Skip to main content

Tova Perelstein’s testimony

Tova Perelstein’s testimony.

Part 2.

Taken by Mike Gerver, with his permission






(This is a continuation of Tova Perlshtein’s testimony about Kupel, given at Yad Vashem in 1965. This information, at least the beginning of it, apparently comes from Mottel Shochat, according to the preceding part of the testimony. From internal evidence, it seems that this part of the testimony was not given in 1965, but in 1988.  It was apparently translated from Russian to Hebrew by someone at Yad Vashem, then translated from Hebrew to English by Ophira Oruch, at the request of Joel Cehn, in February 1996. I have made some corrections to Ophira’s translation, but have not compared it to the Hebrew text.  –Mike Gerver)


On Sunday when the Germans entered the shtetl, they gathered a big group of distinguished Jews, old and young, in the yard across from the syngagogue. A statue of Lenin was there, and the Germans ordered the Jews to break it. When the Jews asked for tools, the Germans laughed at them. At that moment it was clear that the Germans were abusing them. An older Jew started crying and asking for mercy. A young woman from Cherniva (a village close to Kupel) happened to pass by, and told the S.S. soldier, “You think they are crying because it’s difficult to break the statue, but the real reason for their crying is that they simply don’t want to hurt their god, Lenin. Cursed Communists!”


The S.S. soldier ordered to kill the oldest man, Zeyda Liebes, and ordered the Jews to dig a hole in the ground, and bury the man and his (alive) son. The son was lying on top of the father, refusing to depart from him. This event was a sign of the start and the continuation of the ongoing murders.


The final killing took place in 1942, in two groups. The first group was killed on Rosh Hashanah, and the second group on Yom Kippur.  The most terrible killing took place on Yom Kippur. In the big synagogue, the S.S. soldiers ordered the men and the rabbi to take off their clothes, to spread the torah scrolls on the floor, and to run back and forth on top of the scrolls. This event took all day, and in addition, the Nazis forced them to dig a hole and bury their rabbi Glaser alive. In the evening of the same day, all the Jews were assembled, old, women, children, and together with the men in the synagogue were taken to the Jewish cemetery to be shot to death.


So it happened that the Jews who were willing to die for their Torah and Judaism, and who survived the pogroms by placing a picture of Jesus on their window sill were forced to destroy their own spiritual life and spiritual leader on their last holiday.


In the cemetery of Kupel there are two mass graves, as well as individual graves of Jews who were murdered and died of starvation in those days.


A long time after the war, a Kupel resident who survived the war requested the local council to provide him with his family’s death records. The response was “the family died a natural death.”


Right after the war, it was very dangerous for individuals to visit Kupel. In 1948, a few days before Yom Kippur, I visited a friend in Proskurov. I was hoping to arrive at Kupel in order to visit my parents’ graves, but my friend told me that it was impossible since the population is hostile toward Jews.  The only way to get to Kupel was to be escorted by the police, and since “exactly two days ago, a big group of Jews went there, there isn’t going to be another opportunity soon.”


They also destroyed the houses of the Jews, so the Jews would have no place to go back to.  Most of the villages in Ukraine don’t have any Jewish population.


In Israel, I met Avigdor Saboner, a veteran resident of Israel and a former Kupel resident.  In 1966, during his visit to Russia, he was unable to visit Kupel (it was forbidden to visit Kupel), but his relatives told him that all of the houses of the Jews were replaced by a big yard, and on Tuesdays, they have a market there.


Also Yaakov Pilchiker visited his village (Smochrich[?]) in 1963, and told that the Jews’ houses were replaced with a yard for fairs.


The Jews who, before the war, lived in small towns and villages in Ukraine, moved to big towns: Proskurov, Vinnitsa, Kamenetz Podolsk.  A very few immigrants arrive in Israel from this area, and the Israeli media doesn’t get there.  Writers, journalists and researchers don’t get there as well.  Unfortunately, people don’t write about their past and present.  It is important to tell the wonderful stories of the righteous gentiles who behaved humanly in the midst of hostility.


Mrs. Shochat told me that Shaul Kravich, a survivor from Kupel, was hidden by a Christian from Chernova[?]. The Christian was a good friend of his father.


In Volochisk, a Christian woman was hanged in the town square because she hid a Jewish girl.  They are hanged together.  The woman was trying to calm down the girl until the last minute.


In 1948, during my visit to the synagogue in Proskurov, on Yom Kippur, the crying of the survivors became hysterical. Some women fainted before the praying. Suddenly, all became silent.  In the synagogue stood a Christian woman surrounded by five children. She told them, “This is your church. Today your people remember the souls of the people who got murdered by the Nazis.  I brought you here to pray and cry the souls of your parents who were murdered by the Nazis.”


The worshippers in the synagogue said that the woman was a maid in a Jewish house.  When the Germans invaded the town, she managed to hide the children. When their parents were in the ghetto, she left town with the children.  During the war, she kept on moving to insure that the Nazis didn’t find them.  She worked hard to provide food for them and succeeded in keeping them alive.  On Yom Kippur, she also managed to bring them back to the Jewish traditions.


I’m sorry I can’t remember this woman’s name. She deserves to be honored by the Jews in Israel and to be written among the righteous gentiles. Also, the man in Chernova and the woman in Volochisk deserve to be written among the righteous gentiles.


I think that it’s about time to start researching the life, the experiences, and the destruction of the Jews in that area.