Entry from the diary of Miriam Korber from October 10, 1943, Yom Kippur, in which she reflects upon the will to live within her community on the very day she witnessed mass arrests and deportations of Jews from Transnistria to labor camps.
Sunday, October 10, 1943
Yesterday was Yom Kippur, an important day for Jews. Almost everyone fasted, either for observance, for atonement, or for fear, but people did fast. It is interesting what an overwhelming atmosphere prevails on a holiday. I felt the same on Rosh HaShana. On Kol Nidre [the eve of Yom Kippur], hurried people, stopped over too soon under the weight of the times, head for the improvised synagogues: a large hallway; a spacious room; even the renovated temple in Djurin. The Jews have set up some places of prayer as well as they could. With stable lanterns, with wax candles, with oil lamps they managed, in extraordinary sadness, to light up these places of prayer. Their faith is strong and nobody can shake it, neither human beings nor the times.
During last week, as terrible as it was, nothing whatsoever kept them from praying. On the contrary, they pray with even more zeal, more passion and more hope. Perhaps the suffering is not over yet, but they pray, they beat their breasts, and they wait, they hope and nobody can make them lose hope. It is a wonderful people, that knows its mistakes, and yet repeats them over and over again. It has such a will to live; it has not vanished until now and I believe that even this time, the times will not subdue it. Many will still die, although very many have been sacrificed on the so-called altar of European civilization; enough will survive to carry into the future the memory of the dead and the hope of a life in freedom. I don’t want to forget and therefore I write about the horror and the disaster of last Saturday.
[. . .] In the afternoon, by chance, Sisi saw that there were too many people on our street, which was a sign they were rounding up people for work. Right away we sent Mother to town to see what news there was. In the beginning everything seemed normal. Supposedly each head of a family, man or woman, must sign their name on a list at the Community, in front of the head of the gendarmes, and pledge not to leave the ghetto, which would be punishable by death. Since people got scared, the group leaders, policemen, even the head of the colony, Dr. Rosenstrauch, went into town and on their word of honor urged people to come out of their homes. Nobody came to our house, because we live farther away. But Mother, reassured by their words, came to call Dad. We did not let him go. If they did not call us, it meant that he did not have to go.
My heart told me that things would not go well, and indeed, that’s how it went. After people gathered around a table in town, they drew up lists of names on the spot and, under the terror of loaded weapons, women and children were pushed home and men, young and old, were taken to the gendarmerie and from there to a labor camp near Odessa. If the cries of the women could only reach the heavens and the tears gather in the sea, perhaps then heavenly compassion would pour out to those wretched people who were taken first to Mogilev, without any pity, then to Oceacov, Trihati, and God knows where else.
Many escaped through slyness, others with money, protection, or courage, but many fell into the trap, since the trap was devised in a diabolical fashion. Sunday and Monday were, again, two awful days. Until we found out what it was all about people had hidden from view. Then we found out the reason. They had arrested the group leaders from a district where during an inspection a doctor did not find the place clean, and it is said that there were taken to a labor camp in Oceacov.
Again, decent people from our midst, men who did nothing bad, on the contrary, men who used to help others, were taken away by force. And Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, deemed fit to take revenge on them. For what sins, I wonder? For sure, not for their sins-they only did good to others. Who knows? Indeed, these were days full of anxiety, when we lived in great fear. Still, we did not lose hope and, again, we started to give credence to the silly rumors of repatriation. Poor and persecuted Jewish people! So tormented and so ingenious in giving itself courage through its own lies, born from desires unfulfilled by a God of revenge or of compassion.1