In that night

In that Night

It was Tuesday evening. The moon was hiding behind dark clouds as if it was fearing the murderous steps of the Germans that were walking around as savage prey animals all over the town, hurrying up its inhabitants to gather in one place. It is as if he does not want to witness the terrible deeds, the human mercilessness abuse that is still to come.

Big trucks are coming from the surrounding towns and are pouring more and more armed Germans, so one get the impression that they are preparing themselves to a battle against an enemy. But who is that enemy ? The weakest, the most persecuted, the Jews.

Very soon shrill commands, like barking, are to be heard. The soldiers are working out themselves in rows, six in each. On their heads are helmets and in their arms weapons. They are raiding all over the streets and yards, knocking on the doors yelling and beating their inhabitants to come quickly out.

“Aufmachen!” (open up!) This scream rolls all over. “Anziehen, aber schnell !” (dress up, but quickly!) –hurrying up their victims.

When they came to me, I have tried to explain them that I work for the police, showing them my card, but no body is listening. The one pulls my neck and the other one pushes me with a pistol in his hand, bringing me to face the fence of the house, next to other neighbours that were already there. Behind them soldiers are standing with alert machineguns, shaking them as they just awaiting the command to open fire.

Saying “Vidui” (Confession pray)

And we are waiting for the redemption to come, that means, to the command “fire” that will free us from this suffering. Around us the cries of our wives and families: where do you take them? But there is no answer. The soldiers with the hard of stone say nothing. One of them pushes me stronger to the wall. In my head rises the question: Why ? What is my sin? But there is no time for thoughts, I have to pray “Vidui” because these are my last moments. And I start mumble: “ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu…” (We were guilty, we betrayed, we were usurper…) and in the distance we hear screaming and cursing: Juden, Schweine ! (Jews, pigs !). The last neighbor to be brought is Yakov Mazner, who didn’t open the door fast enough when the savages knocked on it. He is beaten, terrified and bleeding.

And yet, when all were gathered and no one left in our courtyard, the command was heard that we all have to turn to the right, our hand on our shoulders, two people in a row, and march! They lead us in the direction of the forest. When we arrived to the train, we have noticed that very many people are lying in the ditch without any movement. By now, we had no more any doubt in our heart that we are going to die, and this is our last way.

But still, somewhere we had a kind of a weak spark of hope, this was nourished from the fact that so many people were concentrated there, a kind of “Trouble of many is a half comfort”.

When we arrived the place itself, we have realized what actually happens. People are lying next to each other, their faces towards the ground and their hands are held together on the back, without any movement. Around them, Gestapo people observing that nobody change his posture to prevent that his nose squeeze. We, the newcomers, arriving the humiliation spot, required immediately to lie down and do the same, nose in the ground, hands on the back.

A temporary ransom

So we were lying down in that dreadful day from 5 in the morning until one or two in the afternoon… until a committee arrived, in the command of a Major, that ordered us to get up. We were ordered to give all gold that we carry on us. To rescue themselves, all those humiliated people started to submit out their rings and watches and gave them to the Gestapo – the known ransom that Jews had to give in different times.

During that, we were hearing that all of this came up on us, because a month earlier a German policeman was killed and until now the murderer is not found. Therefore, ten Poles were shot, and if something like that will happen again, we all will be shot.

Suddenly, the commander stops his speech, take out a watch from his pocket and screams: In twenty seconds I do not want to see any of you! The panic and the hurry the overwhelmed us is hard to describe. The fear that we will be shot on the way home was so big, that people were stumbling, hurting each other and some even die or became crippled because of this panic.

From: Yochanan Kaliksztajn