Concordia University MIGS

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In the evening Herr Abrashe Zweigman returned from work and told me not to lose faith. He would try to get me out of the ghetto. At that time he was a pharmacist for the Germans and he didn't lack food. He gave a German gold for three tooth crowns so that the Germans should request that I come out of the ghetto to work.

The seven days of mourning passed and I was told to go back to the hospital, but only at night. The first night in the hospital without my father was terrible. All night long I imagined that I heard my father calling to me from his bed, and he's asking me for something. I went to the bed a few times. Someone was asleep there.

I felt that I couldn't work here any more; here where every corner was full of memories of my dear father who had just parted from me.

Somehow the night passed. The next morning I was called to the commandant and was told to go to get ready to be on my way. I was being sent to the city where I had not been for the past 8 months.

Frau Strekovitch gave me a pair of galoshes and I set out on my way to the field-command that was located in the city on Chaussaines Street, near the former Jewish hospital. There 40 Jews worked, in two groups at various jobs: shoe makers, tailors, saddle makers, and two Jews in the garage.

Making my way to the city, in this way, like a horse, I went past the place where I had spent three happy years with my husband. Now Latvian bandits live there and they have everything that I achieved with my own hands, and I continued on my way, embittered and mournfully in a terrible frost in February, in my galoshes, without home, without future, without a present.

Almost completely frozen, I finally reached my place of work. The Jews were awaiting me. My friend Abramche Zweigman had told the well-fed ones to await me and feed me well also. When I arrived it happened to be lunch time. The Jews got fairly good soup from the military kitchen so they told me to get undressed and sit down to eat with them. They all looked at me in wonder and I heard them whispering:

'So this is Frankel's daughter? Wow, look what's become of her!' Each one wanted to be friendlier than the next one, and each of them wanted me to eat with them.

After eating they introduced me to a higher-up, but when he saw on my document that I'm a nurse, he said that they need a woman who can wash the floors and laundry. I assured him that I can do these two jobs excellently, so he registered me and told me I can sleep in a hall on Moscovske Street.


It's interesting how a person's past sometimes springs up in front of one's eyes and how pictures of the past suddenly take a living form because it is so destined. I say this because in that hall where my parents had led me to the wedding canopy, and where my life started to blossom, that was where I was now led to sleep, a lonely person, exhausted, lost. That's how the devilish destiny wanted things.

Amongst the workers I found an acquaintance, Motl Sher.

My work was 'normal.' Every day I did laundry and washed floors and I was satisfied that I have somewhere to rest my head and not only that I'm eating enough but I was even able to help the Jews who worked in the city all day and used to pass by us in the evening when they returned to the ghetto to sleep.


One evening, on the way to the place where I used to sleep, I was walking along through the quiet streets so as not to come across any of the murderers who used to amuse themselves by mocking us - when I suddenly saw an auto standing at the corner of Pastoyala and Petrograd streets. Soldiers were busy around the auto and they were taking things into a nearby house where soldiers were stationed. Unintentionally I looked at one of the soldiers and I got the impression that he looks like a Jew. But I quickly rid myself of this thought because how is that possible that a Jew should serve in the German army, particularly now when Jewish blood is random, like water, so I continued on my way not noticing that someone was following me and wanted to talk to me.

I went into the room where we slept and in a minute someone knocked at the door. Who could it be? When the door was opened it turned out that it was that Jewish-looking soldier. He told us immediately not to get scared - that he's a Jew.

He came from Riga to look for his wife and a child. He told us that in Riga, on December 8, 1941 an 'Aktzion' took place that at one stroke killed 25,000 Jews. They were let out of the ghetto under the command of the Gestapo chief, Yekl. The German helpers, the Latvian officers, shot left and right, murdered and robbed. If a child as much as uttered a sound, it was shot together with its mother. And if an older person didn't seem 'fit' while in line, they immediately put an end to him.

(Amongst the piles of shot ones, there probably were, in the Riga Street, my brother Aaron's wife and his two children.)

Yes, the Latvians were great participants in all the murderous acts. All they needed was a wink, and there they are - that bastard people, the slaves of the Baltic barons. What joy and what efficiency they demonstrated at these killings! The German Gestapo immediately knew what kind of friends these Lats were.

All in all an independent Latvia had only existed for 20 years, but what an inheritance they are leaving behind!

When the Riga Jews were being led to be shot, the 'German' soldier continued to tell, they were told that they were being taken to Dvinsk so he begged us to now tell him the truth as to whether or not we have seen any Jews from Riga here.

The 'German' soldier's name was Shatz. What could I tell this faithful unfortunate father who had dressed in a German army outfit and set out in search of his loved ones who, it appears, were no longer alive. I told him that we are living so secluded here that we don't know anything that's going on in the city.

I gave him a letter to the Riga Jewish Committee in which I asked them to look through the Riga Jews who are still alive to see if my brother Aaron and his family are still alive, as well as my sister Shifra and her husband or anyone at all from my family or from my husband's family. I wrote clearly who we are and gave our names.


Herr Shatz promised that he would find out everything for me. In ten days time he again came running to us with the news that my brother Aaron is alive. He even had a letter from him for me. True, he did have a letter, but there was no good news in the letter. My brother Aaron let me know that in that dark 8th of December in Riga, he lost his wife and his two children. He wrote nothing about my sister. He only said that he was saying Kaddish for father and mother and that I should remain strong.

Herr Shatz told me furthermore Dr. Gurewitz who was led away on July 27, 1941, to be shot, was saved. A Christian brought him in a sack to Riga and the Jews smuggled him into the ghetto. It was he who told them that I and my parents were in the ghetto and that on the evening when Dr. Gurewitz was being led to be shot, he didn't list my father amongst those who were to be taken away.

Naturally we were very happy that Dr. Gurewitz had been saved, still we pondered - for how long was he saved?. . .


My brother still hoped, at that time that we would yet meet again sometime. I used to spare whatever I could from food and sent it to the ghetto. I still had a suit of my father so I sold it to a peasant for 50 kilo of bread and 9 kilo of pork. From a pair of men's underwear, I made sackettes for myself and on the sackettes I wrote the names of the Jews to whom I wanted to send something and every day I had someone who would smuggle these sackettes into the ghetto. There they were awaited the way one waits for the Messiah. One, a former yeshiva student, Alter Oken, was the messenger for these good deeds. He went with these little bags to the ghetto and distributed them, giving them directly into the hands of the ones to whom they were intended. For this reason I always used to fill his bag more than all the others.

In this way I distributed everything that I had received in payment for my father's suit. I was very happy about this because right after his death this was what I had decided to do with his clothing.

When the bread and the pork were all gone, I used to go to the workers' places of work and gather potatoes in a large pail, as well as pieces of bread. I used to do this at lunch time when I was supposed to rest. . . When I got home I dumped everything on the ground and counted and divided everything according to how many bags I needed. I used to make around 35 bags. I used to divide everything equally so that no one should say that I gave one more and him less.

On Sunday I would get dressed and take the sack with the food on my shoulders, as well as a few containers of soup, and head for the ghetto with this, no matter what a bitter frost there was out doors. This was a distance of some 8 kilometers.

It broke my heart to see the starving people stretching out their skeletal hands for the packets and pouring their blessing upon me. Their thanks cut me, as with knives, because I hadn't come so that they would thank me. I would have been happy to carry heavy packs of food into the ghetto day and night and satisfy everyone's hunger because who knows, better than I, what hunger is. And I also know what an extended hand means, though I never stretched out my hands on my own account: only for my sick father.

When I returned from the ghetto I always had more and more names on my list and always new requests and I didn't rest until I had fulfilled all the requests. It wasn't easy because at that time I didn't have a 'pass permit.' If I would have been stopped on the street and asked where I had taken the food from, I would have been finished. I wouldn't have revealed the Jews who were helping me in such 'crime.'


Those who used to come to the city to work and returned to the ghetto to sleep, brought us some 'news' one cold morning: a day before a woman had been brought to the ghetto, Mina Gitleson, (maiden name Gets), whose father had a shoe factory in Dvinsk. She had been brought to the ghetto where her death sentence was to take place. She was accused of race-disgrace, but she was a pure soul like everyone else who was accused of this sin.

This is what had happened: Someone asked her to give a letter to the Lats for whom she worked. This was in the 'Continental' restaurant in Dvinsk. The Lat found out from the letter that the woman Gitleson knows how much stolen Jewish property this Lat has stashed away and this wasn't worth his while. So he called the police and accused her of race-disgrace.

She was brought to the ghetto after she had been tortured and everyone was told to line up in the yard. Then the Jewish policeman, Pasternack was called (he was from Kraslovske) that he himself should carry out the punishment of the victim. She was a young, blossoming woman, three years ago married (she married in July, 1938, a week after my wedding). She lived happily with her husband but she lost her husband the same day I lost mine and my brothers. Now she was going to be hung not because she was a Jew but because she wanted to help others and she fell into a trap.

Pasternack was a good man by nature. He was a policeman in the ghetto because he had no other choice. No one ever heard a bad word from him. When he sometimes had to give an order issued by our Latvian commandant, he did it with such a sad expression that it was obvious it was painful for him. And it was this Pasternack, a father of 5 children, who now had to, with his own hands put the rope around the neck of Frau Gitleson. Surely his heart must have been torn apart in pain, just as by everyone, who had to witness this.

Ever since then, Pasternak would more than once, grab his head and chokingly cry:

'Oy, if I will survive this, my children will always throw up to me that I hung a Jewish woman.'

It could be seen that this pressed on his conscience, like a dark cloud.

This tragedy made a terrible impression on me, though I was far from the place where it had taken place. The woman, Gitleson, was someone close to me. She had studied at the university in Yuriev, Estonia. Summertime she used to come to us and we would enjoy ourselves together. Besides, both of us had on that Black day, June 29th led our men and brothers to the marketplace, then to jail from whence nobody returned. That black day she went out of my house together with my husband and my brother Abrashe.

The following Sunday when I carried pieces of bread and some soup into the ghetto for the hungry, it happened that I passed the place where Frau Gitleson was hanged, like on a gallows, so that everyone could see. She was hanging in a black coat, with a hat and high boots on her feet.

I'll never forget that image.


Meanwhile it got closer and closer to Pesach. Memories of the near past came to mind. It was only one year ago that all my beloved ones were alive and we were preparing for Pesach and for the Seders and everything sparkled with tradition and with warm Yiddishkayt. My youngest brother, Abrashe, used to ask the Four Questions at the first Seder, and my husband at the second.

And now? Now I see all around me only living dead and they are walking around with who knows what thoughts.


Two religious Jews worked with us: Yudkovich from the old city, and Elerin from the Grive. They didn't eat the food from the military kitchen. They would cook themselves a bit of soup and the rare potato. They got a few kilos of flour and wanted to bake Matzos by themselves. But where?

They worked in the Field Command; in the garage. And since they had to heat up the garage, they were allowed to stay there overnight. After eight in the evening no one came in there other than the two of them. So they asked me and the other four women that one of us should sneak into them and help them roll the matzos. I couldn't, nor did I want to refuse. I hid in their garage and when it got quiet outside we started to roll the matzos, listening lest anyone should be hearing. As we were standing and working this way we suddenly heard a dog barking outside, and we thought: Aha! We've been caught, but it was an unnecessary fright.

The night passed in peace and in the morning we had matzos. For my help I got 12 matzos. The next day others went to help with the baking.

The first day of Pesach I went to the ghetto and took along nine of my matzos. I broke my matza into tiny pieces and distributed them amongst women whom I knew, who wanted to feel the taste of Pesach.

I gave one whole matza to my aunt Musia Hellerman.

The three matzos that I left for myself sufficed for me for all of Pesach. I didn't eat any 'chometz' not so much for religious reasons as because there still lived within me memories of my kosher mother and father's Jewish home, full of traditional beauty.

I felt very uplifted thereby, that at such a critical time I could give people a symbolic piece of matza to taste so that they would at least know that today it's Pesach around the world. But besides this we also distributed bread and potatoes in the ghetto during Pesach.


In the Field-Command there were five women whose job it was to do the laundry. At five in the evening we had to leave the yard. I no longer remember the names of the women except for Nina Azbel and Perlman.

It once happened that we didn't finish the piles of laundry that we had to wash that day so Perlman and I decided to stay overnight so that the following morning we could finish the laundering and the ironing. We were sure that no one would notice this. Two older men also used to spend the night there; so they made a bed for us on one of the two beds and they slept on the other bed.

As luck would have it, there was a patrol at 3 a.m. and there just happened to be a new soldier, a bandit.

'What are you doing here?' he wanted to know.

I showed him the pile of laundry that was on the floor and I asked him not to cause a scandal, but he became enraged and right away woke up the commandant, in the middle of the night, and informed him that two women, without permission, had remained overnight at their place of work with two 'cursed Jews.' The commandant immediately came to us and started to shout at us.

Once more I explained that it had gotten late yesterday evening, and that then we were afraid to go home because after five we mustn't be seen outdoors. He went away boiling mad, and we couldn't fall back asleep because we were scared. What would happen next? I very much didn't want to go back to the ghetto.

In the morning I saw the 'higher' one for whom we did the laundry and he was not like the others. I went up to him, told him our troubles and asked him to take an interest and make sure that we don't get sent back to the ghetto. Well, thank God, we weren't sent back to the ghetto.


It happened before May 1, 1942 and for that day we had great fear because the previous year we had celebrated May 1 under the Soviets, and since the Lats say that all Jews are communists, we were afraid lest they remind themselves and take revenge on us.

The Lats joked with us that once again pits are being dug for us. From such talk we were very despondent. We were prepared that we would soon all be finished off. In the city and at this fortress 400 Jews were working, and the rest, also around 400 were suffering in the ghetto.

It is worth noting the following: The only water-tap in the ghetto froze at that time. It drew water from the muds/swamps, where all sorts of insects were found. It didn't harm anyone, though the water was contaminated.

One day before May 1 all the ghetto Jews were taken to the city, to the bath house. The first time to the city and right to the bath house? What did this signify? Maybe the devil has stopped his murdering and wants to treat the exhausted Jews or the living dead better?

The Lats were thrilled with their power as they saw the Jews marching in the middle of the street in the direction of the bath house - for the last time in 10 months of suffering and hunger. Not a drop of mercy could be detected amongst them. Just the opposite. They demanded that we should once and for all be annihilated.

A freilin, Ema Slivkin, a pharmacist, came over to me, so I gave her my ration and she took it to the ghetto with another few packets for a few Jews. We still didn't have an inkling of why the Jews were being taken to the bath house, so we said goodbye to her, as always, and she went away, not hungry, and even took along food for tomorrow also.

The following day, however, was a dark day, one that couldn't possibly be any worse. At ten o'clock we found out that all the sick ones in the ghetto had been shot in their beds, and all the rest were taken to prison.

That was how the 1st of May ended in 1942. The reason that the Jews were taken for the baths first was that the Lats wouldn't otherwise have been able to touch the dead, full of lice Jews otherwise. That's why they were first cleaned up.

When they were being chased from the hospital the frau, Eli Wofsky, hid in a pit. The murderers searched for her but they didn't find her. She was the only one who survived the 'aktzion' in the hospital.

Afterwards we found out that many didn't wait for the last word of the 'Aktzion' but they committed suicide by taking poison.

The murderers themselves brought us this news.

In that slaughter I lost my only aunt, aunt Musia, and all my 'clients' to whom I used to bring food.

Now I'm free of worries, I said to myself. Now things are good for me. . .


The first of May fell on a Friday. Saturday evening 20 people were told they no longer had work. I was amongst them. If we had been 'fired' ten days before I would no longer be alive. I would have been shot dead, together with the other ghetto Jews. Still, my lot is not much better. Where am I to go? - Back to the ghetto? There is no more ghetto. To prison with the other unfortunate ones? I would be shot. So where was I to go?

I headed for the outskirts of the city. There lived a Christian man, Shaligin, whom we knew. This Shaligin came to the ghetto a few times, on a motorcycle, a journey of 8 kilometers. He used to call me outside and give me a pound of sugar, sometimes a potato, some lumps of sugar or something else.

It was my bad luck not to find Shaligin himself at home, but his wife. She advised me to run off to the forest. But to whom? Secondly, the forest was far off and I certainly would have been caught on the way. So where was I to go? I wandered through the streets where Abrashe Zweighorn worked as a tailor together with 15 other Jews.

Of those 15 Jews I remember a woman Perlman, Dimant (from the cinema 'Grand Electra'; two brothers, Bor; a young boy, Ratz, Charmatz, Ichlov.

When I arrived Zweighorn was standing in his tallis (prayer shawl) davening (praying). They all got scared at the sight of me. That's how 'lovely' I looked. I told him my troubles so he gave me a platinum watch of his wife's, and asked a girl, Luba Barbakova to go to the fortress where other Jews work and there she should bribe a soldier with the watch, just so that he will give me work, because if I don't get work by tomorrow it's as bitter as death.

We went to the chief, but even this wasn't so easy for us. The shikse (gentile) who worked for the chief didn't let us in. She didn't want to announce us so Luba promised her that she would give her the kerchief that I wore on my head, so she let us in. This was on a Sunday, a rest day. Even on a work day one couldn't go into the chief.

The chief of the unit listened to me and told me to come to work tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. When I heard this I got a little more courageous and told him that I'm not alone but there are 20 of us in the same position. So he told us all to come.

I was overjoyed. We didn't even have to rely on the watch. I returned it to Herr Zweighorn. And as for my kerchief - we 'forgot' to give in to the shikse when we came out from the chief. I claimed that we should give it to her but Luba said not to.

'She deserves nothing.'

Going there and back wasn't easy either because from there it was more than 6 kilometers; but I hastened to tell the unfortunate Jews the news that they can sleep peacefully. We have work.

The following day we did indeed start to work. The work consisted of unloading the bloodied things that arrived from the front, clean them, sort them and count them. I did a hard day's work, then I went to the commandateur to get a note that I am 'discharged' because only then can I go to work somewhere else.

When I returned I found my cousin, Mendl Hellerman. Two days before he had lost his mother. He had, at his chief's place, a work spot for a woman Entzia Apto. The place was already paid for, but since this Apto was shot the first day of May, and since he knew that I don't have work, he took me to his chief and I already remained there. I didn't return to the other fortress. (Frau Apto was too lazy to go to work the first day and just that day there was the 'Aktzion' and she was shot.)

I was very happy that I wouldn't have to go to that other fortress. I was exhausted, and if I would have had to go back and forth as far every day I wouldn't have survived. Here, though, I'm in the middle of the city in the commandateur of previous days, near the Old Boulevard. Two girls, Rosa Zeligman (a 16 year old from the Grive) and Marie Shapiro (a 20 year old) did the laundry for 158 soldiers. Mendl Hellerman and another one of my cousins, Paulye Blumkin, chopped wood all day long. But they had what to eat and where to rest their heads.


We used to get the same food as the soldiers, so we asked the cook to save for us whatever is left in the pots because we want to take it to the people at the fortress who are starving. The cook did as we requested.

After work I and the two girls together with Mendl Hellerman used to take everything that we had accumulated during the day to the fortress. A soldier whom we bribed accompanied us, so it appeared that we were taking it for the military. . .

They used to wait for us at the fortress as though we were angels of mercy and they used to wish us all the best, but we had only one thing in mind: that tomorrow also the soldiers will leave some remains of food, then we will once more go, like horses, and carry food to the fortress. The more the better.

In the 'unit' there were around 180 soldiers. They didn't eat the heads of the fish, for example, so the shikse in the kitchen used to chop off the heads together with a piece of fish, and sometimes throw in a whole fish as well - I kept it all for us. In this way we collected around 40 pounds of food a day. At night we would immediately carry it to the fortress so that it wouldn't get spoilt. No salt nor onions.


This continued for some time. But on the 15th of June the 'unit' was changed. Those were from elsewhere, these were from Bavaria. We were told that they were mean Munichers, from Hitler's home. The 'top officer' really was a brute, a killer, a party man, a Hitlerite.

So, with Rozitchke Seligman I went to him and asked him to let us continue working here, because we have nowhere to go. Everyone in the ghetto has been killed. The only other place is the prison.

'Judn - and gut arbeiter' (Jews - good workers) the murderer was surprised.

So we told him to give us a chance. And that's how things remained. The men chopped wood day and night, and we, women, washed clothes and the floors. And once more we got close to the cook and again carried fish heads and bread and soup to the fortress. A while later the 'head officer' passed by and asked me:

'How do you like the work?'

I told him that we like it, and I thanked him for letting us carry food to the fortress.

'I don't see,' he gruffly replied, and went on his way.


June 26 was approaching. That's the date on which the Germans captured Dvinsk. We knew that the Latvians were demanding that on that date the rest of the Jews should be finished off. It was still bothering them to see us alive.

Suddenly an order did come that all workers, both from the city and from the fortress, must report at the ghetto on June 26. We understood the significance of this, and we started to beg the German chiefs, our 'friends,' not to turn us over to Latvian hands.

The chief of the fortress, Kandor Lukenwald, in which there were around 200 people, told the regional-commissar that his Jews work better than 3000 Latvians, and he won't let the work day be disrupted by letting them go to the ghetto. (It is perhaps worth mentioning that the fortress Jews had previously 'bribed' him with material for a coat. Here and there the Jews still had some cloth hidden with goyim for just such a need.)

'Let the Lats come here to the fortress if they want to register the Jews,' Lukenwald said. The regional commissar replied that he'll give a reply. All that June 25th day we waited for his reply, because if the chief will be able to save us, the other chiefs will have more courage to ask on behalf of their Jews as well.


Saturday afternoon Abrashe Zweighorn came to me and asked me to accompany him to his villa in Stropi, far from the city, and hide there by one of his peasant acquaintances.

I didn't like the plan, because who knows if the peasant will want to hide us, and if so - for how long? And maybe the peasant himself will turn us over and then we will certainly be shot. Here, however, I can wait for the regional-commissar's answer which, even if it will be a negative one, with what am I better than my mother, my husband, sister and brothers?

I told him to do as he understands, but I did not go. I trusted in God, as I did in the ghetto when I still had, on my hands, my old sick father.

Upon hearing my decision, he handed me, with tears in his eyes, a small flask: 20 tablets of veronal (a kind of poison) and morphine, so that if it should come to the end, I should be able to take my own life.

We said farewell. I thanked him for his friendship that he, more than once showed me in the dark times, and he left. And we five remained, awaiting our fate.

My cousin, Mendl Hellerman, reprimanded me for not wanting to save myself, but my heart told me that what I am doing is good.

I went into our chief and asked him to put in a good word for us to the regional-commissar. 'The chief of the fortress also takes care of his Jews' - I told him. He listened to me, phoned the regional-commissar, and told me to go to sleep. But who amongst us could sleep? We were awake all night, talking and we had no doubt that tomorrow at this time we would all be covered with earth and with chlorine - so that our flesh should get eaten up and no sign of us remain.

Anyhow, how are we better that all the others? Why would more of a fuss be made over us than with others? No sign will remain of us and the Lats will no longer have anyone to torture. There won't even remain any after the war to tell the world what happened to us.

My sister from Canada will write and write and there will be nobody able to answer her about our whereabouts. The same applies to my brother in Jerusalem. A whole family will be wiped off the face of the earth - a family that was once like a tree, with roots, branches, twigs. . .
With such thoughts we, as well as Jews in other 'units' and at the fortress, awaited the dark tomorrow.

It was a very dark night, just like our thoughts, but we wanted it to go on and on so that 'daytime' would never come . . .


As we were lying thus, each one thinking about their near past, and about their family, there was suddenly a knock at the window. A soldier came to tell us that we can sleep in peace. The chief received a reply from the regional-commandant that for the time being all Jews remain where they are. How does he know this? He overheard it.

'You can believe me and I want you not to give me away when the chief himself will come to tell you this, because I wasn't supposed to come and tell you the good news, but I am not an enemy of the Jews and I see how you are suffering.'

The soldier went away and we didn't know if we should rejoice because maybe this is a trick of the chief so that we shouldn't run away before daybreak. Finally we decided to believe the soldier because he was always very friendly to us, helped us carry food to our brothers at the fortress and even used to bring a long piece of white bread for the sick.

That's how the night passed.

At six in the morning we started to do our regular work. At 10 o'clock the chief called me and he was very open hearted: he had intervened with the regional commissar, not because we are Jews, but because we work well and he is pleased with us. Meanwhile we remain here, but we must be secluded, separated from the outside world. And when the hour will strike and they will want to shoot us, he won't be able to save us.

From his words my heart did not rejoice, but as long as we wouldn't be shot today. And who knows, maybe he, the murderer himself would even get killed before us.

When I returned to the Jews and told them the news, it was decided amongst us to fast. We did fast that day. At night, when the cook, a German, brought us our food, he congratulated us that we remained alive.

That's how we saved ourselves from the hands of the Lats for the time being.

In a few days time we presented the chief with a pair of leather gloves and a silk table cloth, green and gold.


Things were not bad for me with this chief. I washed the laundry and kept the kitchen clean and no one could harm me. A soldier who worked for the chief brought me to work each day.

One morning, as I was standing in the kitchen washing the glasses, a murderer, a German entered. The chief was there at the fence so he waited a minute until I was alone in the kitchen and he started to talk to me. It was easy to see from his murderous eyes what he had in mind and I therefore tried to stretch the conversation until the soldier would return. Meanwhile, a dog began to bark out side. He said to me:

'You hear how that dog is barking?' and he showed off to me that he knows some Hebrew words.

I stood shuddering, not wanting to let the work out of my hands. But suddenly I felt that I must say something in self-defence. I said:

'It's forbidden for you to speak to us.'

But he became outraged and said even if he was to shoot me now, he wouldn't get anything for that. He himself saw how 400 children were shot three days ago at another station, in the area of Kreslovke.

This the murderer told me with open joy. He thought, he told me, that pigs were squealing, but it wasn't pigs, it was Jewish children.

From his words we shook all over but I didn't show it. Slowly he forgot why he came and he started to show me photos of people being tortured and shot. This went on until the chief assistant came in and the murderer took off.

My head nearly split open: From what shtetls were these children gathered? And aside from the bloodied Pogulan forest and the yard of the prison and the orchard behind the prison, and behind the Kavaler Barracks and the other places of which I myself don't know, that is to say there is another place: The Indra station where hundreds of young bodies of tortured Jewish children from the surrounding Russian towns and villages are buried. It seems that it must be Indra because it is near the Russian border, before Polotsk.

With such thoughts I worked throughout the day. In the evening the soldier, as always, took me back to the commandateur where we three women used to come to sleep and tell each other what all we had seen and lived through during the day.


But the Lats didn't let up. They demanded that we, the 90 Jews who worked in the city should be required to sleep in the House of Study and that they, the Lats - should guard us. But we knew that if we go there to sleep it would be the same as going to the ghetto, so we decided to go to work with all the other Jews and not be in the Lats eyes. Some went to work at the fortress, I amongst them.

In the fortress around 300 Jews worked. In 'heres-unterkunft #322,' around 200 Jews worked; 120 in the 'laundry house' where clothes were repaired that had come from the front. Shoes for the soldiers were also repaired there. The others worked in the place where the bloody, shot-through clothes from the front were dumped. Each shot-through apparel caused us joy, because here we could see that the Germans were getting their defeat.

At another 'work fortress,' number 200, around 50 Jews worked. In addition to shoe making and tailoring, Jews also worked in the gardens. Around 60 Jews worked at construction, very hard labour.

In the evenings we would all gather. Many of us went down into the cellar, beneath the building, to the Russian prisoners who were kept there behind locked doors. Some of the prisoners themselves were guards there, such as were in the Vlasov Army, Hitler's assistants.

They used to sing very nicely and play guitar and we, the suffering ones, were very drawn to their hearty melodies that awoke in us memories and opened our wounds. We used to sit on the stairs and listen for hours. . . this we did every evening. The younger element, particularly the girls, completely forgot that we ourselves are prisoners and perhaps even worse.

. At the fortress there were craftsmen, that is tailors, shoemakers, etc. I signed up as a tailor. In reply to the question of why on my documents it said nurse, and tailor/ seamstress is not mentioned, I replied that I really am seamstress and a nurse. Every woman can be both a nurse and seamstress.

'Believe me that I'm a seamstress,' I once more asked the writer to register me as such.

He believed me, and I started to work as seamstress.

The work-place was on a hill at the fortress. At various trades 130 Jews worked there: tailors, shoemakers, saddle makers. The work consisted of repairing the things that came in wagonloads from the front. Jews also worked at unloading the wagons. From the tailoring we sent the things to the laundry that was far from the city, near the Jewish cemetery, there, in the laundry, the Jews actually bathed in sweat all day long.

I sat down beside my acquaintances and they started to teach me the job. The work wasn't so hard, but the stench of the bloodied coats, suits and laundry made one want to puke.

At first I thought I would die here without a shot, but I got used to it.

A few days later the chief came into the 'work station' and asked me if I can count to 10. I answered that I can even count to 11, so he gave the job of counting the washed laundry, coats and suits, and he told me that if I will miss a button that was off, or a hole that was not repaired, I can say farewell to my life.

I was content with this work. Counting these items was easier than holding them close to my face with the stink choking and making me feel sick.

In the room where I slept there was a woman, Zislin from Kreslovke. Her daughter was a seamstress and worked in the city together with the tailor Laib Antirol the one who once had a needle removed from his arm in the ghetto. She once came to see how her mother was and we became acquainted. Her name was also Pesia, and since the mother was all alone here and her daughter could send as much food as she liked, the daughter asked me to always eat together with her mother.

'Be a sister to me,' she asked me. I was very happy about this because at the fortress it was much worse than in the city. I couldn't help anyone but had to rely on the help of others.

The days went on in this way. I had to record all the items that came in and went out but I didn't work hard.

One day the chief, Konrad Lukwald called me and showed me a place on his right arm full of wounds and small water blisters. He wanted me to apply a salve to his wounds and bandage it.

When I approached his wounds, I shuddered. I feared a contagious disease. But I had to do what I was told - so I applied a bandage.


The next morning the chief called me again and he was full of rage: the salve had made him even worse. He was strict, but one could still talk to him, I suggested that he send for our good dermatologist, Boris Semyonovitch Wofsy who was working for the Germans in the city at that time, but his wife and son were working here at the fortress.

Dr. Wofsy came and started to cure our chief. Sometimes he was allowed to spend the night at the fortress. The Wofsy family was in seventh heaven because of this.

I used to put a fresh bandage on the chief every day, until - one day, December 25, 1942, he called me and showed me that he had a boil on his head. I asked him to summon a doctor because I don't understand anything about such things, but he wanted me to heal him.

'I am afraid,' I admitted to him, 'because if I cause you to lose blood, you will shoot me at once.'

Well, as soon as he heard that I was hesitating, he took out a revolver, put it on the table, and said quietly and brutally:

'I will tell you what to do and you do it, and if not, you won't leave here alive.'

I asked my mother to strengthen me, and she should assure that no evil will befall me from this work of which I am now so afraid.

I took some alcohol and cleaned the spot of the boil, cut the hair around it and once more disinfected. Then I took two pieces of cotton batten between my fingers and with both hands started to squeeze the puss from the boil. When it all came out and only clear blood showed, I swabbed it with iodine. It started to burn him.

'You can go now,' he muttered.

I went into my room and found the 20 women waiting for me impatiently. They didn't know what to think because I had been with the chief over half an hour. When I went to the 'office' with the amount of clothes that were repaired during the day, or when I went to bandage someone, I never stayed away for more than 5 minutes. I told them why I stayed away so long. They, together with me, were very fearful of the next morning.

Of the twenty women I remember the following by name: Lenny Iskovna Rosenberg and her daughter Eta, Rozanatanova Edelberg and her daughter Neta, Dr. Sophia Abramovna Wofsy (Dr. Wofsy's wife), Chana Astrinsky and her mother Roza Alis, (born Ron) from Clcun, Mary Shapiro, Roey Gurewitz, Rebecca Zarch and her daughter Rya, Frau Zislin, Frau Landau (born Kuriansky) and Leah Flexer.

The next morning at half past six, I was told that the chief is calling me. I got very scared. The women - also. They began to calm me and boost my spirits.

When I went into the chief he burst out:

'Look what you have done!'

From his voice I felt the taste of death. I approached him, trembling, to have a look. What a wonder! Everything was healed so that almost nothing could be detected except the spot where the hair was cut, and the iodine.

So, once more it appeared that God had saved me and perhaps my mother had intruded on my behalf.

When I returned to the women and told them everything, everyone was overjoyed. They gave me mazeltov on my new profession.

February 23, 1943 approached. Another thought entered my mind: How can I get into the ghetto to my father's grave to pour out my heart a bit and have a good cry?

I went to the chief and asked him to let me go and visit my father's grave in the old ghetto. I'm afraid to go there because there is no one there now, so I'm asking him to let a soldier accompany me.

He listened to me, even sent a soldier so that the Lats shouldn't harm men and I went to the ghetto and poured out my heart at my father's grave. I came back satisfied.


Once an order was issued that on a certain day all women must remain in the rooms because a strict inspection is to take place. We weren't afraid. We were simply prepared for death. Still, we all washed, dressed in our old, torn clothes, apparently to please the murderers.

In the morning a few Jews came into us, together with my cousin Mendl, with the following plan: since the chief speaks with me and had just let me go to the ghetto, I should gather courage and go into him and ask him what kind of commission will be coming and should we say farewell to life.

I didn't have to be asked very much. I went to the chief, knocked at the door and entered.

The chief was surprised that a 'farflukhtn Yidn' comes to him without having been so ordered. He asked strictly what it is that I want. I told him that I hadn't slept all night because I was thinking about the commission that was supposed to arrive today, and that one doesn't feel like getting undressed on such a cold day, to be shot. Perhaps he can postpone it for a warmer day. . .

He probably saw how embittered I was, so he assured me that no evil will happen today, and he told me to leave. When I returned and told the Jews this, they all said that the murderer probably said this on purpose so that we shouldn't run away.

We walked around like lost souls until finally the commission came: A few high-up and a few doctors.

Dr. Stykowich was loudly called out, a young doctor from Kovna (Kaunas), who was responsible for the sick ones in our house. Then he returned, frightened, and called me out also.

The chief presented both of us to the commission murderers and then it split into two groups. One went with Dr. Stykowich, and the other, with me. There will only be a 'lice inspection' and we should help them in the search.

I went with my group from room to room and 'inspected' the women. They were all clean. By some of the men there were fleas and lice found. They put me and Dr. Stykowich in charge, telling us that when they will come a second time and find anyone with lice, they will shoot both of us on the spot, together with the ones who are found with lice. As they were saying this they called us by the most despicable names, and that's how the day passed, with fear only.

The next day we once more started to eliminate the lice, but a new custom arose: we used to inspect each other for lice. . .


One day the chief called me again to speak to me. When I entered he pointed to a German newspaper on his desk and in the headlines were the words: 'Yuden in Africa are laughing once more.' Below, it said that the Germans are being driven out of North Africa and the Jews are therefore rejoicing.

The chief pointed to the paper for me to see, as though to say: Well, what do you say about that? I made myself innocent and said:

'Do you know for sure that the Jews of N. Africa are laughing? Do you believe everything the newspaper writes?'

He looked at me somewhat surprised and said that as a matter of fact many German soldiers are returning home badly wounded.

I gathered courage and said:

'Your soldiers came home, but our husbands, our wives and children, our parents, brothers and sisters won't ever come home. . .'

He got angry and told me to leave and not dare tell anyone that we discussed politics.


Together with us worked a woman, Berger, with her two daughters. The eldest daughter, Bertha, took many risks. She used to go to the city without a document and brag that she is not afraid of anyone. No warning helped.

Once, however, she got caught. She was stopped in the middle of the street and two gold watches were found on her, as well as a bottle of whisky and a kind of fur jacket that the German pilots used to wear. This affected us all very much. We were sure that things wouldn't pass this time without an inspection. The unfortunate woman, Berger, went to the chief, Lukewald and offered him an expensive ring, just so that he should save her daughter but he didn't want to hear of it.

Bertha remained in prison awaiting her fate.


Those who worked in storehouses were examined to make sure that they aren't stealing anything.

Once, when the 'higher-up' came to inspect, it happened that they found three bars of soap in possession of the old Elerin.

We all shuddered. At nine in the evening we were all told to line up in the yard. Lukewald started to roar:

'What should we do to the old Elerin?'

He sent the soldiers away and called for Dr. Stykowich. He said to him, so that everyone would hear:

'Don't forget. We gave him 25 blows.'

He repeated this a few times.

That's how, this time also, we survived, only suffering fear.

'Remember. Don't steal anymore.'

So he answered me. For three days I won't steal anything, then I would steal again on the fourth day.'

One dark evening, at around seven the chief sent for me again. He was sitting in his office. He had his secretary with him. He called me into another room and said to me that this night I must stay with him. . . and I should understand him.

For a moment I got so confused that I didn't know what to reply. But I soon had a reply for him:

If I am destined to be shot, let them shot me, because I am a Jewish child and not for 'race-disgrace . . .'

'Then there's no alternative,' he said, and since he understood that by no good means would he get my consent, he let me know that if he doesn't suit me, I must leave this work place. He said this because he knew I had nowhere to go.

'Good,' I said, 'I'm going to the city.'

'When do you want to go?' he asked me.

I replied that I want to go right now.

So he told the clerk to immediately give me a document for 24 hours, and I left. I was so embittered that I decided to head straight to the city. In an hour's time I will be in the city. I'll spend the night at the train station at Pesia Zislen, and tomorrow morning I'll go to look for work with the Germans. Maybe someone will have mercy on me. I can't stay here any longer.

With such thoughts I went into the room and said curtly that I'm going into the city to spend the night. But since everyone knew that the chief thinks highly of me, they thought that this indicated that the rest of them would be shot and that the chief is giving me an opportunity to rescue myself.

They started to beg me to tell them the truth and that I should at least take someone else with me. . .

My pain was all the greater because I couldn't tell them the truth about why I was leaving to go to the city. I mustn't associate my name with the chief, because some of the soldiers used to come into some of our girls and it would have been dangerous if they were to find out and then word would get back to the chief. That would have been the end of me.

I kept pleading with the women to believe me that there was no immediate danger and that I have to go to the city only for personal reasons. Tomorrow they will understand me better and see that I was right.

I quickly got dressed and went out. Three women escorted me: the old Zislin, Adelberg and Zarch. They intuited why I was leaving and they wished me that my mother and father should intervene for me and should protect me from evil.

The night I went away to the city it was very dark, close to Purim. The way from the fortress to the city stretched though fields. I went all alone along the deserted stretch and I shivered like a leaf in the wind. I was afraid to pause and rest. But I kept going, looking heaven-ward, seeking a star, but no stars appeared. . .

Suddenly a taxi passed by, splattering me from head to toe and nearly ran me over.

When I came to the city I covered the Star of David and walked on the sidewalk. Nobody recognized me in the darkness. And that's how I arrived in one stretch at my acquaintances. When they saw me arrive at such a late hour, when Jews weren't allowed to be seen on the street, they got very frightened. They thought that for sure there were no Jewish survivors at the fortress.

I calmed them down and told them the truth why I came. The next day I went together with Pesia Zislina to seek work. First we went to the place where I worked 6 months previously.

The soldiers were now other ones, but after much pleading and bargaining, they agreed to take me into the kitchen to peel potatoes.

They phoned to the head of the fortress, but to my amazement they said that I'm not relieved, I must return to the fortress to work. What could this mean? Scared and embittered, I returned to the fortress. I took the girl, Pesia Zislin with me in order to cheer up her mother at the fortress.

When I went into the fortress, it was lunch time. Everyone was in the rooms. They were all glad to see me and I was told that the elder of the 'work house' Kievsky, complained to the chief that he requires my work, and that I had no right to go to the city.

This Kievsky was a sadist, a German. He used to, when he got angry at a Jew, kick him in the belly and knock his head against the wall, until the person would be covered with blood. Only when he saw the spilt blood did he calm down.

Once he got angry at Bertha Berger, so he kicked her so hard in the stomach that we all thought her guts would spill out. From the kick in the stomach she was sick all week but she had to go to work.

And it was to this sadist that I had to report in the afternoon.

Frightened to death, I went in to his room. He immediately started to torture me: Who allowed me to go, and why I wanted to go, question after question. How could I tell him the truth? So I told him one thing - that here I'm going hungry and in the city I'll have what to eat. And if I have a chance to change my work, why shouldn't I do so?

The sadist probably realized that he wouldn't draw any secrets out of me, he spared me this time, but he gave me such a lecture that if I'll ever again go away, he'll beat me so hard that all my bones will be broken, so therefore I shouldn't look for trouble, but work as previously.

After such a decree I had to say that I'm anxious to get back to work. Furthermore, I added, we're not our own bosses.

Eight days later the chief called me and he assured me that I need have no fear and that I can be at ease remaining at work here. He confided a secret to me, that the auto that splashed me on my way to the city was his auto. He wanted to see if I had really headed to the city in such darkness, at night. He rode after me slowly, he told me, being convinced that not all Jews are weaklings. . .

I didn't say anything in reply because I knew that he was being sent away to work closer to the front, to Ploskau near Leningrad, and that I need no longer fear him.


Lukewald always advised us that we should keep our distance from the 'Plenikes' (Prisoners) because it was dangerous. We weren't even allowed to talk to them. The plenikes were held behind bars. We used to go close to the windows, however, and talk to them, even until late at night. The children mainly were drawn to the prisoners, because they were alone. Nobody could blame them. This was very dangerous, however. Lukewald often pleaded that we stay away from the windows. It didn't help though. It wasn't only the girls who didn't have a mother or a father here, who would spend complete nights beside the windows, but adults also. More than once I myself felt like going down to the basement and listen to their hearty Russian songs, but I controlled myself and never stood beside their windows.

Three girls, three precious innocent children, Sara Prezma, Sara Zeev (whose parents had an ice factory), and Sonya Levina used to stand quite often until quite late at night and talk to the prisoners, with the Russians until they once conspired with the prisoners to run away.

One morning the grates were found broken and nine prisoners were missing, together with the nine young girls. We were terribly afraid, not so much what would be done to us if they weren't found, but afraid for them lest they be caught. . .

We were told to line up in the yard and we were deathly afraid lest every fifth one of us be taken and shot.

Lukewald was no longer here. He was at Piskov. Our new chief, Pop? was his name, was an even worse murderer than Lukewald. He was not only a murderer but a horse as well. He took us in hand but didn't do anything. He argued that we need to be punished as it is written by us: A tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. He rarely said a word to anyone, but he would walk around with his hand tucked in like Napoleon, and give orders. It took a week until the six escapees were brought back. The three girls were brought to the chief, to Pop?.

Well, we did what we could. We bribed him, and he said that he would send the girls away to Riga to work in H. B. G. where the Riga Jews worked, but since all the Germans are murderers and liars in addition, so Pop? was no exception. The three girls were shot one morning, together with 30 more Jewish prisoners. We were told this by a reliable source.

The three Jewish girls were murdered because they had no parents to warn them and protect them from going to the prisoners. They probably would have survived everything because they were 15-16 year old.

One of them, Sonia Levina, once got sick with typhus-lice in the ghetto, and I devoted myself to her a lot. The dark Nov. 9th she took in her mother and her sister to her own bed and saved them from death. But on May 1, 1942, she was shot, as well as both the mother and the sister.

I often used to wash this Sonya's hair and remove the typhus-lice. Why it didn't affect me I don't know to this day. When she recovered her mother gave me a loaf of bread for my hard work.

When Sonia ran away everyone was very surprised, because she was quiet by nature.

After the murder of the three girls the prisoners were taken elsewhere. Thus our friendship with them ended. It's strange, they were Russian prisoners, but they were no friends of ours. They used to wonder why the last remaining Jews aren't shot.

One woman, Lvov, (together with her 12-year-old daughter) ran away from the ghetto because she heard that on Nov. 20 there will be a slaughter. She was hid by a peasant but she was caught and locked up in prison. She didn't wait for her fate, however, instead, she hung herself.

In 1941 a Herr Shiff and his daughter also ran away from the ghetto. He ran away to Breslau, near Vilna (Vilnius). There also Jews were murdered so he ran to another village and the daughter returned in 1943. She told us that in Breslau many people saved themselves. She was brave, so she disguised herself as a Christian and used to go back to Breslau with food for the Jews there. We gave her as much as she could carry. Luba Barbakova gave her a coat.

Once she was seen in the city with a German.

Another time she came with her father. Her father wanted one thing - that she should be taken in to work. He got his way. She went to work in number 200. The father also remained. He worked in number 322.

One hot day she was told to pull the weeds out in the streets of the fortress. She was down on her knees doing her work when a German walked past and recognized her. She was taken to jail.

'Now I'm a gonner,' she kept repeating.

Before she had run away from the ghetto her mother had died from typhus. Later a younger one of her sisters was shot on Nov. 9.

In prison there were around 10-12 Jews - ones who had been caught walking on the sidewalk or without documents. Nobody ever came out of prison. We did get regards from them though.

Pop? was sent away. We thanked God but were afraid that someone worse than him would be sent. They sent us a chief from the H. B. G. in Riga.


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