** Webmaster Note: The following
translation was generously provided by Diane
Moore. We have presented it here exactly as it was
translated for us. Sender Appleboim mentions
a lot of people, some who lived and some who died. His story of
running during the slaughter and hiding in the forest is echoed
in other chapters. Note: "Estherke" and "Senderke" are yiddish
diminutives for Esther & Sender.
TWO FROM A FAMILY
It was in October, 1941, that our whole family left Rafalovka,
the town where we were living, and moved to Vladimirets. We were
five: father, mother, my brother Yaakov, my little sister
Esther, and me. Vladimirets was my father's birthplace, and we
had many relatives there, so we thought that in this place it
might be easier for us to get through the bad days. My father
knew the area well, and he had many acquaintances in the
villages. His occupation in peacetime was dealing in wood; from
this came his connections with people in the villages, and some
of them became his friends and admirers. For all these reasons
we got up one day, left Rafalovka, and moved to Vladimirets.
In My Father's
I knew that town well. For vacations I used to go and stay with
my relatives there. I loved the good spirit that this town was
blessed with. But now, we arrived there to face a completely
different situation. Not long before, all the Jews of the town
had been ordered inside a boundary that confined all their
comings and goings -- really a ghetto. Indeed the place was
surrounded by a wire fence, and going out without permission,
even crossing the street, was forbidden. In the streets that
formed the ghetto were also the Jews who had been brought in
from the neighboring villages, and the crowding was terrible.
The Germans kept a registry of all the inhabitants of the
ghetto, and according to this registry everything that went on
in the place was scrutinized. Each of us was marked with two
patches, one on the back and one on the chest, so they could
recognize us easily and not make a mistake about us, God forbid.
From mouth to ear, word passed of the dreadful things that took
place -- people sent somewhere to work-places, so to speak, and
not returning. A Judenrat (Jewish council) was selected: Yaakov
Eisenberg, Nathan Tscherniak, Yaakov Tscherniak, Ben-Zion Zhuk,
The position of the council members was very hard. These were
well-known and popular personalities of the town, and their wish
to work for the welfare of the community now bore no fruit. From
time to time the Germans came to the Council with demands for
great sums of gold, various items of clothing, and so on. A
spirit of oppression and helplessness dominated all around. But
in Vladimirets, which was famous for its charitable
organizations and ties of friendship among all the inhabitants,
this tradition of good relationships continued, kept alive in
the embers. Therefore the situation was better there than in
People of Miracle
Our family was staying now at Joseph-Chaim Lusternik's house, a
house that had been an inn. One room was allocated to us and the
five of us crowded into it. I became friendly in those days with
the children of Moshe the baker. In the second room from ours
was a family who came from the village of Khinuchi.
The father of that family was called by the name of the place he
came from: "Khunya the Khinucher". These were simple people, but
generous and innocent of heart. We were like one family. I
recall that Khunya succeeded in bringing into the ghetto, when
he came from his village, several sacks of flour, and they were
divided with us, half and half. Also at that time a women's
council was active, and one of the members was our relative
Chava Eisenberg. From time to time we received some support from
the council and we shared with Khunya's family. My mother and
Khunya's wife became good friends, and this made our lives
easier and added to the spirit of devotion between our families.
My mother was a corset-maker and at times she could do some of
this work for the gentile women. They smuggled potato sprouts
into the ghetto in payment for her work. We arranged a little
garden not far from the house, and planted our potatoes. I
remember that one day Joseph Slivkin came and said to Mother
that he thought someone was stealing potatoes from the garden,
and Mother said to him, "I'm sure they do steal them. People who
have enough don't steal potatoes, and surely they are hungry
Khunya's family was distinguished by a spirit of optimism, and
their strength was to inspire this spirit also in others. They
never seemed to give up hope. We were already hearing about the
murders in various places around us, and when depression
overwhelmed most of us, Khunya would encourage those in the
depths of melancholy, and say, "Jews, keep in mind one thing, it
is forbidden to go about with a miserable mind.. There is a way
to seek; it is forbidden to despair!"
He was always raising plans for escape from the ghetto.
According to him, there were in his home village and in the
neighboring villages gentile friends, and he believed with all
his heart that these would help him in time of need. In these
plans of his, he wasn't thinking only of his family but also of
us. The hearts of all that family were always giving to others.
Five or six months we lived with them in one apartment, and I
don't recall a single quarrel between members of that family.
And remember that these were days of crisis and horror. To this
day I see in them miraculous people, inspiring noble feelings in
But also the whole life of Vladimirets continued to contribute
to our encouragement. People tried to keep spirits up, in every
I was then a boy of 13 and went out with many others to gather
potatoes. I remember that at the time of the harvest there were
two girls in the place, whose names I've forgotten, and they
ruled and enlivened the times of rest and recreation that our
work allowed us. In Vladimirets any good time that came along
was treasured, and even jokes were heard from time to time.
I had several friends, whose names escape me. One of them was
the son of Ben-Zion Zhuk. I recall that we sometimes went
together to Moshe the baker's house, and talked over plans of
escape, because from a window of that house it was possible to
see over the fields and the woods, the park and the wide
meadows. All this awakened hope in us, for there were still
spaces for living things in our world and there were places to
hide and to oppose the enemies of our people. There were already
rumors of wonderful warriors hidden somewhere in the depths of
the forests and wreaking vengeance on the Germans.
Generally, there weren't many Germans in the ghetto. The
Ukrainians were supposed to be in control. And compared with
other communities, the situation in Vladimirets was much easier.
This came about because the officer in charge of the ghetto,
Andrei Mucha, was a good friend of Yaakov Eisenberg. Andrei
Mucha always tried to rein in the Ukrainian police, as much as
possible, and sometimes succeeded. One occasion will show the
relationship and how he treated the Jews.
From one of the neighboring villages where some Jewish families
were staying, rumors arrived one day that Ukrainians had
attacked the Jews, robbing and killing. When Andrei Mucha got
word of it, he went out with a group of policemen to that place,
and managed to arrest the robbers and return the Jews' property.
These things we heard from a Jew who came from that village and
who was later transferred to the Vladimirets ghetto.
However, the special relationship with the officer in charge
could remain a little bit lenient but couldn't change the real
situation. The goal of the Germans was to clear out the Jews and
destroy them, and that day was not long in coming. The Germans'
satanic plan was well calculated and put into action everywhere,
as well as in Vladimirets.
The Day of Destruction Approaches
A short time before the day of our annihilation, I don't
remember exactly, but a week or more, an order went out that all
inhabitants of the ghetto must assemble by the pond for a
general check. According to the Germans' declaration, the
purpose of the assembly was to make sure that no Jews had run
away from the ghetto. All the ghetto inhabitants presented
themselves that day, and after we were counted, we returned each
to his house. Life in the ghetto dragged on as usual B in
anguish and fear.
I was sent out that day to work in the fields; my father, to
load wood on wagons; my brother, Yaakov, worked as an assistant
to the Judenrat. It was already the month of Elul when frightful
news of mass murder began to spread. Everyone felt that
something would happen any day now.
Gentiles said that the area around Vladimirets had received a
reinforcement of police. Rumors of Jewish communities that had
already been destroyed stirred up terror and confusion. Many
families began to prepare various hiding-places, disguised
bunkers, in attics and cellars. Some groups of Jews who had
worked outside Vladimirets did not return to the ghetto, and all
trace of them was lost.
If I'm not mistaken, it was Wednesday. That day the news of
horror got worse. Everyone already knew that the next Friday we
would be called to another registration assembly. Now the news
hinted of a special terror. Our hearts told of something
dreadful to come, and their prophecies were not groundless. We
heard that day that great pits were being dug behind the town,
and that an officer had brought a large police contingent from
Antonovka. That day I went to the Judenrat to see my brother
Yaakov, and the picture is engraved in my memory: Schreiber, the
secretary of the Judenrat, came outside and faced the assembled
"Jews," he said despairingly, "there is only one thing left for
us to do - poison ourselves; nothing else!" I went home very
depressed and told my mother what I had seen and heard. But I
added that I didn't believe that the world was ending. In my
opinion, I said, there would be a counting of the inhabitants,
as usual. But the family was terrified. We parted from Khuni's
family, and that evening we went to the house of our relative,
That evening we were witnesses to something extraordinary and of
deep significance. A delegation of Ukrainians came to Yaakov
Eisenberg, surely on the initiative of Andrei Mucha, and told
him that they were prepared to rescue him and some of his
immediate family. Eisenberg was a bachelor. He did not accept
their offer, and replied that his lot would be the same as that
of all the Jews. He would seek no salvation for himself alone.
Not wishing this matter to cause panic in the family, Yaakov
tried to calm everyone's spirits. But all were already plunged
in profound terror, and no one slept that night.
This noble conduct of Yaakov Eisenberg's occupied my mind a
great deal during my later wanderings in the forest, at a time
when I was given to meditation on the concept of martyrdom. To
that scene which I witnessed were added afterwards things that
were told in the forest: how Yaakov walked first to the pits,
how he hung his cane on one of the trees, and raised his eyes to
the community moving toward death, and descended into the pit.
What did it demonstrate, that glance in that hour? Did he mean
to say that he was always with them, that he always acted not
for his own good, but for theirs? That even now, from all the
possibilities that lay to his hand, he chose only the one
possibility, to be with his community? These were thoughts that
came afterwards, but at the time we were in the midst of the
horror and not in a position to meditate on it.
My Mother's Will
Friday came, the 15th of Elul, 5702 (August 28, 1942). In the
distance we heard gunshots, which meant to us that they were
shooting people trying to escape. We heard policemen yelling, as
they went from house to house, driving the Jews out to the
gathering place. In the morning we went to our uncle Sender
Appelboim, who lived next door to Yaakov Eisenberg. By that
time, the police were there too, and started hurrying us out of
the house. When we hesitated, they rained curses and threats on
us. We were out in the street. It was a bright sunny morning. I
walked next to my mother, and my sister, Estherke, walked with
Father. From all directions we saw families walking together
with their heads down, shuddering with fear. I saw families
walking and crying, families kissing each other farewell for the
last time. On the other hand, I remember that Shmuel Elimelech
and the "lamed vavnik" walked quietly in their prayer shawls
with their heads high, and encouraged everyone, saying that we
should not lose faith in the Master of the Universe. To this day
I marvel at the profound life force the Jews showed in that
"And if it is really decreed that we must die, we shall die as
Jews should, saying 'Shema Yisrael' and the vidui." I walked
like one stupefied. I recall asking my mother, "Is it really
true, we'll never come back home?"
"I don't think we'll come back," my mother replied, "but
remember, my child, you must do all you can to escape. You must
stay alive, my child. Don't think of yourself as nothing. You
are young and agile. If there is the least possibility, run with
all your might. Remember, my child, that this is my will: you
must stay alive."
Her words were spoken with extraordinary inward force. I heard
them like a sacred vow, that I must fulfill with all my being.
My heart almost stopped beating, and I asked her breathlessly,
"And what will happen to you, Mama, and Papa, and Estherke? How
can I leave you?"
"Don't worry about us," she answered. "You mustn't worry about
us, you must just run the first time you get a chance. We will
run after you." We walked on in silence. Suddenly I heard my
mother's voice, a voice of sorrowful meditation as she spoke to
herself and to my father. "We hoped to lead our children to the
marriage canopy. Woe to us; where are we leading our children?"
Now we arrived at the gathering place, where the roll was to be
taken. Yankeleh, my brother, was not with us. He was among those
who had worked in the Judenrat. It was terribly crowded. We
struggled to stand in a place where there were fewer people,
with the intention that it might be easier to escape.
Suddenly a shot was heard, right over our heads. And a loud and
terrifying voice: "Jews, save yourselves!" Like an electric
current, that voice shocked me and at once I heard my mother's
voice, I saw her eyes as she cried out to me, "Why are you
standing there, Senderke? Run!"
I started running in the direction of the open meadow.. I
glanced behind me and saw that my mother was following.
I saw that the whole crowd was falling to the ground; the shots
coming faster. Again as I ran I looked back at the field and saw
people wounded and murdered. I ran as fast as I could. Suddenly
I felt as if a stone hit my foot. I took no notice of it, but
when I felt a sort of weakness come over me, and a warm wetness
on my foot, I put my hand where I had been hit and realized that
my hand was red with blood, and understood that I had been
wounded. Now I heard the voice of a policeman who was running
after me, "Halt, halt!"
With all my strength I ran on, but my foot was getting weaker.
The policeman kept chasing me. I came to a fence around an
isolated hut. To this day I don't know where I got the strength
to jump over that fence. Before my pursuer reached it, I had run
into a pig stall that stood in the yard and quick as lightning,
buried myself under a layer of manure. The inhabitants of the
hut saw me run into the stall, but it seems they didn't tell. In
a few minutes I heard people walking around in the stall,
hunting and scrabbling. In a moment they would find me and that
would be the end of me, I thought. But they didn't notice me. A
little later I heard one of them say, "He's hiding somewhere in
I heard curses and screams. And in a few minutes I heard
shooting and dying groans. For a long time I stayed buried in
the manure, until all was quiet. When I was sure all the police
had gone, I came out of the manure-pile and saw that my foot was
still bleeding. My thoughts were of my father and mother, my
sister and my brother. I was sure they had met a violent death.
I became indifferent to my own fate. "It doesn't matter if they
catch me or not; what good is my life after I've lost everyone I
When evening fell, I came out of my lair and looked around. In
the distance I saw how the bodies were being gathered up from
the field and loaded on wagons. I took off my shirt and bound up
my foot with it. I crawled into the manure again, and lay there
until it was really night. Now I remembered what my mother had
said to me, and it awakened in me a strong determination to
live. I must not stay there; I must go to the woods. Slowly I
left the stall, and began limping toward the woods.
Shadows, trying to slip across the fields -- they were Jews,
running to save themselves, just like me. I knew that I must not
depend on anyone. I must muster all my strength and help myself.
I found a stick and leaning on it, I dragged myself along. It
was no great distance to the woods, about a hundred yards, but
it seemed very long to me.
The blood was already soaking through the bandage. It was dark
all around. From time to time a shadow slipped past, close to
Wounded and Alone
In my pocket I had my little prayerbook. When I arrived in the
woods I stood by a tree and said Kaddish. I was sure my family
had been killed.
Alone in the wood, I hid in the thickets like a frightened
animal. Now and then I came out to pick berries for food. My
wound had stopped bleeding, but was still open and painful.
Christians lived near here, friends of my father's. I thought
about going to them, but I was afraid. Cold and nightmares
tormented me. Three times a day I said Kaddish, and many Psalms.
When I heard footsteps or voices, I would slip deep in the
undergrowth so no one, God forbid, would notice me. Finally I
decided to go to my father's gentile friend. I went to the
cottage, but I wasn't welcome there. When I told them whose son
I was, the gentile gave me a loaf of bread and told me not to
come to him again. One of his family started yelling that I
should get away from there immediately. I returned dejectedly to
my forest lair.
One day I heard someone speaking Yiddish. Coming out of the
bushes, I met several Jews from Vladimirets on their way back to
the town. Despairing and defeated, they told me there was no
future in staying here in the forest. They recounted their
sufferings and suggested that I go with them. I must say their
despair infected me too. Nevertheless, I did not take their
advice. I stayed in the woods.
I think it was at dawn, the morning after my meeting with the
Vladimirets Jews, that two Ukrainians suddenly spotted me, boys
of sixteen or seventeen. I tried to hide in the under- brush,
but without success. They shouted at me: "What are you doing
My only protection was to awaken a little mercy in them. AI ran
away from the Germans, and I'm badly wounded.."
"You won't run away from the Germans any more, because your end
is coming." And so saying, one of them pulled out a knife. At
that time, a gentile received a reward of salt or sugar for
every Jew he caught and handed over to the Germans. I knew about
that. Still I didn't give up and I tried to speak to their
"What good will it do you to hand me over to the Germans? I had
a big family and now I'm the only one left."
"You always were a tricky bunch. The Germans are doing the right
thing, wiping you out."
The discussion of crime and justice may have been what saved me,
because my debating skills were certainly stronger than theirs.
I talked like one submissive and terrified, but the logic of my
words had some effect. I saw their blood-lust weaken.
"Please," I said, "you can ask anyone around here. All the
villagers knew my father. Try asking about the Appelboims. You
won't find even one of them who will say a bad word about him. A
lot of the villagers really liked him and were his friends. You
can take everything from me, my coat and everything I own."
I saw that they were somewhat embarrassed and didn't know how to
answer me. They hesitated a few minutes, but quickly made up
their minds and stripped my coat off me. In return they left me
some of their food, and hurried back to their flocks.
I had to get away from that place. I went deeper into the wood,
several kilometers farther. I found a place where the trees were
very dense, and settled myself in there. I was still saying
Kaddish three times a day, and living on berries that I
gathered. My wound got very dirty, and hurt more and more.
To Die with my Sister
I decided to go to one of the houses in the village. This
village was called Vidmir. I went to a gentile called Yashka, a
good friend of my father's. This time I succeeded. The villager
received my with open-hearted affection, gave me a hiding-place
in his barn, brought me food and warm water to wash myself and
clean my wound. He told me some good news too -- that my sister
had escaped and was near by, in one of the Christians' houses. I
was excited, but just that evening a terrible pain seized me,
and much as I wished to run at once and see Estherke, I couldn't
do it; I had to wait till the next day. The next morning at dawn
I still couldn't go out.
Impatiently I waited till afternoon. The pain was still bad. At
the end of the afternoon I went to the house, but here I
received devastating news. They told me that a short time
before, Ukrainian police had come and taken Estherke.
A feeling of doom, of a dark guilt, enveloped me. If I had come
last night, perhaps everything would have turned out
differently. My heart was torn; the whole reason for living and
struggling was taken away; one wish mastered me, to die with my
sister. I decided to run after the police and give myself up to
The evil chance that had fallen on me had aroused in me a great
strength which I had never known before. All fear and feelings
of caution vanished; I ran in the open, met some passers-by and
asked them if they had seen policemen in a wagon with a little
"A little while ago we did see police who were driving a Jewish
girl into Vladimirets," they answered, looking at me in wonder.
Thanks to People with Hearts
Running and crying, I suddenly encountered a Christian who knew
me and my family well. He stopped me, scrutinized me with
amazement, and asked me what had happened and where I was
running like that? Breathlessly I told him what had passed. I
said that my life was worthless now. I wanted only one thing, to
die with my sister.
The Christian was shocked by my words. He grabbed my hand and
started yelling, "Are you crazy? What is it with you? It is
forbidden to do that! I won't let you stir from here!"
With my free hand I started hitting him with all my strength, to
get away from him, but he held me fast, and went on talking to
me with tenderness and kindness, explaining that I must free
myself from the terrible thoughts that were mastering me. I felt
the forces that had awakened in me gradually leaving me, and I
"There will be no trace left of your family," the Christian
continued. "I knew your father. I won't let you carry out your
idea. You must stay alive."
The Christian, a Polish man, told me that many Jews were hiding
in the woods. On the other hand, he also told me that Jews who
were captured suffered torture to make them reveal the
hiding-places of other Jews.
He suggested that I not go back to the village, but stay in the
woods. He would stay in contact with me, and bring me food.
We agreed on a place in the woods, and he brought me food there
from time to time. Then for several days he didn't come, and
hunger tormented me, until I came out of the wood and went into
a garden to pick tomatoes, which stilled my hunger. But then I
didn't have the strength to go back to the forest. The pain in
my foot was worse again. I stayed in the garden, lying there
almost unconscious. At dawn a Christian woman found me there.
She came up to me, looked me over and said, "I know you, you're
Shlomo and Sarah's son. I knew your parents very well."
She proposed that I go with her; she promised
to hide me. I told her that I was wounded, and she answered that
she would do all she could to heal my foot, and would keep me
She led me into a barn, and brought food of all kinds
butter and milk. Afterward she brought various ointments,
cleaned my foot gently, put a clean bandage on it, and all the
while she consoled and encouraged me. "You will be with me like
a son, like an only son you will be."
For several days I hid in that place. One morning when I woke
up, I saw my father standing by me; he stood and wept from