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Now, that I have told you my story covering the years 1939-1946 certain questions might arise. I am not talking about questions regarding historical events or events of a political nature. I am referring to the influence that these events, that I lived through, might have had on my future life, or of any change of character that might have occurred within myself. I think that these events and their influence upon me, are in a bigger context valid for most other survivors in general.

I think that my life would not have been much different in the long run, even if I had not lived through the Holocaust years. Neither had my character changed much as a result of those years. Certain events related in this story prove my point.

I was escorting a high German officer to the prisoner of war camp and when I attempted to kill him, so as to take revenge for all the suffering I was subjected to by the Germans (besides the fact that he was extremely arrogant and refused to answer any questions), I aimed my gun, pulled the trigger and missed, even though he was only 4-5 meters away. I think that I subconsciously missed because I am not a killer. I just couldn't do it and all the suffering didn't change me.

There were many times during the years 1941-1944, when my friend Jacques and I discussed our situation and we both agreed and decided, that if we should ever get out of this mess alive, we should deny that we are Jewish, take on a gentile identity and live out our lives in some village as farmers. During that period, the worst thing that could have happened to anybody was to be born Jewish, one of the "chosen people". But once the war was over, I forgot those decisions and I joined the mainstream of my people’s life.

During those terrible years I heard many Jews complaining about the absence of our God. How can He look and see the suffering of our people and do nothing about it. But the same people who asked these questions at that time are running to the synagogues today and saying the same prayers they would have said if they would not have gone through the Holocaust years.

I read a book recently written by a survivor, who was trying to find a psychological explanation for his survival. After digging into his family's past and analyzing the relationships between the different members of the family, he came to the conclusion that the reason for his survival was a strong family relationship and strong family values. If this was a good reason for survival, then the whole of the Jewish people was supposed to survive, because among Jewish families there is a strong bond between its members. They generally live according to high moral standards. The survival was an accident. It didn't help that one was smart or rich. At least not where I have been. The Red Army also had something to do with the survival of the ones who made it up to the point of their liberation (at least in Eastern Europe). By the same token the experiences of the Second World War didn't change the relationships much between the peoples generally. There have been wars, of an ideological, political or economic nature ever since, in different parts of the globe. And it doesn't look like there will be an end to wars ever.

I did experience some physical and emotional damage as a result of living through those three years of hell. I lost part of my teeth at the Czortkow prison during the July 14, 1941 events. I lost the tips of my toes during the winter of 1943-1944 and the scars as a result of wounds caused by starving are still there. I have frequent nightmares during my sleep and wake up screaming. But my basic character hasn't changed.

There is one thing I would like to mention as a result of my living through those years and that is that one cannot and should not generalize. I hear sometimes people saying that the Poles or the Ukrainians or the Germans are bad and antisemitic. I encountered a lot of bad ones among them all. But there were others that helped me survive. I shall never forget a Pavlo Darmapuk (Ukrainian) Madame Petrovska (Polish), the commander of the German Gendarmerie in Borschow, whose name I forgot, and the six Polish families-colonists who lived near the Tzigany forest. Without them I would have never survived.

I have put down on paper this true story because I felt a strong urge to do it. It is meant for my son and his family to somehow guide them through life in this troubled world. But it is also a dedication to my best and inseparable friend to the age of 21 Jacques Ernst, who lies buried for no reason in the Tzigany forest in an unmarked mass grave. His parents Itzchak and Regine Ernst, fine people, died in Israel of a broken heart. They could never get over the loss of their only son. And who could? They never tried to get in touch with me to find out the details of his death, because, I felt that they blamed me for being the initiator of our flight from Czernowitz in June 1941. This, of course, wasn’t true. We had taken the decision together. But his tragedy makes me sometimes feel guilty for having survived.

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