Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Manya Auster Feldman - August 11, 1998

Formation of Ghetto

Hm. What was it like then in the Shtetl, after that first, that initial traumatic contact with the Germans?

Well, right at the second day, they had already um, proclamations of what they want the Jews not to--to do or not to do. First of all, a Jew couldn't have a store anymore. A Jew couldn't have any sort of business. Then they took away our livestock. We all--every Jewish family had a cow, because this is how we could uh, you know, have our food, we have our dairy products. They took away the cows. Then they asked the, the, the next day they had a um, uh, an announcement that Jews have to bring in all their furs, the Jews have to bring in all their silver, the Jews have to bring in all their gold, whatever. And, and, and then they organized within the next two weeks, they organized the Judenrat. And the Judenrat was in charge of the Jewish population. And they sort of like were the order takers from the Germans of what to do. And they--and three months we still lived in our house and then they created a ghetto.

Who--so the Judenrat came first, then came the ghetto?


And who, who did they choose?

Well, they chose from the--they didn't--they were not the choosers. They, they had, they had the Jews to choose their own leaders.

Okay. So they ordered, they ordered a Judenrat?

Yeah, they ordered a Judenrat. So they, they, they chose among themselves some more educated people, you know, somebody that could uh, uh, converse in German, you know and this sort of...

Did anybody put a--was there a rabbi on the Jewish Council?

No. The rabbi was not on the Jewish...

Three people?

No, I think there were more. I, I'm not sure. I think there were about three or five people.

Did you know any of them? Yes, we knew each other very well.

What did, what did the rest of the community feel about the Judenrat?

Could you take a guess what they felt? It was horrible. Right away we are deprived of food, we are deprived of everything. We are deprived of freedom. We knew that this is the beginning of something very bad.


But there was no way of doing something about it.

So they--you mean there wasn't any resentment toward the Judenrat?

Well, in our city, no. I'll tell you, I heard from other towns. Nothing happened so they could blame the Judenrat for the Judenrat had their job to do. They created a work force. And everybody had to go to work. And this is what they did--they were in charge. Then they took orders from the Germans. They had to provide them with, let's say they said they want the best dishes to, to confiscate from the Jews or the best silverware. So the Judenrat had to come and get it from them. The Germans didn't come and get it. There was a resentment, but there was an understanding that they are not doing it of free will, they have to.

They had to do it.

They took orders. And, and they always--also in, in back of people's mind was, if we will obey and if we will give them, then we're going to be saved. You know, it was a horrible feeling.

Do you, do you think any members of the Jew...Judenrat received extra rations or any guarantees of safety or anything like that?

I, I really don't know about--I don't think so, no.

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