Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Manya Auster Feldman - August 11, 1998

Relationship with Villagers

The Germans.

The Germans killed--So they came, they said, "Look, ours they killed and look a Jewess they didn't kill? What's going on?" But, you see, they, they were afraid to--they would have killed me if they would have known that this--these are still the Germans here. They thought that the Russian Front is here and that the Russians already are fighting the Germans and that the Russians are going to back occ...they are winning the war, they are going to occupy the territory. So they didn't do anything to me. So she said to me, "You know what? ??? I hope the war is gou...my husband is in the army and, and um, and I have a piece of land and I, I need somebody to help me. You'll stay with me." So she, she took her horse and buggy and she said that she had--he had uh, uh, he had hid some meat. So I went with her to the forest where she hid it. And we came back to the house. And we started cooking a cabbage soup and, and some--baking some potatoes. And did you ever see a Russian oven where you throw in the potatoes inside they have utensils that you take them out. And I was helping her and I was standing and taking out and all of a sudden, all of a sudden I felt like steam it coming out from my head and the picture became completely clear. I knew that I did not follow the partisans, that I am in the, in the, in the, in the enemy's territory and that's the end of me. So I started crying hysterically. And I said to her, "What did I do to myself? I had a father and a brother and a sister in the partisans. What am I going to do now?" She said, "Did you have these attacks at home too? You're crazy." So I said, so I, I decided that uh, at, at night I'm going to go into the forest. The forest was like um, a shield for us, you know, the trees. We were hiding behind the trees. So I thought, well, I didn't have no hope of uh, remaining alive. If the Germans won't kill me, they--the Ukrainian population were very uh, against the Jews, I don't have to tell you. So I would have run out that, that night, but I got a horrible, horrible headache. A blinding headache. So I laid down. She--we ate and I laid down and we fell asleep. And about four o'clock in the morning, it was still dark outside, we heard terrible noise. We took a look through the window. The village was full of German tanks with German soldiers, with German, with German uh, artillery. You, you name it. The, the--so she said--I said to her, "Maybe we'll change clothing," because I was still dressed like uh, a Jewish girl with a Navy blue coat. And they had a different dress code, the farmers. I said, "Let's change clothes." She said, "If you say one more word, I'm going to tell the Germans that you're, that you're a Jew and they're going to kill you." In the meantime, a German knocked on the door and he wanted some uh, food for his horse. So she, she came out to give it to, to him. And she followed him outside into the street. And I walked out of the door. The forest was about another 500 meters. I walked into the forest. It was a terrible, a terrible snowstorm. And I walked on the road. And I uh, some farmers with their horse and buggy were coming towards me and they were asking, "What's new, what's new in Berezhki?" That was the name of the village. I said, "I don't know, some Germans came in." And it took about ten minutes. I turned around and the whole village was on fire. They put on--the whole village from all four corners. They, they started burning the houses and killing all the people. This was already the Gestapo. This was the SS. The Wehrmacht was front and they were the SS and they had an order to kill everybody.

Did you stop to think what compelled you to walk away?

What compelled me to walk away? I was running away from death. I knew that, that I'm going to get killed. If not--if the Germans won't catch me, the, the, the, the farmers will catch me--will kill me. So I'm running. In what direction, where, I don't know. I'm just walking.

Were you panicked? Were you...

No, I was, I was surprisingly, I was calm. There was no other way. What should--who did I--should I cry to or who should I scream to. So I was walking. The only thing that was--that I was concerned, I was terribly hungry. I was, you know, don't forget, it was after a terrible disease. I, I needed food. So I came, I came into a house and I'm already out of the village, but they had separate houses that, you know, the farmers lived on their own piece of land. So I come to the house. They're all sitting around the table and eating pancakes and they're all dressed, like ready to run. And I walk in the door and they say, "Oh, look who is here, the crazy Jewess. What do you want?" I said, "Could you give me something to eat?" They said, "Get out of here, you dirty Jew. Because of you that all of these things happening." I said, "Okay, you think you'll escape it? You'll have the same end like we had." Do you know that later on I learned about a half an hour later, they killed them all around the table. So I walked away from that house. And I was terribly cold. I was freezing. So I saw a house on fire. So I thought--and I saw a German standing near the house. And so I thought to myself, I don't care. I really don't care. I don't want, I can't, I don't, I don't want to live. So I started walk towards the house. As I was approaching the house, he left. So I sat by the house for quite a while and I was warming myself near the fire. And then I started walking, walking on the road. And I walked into another house. They were also ready to--they were all--and I decided--I'm already a little bit, a little bit further out of the village. Maybe I concoct another story. My Russ...my Russian was very good. I was--I, I spoke fluent Russian. So I'll tell them that I am--that I was--I'm a Russian teacher from Russia and I was teaching in that village and, and I'm escaping. So I knock on the door and I--and she let me in. And I tell her the story. She said, "Here's a piece of bread and just leave. We have our own problems." So I walked further and, and about another kilometer, I came another--the, the, the farmer was standing in front of the house and I walk up to him and I'm telling him the story. He says, "Listen, my dear. You don't have to tell--I know who you are. And come on, we're all in the same shoes. And the, the Germans were killing the Jews, now they're killing the gentiles. So come on, first come in the house and we'll feed you, first of all. And secondly," he said, "do you know that the Jews that were hiding in Berezhki in that village, they are, they are hiding not far." "Oh," I said to him, "you have no idea what you just told me. I know I am not going to live. But at least I want to die among my own." So he said, "Okay. Eat your breakfast and my two boys will take you to that area where they are hiding." So I said, "Okay." The snow was up to here. I was so sick. I was walking. They brought me to an open area in the, in that forest. And they said, If you'll cross that open area, this is where they are hiding, your, your Jewish...

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn