They even left behind a map showing which part of the ghetto will be emptied each .day.


      Immediately assumptions and accusations started to circulate around the ghetto.  The assumptions were that the two Jewish partisans have been betrayed by a couple of non Jewish partisans that were supposed to have been waiting for them on the outskirts of town.  The accusations were about the two Jewish partisans.  There were those who contended that; if they were good Jewish boys, they would have stayed home and it would not have come to it or if they wanted to be partisans they should have stayed in the forest and not put the ghetto in jeopardy.  The argumentation was solved the next morning at nine o’clock when four hundred sleds entered the ghetto.  They were peasants from the surrounding villages who drive the sleds and 0told us that they have been ordered at noon the day before to show up at the ghetto fence way before the incident with the partisans.  It became clear to all that the event with the partisans was coincidental.


     We, living on “Nowa” Street, were supposed to be leaving the ghetto on the first day, January 28, 1943.  On the same short street lived my father’s brother Joshua with his wife Freda and their three children.  For our comfort my sister Sheva used to sleep there.  The others of my father’s family, like his parents, my grandparents Kantorowitz (Kantorowicz), my father’s sister Sheindel, her husband Leibl and their two children, my father’s brother Hershl and his wife Sheinah, my father’s youngest brother Eli and my father’s two cousins from Malecz,  Joshuah and ZALMAN NYSELBAUM and their families lived in one big house on Rezky Street.


    During that despairing night, my parents decided to move or really to go over to Rezky Street in order to spend the last hours together.  How can one describe our feelings, sitting there in despair and mortal fear of the impending death of a thousand faces that was awaiting for us.  Yet I will shamelessly admit that my thoughts were mainly preoccupied with saving myself, reasoning that if anyone of us has any chance it is I.  I was a member of a group of young men who were preparing to go into the forest.  What chance had my parents, sisters and brother to save themselves?  What went though their minds that night?  At day break as we were getting ready to go over to Rezky Street, my mother turned to me and said:  run over to your uncle Joshuah and call your sister Sheva.  Let us be together before we die.  At that moment I glanced out the window and noticed my sister Sheva coming towards us.  She was walking slowly and calmly, looking ahead, her face was pensive, I would say serene, as if she has already resigned to and made peace with her fate.  Despite the fact that I have struggled with the idea of having to die all that night, I felt a shudder that would not leave me.  As soon as my sister Sheva entered, each of us picked up the little bundle my mother had prepared and we walked out into the cold January dawn.


     Walking along that windy cold street I went back in my thoughts thirteen months to December of 1941 when we dragged ourselves together for three days on our way from Chomsk to Pruzany.  Suddenly that dragging in that bitter cold and in fear became a sweet memory in comparison to this moment.  Then, despite the fear of being caught, the cold and hunger, we could look forward to the eventual getting to Pruzany.  Now looking at my little brother and sisters, watching as their little cheeks are turning red from the wind and cold, my heart was crying out to G-d, why?  I looked at my mother and tried to tell myself that the dampness on her face is from the blowing flurries and not her tears.  My father walked silently, trying to keep the little ones together as if to make sure that death does not miss them.   Again the question that never left me since I have seen the first German cried out in me, why?  Why do we deserve such a cruel end?  What have these little children done to deserve it?


       The ghetto streets were quiet.  One could not hear a yell, a scream or a shot.  There was not a single German in the ghetto but we could see many around the fence.  Here and there one could see a person running across the street.  Despite the fact that everyone knew when one will be “evacuated”, and could postpone it for a day or two by just crossing the street, hardly anyone did it.  Entering my uncle’s living quarters we found them all sitting together in one room.  Their mood, as ours, trying to make conversation that was carried on with difficulties, exhausting itself often, and starting up with difficulties with an unimportant remark or statement.  All was in a futile attempt to keep away from morbid speculatory conversations like, ¨Have the Germans already dug graves for us or will we have to do it ourselves?¨  Or, are the graves nearby or will we be taken to Brona-Gora? (a railway station between Bereza-Kartuzka and Iwacewicze) where many of the Jews of Bereza_Kartuzka, Ruzany, Antopol and other places are buried?


        During such a conversation I asked my uncle Eli, my father’s youngest brother who saw action in the Polish German war, how long can a person go on suffering before death if a bullet strikes the body and not the head?  It depends on where it strikes he answered.  If it strikes a major organ like the lungs, stomach or even intestines the body has a tendency to develop a high temperature which usually brings with it a loss of consciousness.  If the bullet strikes the heart, death is almost instant.  However if the bullet does not strike a major organ, a person might lay in a mass grave in horrible pain for hours and even days.


   Such was the theme of our conversation during that depressing Thursday morning January 28, 1943, when two and a half thousand souls was taken out of the ghetto to which my only brother, the 13 year old Liova (Leibl), my eleven year old sister Sonia (Sara) and my nine year old sister Leiba were listening.  My older sister Sheva who turned twenty one five months earlier listened attentively to the conversation but did not participate.  In retrospect, nobody said much, everyone was engrossed in ones own thoughts which we used to say it aloud from time to time.  I watched as my aunt Sheindl, my father’s sister, tried to explain to her fifteen year old deaf and dumb son Sioma (Shalom), that exceptionally bright, strong, red headed boy what was happening now in the ghetto and what will happen to us.  I could see that he understood everything his mother told him.  One could see it in his face, but his face kept on expressing one question that none of us could answer, namely why?  At about three in the afternoon people began to appear in the street.  My father, uncles and I went outside to find out what took place during the last few hours.  Within a quarter of an hour the alleys and lanes came to life.  People were eager to listen and share their experience.


    Here is what took place.  At nine in the morning, two of the three ghetto gates, the main gate in the market place, opposite Kobriner Street and at the end on Seltzer (Dambrowska in Polish) Street opened up and the German gendarmes escorted into the ghetto four hundred peasants with their sleds.  They were led to the following streets: Cerkewna, Strazacka, Nova, Yatka, Gensza, Mieszczanska and Shull-Hoiff.  They were lined up along those ghetto streets opposite the Jewish homes from where the inhabitants started to come out in silence.  The women with red faces from weeping, the men with bent heads and all one could hear was the sobbing of children.  Six persons were ordered in each sled.  No more and no less.  Each person was permitted to take along a small suitcase, either a knapsack or just a little bag.  The bringing out and settling down in the sleds of the old and infirmed, especially when families tried to be together, the thorough final search of the houses by the Nazis, it all took a couple of hours.  Finally the mournful procession numbering two and a half thousand souls started out on their final journey into the shadow of death.  They left via Seltzer Street gate.  As soon as the last sled left, the gate was shut.  Half a dozen Germans took up position around it and nobody was permitted out or in, even a German.  The horror of the reality shook the ghetto population, especially the young of whom some still believed that the Germans were bluffing. Now with a quarter of the population gone no further proof was needed.


     That evening there was extreme agitation and total confusion in the ghetto.  Young people started to look for a way out.  Many tried to get closer to the barbed wire hoping to find a less guarded stretch of fence.  Unfortunately in vain, the Germans knew only too well how to keep Jews confined.  At every fifty meter intervals, they put two men, one gendarme and one local volunteer policeman.  They kept walking back and forth from the two opposite sides towards each other thus keeping their assigned fifty meters always in sight.  With electrical lights on each post of the fence and pistol flares at their disposition the guards used to fire at any sound,  the ghetto was tightly closed.  It is no wonder that when a few brave young men fell dead at the wire while trying to get out, hundreds of others began to loose courage and hope.  As a result collaboration and contact between the so called organized groups ceased.  It seemed that each had to fend for himself and so it turned out to be.  Those who had or kept the weapons started to whisper and scheme on their own and for themselves, forgetting their commitment to those that procured the weapons.


       In reality one can not blame them for acting this way.  As at that moment it was obvious that a group would never make it to the outside of the ghetto.  If there was any chance at all, it would be for a single individual or just maybe a small group.  That Thursday night, I spent outdoors.  To be more precise near the wire ghetto fence hoping against hope that maybe a watchman will get distracted long enough for me to get out.  Now and then I used to come in the house to try and persuade my two uncles Hershl and Eli to join me at the fence.  Hanging on to the hope that maybe there will come a chance for us to get out of the trap and make it to the forest.  At that moment I did not even think of the difficulties that would await us should we even make it there.  My thoughts were how to avoid the imminent death awaiting us from the Germans.  My uncle Hershl has as of lately developed a severe back pain and he felt that he would not be able to run any distance.  My uncle Eli the twenty nine year old healthy man who four years earlier went through the Polish German campaign with distinctions, did not want to think about abandoning his parents, my grandparents Kantorowicz.


       That night, too, nobody slept at my uncle’s quarters.  The outside door was unlocked and I used to come in from time to time to find them sitting up exhausted from lack of sleep, but even more from despair and agony.  If some one used to lay down and doze off for a moment, they used to wake up with a startling scream or cry.  So passed the night of Thursday to Friday, with the young people of the ghetto trying to outsmart the Germans and see how close they can get to the fence before being noticed.  Later on that night I heard that several small groups succeeded in making good their escape.  Apparently a group of armed men managed to bribe a local policeman who let them through while his partner the German was patrolling and approaching the far end of their territory looking away from him.  As there were many others along the fence nearby that were waiting for a chance to get out, noticing the armed group getting out, ours started to follow them.  This whole affair took only a few seconds when the Germans turned around.  The local policeman noticing the German turning around fired, killing one instantly.  The others retreated into the ghetto.  Still, thirty odd young men made it out.  Among them the three brothers MALETZKY my friend Itzik, his older brother Nacham and younger Moishe.


    This event took place at the end of Rezky Street on the very street where my family was spending their last hours together with my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.  As luck would have it, I was then at another spot along the fence.  In another place near the former Polish gymnasium another group succeeded in making it out.  Among them was my cousin LISA PINSKY with her boyfriend YUDEL RUBIN.  I heard of the successful escape of the first group within fifteen minutes after it happened.  But about the second I only found out Friday morning having returned to my family after spending the night running around the ghetto fence in a futile attempt to get out.  As I came in I found everybody talking about Lisa’s successful escape.  I went over to my aunt Sheindl who was in the kitchen to ask if she heard any details.  All she knew was that according to what she was told there were no bodies around the place where the group got out.  Then she turned back half heartedly to busy herself round the cooking stove as if to make breakfast, which was the farthest thing on anyone’s mind.  And so passed the second night of siege for the remaining citizens of the ghetto who sat in cold sweat counting the diminishing hours of their lives.  How is it possible to describe the mood, the morbidity, the anguish that existed in every house, where ever you turned your head, be it your father, mother, sisters, brother, grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts, cousins by the dozen who only hours from now will be dead.  Their bullet riddled bodies will fall into the waiting for them gigantic pits some falling down dead, some half dead.  The dead will be the lucky ones.  The half dead will expire in pain and prolonged suffering either from cold, bleeding to death, suffocate under the bodies falling on top or will be buried alive.


      Nine o’clock on Friday morning, like yesterday, the German escorted another four hundred sleds into the ghetto.  This time they parked along Seltzer Street and Holender Street and all smaller streets and alleys in between like Potapuwka, Polna, Dluga and Cmentarna.  Before the sleds  began to be loaded some of the younger men started up a conversation with the peasant sled owners.  They found out that they took yesterday´s Jews to the railway station Oranczyce-Linowo, twelve kilometers away, where they were loaded into cattle cars.  What happened to them later on they did not know.  Some of the peasants mentioned that on the way to the ghetto that morning they saw a couple dozen dead Jews scattered along a section of the road some three kilometers from Pruzany.  They even described the victim´s attire.  The young men having heard the news slowly melted into the side street and spread the story in the ghetto.  The description of the attire was so precise that some of the families could identify their sons and daughters.  In that confusion I found out that among the dead were the three MALETZKY brothers.  Of course the whole story could not be verified but I nor anybody I know ever heard of those Maletzky brothers again nor of the others with them. 


     The expulsion of the above mentioned streets took place with the same German precision and efficiency as the day before.  If any beating, cursing or yelling took place, we would not hear anyway being a couple streets away.  I do not recall any shooting.  The Germans were doing a thorough and clean job.  Besides, it is much easier to handle a living Jew than a dead Jew.  A dead one does not obey commands.  Friday´s expulsion ended at the same time as Thurday’s. As soon as the last sled of the convoy with the two and a half thousand souls left and the Germans shut the gate, people appeared in the street.  That late afternoon, I heard that some young men whose names I do not remember were passing from Shershev Street to Kobriner and found themselves in front of the main ghetto gate.  Apparently they looked very suspicious for the Germans did not pay much attention then to the goings on in the ghetto.  One was stopped, searched and they found on him a number of detonators.  They beat him up and let him go.  In other times for such a crime they would exact a price in the hundreds of lives.  Their action proved again that as far as they are concerned, we are anyway as good as dead.  This action only confirmed our greatest fear that we face the concluding chapter in the Nazi program of the solution of the Jewish problem.  Still it is difficult to understand and appreciate the human desire, drive or is it lust for life, for despite all indications of the last two days and contrary to common sense, there were still some that dared to hope that we are being taken to labor camps and stubbornly refused to believe that we are being led to the slaughter.  Adherers to this believe were among the locals.  It is possible that the comparative tranquillity of the ghetto Pruzany in comparison to others instilled a false hope in some, or is it a result of a desperate desire for life in conjunction with a heart rendering cry to heaven; No, it can not happen, you can not do it!!!


     Among the young of the remaining half of the ghetto population, new groups were being formed.  The not so successful groups were trying to entice new more dependable members, by claiming possession of weapons.  I was approached by a young man from Shershev, REUVEN WINOKUR, who showed me an impressive hand gun.  I took it from his hand and pulled out the magazine in which there were two cartridges.  Without a word I handed it back to him.  With such an arsenal I would not feel much safer than with my bare hands.  Of my very close friends, all I had left was KALMAN KALBKUF, who was living with his parents and sisters on Rezky Street  The other friends like the brothers ROTENBERG, Leizer and Litek, my friend MEIR KALBKUF, all with their families were slaughtered in Chomsk and my friend ITZIK MALETZKY with his two brothers, I have just lost the night before.  Kalman and I decided to make an attempt that night by ourselves without any company to get out.  We made up to meet after dark.


     Getting home I repeated all I heard in the street which they knew already anyway.  Namely that tomorrow, Saturday, the Germans will come for us.  The sleds will drive into Rezky Street and some will park in front of the house in which my entire family is now living, and take us all to our death.  We were hoping to remain another day, that is, until Sunday.  However, there were not enough people left in the original assigned streets like west side of Kobriner Street, part of Polna, part of Seltzer and Browarna to make up two and a half thousand souls. Therefore the Germans will take in Rezky, Brisker or so called new Shereshev Street and the small alleys in between.  Who can understand what it was like and how I and all my extended family felt when I announced the above.  True as I mentioned before, they knew and expected it. Still to hear from my mouth aloud the confirmation even though I was really whispering sounded like a thunder.  Still louder was the silence that followed.  Maybe there is an explanation that I do not understand or maybe their heart and feelings were so numb from pain and despair that they were unable to cry.  Whatever the reason, none of them made a sound.  They just remained standing avoiding each others glances.  A little while later they started to turn away from each other not to look in each others face.  A corner, a wall, a window, anywhere, was better then to look at your own hurt, suffering and despair reflected in somebody else face.  The most difficult task for me was to see my thirteen year old brother Liova (Leibl) and the two little sisters Sonia (Sara) eleven, and the nine year old Liba huddled to my mother as if she could protect them.  Without a word their eyes looking up to her saying all that their lips could not utter.


   Having arranged to meet my friend Kalman, I told my mother that I am going again to try my luck at the fence.  As if knowing in advance that I will not succeed, I did not say good bye to anyone.  I took the improvised knapsack I made earlier from an old sack and some rope and in which already on Wednesday night, my mother put in my pitiful possessions of underwear and clothes and I left the house.  The lanes and alleys were teeming with young people that were even more desperate to find a way out than in the two previous nights.  We became part of the crowd that was constantly moving from spot to spot along the barb wire fence.  As more aggressive we became, the more alert were the Germans and quicker on the trigger.  And so running around I spent the third night at the fence in helplessness and despair.  I, a twenty year old man in the prime of my life and condition, felt completely exhausted, physically from not sleeping three nights and being constantly on my feet, psychologically from the tension of the same three days.  At times I felt like going back to my parents, throw myself in any corner for a couple hours of sleep and perish with them.  Anything, as long as there will be an end to it.


     With daybreak I returned to my parents and family.  As in the previous couple days, they were fully dressed and looked completely exhausted.  In my lifetime I have seen many walking dead, but there was my first time and they were my father, mothers, sisters, brother, grandparents, uncles and aunts with their children.  They walked around mechanically from room to room as if in a trance.  They were supposedly getting ready for the trip.  According to the German instructions, everyone could take along a small suitcase or a knapsack.  They were preparing theirs as if they believed that the Germans were taking them to a work camp.  Watching them pack and their attitude to it, the biggest fool could tell that their heart and soul was not in it.  As the saying goes, “Time waits for no man,” so were those horrible yet their last and precious minutes in the ghetto and of their lives fast running out and everyone was aware of it.  I stood in the middle not knowing what to do or what to say.  Indeed what could I have said and what was there to say.  In one room stood my uncle Hershl bent over a small valise that was sitting on a chair, arranging things in it for the trip.  In the other corner over another valise was my uncle Eli preparing it for his parents, my grandparents, Yaakov-Kopel and Chinka.  Suddenly my uncle Hershl still packing, started to sing, “Aily Aily Lomo Azavtony” (G-d in heaven why have you abandoned me.) Those words are not only part of Jewish Liturgy, but they have been extended and incorporated into a Yiddish song that has heart rending words regarding the centuries old persecution of Jews and befitting many dark periods in Jewish history.  But if there was ever an appropriate time, it was then.  If G-d did not respond, he must have been in a deep, deep sleep that lasted a long time.


    Through the entire German occupation and Nazi horror, I never cried.  But the closest I came to it was then.  I slowly turned around to get out of the room when I heard my grandmother say: They are taking us to the slaughter and he is singing.  My poor unfortunate grandmother.  The last few days and nights affected her badly.  She failed to recognize that it was my uncle’s prayer, a cry to heaven.  I left the room and started to wander aimlessly over the big house.  Suddenly I came to a door which I failed to notice previously.  The door led into two large rooms which served as a hiding place for all the medicine that was in the ghetto, about which the Germans knew nothing of.  Now it was not on shelves but knee deep on the floor trampled into powder and mixed with crumbled glass jars in which it originally was.  This was done by a few young men that were tipped off by the Judenrat of its whereabouts with instructions to make it unusable to the Germans.  Those young men made a good job of it.  Looking for other hiding places, they unintentionally broke through a boarded up door that led to my relative´s quarters.  The picture of the destroyed medicine on which so many lives in the ghetto depended, lives that had hoped that with its help they might overcome the difficult times and maybe even the Nazi terror, shook me out of the delirium in which I momentarily sunk and gave me a push into reality and sobriety which I needed at that moment.  Namely to make a final decision; to stay here with my dear and loved ones and share their fate or try to hide out the few hours and try once more at night to get out.  The decision was made by my mother who came quietly over to me and said; “Moishela, time to go and hide yourself.  The Germans will soon be in.  Then it will be too late.”


     I wanted to start saying goodbye but did not know where to begin.  Shall I start with my parents or grandparents, uncles, aunts, their children or the farther relatives, my father’s two cousins, and their families from Malecz.  So far nobody cried aloud even though every ones hearts was breaking and crying beyond imagination.  If I will start saying goodbye,  the ready to burst well of tears will not shut off.  My mother noticed my hesitation and understood.  She took me gently by my hand and quietly said; Come, I will accompany you to the porch.   Since my early years, I always felt that I am my mother’s favorite child, if there is such a thing.  Only parents know the answer and let it remain with them.  How did my mother feel when she took me by my hand for the first time in probably ten years, knowing that it is the last time in her life that she is holding my hand, rather we will be holding hands in our lives?  What thoughts went through her head?  Did she think of the time she held my baby hand when I tried to take my first step?  Did she think of the times when I was two or three years old walking with me on the sidewalk holding my hand to make sure I did not run into the road or when I was four or five and she led me to the “Cheder?”  Or later holding my hand to kindergarden?  Or still later to Hebrew school?  What was she thinking about in those few precious moments?  One thing I am certain of.  That in her heart she was praying so ardently, so passionately on my behalf that it moved heaven and earth.  Otherwise, I would not have survived.


     On the porch my mother stood almost calm and said:  Remember my child, you have two uncles in America.  My brothers Shloime (Solomon) and Pesah (Phillip).  If G-d willing you will survive come to them and tell them how we lived and how we perished.  Remember my brother Shloime”s address.  Here my mother said it out loud.  SOLOMON AUERBACH, 2133 Daily Avenue, Bronx, New York.  I did not mark it down for two reasons.  Firstly I had no pen and paper on me and secondly, I had very little faith in my chance of surviving.  As soon as she finished giving me the address, my mother said to me, Nu, Moishela, go my child.  I was waiting for my mother to take me in her arms to kiss me expecting a flood of tears.  To my astonishment she made no move in my direction.  She just stood there as if petrified, motionless, looking ahead into the street and not at me.  Seeing that I am not moving she added:  Try to get out tonight.  Should you not succeed, you will be leaving tomorrow with the last group.  I am sure the Germans will let us live near the pits for a day or two before they will shoot us so we will see each other tomorrow evening.  I agreed with my mother adding.  Yes, we will most likely see each other tomorrow night, knowing only too well that by tomorrow night, my dear ones will all be dead.  Thus we were thinking that we are fooling each other to ease the terrible pain of parting.  I understood that my holy and loving mother said it in order to make my leaving easier.  Still my mother did not make a move.  Realizing that she fears an uncontrollable outpouring, I decided to go.  As I stood on her right side, I bent down a bit and kissed her on the right cheek.  My mother did not move.  Without another word, just hoping that my mother believes in our seeing each other tomorrow night, I started down the steps of the porch.


    Having covered ten or fifteen meters, I stopped to take another look at my mother whom I loved more than anybody in the world and whom I will never see again.  She was wearing a dark skirt and my aunt Sheindl’s sweater.  I noticed that my aunt’s sweater fitted her nicely although my aunt was a slim woman and my mother used to be on the stout side.  It suddenly occurred to me that my mother might have been hungry many times in the last year and a half and I did not realize it.  I also realized that my mother might catch a cold standing outside without a coat the 30th of January and as long as she can see me she will stand there.  Almost by force I turned and walked quickly away.     My mother’s so strangely numb behavior during our parting puzzled me for many years.  I understood that her heart was so full with pain that it could not bear tolerate an emotional parting but my mother was an exceptionally warm affectionate and sympathizing person, how could she control herself so well?


    Many years later when I read Rabbi DAVID VOLPE’s book, “In Search and in Silence” he says that in time of colossal emotion only silence will suffice.  Quoting the Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Volpe adds that, “The cry one holds back is the most powerful one of all.”  How befitting for my mother’s behavior then.  Dear mother of mine, I have fulfilled your bequest.  I survived to tell not only your brothers but I lived to tell their children and grandchildren.  One more thing mama, your legacy is now being passed on to your great grandchildren. 


    My legs carried me down Rezky Street towards the little house where the three Maletzky brothers lived with their mother Brina and grandmother Yachna. a completely blind woman in her late seventies.  As I have mentioned before the three MALETZKY brothers managed to get out two nights earlier, but have been shot out of town.  Their mother knew nothing of it and nobody was in a hurry to tell her.  Now the hiding place we dug there had spare room.  I proposed my friend KALMAN KALBKOIF to join me, but he had no confidence in that place.  Besides, he was planning on joining his neighbors who were living in the second half of their house and had a much better concealed hiding place.


     I did not have to wait long.  Seeing some men running by looking for a place to hide, I offered them ours.  Soon we had more than we could accommodate.  I do not remember who they were except the one from Shershev whose name was REUVEN HOCHMAN, a man of about forty who was somehow related to the “Pampalach” clan.  We could barely fit in.  BRINA MALETZKY covered the opening with small boards and spread turf over it.  It was very uncomfortable in there as it was too cramped, the closed air and the ceiling, that is the few boards over head were too low.  We sat one on top of the other bent down as far as we could.  Suddenly we heard  somebody shoveling away the turf overhead and then removing the boards.  I look up and see my father with my little thirteen year old brother Liova (Leibl).  Pushing some aside I stood up and asked what happened.  My father spoke to me with a voice I would never have recognized. My father’s voice was always strong, confident, even authoritive .  Now he spoke to me a man with a voice full of despair and anguish as if all the Jews under Nazi Germany were speaking through him. “Your mother thinks it would be a good idea if both of you should hide, maybe one of you will manage to get out through the wires and who knows, maybe survive.”  By the time my father finished the few words I managed to straighten myself and notice that I am sticking out head and shoulders over the rim of the hole.   Now I understood why it is so cramped and suffocating in that hole.


    I glanced at my little brother and noticed that he is still a little boy, barely reaching under my father’s arm.  Before I managed to say a word, a flood of voices came from underneath, as if from a chorus full of protests and screams which turned into a jumble of words and shouting like there is no more room here for anyone.  We are already suffocating.  What are we going to do with a little boy at the wires and should we get out, do you think we will look after him?  He will only be a hindrance.  Or to my father they yelled, “How dare you shove away the turf from the boards to expose our hiding place!!”  To say that I was thunderstruck would be an understatement.  Those were the same people that I gave them a hiding place which they desperately looked for not more than half an hour ago.  Now they turned against me, my father and brother.  But, if they behaved this way, total strangers, what about me?  Here I committed the greatest crime in my life, that still hunts me today, especially the first week after the event.  I listened to the others complaining and yelling and did not say a word.  True, I was no more the boss here, but at least I should have told them off.  After all, it was my hiding place which I dug with my own hands and I invited them in.  But I kept quiet, why?  Have I felt that now I am at their mercy?  Why did I keep quiet?  For that keeping quiet, I have not so far asked G-d for forgiveness.  I do not dare, for in my thinking I do not deserve it.


      From the ghetto was coming the sound of neighboring horses.  At any minute the gate could open and the Germans with the farmers´ sleds could come in.  My father took my little brother’s hand saying, let´s go.  There was barely room enough in that narrow hallway for them to turn around.  I stood in that hole watching them walk out hand in hand never to see them again.     I squeezed myself back into the hole, BRINA MALETZKY again covered the opening with the small board dumped some turf over it and we remained in the dark.  Shortly after, we started hearing the expected voices of the Jewish inhabitants, the peasant commands to the horses and above it all the voices of the accursed Germans driving the Jews out of their homes to their death.  Apparently BRINA MALETZKY with her blind mother left their little house on time and quietly, for we did not hear the usual abuse, swearing and curses from the Germans inside, we would have.  We could however, clearly hear every quarter of the hour or so a German coming in to make sure that there is nobody left.   The reverberation of their booted steps used to shake the floor of that little house.


    Around two o’clock that Saturday afternoon, there was a dead silence in the ghetto.  We moved away the boards and crawled out into the day light.  There was no sign of a German and a few Jews began to appear in the street.  Many seemed to wander lost and bewildered not knowing what to do or where to turn.  That afternoon I passed by several times the house from which my entire family, immediate and extended was taken away. I did not dare enter it.  After wandering around the still partly populated part of the ghetto which suddenly became so estranged, without a person I loved or cared for, with nightmerish thoughts in my head of how my dear ones will perish, conjuring up the most horrible visions that only the present reality could trigger, I found myself back near the MALETZKY’s little house where I was hiding a couple hours earlier.  Through the little low window I noticed some people inside and I walked in.  I found there less than half a dozen Shershev Jews, among them one by the name of David.  I do not remember his family name.  He lived in a little lane off Chazer-Ghesl making a living as a horse dealer and a village peddler.  With those two sources of income, he and his family barely survived.  The second there was MOISHE TUCHMACHER.  Both men were in the early forties, married with children.  This MOISHE TUCHMACHER unlike that David who was a pauper, was a well to do man in Shershev with a big house in the market square.


   The conversation revolved around those that have been taken and about the chances of getting out tonight.  All present were single individuals who have lost their families in the last three days or even earlier in Drohyczyn or Chomsk.  In general, the conversation was confusing.  Everyone wanted to talk not having the patience to listen to others, hoping by talking to ease his own state of mind and the heaviness on the heart.  In the middle of that tumult, the door opens and in walks in ISSER GICHMAN.  A man in the same age as those mentioned above.  A close friend of MOISHE TUCHMACHER, on the same level of respectability and who, as Moishe,  sent off that very day his wife and children to the slaughter.  The two friends seeing each other fell in each others arms.  For a split second their faces lit up as if they have won the lottery and instantly their faces twisted, distorting in terrible pain and both burst out in a heart rending cry.


      Even though everyone present was in deep grief and ached over his own losses, it had to be difficult to watch the two middle aged men crying in each others arms.  They, like the others in that little room parted with their families forever, deciding to spend the last night in the ghetto in an attempt to get out.     To be honest, it occurred to me to question if such an act is proper, that is to let your family go the execution and try to save yourself.  Yet I realized that there was no great accomplishment in going with them and the desire to live is immense.  Before I could give this thought any time I saw as that David that horse dealer gives a bang with his fist on the table and says in a loud voice “Now I feel better, let them know what it is like to be without a wife and children as I have been in this ghetto for the past four moths ever since I have lost mine in Drohyczyn.”


      In astonishment I looked at that man not believing what I have just heard and wondering how a man can even think such a thing, never mind to say it.  This man survived Auschwitz, went to Israel and died there at a ripe old age and was brought to a proper Jewish burial.  None of those present there wanted to bother answering him.  Everyone felt dejected, too depressed, too tired and maybe already indifferent to what one sees or hears.  We remained there till after dark when we went outside to try on the fourth and last night to get out.  We tried to keep an eye on three particular men.  They were YANKEL WINOGRAD who was considered to be the tallest man in Shershev.  A very resourceful man in the early thirties, he went through the Polish German campaign and managed to come to Pruzany under the German occupation when no Jew was permitted to travel. He enjoyed a certain respectability in the ghetto.


    In those last ghetto throes of death many looked to him for advise or simply followed him and his two companions.  He was very selective with his company, one was a man from Antopol that Yankel considered worthy of as that man was every bit as imposing as he if not more, the second was from Kobrin just as impressive.  Those three walked around the lanes and alleys like everybody else looking for a weak spot or a break.  The Germans understood only too well the mentality of the still remaining Jews in the ghetto.  Knowing the attempts made during the previous three nights which they successfully frustrated, the ghetto Jews will be more aggressive on the last night.  They decided to discourage us from such attempts.  As soon as it got dark, the Germans started shooting into the ghetto.  Unlike the previous nights when they used to shoot at visible targets, this time they used to fire for no apparent reason, not to mention real or imaginary targets.


    It became dangerous to cross a street especially Kobriner Street which faced the main ghetto gate and on the other end another gate thus cutting the ghetto in two.  Many believed that the best place to make a break was Old Shershev Street which was divided along its length.  One side of the street was in the ghetto while the other side was inhabited by Christians.  All that divided us was the barbed wire fence and cobble stoned road.  Once you made it to the other side of the street, you could disappear in the Christian populated alleys.  So indeed, many attempts to escape were made along that street.   That night one could find a group of young people almost behind every house waiting for a chance to get out.  Standing there I suddenly noticed three silhouettes running outside the fence across the cobble stoned street and instantly disappearing among the Christian houses.  At that moment all I heard was one shot.  In that split moment, I recognized the three men by their attire.  It was YANKEL WINOGRAD in his revamped Polish military uniform he used to wear in the ghetto, the man from Antopol in his Soviet style sheep skin coat and the man from Kobryn in his short coat, riding pants and high boots.  As far as I know they were the only ones to have made it out that night from that spot.


    Despite the difficulty in moving around we continued to wander from place to place exhausted half asleep from four sleepless nights hoping for a miracle.      And so the fourth and last night in the ghetto passed.  With day break, everyone started hurrying to make decisions.  The gathering point became Rezky Street where one could hear all kinds of suggestions.  One proposed resistance, there were still a couple rifles in the brothers Nathan and DAVID KABIZETZKY’s hiding place.  Somebody asked how many cartridges are there?  Sixty came the answer.  Somebody pointed out the fifty armed German men that have just arrived at the main gate from the so called “Lehman-Gang”.  This was a special signal group, part of “Stergrupppe H.G.” whose job it was to maintain the telephone lines functioning in our area.  But above all they excelled in beating up Jews, although that was not their department.  They never left a Jew outside the ghetto without a beating.  For amusement they used to enter the ghetto and beat up any Jew they met in the street.  Those fifty Germans came to the main gate to feast themselves by seeing the Jews being taken to the slaughter.  The one that pointed them out said: with the two rifles and sixty cartridges, do you want to take on those fifty, never mind the hundreds that came especially for us?  Besides men there were a lot of women in the street, many of them mothers.  Hearing talk about resistance, many started crying and lamenting, accusing the proponent of resistance of trying to provoke the Germans to kill us.


    These of course were local women who refused to accept the fact that we are being taken for destruction,.  Some of my acquaintances were still talking about hiding another night and try again to get out.  Other suggested to look around in the empty houses for food.  I do not remember if and when I ate during those four days.  If yes it was very little.  We ran into a few nearby empty houses.  Most were modest as far as food goes.  In some we found potatoes, or carrots, beets, uncooked cereal, nothing ready to eat.  In a couple we found food that really surprised me, like sugar, fat, and oil.  Food that I had not seen since leaving Shershev.  In one house we found a stock of Czarist silver rubles.  For a moment we started to fill our pockets with it but immediately realized that it will weigh us down besides the jingling sound it will make.  In my pocket I had some twenty or thirty marks, my father gave me and twice as many dollars my Uncle Hershl gave me Saturday morning before I left for my hiding place.  I took a few silver coins and left the house.


    Outside I met my friend KALMAN KALBKOIF and asked him if he made a decision.  He decided to hide in the hide out that was in the other part of their house although those people claimed that there was no room.  With daylight the Germans stopped the shooting and we were able to move around.  We wanted to see the spot where last night the three big men managed to get out.  Approaching the fence within two meters I shuddered in disbelief.   There on the other side of the fence right in the middle of the street lie the three men, YANKEL WINOGRAD, with his two companions, dressed in the very same clothes we used to see them in the ghetto and I saw them a few hours earlier running across the street outside.


    How did they get there?  With my own eyes I saw them running into the alley across the street, already outside the ghetto.  During that night I passed by this place several times and did not see them.  Within minutes our group grew bigger and some started proposing all kinds of assumptions.  One came up with the idea that besides the line of guards around the ghetto fence, there might be another one half a kilometer away, which depressed us even more.     With such despairing thoughts, we started back to Rezky street, just in time to see the farmers sleds turning into Rezky street from Kobriner.  My close friend Kalman disappeared most likely into his neighbor´s hideout.  I had no wish to hide alone in the previous place.  Besides, I had nobody to cover it with turf like the morning before.  I looked at all the men that spent the last four nights with me around the ghetto fence settling down into the sleds under the club swinging watchful Germans.  Everyone is trying to sit near family, friends, acquaintances to spend their last hours on this earth together.  There were many single men like myself whose families left earlier and they remained to try and get out.  To me it makes no difference with who I share the sled.  My family left yesterday on their last journey.  Still I react when I see SHALOM BERENSHTEIN approaching my sled.  He is the one with whom I worked one year under the Soviets, the former Soviet soldier, escaped prisoner of war who worked with me outside the ghetto till the last day.  He sits down to my right and I find myself in the middle on the three seat board.  I do not remember who sat to my left or the three men behind me.


    The sight of the entire families trying desperately to sit together made me feel painfully guilty.  It was yesterday at this time that my family was being loaded on these sleds.  They too wanted to sit together, did they?  Or have they been torn apart and put in different sleds for that last trip?  My effort to get out of the ghetto was in vain, I should have been with them. Instead I have abandoned them when they needed me most.  At the same time I felt a temporary relief at not having to look as those poor souls who are now being herded by those accursed Nazis who showered them with curses, swearing, name calling, abusing words and above all clubs.  Only now I realized how “polite” the Nazis behaved towards the Jews of Pruzany.  The first two days, Thursday and Friday, the expulsion took place in streets we could not see.  Yesterday, Saturday when my family was taken away, I was in hiding in a hole in which I could hear little and see nothing.  Now on this Sunday morning, the 31st of January 1943 the picture revealed itself in its entire grusomness and its horror.


      Who can imagine what it is like, an entire family being led to the slaughter; grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, children and grandchildren.  Poor broken Jews, exhausted after years of persecution, accompanied by beasts in the image of men who are treating them as if they were the scum of the earth.  Who can imagine, who can comprehend and who could describe?  It took a couple of hours before the caravan started to move.  The sleds from Rezky to Kobriner moved via the market square to Seltzer (Dombrowsky) Street.  The sleds moved slowly one close to the next.  Between each dozen or so sleds, traveled a sled with Germans who kept a watchful eye on the sleds ahead of them.  We reached the ghetto gate, passed it and left the ghetto behind.


     Suddenly an immense longing for the ghetto overwhelmed me.  Everything in it assumed a brighter color, even the Nazi guards at the gates seemed tolerable.  We were now in the Arian or Christian part of the town.  I am sure that like in my mind, in many minds ran through the idea of getting off the sled and disappearing among the Christian houses.  I look back and see some three or four sleds behind me a sled with Germans, their rifles ready.  We are approaching the end of the town where the snow covered fields stretch for kilometers.  The last building is Krucel’s flour mill.  The Bolshevics nationalized it (took it away) from its Jewish owner in 1939.  We are slowly passing by the wide open gate of its yard.  Suddenly SHALOM BERENSHTEIN gives me a poke in my side with this elbow and says, ¨Are you coming?´  Before I had time to digest what he had just said, he swings his feet out, gets off the slow moving sled and without looking around, walks straight into the gate in which a  half dozen peasants stay looking at the passing by Jews.  I look with astonishment as he walks straight by the peasants in the gate and into the wide yard.  Not only did not the Germans see him, but it seems that neither did the peasants as if afflicted with blindness.  At that moment I called myself by the worst names in my vocabulary for passing up such a chance.  It was not just an ordinary loss.  My life was at stake and I lost it as if in cards.


   After my liberation, when the remnants of our people in Europe were gathered in refugee camps, in Germany, Austria and Italy, I met a former partisan from Pruzany who told me that he served in the same partisan detachment as SHALOM BERENSHTEIN.  I heard from this partisan that Shalom fell in the battle of Berlin just a couple days before the end of the war.  Among other praises about him, he used these words. “He killed more Germans than you have hair on your head.”  I know an exaggeration when I hear one, but there is no doubt in my mind that he was a brave partisan.  Honor to his memory.  We left Pruzany and are in an open field.  The strewn farmstead scattered over the far and wide space seems so undisturbed, so tranquil.  From my sled which is roughly in the middle of the caravan, I can not at times, see the beginning or the end.  My eyes wander from the endless line of sleds, to the serene farm houses in which the inhabitants, the best of them go about their household chores, indifferent to the fact that almost under their windows, two and half thousand Jews are being led to the slaughter.  What the not so good peasants think I would rather not say.


      It is a frosty day but no wind nor a tiny cloud in the blue sky.  I look upwards and wonder why the sun shines so brightly, looking at what is taking place before her eyes.  Why doesn’t she blot out her light and envelop the earth into darkness?  As dark as the place we are being led to.  From a distance I see a small village of a couple dozen houses.  The village runs perpendicular to the road, so from a distance we can see what is taking place in it.  A good part of our caravan has already bypassed the village.  Suddenly eight or ten men jump off some sleds and run into the village.  The column of sleds stops, some Germans instantly take up positions around us.  A few go inside the village to round up the handful of Jews who were trapped now not knowing where to run.  In desperation they try some doors but they are shut tight for them.  A couple try to run into the snow covered fields but they are picked up easily by the German rifles.  The others are being ordered to go back to the sleds.  As soon as they turn around towards the sleds, they are being shot in the back.  The only one of those few men shot there that I knew was David who was known by his nick name “Palena”.  A broad shouldered single man of thirty.


    We moved on.  Roughly half way between Pruzany and the rail way station, Linowo-Oranczyce, the Germans created their German Ukrainian border.  There by the road side were stationed a group of German border guards.  They lived in a fortified dug out for fear of attacks by partisans.  All one could see passing by were the four little windows above ground from which machine guns stuck out.  That dug out was situated on the left side of the road, after which a pine forest began.  It was not an old forest, nor a thick one, whose tree branches started 6-7 meters above the ground.  There was no foliage of any sort below them.  Still it offered some protection,   As soon as the first couple scores of sleds passed the dug out, several dozen men jumped off the sled and began to run into the forest.  As at the village, the Germans formed a chain of guards around us while others started shooting at the fleeing men.  The escaping men were at a double disadvantage.  Firstly because the very white snow made their dark figures clearly visible, therefore easy targets.  But their fate was really decided when the border guards opened up with their machine guns. We watched with pain in our hearts as one after the other, they went falling to the ground.  The Germans went over from one to the other to make sure that they were all dead before we continued farther.


    An hour or so later we arrived at the station Linowo-Oranczyce.  We were driven a kilometer past the station out of sight of the local population.  There on the side tracks stood some twenty five cattle cars whose little windows were boarded up.  The snow around was trampled and the entire place was surrounded by local Ukrainian police supervised by Germans.  The Ukrainian police consisted of volunteers who gladly collaborated with the Germans for various reasons.  The things they had in common for centuries was the old innate hatred of Jews, the dislike of the Soviets, the quest for power and the search of self esteem, the irresistible desire to plunder Jewish possessions and the unsatisfied thirst for spilling Jewish blood.  When it used to concern Jews, those Ukrainian volunteers fulfilled their duty with a ferver surpassing the Nazis in cruelty.  As the line of sleds kept on pulling up to the empty cattle cars, the Ukrainian police used to chase off the Jews from the sleds.  If a suitcase or a knapsack used to catch a Ukrainian’s eye, he used to order the owner to leave it right there.  Woe to the one who did not comply immediately.


    The peasants, the owners of the sleds too, tried to take advantage of the poor unfortunate Jews and benefit from their misfortune.  Older Jews having sat immobile on the sleds for four hours stiff and frozen, had difficulties getting off of them.  By the time they managed to straighten their backs or regain mobility in their limbs, the farmers used to give a whip the horse and quickly drive away with the Jewish meager possessions still on the sled.     Who paid attention to the screaming Jews amidst the crying, the lament of the women and the swearing, cursing and beating by the Germans.  Besides, they would not react to it anyway, as the Ukrainian police relieved many Jews of their possessions in front of the Germans.  As I was approaching the cattle cars, I kept an eye open for familiar faces especially for people from Shershev.  Apparently others had the same thoughts in mid.  For within a wink of an eye, we were almost a dozen men from Shershev.  Some of them I still remember, like the two brothers Shepsl and ITZL POMERANTZ, their brother in law BERL TENENBAUM, LEIBL FELDMAN and GHOTL WEINER.


      Sometimes in early November 1942, right after the ghetto Pruzany was put on notice to be ready for “evacuation” at any time, I decided to look, observe and remember as much as possible all that is happening with and around me.  If that was supposed to be my fate and destiny in my expected to be life, then I want to look at it clearly, discerningly and lucidly for this will be all I can expect and get in life.  It is my belief that this decision helped me remember important and less important events from those days that many of my contemporaries have long forgotten.  I looked closely at what is going on around and saw that the Germans are loading five cattle cars at a time and counting heads.  As the doors of the cars were about a meter above ground, some of us were told to put long boards leading from the ground to the floor of the cars to serve as a walk up ramps.  People were walking up and filling the cars to capacity.  The Germans were not particular who got in as long as they had the required numbers of people inside, they used to slide the door shut and seal it.  Considering the chaos and the confusion around, one could say that the loading of the cars was done in comparative order.  During the loading I saw an occurrence or shall I call it a phenomenon which is worth to mention and difficult to understand.  Maybe psychiatrists can explain it.  I and the other few men from Shershev were not too anxious to be driven into the cattle cars.  So as long as we could, we were trying to avoid being herded in them.  Yet I tried to see all I could that is taking place around us.  There were some heart rending scenes taking place in front of my eyes.  As I mentioned earlier, the Germans used to count the amount of people entering or rather being pressed into each car.  Having forced in the prescribed amount, they used to unceremoniously stop the flow and divert the flow to the next car.  In that helpless and desperate moment families wanted to be together and indeed die together.  How tragic it was when the Germans used to stop the flow of people exactly when a family was half way in while the rest was told to go into the next cattle car.  No amount of begging, pleading, or imploring could help.  The door was shut in front of small children while their parents remained outside, or vice versa, in front of wives with or without children, while the husband was taken to another cattle car.  Old people, sick people, infirm people who were separated from their families or care takers.  I looked with wide open eyes at the barbarian treatment of innocent souls being taken to the slaughter.  Three and four generations were to die together.


    As the loading progressed, I suddenly noticed that some people began literally pushing their way into the cars, as if deliberately, almost by force.  I could not understand it then nor can I now.  It seemed that the German were surprised too for one yelled out: “Crazy Jews, what are you pushing for? Do you think that we will leave you here?”  This incomprehensible phenomenon, this unexplainable action I tried to understand and maybe solve throughout my life without success  What was it that, considering the fact that this train was the only means that could take them to their death would suddenly beckon to them as a safe haven?


    Here I too will admit that the shortage of space on the train did cross my mind and the prospect of remaining behind did not appeal to me.  I also knew that the end will be the same.  Still, I preferred to be buried with all the others.  Is it possible that those that earlier pushed to get inside the cattle cars had the very thoughts but could not control them?  Eventually came my turn to enter a car.  At twenty I was agile and quick and was one of the first to make my way to a window.  Although the windows were boarded up, there were spaces among the boards of about a centimeter wide, enough to tell if it was day or night.  Even to see some movement or objects from a distance.  I positioned myself at the window surrounded by the few Shershev men.  The car was filled up in no time.  The sliding door was pushed in place, locked and sealed.  We remained pressed together in the dark.  It took a while to get used to the dark, coming in from the bright sunny outside.  Slowly we began to distinguish and recognize faces.  Still one could not see further than two meters away.  Whoever had family, friends or acquaintances started calling out for them.  Others were calling names hoping that a friend or an acquaintance will answer.  In between the calling out of names, the screaming of children, the crying of infants and women, the groans and moans of the elderly and the sighs of the beaten up, it was difficult to talk.  Besides, what was there to say.  We all knew what was waiting us when we get to the destination and we knew where we were going.  If the Germans have not killed us right outside Pruzany, then they are taking us to Brona-Gora, where they have slaughtered some of the Jews of Bereza-Kartuska, Ruzany, Pinsk and other neighboring places.


   And so we stand, leaning one on the other, exhausted spiritually and physically.  It has been four nights since I slept.  I spent them along the ghetto fence, barely ate anything, possessed with one thought, how to get out of the ghetto?  Now everything is lost.  There is nobody left of my family and I am sealed in a cattle car that will take me to the same place and maybe to the same ditch in which my family is already sleeping their eternal sleep.  The outside noises are getting quieter and soon disappear.  In the car it is quieter, too.  When an infant is not crying one can hear the footsteps of the guards around the train interrupted by a command in German.  Outside it is dark but in the car it is pitch dark.  The train has not moved yet. We know that once the train starts moving every minute will bring us closer to our eternal resting place, but what life is it to stay here pressed together like herring in a barrel?  Barely on our feet, inhaling the continuously heavier and more suffocating air that is being mixed with the smell of people relieving themselves as they stand on their feet being pressed so tightly together.


    Finally one hour after midnight, the train began to move.  First slowly back and forth, then forward towards the west.  We were too tired, too exhausted and resigned to our fate to wonder why the train is going westwards instead of eastwards towards Brona Gora.  The train dragged itself. At times it used to speed up but not for long.  We made stops, sometimes short ones and sometimes longer.  And so we passed Brest-Litowsk in early Monday morning and continued farther west.  In some still intact families there began to awaken a spark of hope that we are really going to work camps in Germany.  Their reasoning was that if the Germans wanted to murder us why drag us so far from home when they could do with us as they have done with the surrounding shtetls and towns, killing them on the spot.  The last couple of months a rumor started circulating in our ghetto that something very bad is taking place near the railway station Malkin on the line Brest-Litowsk to Warsaw.  Most Jews in the ghetto did not even know where Malkin is and if something bad is taking place there, can it be worse than here.  We knew that we were like an island in the middle of the sea.  That there are no more Jewish settlements around us, so what can be there worse than here?  And so the rumor died down.


      It just happened that in our cattle car was a traveling salesman by the name of Kava who used to travel to Warsaw almost every week and knew the layout of every station on the way.  That first of February as we stopped at a station some fifty kilometers from Warsaw, that Kava looks out through a crack in the boarded up window and says: When our train starts up and turns right we will be going to Malkin.  It won’t be a good sign.  But if we will continue straight, we will be going towards Warsaw.  And so it was that our train went straight ahead towards Warsaw.  None of us had known of the existence of Treblinka. Just past Malkin nor what Treblinka meant.  We did not go far before we entered a nice sized city with a large rail way yard.  I looked out through the crack between the boards and saw many railway lines.  Looking across to the other end of the rail yard, I saw a line of men all of them with their backs to us and on each back was a yellow star of David.  As I was looking at them I noticed a tall man and next to him a shorter noticeably older and somewhat stooped man.  The tall younger man made a motion with his head towards the older as if to point us out but did not turn towards us.  The older lowered his head even more nodding with his head a if to say: Yes, another trainload of our brethren to the slaughter.  This picture that lasted only a few seconds engraved itself in my memory forever. It told me so much.  We remained standing at that station a good while.