Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview
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The Last Hiding Place
Libby Stern
b. Suceava, Romania, 1926

I was living in the ghetto of Shargorod in the Ukraine, where thousands of Romanian Jews had been deported in the autumn of 1941. The Ukrainian Jews had been ordered to take us in, or they would be deported too. So a town of about three thousand Jews became a town of six thousand in an area of a few square miles.

I lived in a large house at the edge of town, sharing a room with two other girls. The other rooms were occupied by several families and the owner, an eighty-five-year-old man.

Feter Chaim, as we called him, loved to tell us stories, especially about the Russian Revolution and how he had escaped being killed by Pilsudski and his armies in 1918. The story went that, as Pilsudski approached the town, Feter Chaim took a bottle of water and a loaf of bread and hid in a cave not far from his house for four days, until the gang retreated. This story somehow stuck in my mind, for I had been in hiding many times.

One day when I met Feter Chaim on the street, I asked him to show me the caves. We walked for about an hour to an embankment. He said the caves were underneath this road but the lowest place of entry was further down. We descended a steep hill and there we found the place of many caves. He showed me where he had hidden. It was a cave within a cave, a perfect hiding place.

In March of 1944, rumors began to circulate that the Germans were retreating and that the Sonderkommando (a special detail used only to enforce the Final Solution) were burning ghettos and killing all the Jews they could find.

Soon I heard cannons and gunshots nearby. I knew the Germans would pass through our town, because we were near the main highway. Remembering the old man's story, I decided to hide once again. I told my two roommates about my plan but they refused to come with me, saying that they were going to stay with some relatives in the center of town. I was determined to go to the caves. I took a few pieces of bread and a bottle of water, and off I went.

It took me several hours to find the lowest part of the embankment. When I finally got down there I saw smoke in the distance. I approached the area and to my dismay saw soldiers sitting around a fire. The retreating German army had decided to camp there. The smoke came from a field kitchen that the army put up to feed its soldiers.

-243-

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Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust
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