– 5 Short Stories by Arthur Rindner
In my last trip
to Czernowitz August 2010, I was finally able to close the circle.
I hired a car and driver ($250.00) to take me to the place where we
were deported; the place is called BUDY. The car took 7 hours to
get there, but during the deportation we walked and it took us 2
On foot, we
walked, together with thousands of people, surrounded by armed soldiers
in uniform and barking dogs. I remember crossing a river by ferry
and people falling in the icy waters. After many days, of walking
in rain and in deep mud we arrived at a small village called
BUDI. We stayed there until the spring of 1942.
We shared a
cowshed with many people, and I remember being hungry and the
cold. One day, during the winter, there was a commotion and
people were screaming I saw my mother covered in blood. She was
thrown on a cart stiff from the cold, on top of other dead
bodies. That is the way I remember losing my mother, who was 30
years old and I was 4 years old. Every morning, I
waited for that cart to come thinking the cart will bring my mother. We stayed
there until the spring of 1942.
I WILL NOT
FORGET AND I WILL NOT FORGIVE.
I was looking
for a mass grave and a cowshed where we spent the first winter. I started to search
for old people who possibly remembered the war and the Jews who were
deported there. I was told that in the field there is an old woman with
a cow who could tell me the place where we lived. I walked over
to the field, no woman and no cow. Again I asked people, they
told to go over to the local park and there I would find an old man who
usually sits under a tree and smokes. I walked over there, no old man
but lots of cigarettes butts.
After about an hour I found a young man who took me to the place.
As soon as I saw the cowshed I knew that I was in right place.
The young man told me that a few years ago, people came from Israel and
placed a memorial stone over the mass grave. The stone since then
had disappeared. Standing near the mass grave, I was finally able to
say Kadish for my mother.
I had several
e-mails telling me to ease off, to forgive and let go.
happened in Budi is imprinted in my brain and no matter how much I
tried, I am unable to erase those terrible events.
I was only 4
years old and I witnessed the cruelty of what happened to my mother.
To forgive? I don't think so.
things are those young volunteers, who came from several countries. To clean a Jewish
cemetery, who are not Jewish and have no connection to Czernowitz. They could have been
on a beach or slept late at home but they chose to volunteer for 2
There are 2 organizations. One is called Ukraina SVIT which stands for
"Solidarity Volunteering Initiative Tolerance". And the second is a
German organization called ASF "Aktion Sühnezeichen
Friedensdienste" "Action Reconciliation Service for Peace"
Life is Beautiful:
Dniester River, visiting the village of Budy and finding my mother’s
grave has awakened my memories which I kept concealed for all those
About two years
ago, my wife and I were dining at a sea side restaurant in Jaffa,
At the next table I could hear people speaking Italian, Roberto Benigni
his wife Nicoletta Braschi were sitting there with several others.
I am sure
everybody must have seen the movie “Life is beautiful” (La Vita
è bella). In which a Jewish father (Roberto Benigni) with the
help of his humor protects his son in a Nazi death camp. He hides
Giosué his son in the loft of his hut from the Nazi guards.
I went over to
their table, excused myself, and told them that I saw the film “La Vita
è bella” and I believed that I have similar story.
They invited us
to sit at their table and wanted to hear my story. I told them that I
saw the film in Fayetteville, North Carolina and when the film was over
I started to cry. My wife asked me what was wrong and I told her that
the film is very similar to my story when I was a child in Transnistria.
This is my story:
We were interned in Bershad, Transnistria during WWII. We lived
with our extended family, some were from Czernowitz and some from
Strojinetz, in a wooden hut not far from the city center. It was the summer of
1943, a nice Sunday and a warm day. My father and I went for a
walk in the town square.
There were lots of people, having their Sunday stroll. Suddenly we were
encircled by gendarmes and soldiers. This was “Polizei-Razzia” a police
They selected the men on one side and the women on the other side of
I was with my father with the men.
After a while
the police marched us out of Bershad. We walked in endless wheat
fields and soon I got very tired and was unable to walk. My father took
me on his shoulders and we continued to walk. It was a long
column and we were surrounded by gendarmes. The soldiers
constantly prodded with their bayonets those who could not keep up with
Suddenly I told my father that I needed to pee; he told me to be quiet
and to hold it till we stop. I started to cry and
told him that I have to do it right now. My father asked one of
the soldiers if we could stop so that I can relieve myself. He
said OK and to make it fast and join the column as soon as
possible. There in the wheat field was a small tree. I stood
there, but nothing came out. Slowly the column passed us and they
were over the horizon. The soldiers forgot about us and nobody came
looking for us.
We sat down and
hid in the middle of this wheat field. Soon it was dark and we
started to walk back to Bershad. By the time that we arrived at our
family hut it was dark and nobody saw or stopped us. We told our story to
our family and they got very worried and did not know what to do with
my father and me.
Onkel Zeamu, my mother’s eldest brother had an idea to hide us in the
loft under the roof of the hut. We lived there for over 3 months.
I told Robeto
Benigni, this is exactly what happened to the little boy in the film.
Later we were
told that columns of exhausted, half starved men were placed at the
disposal of the SS by the Romanian gendarmes for heavy labor, building
bridges and roads. Very few returned alive after the war.
Roberto Benigni and his wife Nicoletta Braschi, liked my story and as
we said our goodbyes, I was asked for my address. A few weeks later I
received an autographed copy of the film.
Was this pure
luck that in that moment of time I requested to relive myself and by
this I saved my father and myself from certain death? Or somebody was
looking over us.
There is going to be a second time when I saved my own life.
the Second Time:
I saved my life
a second time, but this time it was possibly a premonition.
My young brain was filled with memories and images of terror and
death. I was too young and afraid to think about tomorrow.
In the end of
fall in 1943, a rumor started, that whoever has the right amount of
money, could buy a train ticket which will take young children to
Palestine. I was 5 or 6 years old.
My father had no money, but he had a few gold teeth. He had those
teeth extracted, sold them and had enough money for my ticket to
The day arrived;
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was cold, overcast with a light
My father hired a peasant with a horse and wagon to take us to the
train station. Near the train were hundreds of kids with their
parents. My father looked for a boy of 10 or 11 whom he knew and
told him to look after me. I was given my last instructions for
the hundredth time: remember who you are, I want you to grow up to be a
Mench, your name is Arthur Rindner, your mother’s name was Eva Rindner
and my name is Jacob Rindner. Then he gave me a small silver mirror in
the shape of a pear which belonged to my mother, he told me to look
after it and not to lose it. This little mirror was the last
possession of my mother.
As I boarded the
train I started to cry and told my father that I do not want to
go. He said don’t you want to go to Palestine and save yourself
from the life which we have here? I told him that I do not care,
what will happen will happen as long as we are together and not
The train left and we returned to our hut in Bershad.
after the war, my father visited Iasi a city in the Moldavia region of
Romania, and met the little boy of 11 who was supposed to have looked
after me. He asked him, how come he is not in Palestine?
He told him, that the train stopped in several more places to pick up
more kids and when the train was filled with kids it stopped near a
forest and the kids were told to disembark. They were shot,
massacred right there in that forest. The boy played dead and escaped.
The Nazi’s used
deception as a tool; it was so easy to come up with a story to save the
children. Those Jews are going to fall for this. They needed
Arbeitskräfte (work force) but der Nachwuchs (offspring’s) were
always in the way. The Nazi’s, by use of deception, had a way of
getting rid of the children and cheating the Jews out of their money
that they possibly hid.
I escaped death,
did lady luck look after me the second time? I believe so.
small silver mirror is still in my possession.
Beginning of the End:
After our first
winter in Budy, a rumor started that we were going to be exterminated.
One night with the help of a guide we walked through forests in the
rain and mud and arrived in Bershad, where we found some of our
surviving relatives. These were relatives from Storojinetz, it was
Tante Regina, my Onkle Zeamu and my two cousins Grete and Coca.
I have no recollections of how I passed my years there; I can only
recall the cold, the hunger and the mud.
One morning in
the spring of 1944, I looked out the window and on the tree outside the
hut, perched the most beautiful bird with red feathers. I had never
seen such a beautiful bird; I asked my father what kind of bird it was.
He told me it was a Stieglitz (Goldfinch in English). I knew right then
and there that this horrific nightmare was going to be over.
In the spring of
1944, a Russian airplane flew over our town and we knew the war was
over for us. I recall the Germans retreating on every possible vehicle
available and throwing away their weapons. I remember a few of the
Germans for whom my father worked, came to him, asking for letters,
saying that they were good Germans and that they have not mistreated us
or the other Jews. My father gave it to them, having pity and knowing
what was waiting for them.
liberated by the Russians, and returned to Czernowitz on foot.
At the entrance of the city of Czernowitz, my aunt, Tante Fanny, my
father’s sister, was waiting at the Sadegura Bridge for days. She had
heard from other returning refugees that we were liberated and that we
were walking home. She stood there, waiting our return. On seeing us
arrive, she was very emotional, and began to cry from happiness. I will
never forget the meeting; she immediately took me to a Konditorei in
the Herrengasse and bought me a Chocolate Kugel. This was the first
taste of chocolate I had had in my few years, and I can still remember
the taste to this day.
Even though 66
years have passed, the horrendous tragic events and visions still haunt
me and continue to linger within my being.
An additional short story:
Looking for my
stepbrother in Mogilev
My stepmother and her husband whose last name was Schwartz, were
expelled from Czernowitz to Transnistria. They walked over a month on
foot all the way to Mogilev. As soon as they arrived in Mogilev
her husband was taken away by the Romanians and given to the Germans
never to be seen again. My stepmother whose name was Dora was pregnant
and gave birth to a baby boy on arrival in Mogilev.
She had not eaten for nearly one week and had no milk to nurse her baby. She told me that she
walked over to the barbed wire fence and begged a passing peasant woman
to take her baby and to take care of it. The 2 or 3 years that she was
interned in Mogilev she never saw her baby or her husband again.
In 2006 during
our Czernowitzer Reunion, I visited Mogilev with my wife; we walked the
streets looking for an old man of 65 who possibly looked like my