Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Grandfather's Holocaust Story--From a Person he Saved

I've written several times about my grandfather, Paul Diamond, who used false papers to pass as a Ukrainian during WWII.  I recently received an email from a man who is researching the Jews from the village of Kupichev--which repeats some of my grandfather's story from the perspective of one of the people he saved.
My grandfather, Paul Diamond

In researching Kupichev, this gentleman has done extensive research.  He told me:
Among the few sources I could find regarding the fate of Kupichev's Jews during the Holocaust was a testimony deposited, shortly after the war, at Warsaw's Jewish Historical Institute by a former resident of Kupichev named Beila Fefer. She was born in 1884, and managed to survive in hiding in the forest at the age of 60, together with several of her children. They later made aliya (moved to Israel) from Poland in the late 1940s. In Mrs. Fefer's testimony after the war, she refers to an episode that took place in the forest near Kupichev and the neighboring small town of Ozerany, an incident which I had not come across before in other sources. She stated the following (this is my attempt at translation from Polish, and an excerpt from the full testimony):
"70 Jews were lured from their hideouts by the Banderovtsy. They were employed as craftsmen. A certain Jew, an escapee who had been passing as a Ukrainian from the very beginning, warned his brethren that they would be killed in the end. The Jews had nowhere to hide and stayed on with the Banderovtsy. The Banderovtsy provided the group of Jews, hiding in dug-outs, with false papers so that they could leave their bunkers and go to work freely. Several days after a tip-off, attacks on the dug-outs were organized. The above-mentioned group survived three such attacks, during the first of which there were altogether 13 victims, and 6 during the second. During the third attack, everyone managed to escape. The 70 Jews who were working for the Banderovtsy were murdered by their employers just before the arrival of the Red Army. 10 people from Kupichev survived, 4 from Ozeryany."
This gentleman later discovered my grandmother's testimony that she gave to the Spielberg Foundation, where she recounted this story and mentioned that the man who warned these Jews of their imminent death was my grandfather.  A bit of Googling led to him my blog and my grandfather's autobiography where my grandfather wrote:
At that time, we found out that a few Jewish families were working for the Ukrainians (Benderowtzy) in different fields: tailors, shoe makers, and leather makers. We had found out that soon they were to be killed, so I ran to the village to tell them and to save them.  Not everyone listened to me, so they did not survive. A few of the families did survive. They now live in New York, and Argentina. One of the families, by the name of Katzover, now lives in Jerusalem.
And apparently there was also Mrs. Fefer and her children who ended up in Israel.  My grandfather was Mrs. Fefer's "certain Jew"!

(Note:  I'm speaking in Connecticut Sunday if you're in the area.  Details here.)

Note:  I'm on Twitter.  Follow me (@larasgenealogy).

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  1. What a wonderful man your grand father was Lara:) You must be so proud :)

  2. This is a terrific story. Your grandfather's actions didn't just save those lives--he saved the lives of all the future generations of those who he warned. What a hero. PS I hope to be in the audience on Sunday!

  3. What an incredible story! You must be very proud of your grandfather.

  4. what a hero - thanks for sharing Lara and documenting his story!

  5. A great story of a wonderful man! I am particularly interested in this saga and would much like to contact the 'gentleman' referred to who has 'done extensive research on Kupichev'. My late Dad, David Penzik, was born there in 1908. I have made progress in my research since making aliyah to Israel in 2000 after emigrating from South Africa where four Penzik siblings arrived from the Ukraine in 1921.Please connect me! Bennie Penzik -