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Six in the morning until six in the evening - this time out was allocated to us to evacuate our apartments from the center of Czernowitz to the ghetto of Czernowitz - a part of the city where Aunt Frieda, my mother's sister, lived and was declared a ghetto.
From six in the morning until six in the evening we carried everything we could take. The streets leading up to the ghetto were flooded with people laden with whatever came to hand bundled into pillowcases and sheets.
The Jews of Czernowitz abandoned their home, table and bed. Aunt Frieda's apartment became a temporary crowded shelter. The yard of the neighbors of Aunt Frieda was also crowded with relatives and the ghetto was humming with people going and coming.
At six we crossed the temporary border separating the city from the ghetto. All latecomers were punished.
The ghetto was a temporary arrangement until the final deportation from the city to the concentration camps (Lager) in Transnistria that was under Romanian control.
Throughout the month of October 1941 we were given new instructions - each time that a particular street should be evacuated to the camps in Transnistria on a certain date. In order to avoid deportation we moved to other streets that have not been yet scheduled for evacuation.
Aunt Frieda, her husband David and their son Ziggy have been evacuated. We still stayed but we knew that our turn will also come soon. Aunt Frieda's flat become deserted.
Mom bought two liters of milk and boiled them in a large pot on the stove. Being in the camps later, suffering from starvation, the memory of the hot milk accompanied us for a long time with longing.
Our time has also come to be evacuated and Uncle Herman (mother's brother), his wife, Aunt Anna, and their son Didi planned to go a day before because Uncle Herman wanted to go along with his friends. But at last the friends left alone while Uncle Herman and his family travelled the day after with us because Mom was not yet ready to go and Uncle Herman eventually chose to stay with the family.
But that did not stop him from being angry with my mother and blame her that because of her he hadn't gone with his friends.
In Transnistria we had hard times and lived from hand to mouth according to what we sold to the villagers - a dress for a loaf of bread, a shirt for flour or potatoes. Mom was calculated and she said, "If we eat more now we will not survive."
(There were those who sold all their assets and lived in relative comfort for a short period and when it was over they died of starvation.)
And so we survived two and a half horrible years until the Russians arrived and saved our lives. In April 1944 we went home or rather walked 100 km on foot. I was a few months after I recovered from typhus, and yet still very weak and lacking energy. Because of me, we were not able to walk more than 14-15 km per day. We slept in some abandoned houses during the night and the next day we set off again.
The second 100 km we travelled by train but alas - Russian soldiers took us often off the train without any reason.
Finally, on 10 May 1944 we crossed a bridge over the Prut river and entered Czernowitz. We met a mother waiting anxiously for her daughter to come back from the camps and she tried to find out from the people returning back if they had seen or heard of her daughter. In this case we could inform her, delighted, that her daughter was alive and well and is on her way home.
The title of this story is, "Uncle Herman and his friends", and that because Uncle Herman was very angry with my mother accusing her that because of her he and his family had been delayed a day on their way to the camps and went there without their friends.
But Uncle Herman's friends were not so lucky as we were because they had been sent to the Bug1 with no return. All the area between the Dniester and the Bug rivers, during the Holocaust, was called Transnistria.
Uncle Herman's friends were unlucky to go one day ahead of us on a freight train that took them to destruction.
Therefore, in any occasion Uncle Herman would say to my mother, "You see Yetti, thanks to you we are today alive!"
1. "Sent to the Bug" means: 1. Sent to camps on the banks of the Bug in Transnitria and killed by the Romanians. 2. Sent beyond the Bug and killed by the Germans.