Tag Archives: Ghetto

Visit to Mohyliv-Podilskyi – A Team Work!

We first arrived in town on 22 October 2011 on our way by car from Kamianets-Podilskyi (Ukraine) to Soroca (Moldova), towns from which came my maternal great-grandmother (SARFAS/CHARFAS) and grandmother (BLEKHER/BLAKER/BLECHER).

This was my first visit to these regions. Our intent was to see the neighborhoods, cemetery, and sites of Mohyliv-Podilskyy, form whence came my maternal grandfather (BROWNSTEIN/BRUNSHTEYN/BRUNSTEIN), and possibly learn the location of the photography studio in town (named, “Studio F. A. Zhulyber”) where two photos were taken of him circa 1905 and 1910, before the family emigrated to America (Chicago and later, Los Angeles). The photographs show the studio name but no address in Mohyliv-Podilskyy. (In contrast, I have another BRUNSHTEYN photo taken about 1904 in Odessa, which does include a studio address, and on a recent visit to this marvelous City, I was able to kind the building where the studio had been located). I have attached these two photos, and the backside of one showing the studio information.

We departed from Lviv the day prior, where my husband and I have been living on and off for about 5 months. We were accompanied on this trip by fellow Lviv researcher (and friend) Alex Denysenko and his driver Vitaly. Both speak Russian, Ukrainian, and English, as well as some Romanian. We have traveled several times with Alex and Vitaly to Rohatyn (Ivano Frankvsk oblast) for research for my Rohatyn google research group and Gesher Galicia; we feel very comfortable with both men. Alex is a tremendous source of historical information on pre-War Jewish life and towns in today’s Ukraine.After eating a Georgian lunch at a local cafe named David’s Bar, we walked a few blocks to explore. We later learned that we were in the neighborhood known as Stare Mohyliv (“Old Moghilev”); many buildings dated from the late 19th to early 20th century.

We found ourselves standing in front of one of these lovely old buildings. It turned out to be the local historical museum, and although dark and closed, by chance the daughter of the Director walked by. She telephoned her mother who almost immediately appeared at the Museum door and opened up for us. The Director’s (mother’s) name was Luba Melnick.

We were invited in, and although the Museum is not Jewish-specific and has no Jewish artifacts on display, Luba opened a lower drawer to an armoire of books and pulled out a couple of Hebrew bibles. At least one of these bibles had handwritten notes inside, possibly in Romanian. We shot several photos of these pages.

July 9 1943, Moghilău, Request
Mr. Dr. Stern I beg you to please release to me to be given at least a shirt a pair of pants a jacket and pair of [gummy shoes?].
As I am evacuated from Bessarabia from Edinizi Community we came naked as you see this am I.
Sincerely Cristina Chisilese Sioma

Luba was very friendly and pleased to answer all our questions, as best she could. She recognized the name of the photographer “F. A. Zhulyber” as it was a fairly prominent studio in town in the early 20th century, and although she had no address information or memorabilia, said it was most likely located on the main street running through Mohyliv-Podilskyy. Luba and Alex spoke at length and exchanged email and contact information; she then suggested we walk a few doors down and across the street to building #7 which currently houses the Museum of the Shoah for Mohyliv-Podilskyy.

I was surprised to learn that there are some elderly Jews still living in town; and there is one active synagogue where today they regularly meet to pray. None apparently read Hebrew, and prayers are only in Russian, discussed more below.

Unfortunately, the hours of the Shoah museum proved limited and it had already closed for the day, but we saw it would be open for an hour the following, so agreed to return. Alex acted as translator during our visit with Luba. I have promised to email Luba with information on the newly-formed Mohyliv-Podilskyy shtelink group, as well as information on Jewishgen. Before returning to our car to proceed to the Jewish cemetery in town, Alex walked into the jewelry store next door to the Shoah museum. The owner offered to call his friend, a Jewish man who might know something about my BRUNSHTEYN family (or know someone who would). Five minutes later this man arrived; meanwhile, other workers and family members of the jeweler emerged from back rooms to amusingly listen. Although this local Jewish man had heard the name BRUNSHTEYN before – and added that there had been many of that surname in town – he had no specific information for my family; he suggested we plan to come back to town the following day to meet the head of the Jewish Community (who is also the Director of the Shoah Museum) Leonid Shmulevitch Brechman. He made a phone call and this was arranged for 3:00 p.m.

From there, we drove to the Jewish cemetery. Although there had at one time been several Jewish cemeteries in Mohyliv-Podilskyy, this is the only one that survives today. The others were destroyed during WWII and the headstones destroyed or removed by the Nazis for paving roads in town (similar to the recovery project I have undertaken in Rohatyn (Galicia, Ukraine) for the paternal side of my family). Some of these headstones have supposedly over the years been moved to this jewish cemetery. The cemetery is approximately 17 hectares and is located on a hill, adjacent to Christian cemeteries, at the north-east end of town.

I was surprised not only as to its size, but to the number of headstones still standing that I could see from the road as we approached. Historical information and references on this cemetery can be found on the website for the International Jewish Cemetery Project:


I could also see that the headstones had numbers painted on them, suggesting that perhaps they were recorded and/or databased by someone – but whom?

We could see no cemetery office. Not could we see a formal gate or entrance. Nonetheless, we picked our way through a small entrance at the road for a Christian cemetery and finally found ourselves in a wide sloping expanse filled with Jewish headstones.

All that were still readable were in Hebrew and/or Russian. Some appeared to have fresh paint on them to make reading of the script easier. Compared to Rohatyn (where virtually no headstones remain standing), this was impressive. As far as the eye could see were Jewish headstones, several with black and white porcelain photos still visible. There was also great variation in sizes and designs. Some of the more contemporary headstones were like their Ukrainian contemporary counterparts with 3D etched images of the deceased.

The grounds were quite well-kept. The further we walked to toward the outermost edges, however, the headstones got harder to read and the grounds more overgrown. Many headstones were no longer standing. Some of the furthermost edges were almost inaccessible because of the shrubs and overgrown foliage. (I would add that there were no parts of this cemetery that were as inaccessible, overgrown, and dilapidated as we have seen in Rohatyn and elsewhere in Galicia).

We were also surprised to find a very large, sprawling section of the cemetery with German language script on the headstones. All of these headstones dated from the period of the Jewish ghetto, 1941-44.

As it turns out, these were all Jews moved to Mohyliv-Podilskyy from Romanian, Bukovina and transcarpathian towns, including many from the towns of Czernowitz and Radautz. We learned the next day from Mr. Brechman that these Jews all died in the ghetto of Mohyliv-Podilskyy during the War, mostly from disease, starvation, and neglect, and the headstones were erected by other ghetto inhabitants and family of the deceased. As previously mentioned, every headstone we saw (or nearly so), whether readable and standing, or not, had a number painted on it. Alex and my husband Jay looked around for any with the name BRUNSHTEYN (in cyrillic of course) but found none. The task was too daunting. This is a BIG cemetery. By now, the sun was setting and the wind picking up, so we decided to proceed on by car to Soroca, to return the following day.

We crossed the Moldovan border to Ukraine and arrived back in Mohyliv-Podilskyy on 23 October around 2:15 p.m. We ate a quick lunch again at the David Cafe and then went into the Museum of the Shoah. Upon entering, I was surprised to see about 12-15 elderly Jews (men and woman) sitting around a long table covered with photographs, books, and Russian and Hebrew newspapers. They were expecting us, it seemed. Mr. Brechman was at the head.

Alex explained who we were. I showed around some photos of my BRUNSHTEYN family before they emigrated in 1914 to America. One woman explained that she had family in Chicago today. Several people chimed in that there used to be many families in town with the name BRUNSHTEYN, and a few pointed to the large wall facing the front entrance – on it were a hundred or more black and white profile photos with information information about the individuals (again, all in cyrillic). These photos represented the victims of the Shoah in the Mohyliv-Podilskyy ghetto between 1941 and 1944.

Three of the photos were of people whose surnames were BRUNSHTEYN.

Mr. Brechman then allowed us to examine and photograph a bound book containing the names and information of those buried at the cemetery. This book, which was a combination of typed and hand-written Russian script, was in two parts: the first section, containing about 120 pages, was nearly complete with surnames and given names, birth and death dates, and grave location at the cemetery (section, row, and grave). Each entry was assigned a number – I assume this number corresponds to the pained numbers we saw on each headstone. Although not alphabetical, surnames were grouped by first letter (again, in cyrillic). We were able to shoot photos of about 80% of this first section, which contained about 8 or 10 BRUNSHTEYNs.

The second section was maybe about 60 pages, but most of these pages were blank except for the assigned number, thus suggesting that perhaps even grave spots missing headstones (or with illegible headstones) were also assigned numbers. A few pages had incomplete entries. We found one BRUNSHTEYN listed in this incomplete section. We were able to approxinately 5% of the second section.

A little now about this Museum. While Jay was photographing the cemetery book, Mr. Brechman gave me and Alex a tour. The Museum has three “public” rooms containing photos, maps, posters, books, newspapers, etc. about the Shoah – it is NOT limited to the Shoah in just Mohyliv-Podilskyy or Ukraine.

I also noticed quite a few books in a glass case written in French, and as I speak and read French, could see the name of the author: Madeleine KAHN. She currently lives in the 16th arrondissement in Paris and continues to write and lecture in that country on the Shoah. She has also co-authored a couple of books with Serge KLARSFELD. According to Mr. Brechman, Ms. KAHN was originally from Mohyliv-Podilskyy, although I have not been able to verify this on the internet. As a baby, she was, with her family, certainly in the area of Mohyliv-Podilskyy and spent time in various ghettos nearby where most of her family perished.

There is also a large original 1943 Romanian map on the wall of the second “public” room showing the location of various Shoah-related events and places in and around Mohyliv-Podilskyy, as well as map of the layout of the Mohyliv-Podilskyy jewish cemetery located on the wall of the third (back) “public” room.

I would also add that the Museum provides “humanitarian” services (delivery of meals, for example) to the elderly Jewish population remaining in Mohyliv-Podilskyy; they may also do this for elderly non-Jews as well in the community, but I could not say for sure. The Museum apparently receives some financial support from a Polish Catholic organization. When we later visited the synagogue in Mohyliv-Podilskyy, discussed below, Mr. Brechman directed our attention to a couple of documents on the wall, one of which – in cyrillic – made mention of such an organization in Krakow. We made a cash donation of 400 hryvnas to the Museum, or approximately $50. Mr. Bechman then invited us to see the synagogue.

For this, he joined us in Vitaly’s van along with another man who had been at the Museum with us. En route, we stopped for Mr. Bechman and this other man to greet two young men dressed in traditional attire holding torahs and others papers. It turns out that both these young men (in their early 20s) spoke perfect English because one was from Sheffield, England (his name is Yaakov Shmuel) and the other from Los Angeles (sorry, I did not catch his name). You can find Yaakov on Facebook! It seems that both men are graduates of the Rabbinical College of America, one of the largest Chabad Lubavitch Chasidic Yeshivas in the world, and located in Morristown, New Jersey. They are apparently in Mohyliv-Podilskyy for 3 weeks. Mr. Brechman then gave us a tour of the small synagogue, located in a former private residence which was recently restored to the Jewish community of Mohyliv-Podilskyy. Before the War, Mohyliv-Podilskyy apparently had about 18 synagogues; after the War, the few Jews who remained began informally but clandestinely meeting in this private home (recall that, under post-War Soviet occupation, all religion was suppressed). The Jewish community eventually petitioned the local government for this building to be recognized as a Jewish house of prayer and returned to the community as such. The original, official document granting this property is framed on the wall.

The residence is small, but contains a prayer room where the torahs are kept and furnished with chairs, desks, and bibles,

as well as a well-equipped kitchen where the meals they make and deliver to elderly people are prepared. There was a new bottle of vodka and small cookies laid out for that evening’s yortsayt commemoration.

The small tiled patio off the kitchen had had a sukkot until the day prior, when it was dismantled at the end of the holiday.

We left Mohyliv-Podilskyy at about 5:00 p.m. to return to Lviv, arriving home at about 11:15 p.m.

Here is some useful information for those wishing to travel to Mohyliv-Podilskyy and/or pursue research or projects:
Contact info for:
Alex Denysenko: tuagtuag@gmail.com
Luba Melnick: MLV-76@mail.ru
Leonid Brechman: obschina1989@mail.ru
phones: (04337) 6-57-65, 6-32-35, 6-25-02, 6-29-31
Other links of interest:

Here is the link to photos we have posted from our visit to Mohyliv-Podilskyy:


Any of these photos can be enlarged (and then downloaded) by clicking on the individual thumbnail.Anyone wanting to do so is welcome to use and share these photos.These not represent all the photos we took, so I will also prepare a DVD of high-res (unshrunken) images for Joan FORMAN, founder of the newly-formed Mohyliv-Podilskyy shtetlinks group:


as well as Brooke Scheirer GANZ of Gesher Galicia and Jewishgen, who is interested in getting MP’s cemetery list added to JOWBR (Worldwide Jewish Burial Registry database).
Warm regards,Marla Raucher Osbornosborn@nuthatch.org

Gheorghe Alexianu – The Governor of Transnistria

Alexander Dallin – Larry L. Watts (Introduction)
Odessa, 1941-1944: A Case Study of Soviet Territory Under Foreign Rule
Iasi-Oxford-Portland: Center for Romanian Studies, 1998
CHAPTER II: Transnistria: Theory and Practice

“[…]The civil governor was Professor Gheorghe Alexianu. The holder of a chair in administrative law at Cernauti University, a close friend of the “Number Two Man” of Romania, Mihai Antonescu, (Alexianu and Mihai Antonescu had co-authored the volume on Romanian law in comparative-law series published in Paris before the war. Alexianu had the reputation of being both “the only liberal” in the Romanian government and the sponsor or the anti-Semitic measures under the Goga regime a few years earlier. Alexianu was apparently a Western-type intellectual with megalomaniac tendencies, some administrative ability, and a good deal of vitality. His secretary-general was Emil Cercavski.[…]

In the civil government there were, as a matter of policy, a considerable number of Bessarabians who knew the Russian language and were familiar with the cultural background and special problems of Transnistria. There were also ambitious young Romanians who had studied under Alexianu or his colleagues and obtained draft exemptions to serve in this way. In the hope of attracting “good people” -and making it possible for them to give up other jobs-Antonescu, in his first decree, provided that officials in Transnistria were to receive double the corresponding salary in Romania plus a subsistence allowance up to the basic salary. A Romanian civil servant transferred to Odessa would thus receive three times the pay he drew in Iasi or Galati. A number of Transnistrian officials were Romanians who had been attracted by high pay.[…]Governor Alexianu occupied a middle position. He sought to build up Transnistria and to convince the authorities in Bucharest to pour in funds and goods, perhaps, in part, to enhance his own power. But his attitude was basically patronizing, almost hostile, toward the native population; he widely proclaimed the need for radical re-education, for developing political understanding; though the peasants disliked them, he claimed that it was impossible to abolish collective farms; his formula, “freedom and labor” gave to the average citizen a freedom that was distinctly limited, and labor that was plentiful. Yet comparing his with extremist views and with German practice in the neighboring Ukraine, Alexianu was a moderate.[…]”

Mr. Landmann, an Intellectual from Czernowitz!

Inscription: Landmann, intellectual from Czernowitz, 36 years old, died of hunger and cold on the road Moghilev – Scazinetz, 04.01.1942.
Artist: Erwin Schäfler, born in Vienna, left Austria for Romania in 1937, escaped to Ukraine in 1940, joined the Red Army, served on campaigns, returned to Transylvania in 1946, emigrated to Israel in 1958 and deceased in the year 1965.


In the Orphanage of Moghilev, March 1943


Atachi, November 1941


Kyseliv – Borivtsi – Verenchanka

Pawel Otulakowski wrote to us: “Hello! I am Polish man who travelled to Ukraina to find family roots. Some of them are in Kyseliv. This is what I find near the village – monument without inscriptions (photo). I heard from local people history of this tragedy. Germans takes all jewish people from two twin villages – Kyseliv and Borivtsi (Kisielów i Borowce). They find also few Ukrainians who for promise to take all goods from victims agree to shot them. But they were usual people who don’t know how to kill. So they shoted even few times and they don’t kill some persons. Germans look for this and have fun that ukrainians do that “unprofessionally” . Died and alived – all were throwed to the little water eye that was deep in this time. There were corn around and few people saw everything. Everybody knows who were murderer but they lived without any consequences. Now they are die. I think You have to know about this and hope that monument will be repaired. There is also few macevas/gravestones in Verenchanka (Werenczanka) cemetery (photo).”

First I thought it is off-topic and off-area, but on closer examination I learned, that it is at least not off-area, as Kyseliv, Borivtsi and Verenchanka belong to the Czernowitz region and the Kitsman district. Above all, it can’t be off-topic, as similar brutal massacres happened in the whole area and – as Jerome mentioned – “it is one of those horrible, believable stories that is crying out to be heard, regardless of where it took place.”
Edgar Hauster

Holocaust under the Antonescu Regime

This is the documentary, released in 2009 by JCC Bucuresti, TVR and the “Elie Wiesel” National Institute for the Study of Holocaust in Romania. The 140-min. movie, in Romanian/Russian language with English subtitles, covering the roots of the Romanian antisemitism, the death trains to Calarasi and Pudu Iloaiei, the Holocaust in Transnistria and the 1941 Iasi massacre, is impressive but harrowing at the same time.

I’ve edited a 5’23” clip, related to the fate of the Jewish population of Czernowitz and the role of Traian Popovici, in order to enable you to form an opinion. Click on the symbol for the movie clip!

For all of you, who would like to get a free copy of this documentary, please leave a comment and/or send me a mail, including your postal address, to my following mail address:


Edgar Hauster (http://hauster.blogspot.com/)

Bojan, Boian, Boyany, Boiany, Бояни

(Bojan, 10.10.09) Bojan is a village in the close vicinity of Czernowitz. Tracing the Rudel family, part of my own family, I’ve received from Ludwig Rudel from the USA the following report:

The oral history of the Rudels goes back to 1825, with the birth of Eliezer. He was born in Galicia (in the Russian part of Poland).

In 1833 there was an upheaval in that region. Two things occurred. One was the Polish rebellion against Russia (began in 1830-1831) and led to a brutal repression by the Russians in 1833. The second was the cholera epidemic of the same time.

It was said that the schtetl in which Eliezer lived had a Cabalist Rabbi and he decided that God was angry with their village and that, to appease God, they should send four children of the village out of the village; one child North, one to the South, one to the East and one to the West. (A more charitable interpretation might be that the Rabbi wanted to get the children away from there because everyone was dying.)

Eliezer was one of the children sent away. A wagon driver passed through the Schtetl and Eliezer was given to him to take with him to his destination and care for him. Eliezer’s family name was not disclosed to the wagon driver. The wagon driver’s name was Rudel. (You might recall that last names were assigned to Jews in Austria in 1786 in preparation for the census.) He raised Eliezer, married him off to one of his daughters (Rebecca Rachel) and they settled in Bojan.

No doubt about that, based on this fascinating story, I visited to Bojan, looking for traces of Jewish death.

(GPS N 048° 16′ 17,6″ E 026° 08′ 03,0″)

I’m not sure but I’m afraid that might be the last opportunity to see the Cemetery, as there are suspect clearing activities in progress there.

In Bojan I was talking to an eyewitness, who observed in 1941 the execution of Jews on the village square.

Mr. Florea, aged eight at that time, reports on the cruel details, he has seen. Asked by me, who has been responsable for the executions, he initially evaded the issue, mentioning the execution has been conducted by soldiers.

I was insisting and I’ve asked wether there were German or Romanian soldiers. Somehow embarressed he confirmed: “They were Romanians, unfortunately Romanians.

Edgar Hauster http://hauster.blogspot.com/P.S.: Would somebody, who reads Hebrew be so kind to translate the cemetery plate?