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In memory of Solly Patrontasch

We were greatly saddened when we heard of the untimely death of Solly who fought for his life like a tiger for so many years. Read more

The Salvaged Torah Scroll

By: Yosef Tzvi Buber, told by Michael Melman. Read more

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PROJECT HEART
HOLOCAUST ERA ASSET RESTITUTION TASKFORCE

My name is Gladys Halpern

By giza Halpern

I was born in Zolkiew Poland to Sala and Ephraim Landau.
My childhood in Zolkiew was happy and beautiful surrounded with my family and friends.

We had no Jewish nursery in Zolkiew so my mother and my father cousin Sala Shwartz who had two girls Clara and Mania organized nursery, which in the beginning was in our house. I went to public school in the morning and in the afternoon to Hebrew school like most of the Jewish children. I have many Jewish friends and some polish friends.

On September 1, 1939 at the age 11th my whole life and the life of my family as we knew has changed. The war broke out. The Germans occupied Poland and they came to Zolkiew which they occupied for few days. Everyone was terrified. A few days later Soviet army came to Zolkiew. As a result of the Molotov Ribbentrop pact which divided Poland along the river Bug, Zolkiew became a part of the Ukrainian republic of USSR.

The NKWD confiscated my father’s business; they took all of our possessions. They left us stay only in one room of our apartment. My parents were not allowed to have a job, because they were considered as a enemy of the state as a burgoi. I continue to go to school (to a jewish speaking school which had open up). After a year, we runaway to the city of Lvov (30km away of Zolkiew) where my parents family lived. I lived with my grandmother as not to attracted attention to my parents who got illegal passports and supposedly live in another city.

I went to school there, this time a Ukrainian language school. After a while we had move to a different part of Lvov. The building belonged to my grandfather’s brother and my father’s older sister Rosa and her family also lived there. On July 21, 1941 I walked with my father home from grandmother’s house, we heard the news, that the German – soviet war breakout.

The next day the Germans army was in Lvov. The next morning there was a knock on the door, and the owner of the apartment came to the door. They asked him if there were any Jews living here and he said yes. The next thing we knew, my mother, my father and I, were on the avenue Leona Sapiehy, with the shoes in our hands being let by german soldier with the long riffle towards the downtown, where they were killing all the Jews. Crowds of the none Jewish population of Lvov, poles and Ukrainians stood on both sides of the road and watched.

My mother took the opportunity where they were not to many people next to us and walked over to the young soldier and asked him in german “kinder nehmen sie auch” pointing to me which he replied “take her out and go” and embolden by his answer she said “this is her father” and the answer was the same. Since he was superior authority of the moment, my mother pushed me quickly throughout the crowd before anybody could change their mind. As we passed thru the crowd someone spit in my face. That was the beginning of the germans war on Jews for us.
After few days of hunger in the big city, we went back to Zolkiew where we had many none Jewish friends. Zolkiew was already after the pogrom. Life was difficult. Jewish people were taken to forced labor: on the road, cleaning streets, working in the fields (without any pay) the Jewish children could not go to school. Our parents organized a group of kids and we had private lessons at home, thought by Jewish professor who run away from Warsaw and Hebrew lessons by Hebrew teacher by the name Gershon Taffet (who during the war lost his wife and his little boy, survived the war and after the war married my cousin Frieda who survived with her family in Russia in Siberia.

Before Passover 1942 the germans demanded the list of people who were exempted from the compulsory work because of physical disability (everybody wanted to be on that list). They told them to take their families, pack their possession; they will be resettled to Belzec a small town not far from Zolkiev. My friend Libka Czaczkes father was an invalid and was on the list. Her mother sent her to her sister and told her to pack up so they should move together. A few weeks after the resettlement, we heard from the peasants, who were allowed to travel, that this entire people who resettle in Belzec were killed.
Nobody wanted to believe it. It was unthinkable, but unfortunately it was true. During the course of the summer and fall of 1942, many transports to Belzec past through Zolkiew, from Lvov and many other cities. As the train slowed down in Zolkiew because of the sharp curve on tracks, the people who knew by than what awaited them at Belzec, tried to jump true small opening in the windows, many where shot on the spot, but some survived and were wounded. They were being taken by Jewish nurses and brought to the town and later into the ghetto. In November of 1942 there was a big akcja where all the Jews of Zolkiew who did not hide successfully have been killed. We hid behind the double wall in the basement.

After the November akcja, as it was called, we have been taken to the ghetto. No one was allowed to go in and out of ghetto except the groups of people who were taken outside to work. Starvation and typhoid fever were raging in the ghetto in addition to fear of an akcja in any moment. We knew our days and hours were numbered. My father tried desperately to safe me.

In mid January of 1943 a young Ukrainian man who smuggled food for sale into the ghetto said to my father he would take me to his village and hide me. I took one look at him and said no. A few days later my father did not ask me, he said “put on your coat and you are going, your mother will join you in a few days”. I had no time to ask or say anything. That was the last time I saw my father. He pushed me out of the ghetto into a total darkness (blackout). On the other side stood a man (whom I never saw before and couldn’t see then) and said to me, hold down tide and don’t talk. We went through the city to the railroad station and boarded the train. Total darkness and standing room only, people with life chickens and food, traveling to Lvov to sell their wares. After an hour, we arrived in Lvov and again in total darkness walked to avenue Zolkiewska to his apartment. There was his wife, her name was Jozia. I still remember her blue eyes. I was told to leave my coat and go to bedroom to sleep. A dark, cold, huge room with a double bed.
Than reality and fear hit me, what did I do, why did I go, I should stay with my parents and whatever would happened to them will happened to me. In the morning there was a knock on the door, I was told to get up, put on my coat and we will go. We walked through the city until the other side of the town to Lyczaczowska Avenue. We walked into corner building, to the apartment right of the street. There were a lot of man walking back and forth (I realized later that it must have been a headquarters of Armia Krajowa). I was told to sit down and wait.

After a while an “old” man came and said you are coming with me. To me he was old as I found out later from his daughter he was in his 50′s. I was no longer afraid because he reminded me of somebody who worked for us. We walked trough deep snow to the outside of Lvov to the place called Winniki.
After a while, we came to his house and walked in. There were young women there who turned out to be his daughter’s friend. She was Jewish and she was also hiding there. There was a knock on the door and lrka (that was her name) said we are going into the closet and be quiet. It turned out to be Mr. Halicki brother who lives next door. After the visit it was explained to me that there were afraid of his brother, he should not betray us (later on it turned out not to be true). A few days later my mother came, my mother two sisters, and lrka’s mother with her brother.

On the 25th of March, 1943 we received the news that liquidation akcja was in Zolkiew, all the Jews were killed including my father. My grandfather (father’s father) survived in hiding for couple of days, and my mother sister Bina Rauchflaish(married Zipper) survived for a few days with the group who was taken to clean up the ghetto. She succeeded in running away and going into hiding by a farmer who betrayed her the next day. I was left fatherless, we had no money and we were in danger and fear of discovery every second.

Marian Halicki our savior was a locksmith by trade. In his back yard he was producing parts for rifles which the AK (polish partisans) needed. Which itself was very dangerous. The neighbors were very suspicious watching him carrying two pails of water every day. He explained to them that he needs to keep the house clean when is wife and his daughter Jaska come on Sundays from Lvov to visit. To proof that, there was no one hiding in his house, he took out all the furniture outside and open all the windows.
In mid July of 1943, they were liquidating the ghetto and the Janowska camp. In Lvov, Mr. Halicki went to pick up and bring to the hiding my mother’s brother Jacob and his wife Tony. He came back with Tony, only it was too late for my uncle, he was already on the truck, being taken away. Tony stayed and survived with us.

To erase the evidence of massacre, they took the bodies and the few surviving prisoners to a place not far from where we were hiding called “Piaski” (Sand Mountain).They prepared pits, they threw the bodies and the survivors into the pits and set them on fire. I can still smell the awful sting of the burning bodies in the nose. A few people escaped naked and blooded from the pit and try to runaway only to get caught and thrown to the pit again.
Since we had no money to live on, Mr. Halicki told people that he knows a crippled woman who cannot walk and she does knitting. He used to bring old sweaters which we undid, wash the wool, and made whatever they ordered. We were paid for the work, and sometimes he had some leftovers from the wool, so we made scarves for sale. All this did not amount to much money, and we were literally starving to death.
In the spring of 1944 was a big Russian offensive after Stalingrad and the Germans were sending Hungarian military to the front. The soldiers were looking for quarters, and going from house to house. We were ready to go out but there was not safe place to go so we stayed. Miraculously they never came in. We were in the end of our physical and mental resources. Mrs. Halicki went to confession and told the priest that her husband is in a predicament. He is hiding Jews, they are starving to death, and they are going to die there. The priest asked her if there is a direct evidence of betrayal, if not let them stay and whatever will be. Then came the offensive and bombardment. We were standing with mixed emotions, happy to hear the bombs fall and afraid that one of them it’s going to hit us.

On July 27, 1944 the Russian army came to Lvov, we were free!
Mr. Hlicki was still afraid (of the neighbors) to let us all go at the same time, so he let us go two. My aunts decided to stay in Lvov. My mother and I hitchhiked to Zolkiew. By the time we arrived was six o’clock in the morning, we came to the house where my cousin Clara and her family use to live I said lets go in. My mother said you will only be disappointed, let’s go to our polish friends. But I insisted and we walked in. Suddenly somebody walked out and seeing us started screaming. We were reunited to the surprise to all of us. My cousin Clara with her parents came out and my two younger cousins Zygo and Zosia. I asked about Clara’s sister Mania and I was told that there was a fire in the hiding so she ran out and was betrayed by her schoolmate. With them also survived the families Patrontasch and Melman.

The war lasted till May of 1945, we stayed in Zolkiew.
In the summer of 1945, there was an exchange of the population between polish citizens and Ukrainians and my mother and I went to Poland.
In Poland, I met my husband Sam Halpern. We traveled to American zone in Germany. Sam and I got married in June 1946 in Bayreuth, Bavaria where our oldest son Fred was born in 1948.

In 1949, we came together with my mother to the USA. Our younger 3 sons were born in the USA. David in 1949, Jack in 1957 and Murray in 1966. We are now grandparents of married grandchildren. We have 4 younger grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

This is my victory and vengeance over Hitler. I have visited Zolkiew several times since then, we put up monuments on the mass grave in my husband’s home town, where his mother perished, in Zolkiew on spot of the 3 mass graves where my father and a lot of my family are buried together with 3,000 people, on the mass grave in Kamionka where my husband was in the concentration camp for 17 months, where People were killed during the liquidation in July of 1943 and many other towns in the vicinity.

We took our children, grandchildren to see the places so they should know and be connected. My husband Sam wrote book about his life. The title is “darkness and hope”.

 
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