The Jewish camp.
The next morning we were brought to 3/5, Institutskaya street. Before the revolution
the building housed a debutante school. After the revolution it became the home of the
secret police. The Germans first blew up the building up but then decided to repair it
partially. After the mass shooting of Jews, they brought any Jew that was caught to that
building to work on repairs. There were also some civilians who worked there, headed by
the senior engineer Krynichny. They worked on heating and piping. In the evening they
could go home and in the morning they would come back to work.
The evening we were brought there, all the prisoners were standing in line. We were
ordered to join them. Opposite us, stood the Germans with automatic guns and every soldier
had a whip in his hand.
One of the German officers was saying something and not far from him there stood a Jew.
Later I found out that he was a Polish Jew who worked as an interpreter. He constantly
clicked his heels and cried out Jawol! (Yes). Then he translated the order into bad
Russian, Whoever works badly will be shot! Everyone was given a hatful of dried bread and
a scoop of coffee. It was our food for the whole day. Then we were transferred into the
cells in the basement. I got placed in a big cell with a Jew named Wolf.
I found out that the dried bread that we were given had been brought from Babi Yar. It was
taken from those who were shot. All of the prisoners had dirty faces and clothes which
were stained with blood. Every day at least 10 or 15 people did not return to the cell.
They had been beaten to death, with sticks so they would not waste bullets.
We slept on the cement floor directly next to each other. There were 50 or 60 people in
the cell, all as angry as lions but everybody cried. Every morning we had to run out into
the yard for line up. In the corridor the soldiers stood with blackjacks in their hands.
One of them opened the door and cried out: Aufstehen! (Get up). Then we had to sprint into
the yard. The soldiers were beating anyone they could. If anyone stopped or fell down, all
the others would fall because of him and they would be beaten to death. The corpses were
then carried out and thrown down into a ditch that was not even filled in.
Every day we had to go through that. The first night was the hardest to bear. I did not
fall asleep until it was already morning. When I was running to line up that morning, I
thought that my hat was too small for me and only then did I feel a big bump on my head.
Wolf also carried a whip and seemed to beat people to ingratiate himself towards the
In the camp I met my friend Yasha Shoikhet, who I worked with before the war. We carried
bricks, road-metal and sand on stretchers from morning till night. We had to do this while
running. Such work could not be handled by everybody.
One evening we started reminiscing about how well we had lived before the war. Yasha was
always a happy person, telling jokes and keeping people laughing. As it turned out a
Polish Jew who was Wolf's friend was lying nearby. He heard everything that we said and
informed Wolf who we were. In the morning I could hardly get up and Yasha was completely
sick. The soldiers noticed that we were running quite badly and started beating us. I had
to pull both the stretchers and Yasha. But still we managed to work till night.
We decided to go to glaziers who worked indoors and made putty, without getting
permission. So we did. I was sent to glaze part of the roof. The group master was Umansky,
an old glazier. He cut the glass and the rest of us put it into the channels and put on
the putty. The work was easier than carrying stretchers but we had to stand on the roof
without good clothes in the bitter frost. We had rags on our feet instead of shoes and
touching the metal frames with our bare hands was torturous. Our fingers stuck to the cold
putty. All the while a German soldier stood urging us on. I was not happy to have joined
Even this day came to an end and in the evening I met Leva (Leiba) Shayer, who came from
the same town as me. I told him everything I had gone through and he told me to come and
work with him in the carpenters shop. He knew that I had finished professional secondary
school for wood processing. The next day when Germans announced the work assignments I ran
over there. Then I lost my confidence and turned back. A German noticed me and struck me
on the head with his black jack and I fell down.
He ordered to throw me into the ditch but while they were dragging me over there, Wolf
came towards us. I was told that he had ordered them to drag me into the cell. I was
thrown there and was lying there till everybody came back from work.
Wolf came up to me and asked me if I had any friends who could hide me. I told him I did.
He said that I should go to the truck as a loader tomorrow. I objected because I did not
understand how I could work with my bruised head. Wolf cursed and went away. I found a rag
and bandaged my head.
In the morning I ran towards that truck. There were four of us. Wolf came up. A German
joined the five of us. We went to the brick factory in Kurenevka, a suburb of Kiev. The
German went into the office and told the driver to guard us. The citizens looked at us
with sympathy. We asked for food and they threw us beetroot, some bread, onions or
whatever they could. All this we put into the bags for gas masks that we had with us. All
day we loaded and unloaded bricks. Nobody beat us.
In the camp in the morning we were given a piece of bread and a scoop of gruel. In the
evening we got a scoop of coffee. Two brothers worked as cooks. They made an agreement
with the Germans and received permission to take the excess potato peels. In the evening
they would bring us a piece of pudding made from them. Everybody said that it was very
tasty. We had the different presents from the citizens which were even better. We brought
some to the cell and Wolf also demanded part. It became much less difficult.
During those days we lost many of our friends, including my fellow-townsman Yasha
Shoikhet. Many new civilians who escaped from mass shootings and Jewish prisoners were
constantly being brought to the camp. Here they worked, were tortured and were killed.
I remember that the master of the carpentry shop was a very good specialist and supervised
over the repair works of the ruined building. Germans consulted with him in what way the
restoration was to be done. The senior engineer was a civilian, a Ukrainian, Krynichny by
name, about whom I have already told a little. He didn't carry any stick or blackjack but
if he noticed that something was done wrong, he would beat the person with anything that
was handy and could kill.
Once when I worked with the stretchers, I saw a man put the stretcher down to pick up a
cigarette stub. Krunichny dashed at him and broke his scull in two with a spade. He killed
so many people that everybody was scared to death of him.
In 1945, I met him in Bogdan Khmelnitsky square and reported him to the militia. He was
detained and sentenced to 15 years...
People died of cold, famine and unbearable work, but most of them were killed for being
late or lingering at lining up in the morning.
One evening we were counted and a prisoner was missing. They recounted several times to be
sure. We were kept standing outside for a long time before they let us into the cells. As
soon as we lay down they again ordered us to get up and line up again. The frost was
severe. We were kept almost naked and barefoot throughout the night. Finally, we learned
that the master of painters ran away.
After the war I met him and he told me that his wife, a Ukrainian, had brought clothes for
him. He changed into them and slipped away. After his escape, 15 of the weakest men were
selected and shot. One of our five also was taken and so there remained only four of us
A civilian, Lyonka Smulsky was our driver. He had to watch us since there were no other
guards. He was warned that he was responsible for us. He told us that if any of us ran
away, he would be shot and his family would also be killed and we would be found and
caught all the same. We had no documents and our appearance spoke for itself. When we
loaded sand he urged us on and then drove the truck into a lonely street and gave us 10
minutes to go and beg for food in homes. We took whatever was given, sometimes we even got
a plate of soup. Once in one house I was presented with an old winter coat. The fur collar
was cut off but this coat was much better than the shirt I had been wearing. It was much
warmer and only my feet remained wrapped into rags. When we came into the cell in the
evening many people rushed to us to get something. There was one man, Yasha, he said that
he would gladly eat to satisfy his hunger and then be shot down. It showed how exhausted
by the work, hunger and beating all the prisoners were.
Once Smulsky got the assignment to bring coal to the house where the Gestapo soldiers
lived in 48 Melnikova street. He and his truck had been assigned to the Gestapo. All day
long we had been bringing the coal there and in the evening we were taken back to
Institutskaya. The next day we also did the same thing. Smulsky talked to the chief and he
let us stay the night in the building on Melnikova street. We were given soup, a lot of
bread and taken to sleep. We spent several days there. On Saturday evening, an
acquaintance of ours, a civilian driver named Sharikov, came to us at the Gestapo. He said
that Wolf had ordered us to come back to Institutskaya the next day or else we would all
We needed to figure out how to get there. Sharikov said that he was not working and would
come to escort us. So we agreed. On Sundays the Germans did not work, so he came and took
us to Institutskaya. We noticed that there work was in full swing. Everybody was in his
place and the Germans went about with their blackjacks. We did not know what to do and
dispersed wherever we could.
Philip Vilkes and I hid ourselves in the yard toilet. Lenya Ostrovsky and Senya Berland
dashed towards one of the work areas. Then we also ran towards that area but we didn't
know what to do. Suddenly a German came in. Philip and I grabbed a pipe and dragged it.
The German took Ostrovsky away. Half an hour later Ostrovsky came back pulling at his
trousers. He had gotten 25 blows for bad work. That evening when we got back to the cell
we didn't find many of our previous acquaintances. They were already in the better world,
though the Germans had stopped shooting. We were envied by many. Wolf came up to us and
asked us why we came back if it was better at Melnikova. We told him about Sharikov and we
found out that it was Sharikov who did not want us to stay there.
Sharikov mainly worked on the gasenwagen, a bus designed to murder people by carbon
monoxide. We found out about that when they made us clean out the bus after they had
killed some people. It was filthy inside and we refused to clean it. As a result, he
invented an excuse to bring us back to Institutskaya. Sharikov's father worked as a
sanitary equipment fitter in the Gestapo house at 48, Melnikova. He was about sixty and he
also made us clean the toilets. He used to complain to the chief that none of the Yids
wanted to work.