Merle Kastner's Czernowitz Pages

Shevele Grinberg (centre), daughter of Israel Alter Kastner (b. ca. 1911) and daughters Hilde ( left) and Reghina-"Pitchiu" (right), d. Transnistria 1941-1944.

Shevele's husband, Nathan Grinberg, a barber, never made much of a living.  Her marriage was very unhappy.  He left his family on several occasions, to go to live with various mistresses, and promising when he returned, that it would be the last time.  Finally, in exasperation, Shevele's father, Israel "Alter" Kastner, sent her to learn the trade of hairdressing so that she could earn some money for the family to live on.  However, it was difficult for her to support her family on her meager income.

When, in l94l, they (Alter, his wife Gittel, Shevele, her two little girls, and Nathan) were deported to Transnistria, Shevele's husband was living with a much-younger mistress, a non-Jew, who was also deported with them.  Nathan had met this woman in the barbershop where they both worked; she had done the shaving of men's beards.  After liberation, by the Russians, in l944, the woman returned to Czernowitz, to tell everyone  what had happened in those three years - she was the only survivor!

Top row (l-r): Emanuel, Karol-Karl-Chaim, Max;  Front row (l-r): Batsheva-Sheva, Lea, Avrum, Robert, and Rosella Kastner. Taken in Czernowitz around 1960.

 Batsheva/Sheva (née?) & Avrum/Abraham Kastner,  ca. 1960 - Czernowitz.

Avrum Kastner & his wife Batsheva had three sons, Muniu, Chaim and Max (born 1920,'23 and '31). The family lived in a very large house in Cznerowitz, which they shared with Batsheva's parents. Max was in the lucrative business of selling tanned leather skins to shoemakers, and stored his supplies of leather in the basement of his home.  The eldest of Avrum's sons, "Muniu", artistically gifted, worked for the Romanians during the war, painting posters for the cinema industry.

The Srul-Israel Kastner home in Radauti prior to 1941

In 1941 all Jews in the neighbourhood were ordered to pack whatever belongings they could and go to the railway station.  They were all under the impression that they were going to be deported.  These unfortunate people were all forced to remain in the street for as far as the eye could see, with their bundles and goods piled in wagons.  Avrum Kastner owned a
much larger than average wagon, which he used for moving his supplies. However, as there were no horses available, the wagons were impossible to move, so everyone stayed where they were in the street. After several hours, some soldiers came by and ordered all those Jews in front of Avrum Kastner's house, to go inside and remain there; they gave similar orders to other
groups of people, who were congregated near the larger houses.

This situation dragged on for several days, and finally the oppressors diminished the ghetto in size, and Avrum's house was then no longer situated within the new boundaries. The families camped there were forcibly sent to other houses (within the new boundaries of the ghetto.)  Fearing deportation to Transnistria, these displaced families buried their valuables, money,
etc., under the boards of basements and in the walls of houses - trying desperately to save whatever they could. Later, most of the Jews were allowed to return to their own homes, and soon after, were again ordered to move to other places to allow the Romanians to take possession of their homes.  Avrum's family continued to live in Cznerowitz, following the end of the war for a time, later emigrating to Israel.