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Volume 28

Paula Frankel-Zaltzman


Edited by M. M. Shafir

Translated from the Yiddish by
Miriam Dashkin Beckerman

A publication of
The Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies and
The Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

Copyright © Paula Frankel-Zaltzman, 2003

Editorial Note

This memoir by Paula Frankel-Zaltzman of her experiences in German labour and concentration camps, was originally published in Yiddish in 1949. It was published in Montreal by a committee of supporters composed of many Latvian Jews who provided financial assistance. The memoir was edited by M.M. Shafir, a teacher in the Jewish People's Schools and the Jewish Peretz Schools, and a well-known Yiddish poet, author of many volumes of Yiddish verse. His difficult task was to transliterate the memoir - written in Yiddish but using the Roman alphabet - into the standard Yiddish version using the Hebrew alphabet. This first English version has been translated by Miriam Dashkin Beckerman.

Melech Ravitch, who wrote an appreciation of the Yiddish memoir, places it within the context of the history and evolution of Holocaust Yiddish literature. Ravitch was an internationally renowned Yiddish author, then domiciled in Montreal; for a number of years he served as director of the Jewish Public Library.

One feature of this narrative which sets it apart from other memoirs is the retention of many names of individuals whom the author knew or came to know in the ghettoes and camps she experienced. This lengthy list may help in identifying persons, a quest which still operates some 60 years after the event. These names are listed in the Appendix


On the one hand all current Yiddish literature is seeped in the holy Jewish design to memorialize in word the moral and physical torture that our people endured in the years 1933-45, the years of the Hitler epidemic throughout the world. On the other hand, all of Jewish literature is occupied with finding extraordinary super-human literature forms for the inhuman suffering. It is certain that up to the present this did not succeed. Whether it will or can ever succeed - this the future Yiddish literature will answer. A positive answer is due to our people and to all mankind.

Meanwhile we must unceasingly carry the bricks and the mortar and the iron and the heart to that mighty building. And this honest, thorough and true book is a part of that holy memorial from which will be built, sometimes, that artistic: I accuse! - not only the nazis, but all of mankind. And not for the purpose of taking revenge but to improve the world so that there may never again arise a nation against a nation . . .

Through the librarian of Jewish Public Library in Montreal, Rochl Eisenberg, who became a friend of the refugee, Pesia Zaltzman, (maiden name Frankel) I found out that she had written her memoirs of the Nazi period. According to a request Pesia wrapped up the memoirs, closely written on tens of pages, on a typewriter with Latin letters, (because in the camp there was no Yiddish typewriter) so that friends could read it. Captured by the simplicity and authenticity of the written descriptions, we listened to it all during a few winter evenings. It became clear that: because it was not intended as a book but merely for family - they deserve to be enclosed in the covers of a book. Had Pesia Zaltzman written her memoirs for the world, she would certainly not have gone to such lengths about her tragic father. And it is this very story - that will one day be and must be one day the subject of a writer who can measure up to a Tolstoy - that makes this book different from thousands of such books that have been written to date.

If it is true that every Nazi tortured differently, and every Jew suffered differently - this you can see from this book. And for this reason these works will never be exhausted or sufficient, as long as the mountain peak of these books will not be sky-high as is the heavenly-crying mountains of ashes of the six million innocent victims in which are also the ashes of the immediate family of the writer of this work.

This book might possibly never have gotten published - I must add at the end - if not for the talented young writer, M. M. Shafir who undertook to transcribe it from the Latin-typed copy of the hand-written and so artistically edit it so that the authentic style of Pesia Zaltzman's Yiddish language should not suffer. The pages weren't written as literature but to unload the heart and to be one more voice in the Yiddish chorus that accuses the world for the suffering of the Jewish people.

Montreal, June 1949
Melech Ravich


I was freed. How unexpectedly you, freedom, came exactly when death was so close! Do you know what freedom means after so much suffering and while being ready every moment for the last breath? Who can describe this in writing, those first feelings of liberation. The one who has lived through it all - only such a person can understand the word: freedom. After the first excitement we saw that the longed-for freedom required yet further struggles and I let myself be sneaked across the border in order to reach my final destination: to reach my family across the ocean, because to remain on the blood-soaked soil where I suffered so much didn't even come into consideration. After great effort and fear I arrived in Germany, Munich and there I settled in the camp Fernwald. And here - I got seriously ill. These were the afterbirth pains of the 'good life' in the concentration camp. My doubt of ever being able to tell everything that I had endured and what had happened to my parents, sisters, brothers and my dear husband - tortured me, and so I got the idea of writing it all accurately so that there should at least be a memory. After a long illness in the hospital as soon as I felt a little better I began to write, write, write . . . . it all became so close, so dear to my heart, and at the same time so bitter. And before I left the bloody land and emigrated to my sister in Canada, my memoirs were completed. A Jewish writer in Montreal who saw my memoirs encouraged me to have this published as a book, available to everyone, though I had written it mainly for my own family.

I thank the people who helped get this book published: Mrs. Sarah Peltz, president of the Ladies Auxiliary of the Latvian Mutual Aid Association, Montreal; Mr. Max Aidleman, president of 'Latvian Mutual Aid Association;' Mr. Louis Gordon, treasurer; Mrs. Alice Gordon; Mrs. Jenny Wiltzer, financial secretary; Mr. Zerech Sheshkin, recording-secretary; Mrs. Molly Aspel, recording secretary as well as all members of the above mentioned Association.

Pesia Frankel Zaltzman
Montreal, June 21, 1949



This narrative records the events beginning on June 22, 1941 when Germany attacked the Soviet Union. Describes her family situation and the unexpected effects of the bombing. Burdened with an invalid father who requires special care. Cites the anti-Semitic reaction to the invasion by the Latvian population. Describes the work brigades and living conditions. Jews are crowded into the Beis Medrish which is set on fire. Author is assigned to agricultural field work. Jews are ordered to wear yellow patches on their clothing . Ghetto is established. Author becomes nurse, assisting the doctors. Jews from the surrounding villages are brought to the ghetto. Separation from mother who is sent to a German camp. Describes hospital duties and the terrible conditions she endures. Desperate actions to care for father. Execution of Jews following Kristallnacht. Death of father. Gathers food and sends small parcels into the ghetto. Depicts matza being prepared for Pesach. Many Jews are employed as labourers in the 'work fortress.' Doctor distributes poison to his family. Transported to the Riga ghetto. Meets with her brother Aaron in the ghetto; she is sent on to Kaiserwald Concentration Camp. Detailed description of the camp. Works in electric cable plant. Russian advance on Riga. Taken by ship to Danzig and Stutthof Camp. Tells of living conditions. Describes liberation and desire to locate family and loved ones.

June 22, 1941 - January 25, 1945.


Montreal, Canada
Melech Ravitch
Rochl Eisenberg
M.M. Shafir
Dvinsk, village
Dondo, village
Vishkes, village
Krislovka, village
Indra, village
Livengott, village
Nitzkol, village
Dvina River
Vilna, major city in Lithuania
Breslau, town
Kaiserwald Concentration Camp
A.E.G., cable wire factory
Pforden, village
Stutthof, concentration camp


Editorial Note
The Holocaust And Yiddish Literature: An Appreciation
Author's Preface
Key Words
Wartime Experiences
Appendix of Names Mentioned in the Memoir



On Sunday, June 22, 1941, exactly at 12 noon, it was announced on the radio that the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. At the moment when Molotov conveyed the startling news, I happened to be in a restaurant with my husband for lunch. We were all perplexed by the news. A shudder went through us all.

I had been married for three years at that time, had a home with all good things and lead a happy life with my husband. I immediately went to my parents because I knew they were alone. Of our family where there were nine children, only my brother Avrasha was not married. On the way to my parents I already saw bombs dropping and shots being fired. People on the streets scattered. While I went to my parents my husband went to our residence. When I came to my parents I told them what was happening and since my father was a sick old man, confined to bed, I decided, in the heat of the moment, not to leave my parents alone in the uproar, though my husband was waiting for me at home. Maybe I didn't do the right thing regarding my husband, but when I took a look at my father and regarded the position he was in, and at my frightened mother, who won't know what to do under the circumstances, I saw that I have no choice. I mustn't abandon my parents.

It was a long night. There was no question of sleeping. My brother, Avrasha, knew very well that he would have to leave home to join the army, so he also thought that it was my duty to remain with my parents. So it was that we spent the whole night pondering and thinking what might happen, until finally it was day break.

Monday morning my husband came running, all upset, a broken man. I apologized to him and explained I remained here all night. He understood me very well and he promised to remain with the parents all day until I will return from my job. I had to go to work to carry out my duties because I was in a liquor factory as cashier and bookkeeper. While I was on my way to work there was an air raid. People died on the street. I barely got to work alive. I could hardly wait until the day was over so that I could go to my parents immediately. The Monday and Tuesday night the Germans kept on bombing. We calmed our frightened father telling him that these were Russian airplane manoeuvres.


On Tuesday, the 24th, there was an announcement on the radio that all those fit for military service should enlist. This was bitter news for me. My husband and my brother belonged to this category. This meant that they had to leave us immediately. My brother started to prepare himself. First, he grabbed a photo of my parents and the photo of his class girlfriend, Sarah Rilevska, then I went with my husband to our place to prepare the military suitcase and other necessities. On the way I told him with a smile, that he will probably be an officer and I - a nurse.... and I encouraged him that with God's help he would return home and we will be happy.

My heart told me that something bad was going to happen in our lives. When we finished packing the few essentials we returned to our parents. There a letter was waiting for us from my sister Shifra from Riga, saying that if my husband and brother go away to the army, I shouldn't, under any circumstances, leave our parents alone. Meanwhile I had to go to work because we were forced to. On the way I met my brother Moishe. I asked him to take my father to a basement but my brother laughed at me and told me not to fear so much because the Germans only aim at military sites.... When I returned home from work I found everyone very frightened because many refugees had arrived from Lithuania. Nobody knows where to run to and it is bitter.


On Wednesday, June 25th, I again went to work and I was escorted by an escort of eleven planes that bombed and shot non-stop over city. Everything around was burning. At night, after work, I said to immediately take father to a basement and that we should all wait there until it would get quiet. When we carried father over we saw that we were the only people on the street. We carried father on a mattress. In the basement we met many acquaintances. They received us very warmly and immediately made room for father. It was a horrible night. From outside could be heard loud explosions that deafened the ears and reached to the heart. We shook from fear.

Finally, it was daybreak. On Thursday, the 26th, at 4 in the morning, my husband and I snuck out side to see what was happening. . . a Russian soldier came up to us, and with out letting us finish our question, said:

'It's bad, run wherever your eyes will take you, so long as you don't remain here! Hitler said on the radio that he will get even with the Jews.'

I told him that I have a sick father and I don't want to leave him for my mother to take care for him. I told my husband to run away but he asked me to run away with him.

'No' - I answered. 'You go, and when the war will end, and if it will be God's will, we will be reunited and be happy. But I'm not going. I can't leave my parents alone.'

My husband recognized from my words I would not change my mind so he agreed to remain with us because he didn't want to separate from me. We returned to the basement. My brother Abrasha was sitting, his head bowed, perplexed, resigned, and bit his lips. It was obvious that one problem was bothering him: To run away? But how could he leave such a sick father?

Outside, meanwhile, the shooting becomes so bad that we couldn't even think about running away anymore. A few hours later it got a little quieter.

I, my husband and Abrasha went outside to see what was happening.

We saw that our parent's house is burning and a German patrol is throwing hand grenades on all sides. I was fortunate that our parents were with us in the basement and where the fire, we hoped, would not yet reach. A little later when my mother found out that everything we owned had gone up in smoke, she remained sitting, very indifferent: Where should she go now? Besides, my mother had always prayed that she should not have to depend on her children and that she should die in her own bed. . . but the bitter destiny decreed otherwise.

My husband comforted her and told her not to worry: We'll live together in our place - if it still remains whole. . . and if it also no longer exists, we'll stick together wherever it will be. That's how the day ended in troubles and in suffering.

Thursday evening everything around us began to burn and the smoke reached the basement and started to shake us. We couldn't remain here any longer. We took father on a chair and we exited the cellar. My husband and my brother Abrasha carried father, and I walked with mother. We took only the essentials for father, the flask and the rubber tube on which he lay. It was fearsome outside. Everything around us was burning. The wind was sweeping burning parts of roof over our heads and there was nowhere to run to. When I saw the town ablaze like this I thought that this is how Pompeii must have burned at one time. . .

We decided to quickly go in the direction of Riga St., because we had once lived there and my brother Moishe lived there with his family. We crossed through the old boulevard. My husband and brother were carrying father and I was with my scared mother. Suddenly we lost them. We thought that they had gone to my bother. We also started to 'go' there. In the terrible turmoil the whole town was running, though nobody knew where it was best to run to.

'JHID . . . COMMUNIST . . .'

When reached my brother's place I went out in the yard and saw an old woman making her way in the shambles and doesn't have anyone to speak to. I felt sorry for this old woman. Oy, I said to myself, her children probably abandoned her. All the dwellings were abandoned. My brother's also. I went back from the yard but when I saw that my mother wasn't there an awesome fear struck me. I began to shout: Mama!. . . Mama!. . .

Suddenly I felt (because it was hard to see) that my mother must be lying there somewhere. . . I ran over and saw mother lying on the stones. She had fallen because of the terrible heat while she was waiting for me. The flask that she didn't let out of her hands, was smashed in a few places. I picked her up. Where should we go now? Where is father, my husband and brother?

'Let's run back to the old boulevard' - I said, and we started to run.

Suddenly there was a wild shout: 'Halt! Remain Still! We are shooting!'

A German, armed from head to toe suddenly stood in front of us. I really got scared, but I was thinking of father. I asked if we could ask something. 'Ya,' he answered.

'Perhaps you have seen an old man in a chair, accompanied by two men?'
'Yes, they are in the church,' he informed us. We were frightened: What could this mean? We started to run there. As we approached the door of the church we saw my husband and my brother walking toward us. They had been allowed to go and look for us. We all lay down on the bare floor that was full of shattered glass and somehow got through the night. When daybreak came a German approached me and said quietly: 'Take her now preferably, before they leave the church.'

My husband and my brother once again took my father in the chair, and with my terrified mother we slowly walked out of the church. The Latvians shouted after us: 'Jhid! (Jew). . . Communist!. . .'

We headed for our home. Perhaps not everything was destroyed. Suddenly - once again an alarm and a dreadful shooting, where we were, carrying father and it is still far to our home. What should we do? Will they let us in? We already felt the Latvian population hates us and is just waiting for permission and they will attack us like beasts. All around us we heard: 'Jhid! . . . Communist! . . .'

'Why don't you sing ÔKatyusha'? Oy Katyusha, ha?'

In such a surrounding we couldn't carry father farther in the chair so we stopped in the middle of the street. The end will be whatever God wants. We were standing thus when a voice called to us to come into a cellar. We rejoiced. In the cellar we found many people we knew. They immediately made room on the floor for father, though it was crowded. My exhausted mother sat down beside my father but I, my husband and my brother decided to sneak into our room. It wasn't far from the cellar. My husband and my brother dragged themselves to our home, crawling on their knees and they brought a few crusts of dried bread from there, and a few lumps of sugar. They also brought a kerosene burner, a primus, to boil some water for father. Somehow the day passed. We knew that our fate was sealed. The Russians were still far off and the Germans with their good friends, the Latvians, are already at work in town: houses were being set a fire and Jews beaten.

We were sitting in fear. What should we do? If the murderers will enter our cellar, God forbid what would we then do with our parents?

Nighttime fell. There were also Latvians with us in the cellar. They began to whisper amongst themselves. We started to shudder because we knew the significance of their whispering. We therefore decided that my husband and my brother should once more crawl over to our home and if there is a place there to hide we should all move there and await our fate there.

Their departure from the cellar scared everyone. Because to appear outdoor after 8 in the evening was punishable by death.

In half an hour they returned, and we hurriedly started to prepare father for the way. We left mother in the cellar in the meantime. Meanwhile everything around us was burning and the smoke entered the cellar through all the cracks. When we brought father to our home there was suddenly such a shot that I was sure that it has caused father to let out his last breath. In the darkness we carried him in, placed him on a sofa and started to pat him to see if he was still alive. Then my husband and brother went to get mother. It took some time. Finally they came, bringing mother. She was shivering from fear. Two other acquaintances, Bainish Zitlman and his wife also came.

The first thing mother did was run to Papa to see if he is still alive. Then she started to tell us what she has lived through all alone in the cellar after we went out. After we took father out, she said, a bomb exploded near the cellar so the Latvians said that the bomb probably struck that old man. . . Mother's joy was boundless when she heard that father was breathing.

All the night of Friday, Saturday, we could hear the bombs exploding but we were 'happy' that we weren't together with the murderers. I thanked my husband for his warm relationship to my parents. At that precise time we were hiding beneath a table. My husband was glad that I thanked him. I never expressed too much love to him because of the troubles I had with my parents, and he used to jokingly complain to my mother that he thinks I don't love him.

'From today on I will love you more' I promised him.

From carrying the heavy chair with my father, my husband's and brother's feet were badly sprained, but they accepted it all lovingly.

Suddenly - it was already Shabbes (Sabbath) by then - two Germans entered and started to shout that we are communists and that's why we're hiding - and they wanted to arrest us. We began to plead with them but to no avail. It's good that the woman guard came in and told them that we're not communists - so they left. The Saturday-Sunday night we kept imagining that we were going to be arrested once more. . .

JUNE 29, 1941

On Sunday, the 29th, early in the morning, the guard woman came in and told us that there is an order that all Jews up to the age of 60 must gather in the marketplace. Those who will disobey the order will be shot. We were all in despair. My brother Abrashe and my husband said farewell to mother and father and left the house. I accompanied them. They didn't take anything with them simply because there was nothing in the house and it was impossible to buy anything because the Latvians no longer wanted to sell us anything.

We had actually prepared food, a bit of food, in fact, but not for ourselves but for our parents, at their place. It was summer time so we packed a full oven with all kinds of preserves of fish, meat, etc. But the whole house got rained into and soaked.

When we reached the marketplace it was already packed with Jews. My bother Moishe and his family were already there also. My heart told me that none would return.

'Go and say goodbye to the parents,' I asked my brother Moishe, but he was so embittered that he didn't want to, nor could he go. I would run home time after time, to have a look to see how my parents were and immediately returned to the marketplace. This went on all day. The Jews stood in their dark moments, awaiting their destiny. They waited this way in anguish the whole day. At five o'clock in the afternoon we heard shouts, commands. Jews were lined up in rows of 5 and we were told to march - in time - to the central prison. There, in the open yard, they were beaten. After a few hours of beatings, they were thrown in to the dark prison cells, hungry and wounded. Now they felt what the Germans were capable of.

Full of tears, I went home. I made up my mind not to tell my parents all that I had seen that day. The more I could hide from them, I hid. I didn't sleep all night. I hardly awaited the morning to go out in the street and find out how my dear ones were. As I was walking I saw a group of men in the distance. I rushed to them. Amongst the dismal faces I didn't recognize anyone. But as I got closer I felt - more than recognized - my husband. He was so dishevelled and dirty that it threw a fright on me. He was probably suffering more than me.

I followed them, though the Latvians hit, with cudgels, anyone who wanted to give something to the tortured ones. They happened to stop not far from our place. In a hurry I took out a flask of tea and, under blows from a Latvian bandit, handed it to my husband. Only the tea; there was no bread.

I'll always remember that terrible appearance of my husband.

A few days later someone arrived to tell me they saw my brother Abrashe working somewhere. I immediately rushed off to there. With great difficulty and fear I handed him a cucumber. His appearance broke my heart. He was so full of despair that he didn't even want to look at the cucumber. A few days later I noticed someone standing all dirty and blackened, beside a garbage pile. I wanted to get regards from him for my close ones, so I ran over to him unnoticed - and in that poor face I recognize my brother Moishe. He rejoices to see me.

'I'm pretty well off,' he said with smile. 'After work I get a bit of watery soup. Some are worse off.'

I was chased away from him. I went to his wife and children and told them that he's working so they took something to him.


My parents waited every night for their children, but nobody was allowed home after work, except to quickly grab something so eat and change underwear. I kept keeping up the spirits of my parents, that any minute everyone would be freed. My mother couldn't stay calm, however. She went to the commandant of the city, a German murderer, and asked him for mercy, to at least free her children for a few hours. The German received her very politely and promised her that as soon as the Jews will clean up the town her children will come home.

Mother felt a little better after hearing this. She started to hope that maybe this murderer would free her children from this difficult work. But he freed them from - life. We never saw them again.

Meanwhile the Germans had occupied the living quarters above us and I started to do their laundry. For my work they paid me with dry crusts of bread.

'Now I'll have bread for our men' I thought to myself. But it was probably at the same time that I was washing the German lice-filled laundry that they shot my husband and brother.

Time passed. I used to dress not like a Jewess, but with a kerchief on my head and a basket in my hand and I would stand in line and try to buy something from the Latvians, perhaps a piece of bread. They didn't want to sell any bread to the Jews. They recognized that I was a Jewess, but when I told them that the bread is for my paralyzed father, not for me, they sometimes had pity on me.

Once as I was standing in line Latvian police suddenly appeared and started to grab Jewish women to take to prison where they would be shot. They grabbed me also. My kerchief and basket didn't help at all. I saw that the situation was very, very bitter. For a minute it appeared to me that this was the end for me. I wanted to succumb. But suddenly a thought struck me. There was one fellow Simon who used to work in the liquor factory where I worked, who had become a big-shot in town, so I boldly said:

'Simon told me that if anyone will want to arrest me, I should say that he says to free me.'

I said it fearlessly because what more was there to fear? And it helped. The Latvians looked at one another: How come that I should mention such a high-ranking person? And they freed me.

It was only when I got home that I realized in what great danger I was and this thought alone threw me into a panic when I thought about what had almost happened to me.

From then on my mother never again allowed me to go and stand in line for bread. She went herself.


On July 7th mother went to try to find some milk for my father and remained to do the laundry. Suddenly my father called me over and showed me (because he could no longer speak at that time), that he feels that he can walk. You can hardly imagine my joy. My father would be able to walk around in such bitter times. I helped him get down from the sofa where he was laying like a prisoner, and I started to walk back and forth with him.

My father was overjoyed that he can finally walk a little. One could only see his joy because he rejoiced speechlessly. He rejoiced like a child who has just learned how to walk. We wanted mother to come home all the sooner in order to show her what a miracle can sometimes happen because of troubles.

But God didn't bequeath to us that bit of joy. As I was walking with my father in the room we suddenly heard some loud knocks on our front door. We got very scared. Because of fear my father could no longer walk. I had to put him down. With a trembling heart I went to open the door. I smiled in order not to show how frightened I was.


Five Germans stood in the doorway. With swastikas on their sleeves and with death insignias on their caps. If this wasn't enough, they brought along two Latvian bandits.

All in unison they barked in German:

'Get out, damn Jews. Get out in three minutes. Out. You're going to be shot right away!'

One of the Latvians was one who, under the Soviets, went around recording how much electricity was used. People would pay on the spot. I never let him stand waiting but always offered him a seat, paid him whatever was due and even gave him a few cent tip. Later, in the ghetto, he became chief of the bandits, the right hand of the commander and during the round-up he had one duty - to shoot.

My father gazed at them with questioning eyes as though saying: Why do you want to throw me out of my child's home?

Quietly he asked me: 'What's going on here?' But I had no reply nor did I have time for that. I only asked him to be strong and help me get him dressed.

One of the murderers went up to my father and shouted to his face: 'How many houses did you burn?' and gave him a blow with his pistol. My father started to fall as a result. I disregarded their aimed pistols but I revived my father and said: 'Father dear, be strong. . .'. I put his trousers on. From being confined to bed so long they got big for him and they hung on him like a sack. I looked for something to use as a belt and I grabbed a red belt from one of my dresses. But when the bandits saw my red belt they begun to scream that we are communists, and they begun to treat us even more wildly.

I grasped my sick old father by his trousers and slowly started to go out with him. As I was going out I grabbed my fall coat from the wall-hook and together we went out of my place where I had lived for three years in contentment and happiness with my husband.

Where should I go now with my father on my hands? And what will mother say when she will come home and not find us? And who knows if my mother is still alive? Maybe she has also been taken as a prisoner.


When I went out in the street with my father a terrifying sight caught my eye. Everyone is being chased out of their living quarters and they are being lined up in rows of five. The shouts of the commanders strike like blows.

'Nobody dare step down on the sidewalk! Yudn must run in the middle of the road like dogs!'

One of the bandits saw me with my father so he told both of us - my father and me - to stand in the first line and lead the parade. But I told that my father can't walk and that his shouting is useless. So another one came over to me and told me to go up with my father to the fifth floor - but quickly!

I had to obey. I held my father with all my strength and by nearly pulling him up all the way we reached the fifth floor. I pulled him the way one pulls a full sack: At this point my father started to bother me that he needs to 'relieve himself.' What was I to do? I can't let go of him. I have nowhere to put him down. But I must find a place where the murderers won't see him.

With much difficulty I managed to find such a place. I somehow dragged my father over, but my father, feeling ashamed, said that he had made a mistake. He apologized to him as though he had committed a crime.

I once more took him in hand and waited with a fast-beating heart for what I would next be told to do. I waited thus for a couple of minutes; then a Latvian came over to us and told us to go down immediately and get in line and go in rows of 10 to the Officers' St. There we will, together with others, hear our decree. I didn't heed the murderer's voice but I grasped my father by his trousers and carefully went down and stood in the first rows. But since my father couldn't walk, I asked that I myself should be allowed to go with him. I promised that I would not run away but will go right to the Bais Medresh (House of Study) on Officers' St. I thought that all Jews who had been driven out of their homes were there already. This was the Bais Medresh where my parents and my husband used to pray.

The bandits saw for themselves that my father could not lead the parade so they took me and my father out of the rows and let us go separately. The Jews didn't look at their own misfortune but kept looking at me and my father. Tears flowed from their eyes because they wanted to help but weren't allowed to.

As I was dragging my paralyzed father and feeling that my strength is leaving me, I saw how a niece of mine, Rosa Frankel, a daughter of my brother Moishe, seventeen years old, was running, embittered, so she remained with the two of us and helped me drag my father, her beloved grandpa, through the Dvinsker street. We pulled him like a sack and at every step the Latvians spit in our faces and shouted after us: 'You've lost! Soon all of you will be shot like dogs. You're all communists! You've had it good enough for long enough!'

I was afraid lest they drag my niece off somewhere also, and I started to plead with her to go home to her mother and to her brother who she still had at that time and so avoid our fate. But my pleading was in vain. Her kind youthful heart didn't allow her to let me remain alone with her dear zaidy. She helped me on to carry my father until my mother caught up to us, very frightened. Now, with mother's help, I actually chased her away from us and I told her to tell her mother everything.

She went away crying.

Mother started to tell me what a fear she endured when she came home and didn't find anyone. She had gone into the yard and knocked at the back window, (that's what we had decided, so that the Latvians wouldn't see anyone going in to us and thus realize that someone is still to be found here), and nobody answered. She thought that she would pass out. Breathlessly she set out to find us.

She just returned from the 'creamery' where she got three bottles of milk from the peasants. She carried the milk with joy and with fear.


We both took father to our minyan (quorum) in the community Bais Medresh on Officers' St. where my father prayed since he got married but we were horrified to find that our Bais Medresh had been burnt and horses were stabled there. A passer-by told us that all the Jews were in 'Planov' Bais Medresh, but we were afraid to move father from the spot because the veins on his face were so strained that we thought that any moment they would burst and he would die. I prayed to God that my father should die all the sooner but let it not happen here on the street where the Latvians spit in our face and laugh at us as we carry our father.
But there wasn't much time to think. We had no control over ourselves and of our lives; we are in the hands of the bandits. So we again dragged ourselves on until we finally reached the 'Planov' Bais Medresh.

Here a frightful picture unfolded before us.


The 'Planov' Bais Medresh was an old building that could accommodate around 50 or 60 people. But now some five hundred people or more had been shoved in. One could suffocate. And that's how people awaited their death sentence.

And yet when we took our father in they somehow made room for him.

Here in this Bais Medresh I could no longer hold back my tears that I had choked back all day. I didn't want the murderers to see me crying because if one of us cried they took revenge on us. But here, in front of the collective Jews, condemned to death, I didn't have anything to hide.

As I was sitting there crying, a German came over to me and asked me why I was crying. I pointed out to him my father and all the crowded Jews and I asked him if I needn't cry. He told me that he was not a Reich's Deutsch and he doesn't have anything against us and if he will remain here all night he will help me. I told this to my mother who had, in the meantime, distributed a bottle of milk amongst the youngest children who were put down, crying and miserable.

My mother listened to me and said that she doesn't trust the German because she heard that the intention is to burn us all in this Bais Medresh.

I convinced her that that can't be. It can't be that a whole house of prayer full of Jews will be burnt, but at that moment I took a look at the windows (old fashioned ones above one's head) and I assessed through which window I would throw my father and through which - my mother, in case the building will be set on fire. About myself I didn't think at all.

Meanwhile more unfortunate ones like us kept being brought in, frightened, some with children in their arms. Some were bloodied - they had probably answered the murderers. Our hearts turned to stone at what we saw and because we didn't know what the next moment could, God forbid, bring.


My mother was not wrong. Around midnight the building started to burn and then we all understood that the intention is to burn us all.

Panic reigned such as cannot be described. But in the panic I suddenly saw the German who promised to help us. He was helping to put out the fire.

The four daughters of the manufacturing-merchant Magid of Petrograd St. were helping him Now I believed the German a little, that he is indeed different from the other Germans. When it started to get light he came over to me and said that if I have somewhere to go with my parents, I should go right now because he must leave. I replied: 'Yes, I have somewhere to go,' and I went out onto the street with my parents, not knowing actually where I was going.

Just then an old Russian peasant came along in his wagon. We promised to pay him well just let him take us on his wagon. He took us on, and in one stretch drove us to the other side of the Dvina where our relatives were living ever since before the war. We didn't know if they were still to be found there, but we had no other choice, so we went there, trusting in God.

It was dangerous to ride through the city. The Latvians were grabbing Jews and it would have been easy to fall into the murderous hands and to be taken back to prison, that was already full of Jews who were waiting for their fate.

Our relatives greeted us with much fear. They themselves didn't have a place to rest their head, because while they had been hiding in the cellars during the air raids, the Latvians robbed them and didn't leave anything untouched. For my father we found a broken sofa, with spring wires protruding. But even with this sofa we rejoiced - and with the premises - certainly, because we would certainly be better off here than in prison. But who knows how long we'll be able to remain here . . .


On July 10 a law came out that all of those in the shtetl Grive must register for work. With a trembling heart I went to the police and I registered all three of us. I didn't have any documents with which to register my father so I went to the city hall and asked them to allow me to go to my home town in order to search for some kind of a document for my father. From the city hall they sent a peasant with me, one who worked there, to take me there.

Upstairs, in our home, the police had already set up their administrative offices, and below, the bandits had made themselves at home. As soon as I opened the door I got a blow to my heart.

'Scram, you have nothing to look for here!'

But the peasant explained to them my reason for coming. I went into the house. The rooms were tidied up very well, not the way I had left them when I hurried out; curtains were on the windows; glassware on the table; the pictures on the wall - everything as it should be. The family photos, however, were not there.

Downstairs I found nothing, so I went upstairs. There one started to question me.

'How do you happen to be in the Grive? You had previously been arrested?

'No,' I answered, looking him straight in the eyes so that he shouldn't, God forbid recognize that I'm lying. 'We are on the Grive since the bombardment. . . '

He couldn't do anything to me because the peasant was with me.

On the way home, after the shock I received in the door of my own dwelling, it was clear to me that I had lost everything.

When I reached home mother asked:

'What happened to you?'

'Nothing happened to me,' I answered. The end was that I registered my father without a document.

I was sent to work in a farmer's field. Here a new chapter in my life started.

In the morning, on my way to work, I could hear shooting from the side of the prison and my heart grew faint. Who knows if my dearest ones aren't being shot there - my husband and my brother. My work was hard, and the weather happened to be very hot - so that I felt myself burning up at work.

When I came home I would wash the floors and help my relatives in whatever work there was to do in the home so that they shouldn't be angry that my father had occupied the only piece of bedding, the broken sofa. My mother slept on benches and I - on the floor.


One day I was returning from work, tired and burnt, with blisters on my hands and feet, when I felt that someone on a motorcycle had stopped near me. I got very scared and I had to stop also. A German soldier sprung up in front of me and asked me if I need any help. I was so frightened that I said, tomorrow at this time I would await his help. Breathlessly I ran home. I felt that once more someone was following me but I didn't turn around. I was afraid, though, lest someone would see me running away.

When I came home mother called out:

'My child, yours I have not given away.'

I didn't even begin to understand what she means thereby. She began to tell me that they had just lived through terror. Germans came and told everyone to strip naked and hand over their money and jewellery. My mother had my whole fortune sewed into her corset and hanging on her neck she had her own little purse with a bit of money. My mother risked her life and begged them not to undress her. She will give them everything she has and she gave them her change purse with the money. She assured them that she doesn't have anything more other than this sick one - this she said, pointing to my father. So one of the Germans took out 50 rubles from the robbed change purse and gave it to her so that she should be able to buy bread.

My mother was overjoyed that she succeeded in rescuing my money but she was risking her life, playing such a heroic role. This she didn't know. And was it really worthwhile? I was no longer interested in the money. My life ended June 29, 1941, when my husband and brothers were taken to prison. The money would not return them to me.


A few days later, late in the evening, when nobody was supposed to be seen in the streets, a German pilot came in to us and without any reservation, he asked me if I'm married. I replied that I was.

'So where's you husband?' he asked. When I told him that my husband is in prison, he said to me:

'I'll be your man.'

My father got very scared and beseeched my mother with his eyes, to do something. I asked the German to go out into the corridor with me. There I wanted to ask him to leave me alone and I wanted to distance him from my parents who were scared to death. But in the corridor he took out a white pistol, put it to my heart, and started to count: one. . . two. . . three. . . and when I still said no he started to say: th - r - re . . .

That moment I felt that I'm going to be shot, and I shouted:


The murderer suddenly lowered his hand and I felt my mother beside me, embracing me and claiming me.

'My child, the soldier already left.'

We went into the house. I threw myself down on the hard floor and I cried all night long.

The following day I again went to work.


On July 15 an order was given that all Jews must put on yellow patches/indicators 12 square centimeters in size. Women have to wear the yellow patch on their left breast and on their shoulder - and the men an additional patch on their left knee. The patch had to look like a Soviet star because the Latvians say that the Jews are communists.

On July 20 we heard that for the remaining Jews living in town, a ghetto is being prepared on the side of the 'Grive.' This embittered us all, because we knew the significance of this. Besides, the Grive wasn't a place where one could live. That was where the Latvian military stabled its horses and there they sent erring soldiers for punishment and communists. Besides, the Grive was half destroyed by the German bombardment.

However, they didn't let us think much nor did they ask us if we like the place or not. On July 25, Saturday morning, all the Jews from the Grive were told to go to the ghetto. At the same time a former maid of ours, one who raised us and loved us very much, a Pole, came in to us, and she told us what terrible things she had witnessed in the yard of the prison: The whole Christian population was gathered and all stood and watched - some indifferently, some with joy - as the Jews were told to dig large pits. And when the pits were ready all the Jews were thrown in and they were buried alive.

This sounded so incomprehensible to us that we didn't understand that with this the Polish woman wanted to tell us the 'good' news about our dear ones who are already laying there in the pit covered over. And even when she told us that she went to the church and lit candles for the dead ones, we still didn't comprehend what she was aiming to tell us. . .

We hurried on our way. In the middle of the Sabbath we put father on a wagon that we provided for him alone, and mother and I, holding hands, made our way to where we were being sent. We went, resigned, without any clothes, without anything. The heat was torturing. We followed the wagon the way one follows a hearse. From the distance we saw the gray, half-destroyed buildings. It was fearful to behold. These were historical buildings of the one-time Romanovs.

From these buildings the ghetto was made.


On Saturday, July, 10 o'clock in the morning, we entered the ghetto. The ghetto was three kilometers from the Grive quarter that was separated from the town by the Dvina. There were very old barracks there that had served as horse stables for the Latvian military when they were stationed on that side of the river in the 'Krepose.' Now the barracks/stables had neither floors nor windows, nor a roof, only bare walls. At one time there were windows up high, now everything was ruined.

There all the Jews of the town were pressed in. People lay on top of another and it was choking. We barely found a spot where to put father down; on a piece of bare earth. There wasn't even anything with which to hand him a drink of water. To add to our troubles, it started to rain.

Mother strengthened herself and gave me courage:

'God will have mercy. Surely he won't let such a sick old man die in the rain.'

I scurried around like a poisoned mouse, looking for a somewhat better place for my parents. But wherever I looked I was tormented by the sight of the crowded, dispirited Jews who don't even have a spot for their tired bodies. But from simply walking around, broken-heartedly, no good would come. I decided that I must not return to mother bare-handed and tell her that I can't find a spot - I must find a spot - that's all there is to it.


Suddenly, I saw our house-doctor, Dr. Rosenblum, who attended to my father for some time.

'What's to be done?' I appealed to him.

He approached another doctor, Dr. Gurewitz, who also knew us very well, and they both whispered a secret to me that if I'm prepared to work amongst the sick, they will provide me with a place for my father. I promised to do everything that I would be asked to do, so long as I would have a place for my father.

We arranged the second floor for the sick ones, and there, on the hard floor, my father also got a spot, but we were happy that he will no longer have to lay on the bare earth, the wet earth.

We dragged him up to the second floor almost over peoples' heads because there wasn't even an inch of empty space.

Mother remained sitting near him and I went off to people I knew to look for a bit of water for them both. Possibly it will be God's will that I'll find more fortunate people than us and they may even give me a piece of bread also.

I was lucky. An acquaintance of ours, Fraida Sher, who owned a bakery, managed to bring a sack of flour into the ghetto as well as a cooking burner and other small items. Besides, her married children worked for Germans. She gave me a glass of tea and a piece of challah for my father and she told me to come again because as long as she will have, she will give us also.

My joy was indescribable that I could bring my father a glass of tea and challah.

In the room with my father were many unfortunate souls. Amongst them there was also a friend of ours, Saul Hellerman and his wife. They were lying on the floor awaiting their fate.

My work was to watch the sick and help the doctors. I worked hard but I didn't mind because firstly, my parents didn't have to lay on the ground and secondly, it was good to help the lonely, unfortunate who - who knows? - Possibly they would yet today, or maybe tomorrow, be sent to their death. With such thoughts, the first night in the hospital passed. For my own weary bones I had no place to rest. But who thought about oneself?

The next morning I started to think about finding a piece of bread somewhere. It wasn't pleasant for me to go every day to our acquaintance, Fraida Sher. Very few people had the opportunity to bring any provisions into the ghetto, other than those who worked in town for the Germans. They sometimes did bring something into the ghetto for their families. But I was working in the hospital and this one was a conspiratorial one. The Germans weren't supposed to know that on the second floor there's a room where sick old people were suffering. Naturally, they therefore, didn't send any food up there. The situation was indeed bitter. Nevertheless, I did manage to get some hot water and a piece of bread somewhere.

There started to be talk about setting up a kitchen; that's to say - a delegation would approach the commandant and ask him that we should receive every day at least a bit of soup and some bread.


On July 27, Dr. Gurewitz came in with the engineer, Yashe Kroin, and started to complete a list of all the old people. That's what the Germans ordered because all the old and sick were to be taken to another camp, not far from the ghetto.

My mother and I got worried. What should we do? Were we to hand over father to the murderers? Who will watch over him there? We were still naive and in no way did we imagine that the old folks and the sick would be shot. So we decided to ask the doctor not to include our father's name in the list. Yashe Kroin said that if at all possible he will do this.

My father was not taken.

In the evening I went to the window and saw drunken Latvians, with cudgels in their hands, chasing with wild shouts, the sick, old and blind into the forest. Dr. Gurewitz went with them. Had to go with them. My uncle, Mendl Snider was also with them together with his eldest daughter Eda.

I looked at the tragic picture and thought that my heart would break.

The next day rumours started to spread that bread had been sent for the old who had been sent away. This was nothing more than a trick so that people would think that it's good there and that if it should be called for, others would let themselves be led there. But instinctively our hearts told us that the other camp doesn't exist and has never existed and that those who were dragged away are no longer alive.

We weren't given a chance to do much thinking. On Tuesday evening we heard cries from the distance. The cries came nearer and nearer until we realized that these were the cries of tortured Jews. The next day we discovered that into the ghetto the remaining Jews had been gathered from all the surrounding villages. From Dvinsk alone, then from Dondo, Vishkes, Krislovke, Indra, Livengoff, Nitzkol and from all the way to Riga. The Latvian population had been told that they will no longer see a Jew, not even in the museum, even if one were to pay two 'lot' (Latvian money) for a Jew there would not be one to be had.

If, up to now, the crowding was bad, it got even worse, unbearable. But the commandants of the ghetto said that it would soon become 'roomier.' A new camp/lager would be established for the newcomers and whoever will want to will be able to go along.

In three days time an order was issued that all newcomers must go to a new camp. Of the former ones, anyone who wants to can go also. First it was necessary to register; and in the evening, line up in rows of five and go to the other camp.

All the newcomers and many others immediately signed up for the other camp because they thought that it's better there.

They were all taken to the road that leads to the spa Pagulonska, eight kilometers from town. But after this 'trickery' no news came from the other camp, and we felt once more, instinctively, that something is fowl here. Soon a Christian woman came into the ghetto and told us that all those who had been led out were shot in the forest Pagulanska and that fresh pits are being dug there. . .

We were gripped with a terrible fear. In this fear we were allowed to 'live' and await our day.

I continued to do my work in the hospital as well as I could, but in addition to this I had to scurry around and look for food for myself and for my dear ones. The number of the sick grew from day to day. The children got contagious diseases and they dropped like flies. Dr. Gurewitz had foretold this about the children and it did come to pass.

My mother could no longer lie on the bare ground near my father and I had to find another spot for her. Beneath our sick-block there were dirty horse stables, so with my bare hands I cleaned out the dirt, and on the hard, cold floor, made a place for my mother. I didn't even have anything to spread out beneath her.

There was no change of clothing so the lice crawled around on everyone freely.

Whenever I could go out of the hospital for a few minutes, I would go down to mother. With a smile and with a joke I would take her aside, take off her rags and remove the lice from her lovely white skin. How long is it possible to bear this? I thought, as I was doing this.

My mother got jaundiced from the stable air. Not only that but she had stomach pains from the watery soup. The raw bread that they threw our way (because that's all we deserve, since sooner or later we would be shot), she couldn't swallow.

Meanwhile we suffered greatly from the Latvians. Every night they would come and seek out some women. God protected me from this because I was in the hospital and they didn't come there.


On August 7 an order was issued that everyone must go to bathe in the Dvina. I went there also with my mother. Both of us went into the water, holding hands. The Germans and the Latvians laughed at us, photographed us, and chased us right back to the ghetto.

Wed., August 8, an order was suddenly issued that everyone must line up in the yard and no one was to remain indoors and we were to await further orders. They started to sort: labourers separately and others separately.

What was I to do now? Should I stand beside my frightened mother?

I approached the head murderer and asked him where I should line up since I work in the hospital. He was surprised at a 'farflukhtn Yudn' who has the nerve to approach him and ask him something, and he asked me threateningly:

'Where is the hospital here?'

I got very scared. Why did I have to mention the hospital? Who knows what trouble I caused thereby?

I replied that the hospital is there about, so he shouted to my face:

'Line up with the workers.'

I lined up near the lucky ones. But what was to be with my mother who had lined up with the non-workers? I snuck out from amongst the workers and went after the group in which my distraught mother had been led away. From the distance I saw her head kerchief and I went up to the policeman, a Latvian, and I asked him to hand my mother over to me, because the head man said since I'm working, I'm allowed to take her with me.

After much pleading, he let me have my mother.

I was overjoyed that I had rescued my mother from the hands of the murderers!

I came back with my mother and lined up with her amongst the workers and she told me that exactly when she had uttered 'Shma Yisrael' the policeman took her out of line and brought her to me.


We stood in bitterness, clinging to one another. Suddenly something dreadful happened. Voices were heard that in room 23, arms (guns) had been found and that everyone who lived in that room should immediately come out to get their punishment.

From amongst the workers a family by the name of Elkin stepped forward, a mother with two girls (twins four years old) and another few who lived in that cursed room. Right in front of our eyes they were murderously beaten and they were immediately taken away to be shot. (This was the daughter-in-law of the Elkins who had a factory of cardboard boxes on the Alien St.).
After that we stood all night, totally wounded, watching the drunken Latvians choosing new victims, torturing them and sending them to their death.

It began to rain. Only late at night did they lead us 'fortunate' ones back to our rooms and the group of non-workers were led to the forest. . .

That same evening I took my mother to her sister Dina who had also saved herself because her two children were working and they had notes from their bosses. Then I went to my father to see how he was. I found him so scared that he grabbed me by the hand and didn't want to let go. The sick ones told me here also they had been tortured but no one was taken away. Father clung to me and wanted to tell me what a dreadful fear he had just experienced here. I calmed him and said that mother had gone to aunt Dina's place to sleep.

That's how the days passed; every day with bitter news. In one place people were being shot; in another, pits were being dug for fresh victims.

My mother turned gray from the troubles. She looked terrible because she didn't eat anything, just drank. She lay there all day long and looked at me running around throughout the hospital, caring for the sick and always assured me:

'My child, if you had ever sinned, your sins are now all forgiven.'

A few days later mother came over to me and told me that she heard her brother, Shmuel Hellerman had been shot. He had lived on the Lithuanian-Latvian border, in Eglaina-Yalovke, together with his wife and child and their nine-years-old son.

I wanted to embrace her and comfort her, but she said how could she not believe what she was being told, when she sees with her own eyes how death is rapidly approaching here.

It didn't take long and my mother's premonition came to pass.


At three o'clock in the afternoon, in the dark day of August 18, 1941, we were all told to line up in the yard because we were being taken to Nuremberg, Germany. Mother just happened to be standing beside father's bed as she asked me if she must go also. 'Of course!' I replied, and we went down into the yard and lined up with all the others. Each one was separately interrogated. When my turn came I said that I have my mother with me because I work here in the hospital.

The murderer asked if I was telling the truth. Then he told me to remain here but mother must go. I began to plead with him, falling on my knees, to allow my mother to remain here, but it didn't help.

'If that's the case, I'm going with my mother,' I said. At this point mother started to beg me to stay here.

'Stay alive, my child. Who will watch over him if not you?' That's how she thought only about father and it never occurred to her that she was going to her own death.

I didn't want to obey her but she embraced me and said:

'Stay here with father, my child. I'm ready to be a sacrifice for you.'

She was seized away from me and I was thrust to a side. I wanted to hand her a piece of bread that I had in my pocket but a German shouted to me that she will have enough bread. I replied fearfully that I know what kind of bread she will be given. . .

So it was, that with the piece of bread that I did manage to give her, my mother went right to the jaws of death. She went like a heroine, with a smile on her eyes so that I shouldn't, God forbid, see in her fearful eyes that she still wants to live and she certainly deserved to live on because she had spent twenty years caring for my sick father who later became paralyzed. Besides, she had also helped us in our store and above all, she had raised a house full of children and made human beings out of us.

But she departed without complaint, content to be sacrifice for me, and even her request to God, that she should die in her own bed, was not granted. No, not only not granted but it is possible that she was buried alive and I don't even know where her grave is.

I followed with my eyes as my mother disappeared from my sight. I wanted to get one last look at her but she didn't turn around to me; I only saw from the distance how she took an old Jew by the arm because it seemed she didn't see where to go. . .

I was once more chased up to the hospital. Full of bitterness, I ran up to the window and I watched the vanishing column. I imagined that the bent-over form of a woman whom I saw, with the white string-bag on her shoulder, is my mother. . . Soon this also vanished.

I approached my father. He saw how embittered I was, so he started to torment me with questioning eyes, without language, using his hands:

'Where is Mama?'

I told him that mother has gone to another camp, and as soon as he will feel better and we'll also go there with him. The next day father again started to torment me, asking where mother was - that he wanted to see her and when will we be on our way to her?

In the same 'aktzion' my mother's sister, Dina Lubotsky, also vanished, together with her two grown children, Fraida Sher and her husband and other relatives and acquaintances.


Now an additional role was added to my hard work in the hospital: to play out for my father the comedy of pretending that all our dear ones are still alive.

The friends who used to occasionally give a potato for my sick father, were no longer alive so it was doubly hard for me to get something for him to eat. Furthermore, he couldn't eat by himself but I had to spoon-feed him.

Once it happened that a sick man who lay not far from my father, somehow spilt out the news that our dear ones have perished, but since my father knew nothing about this, but believed what I had told him, that his children are in prison, he got very upset, suddenly sat up and in silent anger, wanted to hit the other sick man, as though to say:no! Shut up! My children are alive! When the sick ones saw my father's rage and that from anger he sat himself up, they started to shout and called me. I came running like one not dead nor alive and I calmed my father:

'Don't believe anyone, only me. What they're telling you is about World War I, not about now. . . . '

When he calmed down somewhat, I went over to the sick man and asked him, with tearful eyes, never again to speak of such things in front of my father; never to tell him what's happening around us.


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