The solemn music playing from the loudspeaker on a pole in the town square died down and a voice crackled through the radio static. “Attention. Moscow is speaking.” The hour was noon on June 22, 1941. All morning long, townspeople had been milling around, sharing rumors about the outbreak of war between Germany and the USSR. I was aged 10 at the time. I jostled in the crowd to find a listening spot...
Quotes from this chapter
Toward the end of July, the bridge was reopened and the Hungarian Jewish refugees were driven eastward in the direction of Kamenets. We found out later that they didn’t get far.
Borki-Wielke was one of many so-called arbeitslager—work camps—that the Germans established throughout the region. They were really prison camps.
An advanced mobile unit of Hungarian troops arrived in Skala and took up positions around town and in the old Polish barracks recently evacuated by the Soviets.
At that moment, it hit home that this war was not just about hardship and privation but literally life and death.
The four o’clock hour that the Nazi invasion began always stuck in my mind because later there was a song popular among the Russian troops that mentions the bombing of Kiev and the outbreak of war.
The feared security services—the SS and Gestapo—were commanded from a regional headquarters in Chortkov. Kelner, chief of the Gestapo’s “Jewish section” for the region, was the master manipulator.
First came the Judenrat, the arm bands, the confiscations and forced labor. Then came ghettoes, roundups, selections and death camps.. Our fate was predetermined—only we didn't realize it yet.
Book excerpts about the people, places and events mentioned in the book
Skala survivor and community leader who passed away in 2018
The pious brother of Munye's mother was killed at Borki-Wielke
Shulem's younger brother who took his place at Borki-Wielke
German border guard who terrorized Jews in Skala
Michael's childhood home until Skala was declared "Judenrein"
Harsh concentration camp where Skala men were sent to work and die
Polish border town where Michael was born and experienced his ordeal
Germany invades the USSR on June 22, 1941
Learning the gruesome fate of Munye's uncle while at work camp