Rubin Udler* b. Braila, Romania, 1925
Shortly after the outbreak of the war in 1941, all my mother's relatives from the small town of Artsyz, in Southern Bessarabia, ran away before the advancing Romanian and German armies. My mother's parents, sister and brothers and their families, altogether sixteen people, were only able to get as far as Odessa before it was surrounded by the enemy. In October 1941, the fascists occupied the city and immediately began to persecute the Jews. Endless humiliation and privation were visited on them. Local marauders and the Romanian soldiers robbed them of items of value. Other valuables were bartered for bread or soup, or used as bribes to extend the stay in Odessa rather than be given over to torture by the Romanian gendarmes or German SS.
The governor of Transnistria, G. Alexianu, issued many orders aimed chiefly at the annihilation of the Jewish population of Odessa and environs. After January 1942, none of our relatives remained in Odessa.
Here is what happened to them. Nooham Gleizer, my uncle, whom I remember as a modest man, was driven to suicide. He had been forcibly separated from his wife Chayka, a calm and dutiful woman, and from his twelve-year-old son Uzya, a very obedient boy. My uncle was beaten and sneered at to the point where he must have lost all hope. Early one day, he said part of the morning prayer: “O look down from heaven, and see how we are become a mockery and derision among the nations; and accounted as sheep led to the slaughter, to be slain and destroyed; to be buffeted and disgraced. And yet, for all this, we have not forgotten Your name …” Then he hanged himself with his pants belt. One can hardly imagine the depth of despair to which he was driven by the Romanian monsters. I still find it hard to believe that a mature Jew would take his own life, in defiance of his religion.
My mother's elder brother, Uncle Etsik, was married to Chona Kooza, a native of Shtefaneshti, a shtetl near the Romanian town of Botoshani. They had two children: Misha, same age as I, and Rita, two years younger. They were fine, gifted, and excellent students. Chona, an intelligent woman, astute and resolute, persuaded her husband that they should voluntarily appear before the____________________