Wednesday, October 12, 2022

80th Yahrtzeit of Senkevichivka Ghetto's Destruction--Details per my grandmother

Tonight into tomorrow (18th of Tishrei) marks the 80th anniversary of the destruction of the Senkevychivka Ghetto.  On that day, thousands of my paternal grandparents' relatives, friends and neighbors were murdered.  Among those were three of my great grandparents, a great-great grandfather, great aunts and uncles, and many other relatives.  My teenaged grandfather was out of the ghetto on that day on a work detail, but my grandmother was there.  I've transcribed her life story before (you can read her nine-part story here covering her life before and during the Holocaust).  But today I'm going to repeat the chapter about the ghetto's destruction, from her perspective. 

My grandmother is on the right, with her arm on her grandmother's shoulder.  Her younger sister Malia is to the right.  And her parents are in the center.  Her grandmother had died before the war.

This post is in memory of those murdered that day, among whom (some mentioned in the recollections below) were:
My grandmother’s grandfather, Moshe Dovid Fine (age 80)
My grandmother’s father, Avrohom Beitsch (age 57)
My grandmother’s sister, Malia Beitsch (age 18)
My grandmother’s aunt & uncle, Sara Fine Wollich (age 51) and Yosef Wollich (age 55)
My grandmother’s first cousin, Cheike Wollich Chechman (age 32) and her daughter Devora Chechman (age 7)
My grandmother’s aunt, Baila Fine (age 45)
My grandfather’s parents Avrohom Tzvi Diamant (age 65) and Tzivia Suttleman Diamant (age 54)
My grandfather’s sister and brother-in-law Kreina Diamant Mazurik (age 26) and David Mazurik
My grandfather’s niece Rivka Mazurik (age 5)
My grandfather’s brother Shlomo Diamant (age 14)

When the Germans entered the area, my grandmother's family had been forced to move from her grandfather's home in Shklin to the Senkevychivka Ghetto.  She covers that time period in her overall interview.  And then one day the Germans liquidated the ghetto; here are my grandmother's memories of that time:

One morning, I was going to leave the ghetto to go to the village.  It was the second day of chol hamoed Sukkos in 1942.  My mother went outside to see where the guard was to see if I'd be able to sneak through.  She ran back and said, "You can't go--it's bad, they are running with trucks, and they are dragging people out of their homes.  They are shooting them.  Here are pieces of material, 2 rings that we have.  Maybe you can use them to get bread or a place to sleep.  Take your sister.  You're stronger and older, so take care of her."  We ran from our house.  We had to go through a ravine, across the main road, then the train tracks, and then another ravine, and then an open field.  Across the field were more villages.  We ran, and they spotted us.  They told us to come back.  We turned, and the Ukrainian guard started shooting.  A bullet touched my hair.

We ran, but not towards our house in the ghetto.  From the distance, we saw what used to be stores and homes for wealthy people but was now part of the ghetto.  I saw another friend from school with her parents and her brother (he survived and ended up in Haifa, Israel), and they were trying to figure out how to save the children.  The family name was Dreitzen; the brother changed the name in Israel to Doron.  The sister, Meita, had epilepsy.  She told me that she knew she couldn't run and hide, but I should survive for her.  I said to Meita, "How can I do this?"  She said that I had to.

In the back of their house was a barn.  In front of the barn, a Czechoslovakian family had moved in.  They'd filled the barn with bundles of oats, and there was a cow there.  I took my sister into the barn, since there were guards all around.  As we were talking, two sisters came in with a little baby.  This was right near the main road.  Any cry or scream, and they'd come right away.  I asked if they'd go with the baby further into the ghetto and away from the main road, because if the baby would start to cry, we'd all die.  But they said they wanted to survive, too, and they stayed.  Soon, we were 12 people.  I said to my sister that I would cover her with bundles of hay.  She said that I should do myself and she should do herself.  I didn't have time to argue, so we each buried ourselves.  The baby started crying, and the Ukrainians and the Germans came in and took the people.  I heard them taking my sister, too.  I became paralyzed.  I heard the cries and the screams and shooting as people tried to run away.  They pointed into the hay with bayonets and touched my hair.  They said, "Okay, no Jews here, let's go somewhere else to find Jews."

All day, cries and screams went on.  And then it became quiet.  In between, the Czechs came in to feed the cow, and they locked the barn.  I eventually stuck my head out.  There was another boy on the opposite wall who survived as well--he was much younger than I, named Motel Kalika.  His father had owned a kosher bakery before the war.  He said he had felt a bayonet just beside him as well.  We both stayed in the barn until around midnight.  We had been up high near the ceiling, so we went down a stepladder.

Outside the city, they had dug a large grave.  There was a little forest nearby.  They took anyone who had survived and took them there to kill them.  They took them to a warehouse and took away anything the people had with them.  (My husband's brother Dave had been there.  There was a large wooden support beam in the warehouse, and he managed to climb up and hide there, and he saw everything.)  They made everyone get undressed, and they took them to the grave and put the guns on automatic and shot everyone.  Many people died from suffocation from bodies on top of them.  Several people survived as a miracle.

I took the young boy with me from the barn; I used garden tools from inside the barn to open the door.  It was a full moon.  The windows from the Czechoslovakian family were facing the barn.  I told the boy to stay on our stomachs and crawl around the house and go to another village.  I had in mind to go to Bludoff to the Ukrainian family who was storing the parts of our house.  He also had stored some of our furniture when we moved into the ghetto and didn't have place to put it.

That night, we walked maybe 20-25 kilometers, and we came to that Ukrainian man.  I thought at least he'd give me some time to hide there.  I was shocked when he said that if I didn't leave, he would report me to the Germans.  I told him that I didn't want anything from him, just a hiding place for a short time.  He said no, but his wife gave me a look that we should stay, so we hid outside their house.  Shortly after, she came out with a piece of bread.  She told us to go into the barn and cover ourselves up, and not to let her husband see us.  She said that he had an ulcer on his nose, and he's been in a bad mood.  She remembered how nice my parents were, and she didn't want to have my death on her conscience.  There were still good people in the world.

I wanted to see if anyone else survived.  I heard a rumor that someone saw my aunt walking.  I told the Ukrainian woman that I'd heard that my aunt survived, but I wanted to see if it was true.  I asked if I could leave Motel there.  I assured her that I would come back for him and asked that she give him bread when possible.  Motel started crying, and I assured him that I was coming back.  I started walking from village to village, and I came to the place where my aunt was said to be.  I was told that she was in the attic.  I went up and my eyes got used to the attic's darkness--and I saw it was my mother!  I started to hug and kiss her.  She said, "If I'm dreaming such a good dream, I don't want to wake up!"  I told her that she wasn't dreaming.  She kissed and hugged me.  I told her that someone had spotted me, and we had to leave.  

She told me that my father and zaidy had been killed that day in the ghetto when everyone had been taken out of their houses.  They were dragging everyone else, and they lined them up against a wall.  They came with a gun and a whip and dragged everyone onto trucks.  My zaidy was 80 years old, and he couldn't see.  So he was lying on the group.  (In Europe, 80 was very old, like 100 here.)  They couldn't drag him, so they hit him over the head with a rifle, and he was killed right then and there.

My mother told me how she had survived.  In the back of my uncle's house (from before the ghetto) was a barn.  There were horses and cows there.  She ran into the barn and climbed into the attic without a stepladder.  She was lying there 3 days and 3 nights without water and food.  She then remembered that down in the garden was food.  It was October, so she found some food.  That night, she started walking to Shklyn, where I found her.

May the memories of all those murdered 80 years ago today be for a blessing.

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  1. Such amazing survivals. Thank you for sharing to enlighten all of us.

  2. May their memories be for a blessing.

  3. May their memory be for a blessing