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Chana Finkielsztejn (Later Ann Walters) Holocaust Testimony

Translation from Yiddish of the Original Testimony

Preface: Chana Finkielsztejn was born in Radzilow in 1933. She was only 7 years old when the massacres took place in 1941 and the family went into hiding. This testimony was given in 1945, when she was only 11, and it is handwritten by her in Yiddish. A typed version of the same text was made as well, and it contains the same body as the handwritten note, but augmented by the introduction above. Ann passed away on December 16, 2009. She was the last surviving Jewish witness to the Radzilow massacres.

Wojewodztwo Historical Commission
Bialystok, 22 October 1945
L.B. -- 86

My Experiences During The German Occupation
Told by Chana Finkielsztejn, a student of the Bialystoker Yiddish School. Born in the year 1933 in Radzilowa.
Saved by farmers in the area. Reported by her.

On the 22nd of June, 1941, the war broke out between Russia and Germany. Immediately the destruction began. The Jews from the surrounding shtetlach started to flee, from Wasosz and from Szczuczyn, and a hush fell upon all the Jews.

Chana Finkelstein (Ann Walters) as a child in Radzilow, Poland, 1937-38.
She was seven years old at the time of the massacre in Radzilow in 1941.

       

When the Germans arrived, the Jewish destruction erupted. Quickly there followed the torturing of the Jews. As soon as the Germans marched into the shtetl, the Polaks asked the Germans what would be the consequence of killing a Jew. The Germans answered that nothing would happen.

Ann Walters

       

Immediately the Polaks started pogroms. At night they attacked the Jewish homes. They dragged Jewish men out of their houses and beat them until they fell unconscious. So it was night after night. Afterwards, they brought people to the river and tortured them there.

Later they took out the Sidurim from the Beis Hamedrash along the way, and they collected the old Jews so that they should carry these to the river and throw them in. They forced the Jews, who carried everything on their own shoulders and took them to the river. They pulled old Jews by their beards and cut out half of their beards, making caricatures of them and beating them if they scowled.

On the 24th of June, a Friday night, Germans passed through and stopped in the shtetl. The Polaks gathered around. They lead them to think that rich people lived here. The Germans came to us and said they needed certain things which we were unable to give them. So they began beating and robbing people.

My father began to run away. The Germans started to chase him and shoot at him. My father managed to escape, but the Germans busied themselves with us. They beat us severely. My mother tried to protect us and suffered a terrible beating; she had scars and wounds her whole life because she had tried to protect us. Just as the Germans had left, the Polaks began to break windows.

On the 7th of July many Germans arrived. The Germans assembled all the Jews in the market place and they said to the Polaks: Here you have the Jews. Do with them whatever you wish. The Germans drove away immediately. The Polaks began to torture the Jews terribly.

       

One Christian approached my father and said, "Take your family and go into your house." Afterwards, they lined up the Jews in foursomes and led them away.

We sat in our house. We thought that since we had been released from the market place, we would not be harmed. But this did not last long. Soon other men came for us. They chased us out of our house and led us toward the other Jews. We were perhaps a hundred meters from the barn when we heard a shot and saw smoke. We skirted the barn with the Jews. The Gentiles released us. Then we ran away to hide in the woods.

The screams of the people were terrifying; the earth was almost trembling; and the smoke from the burnt corpses spread throughout the woods. We were sitting in a hole near the chassis, and a horseman was riding around looking for us. Soon a wagon came along; it stopped and the driver asked the horseman whether he had seen us. We had witnessed the destruction.

We headed toward a village. When we arrived there, we were allowed to spend the night in a barn. In the morning a peasant came and told us he was afraid to let us stay there any longer and asked us to go beyond the village into the woods. We remained in that village until the 2nd of November, 1942.

On the 2nd of November, the "soltis"? of the village came with a wagon and said that we should get into the wagon and leave with him. He wanted to capture us and take us to the Gestapo. We all ran away in different directions. I and my little brother went to another village four kilometers away from this village.

For four days we remained in that village. Later we hid in a barn under terrible circumstances/conditions, suffering from hunger, cold, dirt, and every minute looking death in the eyes. During this time we changed our location twelve times.

Chana Finkielsztejn
Student
Bialystok, 22 October 1945

Testimony recorded by Kaz. Kagan, protokolant
Signature D. Kaga(?), Chairman of the Wojewodztwo Historical Commission
Signature Unknown

(The last two paragraphs have proven very difficult to read, and different translators have produced quite different interpretations. If you know Yiddish and would like to help me out with this, please contact me.)

 
Additional Material:
Article about Chana in the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
Her mother Chaya's Yad Vashem Testimony
Her brother Menachem's testimony before the Jewish Historical Commission
 
 
 

Radzilow, 1937-38
Chana's siblings
[L-R]: Sholem, Menachem and
Yaffa Finkielsztejn

Radzilow Hebrew School,
late 1930's
Chana Finkielsztejn is in the front row, 2nd from left Sholem and Yaffa are also in the photo (need to be identified)

Marriage Photo, 1921
Chaya and Yisrael Finkielsztejn

Finkielsztejn Family
Upon arrival in Israel, 1946
Bottom row [L-R]: Yisrael Finkielsztejn, wife Chaya (nee Wasersztejn) Finkielsztejnand eldest son Menachem Top row [L-R]: Chana, Sholem, Yaffa


Document Copyright   

Editor's notes or definitions are entered in [brackets].
(Parentheses) in the translation appear here as they appeared in the original text.
Translated from Yiddish by: Olga Zabludoff. Edited by: Jose Gutstein.
Translation Copyright 2020 by Jose Gutstein.

My thanks and appreciation to Dr. Eleanora Bergman at the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw, Poland,
for granting me permission to use the original document.

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