Hiding Out in the Łopuszna and Cześniki Woods: July 1943

(This is a chapter from Jack Glotzer’s memoir, I Survived the German Holocaust Against All Odds. Click here to return to the Table of Contents.)

We reached the woods of Łopuszna at daylight; adjoining were the woods of Cześniki. The village of Łopuszna was inhabited mainly by Polish farmers, contrary to the village of Cześniki where Ukrainians were the sole inhabitants. When we arrived at the woods, we were amazed; about 180 people from the Rohatyn ghetto were there. I looked around and somehow, I felt safe there. The woods were dense, and we were quite deep in them. It was not easy to obtain food, but somehow, at night we managed to get to the fields, adjacent to the woods, where the farmers stored potatoes and vegetables. Close-by where we were hiding, was a small waterfall which supplied us with water for drinking and washing ourselves. Nevertheless, it was very hard to preserve our hygienic requirements. Day and night we were plagued with lice.

The village of Cześniki

The village of Cześniki (today Chesnyky), 2018.

However, our “peaceful existence” did not last too long. Somehow the Ukrainians from the village of Cześniki found out that Jews were hiding in the woods; they informed the Germans. Sometime during the month of July 1943 at seven o’clock in the morning, the Ukrainians from Cześniki together with Germans surrounded us and started to scream: “Verfluchte Juden” (damned Jews) and were shooting in all directions. I started to run. My cousin Josie Altman followed me. My school friend, Chune Wohl, was also running behind us. I turned around: Ukrainians were chasing us. I heard shots, I did not see my cousin, but I saw people falling being shot. My school friend Chune Wohl fell; he was shot. At that time, I tripped on a branch, I fell, and I did not move. I felt somebody kick me. I did not know whether it was a Ukrainian or a German. They thought that I was shot. I was just lying there; my eyes were closed, and I did not move. I heard that they were moving away from me. Not moving, I opened my eyes. Dead people were all around me. I did not hear any more shooting. It was around two o’clock in the afternoon. When I was sure that the Germans and the Ukrainians had left, I ran out of the woods into the nearby fields. There was a ditch and I jumped into it.

The woods above Cześniki (today Chesnyky), 2018.

All of a sudden, I saw farmers, who were working in the fields, approaching me. They most probably saw me running from the woods and jumping into the ditch. They were aware what had taken place in the woods. When they got close to me, they told me that they were going to kill me. I said to them: “I am sure that if you have God in your heart, you will not kill me; and if you do not have God in your heart, you can kill me; but before you kill me, please give me some water.” I noticed that they had on their belts canteens with water and a stone for sharpening their tools (sickles and scythes). They took off the canteens from their belts and gave me some to drink; the water was black, but I drank it. I was sure that my end had come. Somehow, I was not scared; I resigned myself to die. To my amazement after I drank the water, they left me and continued their work in the fields. I remained lying in the ditch. I noticed that they were ready to go home because they were packing their stuff. Then I saw them coming in my direction. I was sure that they were coming to kill me. To my amazement they brought me food and they left.

I waited until it got dark and then I slowly started to go back into the woods. Prior to these killings in the woods, we established among ourselves a kind of a whistle, so we could acknowledge one another. So, coming back into the woods, I kept making that sound. I heard that someone was answering me with the same sound. They asked for my name, and I answered. They came out from under the bushes. There were six people and among them was my cousin Josie Altman. Josie told me that he saw Suchar Hauser’s nephew, who was with us all the time, being shot.

Published by the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies, (UCHS), Kyiv. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.

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