The first effect on the Nazi occupation of our town was the imposition of "contributions" to the occupying powers, with the result that our social welfare and charitable institutions came to standstill. Our activities in domain were quite extensive: clothing for poor, medical care for the sick, hostels for the casual visitor and benevolent funds.
The benevolent fund is especially worthy of mention, because is enabled the small artisan and petty trader to obtain a loan, without interest of course, to start business or to tide over a difficult period. The fund was first raised, and replenished from time to time, by a committee of women, all volunteers, with the help of a committee of Hrubieszow "Landsleit" in America. I had the honor to serve on the Hrubieszow committee. Well do I member the last meeting of this committee, held at the residence of the President, he late Samuel Zeid, to decide on the liquidation of the fund.
On the same day, the 2oth of Kislev 1939, big notices were posted up by the authorities, ordering all men between the ages 16 and 60 to assemble near the slaughter house on Saturday at 7 morning, and whoever failed to report would be shot out of hand. At that time, when we obeyed the summons, we did not know that we were being led to be slaughtered. The fact that we were told that we would be taken to the Russian frontier, and not to a labor camp in Germany, as we supposed, gave rise to the belief that our lives would not end tragically.
Our hopes were soon dispelled. When we were taken to an open field, we were joined by the remnants of Chelm Jews, most of whom could hardly stand on their feet. They told us of the massacre of their brethren and of the decision of the German assassins to murder all Jews of Chelm and Hrubieszow. Instead of being taken to the railway station, from which we hoped to be taken to Russia, we were led along the road to neighboring Polish villages. Only then the realization of our fate burst on us with full force.
When night fell, we were ordered to lie down in the field which had been freshly mown, face down. Early the following morning, we were sorted out into two groups, the first to be taken to Belz and the other to Sokol. I belonged to the second group. After marching for two days we reached, on Monday, the village Urinev, where we were packed lide sardines into the cellar of the school. On the following day we were allowed to wash at the well which was situated nearby. A few miles short of Sokol, the commander of the guard announced that three of us would be shot, but that the rest would be allowed to cross the Bug into Sokol, which was in Russian territory. These were moments full of suspense. Each one of us thought that it might be his lot to be shot. But we had not long to wait; two of the Chelmer Jews and one of Hrubieszow were picked out and promptly shot.
Then came another moment of terrible suspense, we were sure that we would be ordered to swim across the board river, and that those who did not drown would be shot in the water. But for some unknown reason, the commander was true to his promise; when we reached the frontier post at the Bug Bridge, we were allowed to cross the bridge. With our heart in our mouth we rushed across, weak as we were. The Russian guard, too surprised to do anything, let us pass in the direction of Sokol.
A committee of Sokol Jews was soon formed to take care of us and to intercede with the Russian authorities on our behalf. We were given food and beds to sleep in, and our spirits rose appreciably. But this respite was soon to end. The commander of the Russian military guard crossed the Bug to confer with his German opposite number. As a result he came back and told us that we had to go back the way we came. Our cries and protests were in vain; and when we lay down and offered to be shot on the spot rather than re-cross the bridge, the Russian soldiers picked us up bodily and carried us across the bridge.
I was among those who walked back. By devious ways, I found my way back to my house in Hrubieszow. I was soon visited by the wives of the group that had originally been sent out from Hrobieszow, and I had to recount the sorry tale of our tragic march. Needless to add, most of these women were later to be massacred by the same band of murderers.