Rubin Udler* b. Braila, Romania, 1925
Once, toward evening, as I was returning to the ghetto in the Vine Garden, I came across a skull, and lying near it a wealth of golden curly hair, plaited in a thick braid. It was near a large rock on the high, right shore of the river Southern Bug, which divided the Romanian occupied territory of Transnistria in Southwestern Ukraine from the territory captured by the Germans. I was dumbstruck! The skull was white as if painted with slaked lime; had empty eyesockets and a hole where once there was a nose; with two rows of white, straight teeth. The skull lay slightly turned sideways, as if inquiringly looking at me.
I was overcome with a painful feeling of horror and fright. In that state, I became aware of a question within me: “Why only the skull and braid are here near this rock?” Mechanically, almost at a run, I searched the areas around that rock and the other rocks nearby. I looked into the ravines and bushes without finding any trace of human bones, nor a shred of clothing.
I returned to where the skull lay, sat down nearby and kept looking at it. “Who was this young girl?” I asked myself. “Who is crying after her and still hopes to find her? What tortures did this innocent girl go through, and what did she suffer before dying? Who will answer before God, before humanity, for the loss of this life?”
One could easily imagine that the girl escaped from convoy guards or from the nearest ghetto of Ahmetchetka or Bogdanovka. Far away from the village, in danger of being beaten and persecuted, she perished possibly from hunger, exhaustion or sickness. Possibly greedy, cold-blooded marauders pulled off the clothes from her corpse, or hungry dogs mouthful-by-mouthful tore apart her body. Maybe stray dogs brought the head of the girl to this rock from some other place. There was no end to such thoughts.
Deeply shaken by what I saw, that evening I told the others in the ghetto about the skull with the golden braid that I had discovered. I hoped that someone among them may have heard about a missing girl. No one could remember anything.
The next day I dug a shallow hole near the rock and buried the skull with the golden braid of the unknown martyr. On the rock I scratched a six-pointed star to mark the grave site. I thought that someone, sometime, would inquire about it.
However, during the time of my stay in the ghetto, no one searched for a girl with wavy golden hair.____________________
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust. Contributors: Anita Brostoff - Editor, Sheila Chamovitz - Editor. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 95.
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