My grandfather was born March 3, 1929 in Chernivtsi Ukraine (at that time it was a part of Romania). In June, 1940, it was incorporated into the Soviet Union. In June, 1941, the city was evacuated by the Soviets, and by October, all the Jews (over 50,000) were confined to a small ghetto. The Germans arrived on July 5, and it is estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 Jews were killed within 24 hours. In October, 1941, the Jews were concentrated in a ghetto, and all their property was confiscated. Over 30,000 Jews were ultimately deported to Transnistria, and it is estimated that 60% of these deportees died there. In October, 1943, restrictions on Jewish movement were abolished, and the swift liberation by Soviet forces in early 1944 saved the 15,000 Jews remaining in the city. My grandfather was among the 15,000 Jews to survive. He is willing to answer any questions, and I will translate, read and type his answers. Ask him anything.

Edit: Thank You all for the wonderful responses. We are so overwhelmed with these never ending questions. He says you added years to his life. He is a very open person, who loves to share stories and is happy to have seen such enthusiasm for them. I will try to post the video and family stories that my stepfather had documented sometime later today. Here is a pic of him for now -

Edit: Here is the story of how my grandfather's father escaped back to the ghetto after being taken by the Nazi's to build a bridge -

Comments: 1313 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

[deleted]314 karma

How did what happened to him affect him later in life?

Does he live in America, or somewhere in Europe?

And because it isn't asked enough: "How are you doing today, sir?"

smnx321245 karma

He says that it gave him a greater appreciation for life. He is happy to be alive and cherishes it every day. He lives in New York City- Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. He moved here in 1991. He recently was diagnosed with colon cancer , earlier the year. Miraculously after surgery it is believed that he is now cancer free. Other than that he is the most optimistic, happy and loving person you will ever meet. Being around him my whole life, has made me realize that any problem I ever have is truly meaningless.

[deleted]179 karma

Did he ever encounter any kindness from any of the Nazi Germans holding him in captivity, or any signs that they were capable of compassion or sympathy?

smnx321240 karma

Most of the soldiers in the ghetto were not technically Nazi's, they were Romanian soldiers. But he never encountered any acts of kindness from any of the Nazi's or the Romanian soldiers.

jhm16174 karma

what single memory of this experience stands out more than anything, all these years later?

smnx321479 karma

21st of March 1944, the Soviet army marching into the ghetto to liberate the Jews.

smnx321225 karma

21st of March 1944, the Soviet army marching into the ghetto to liberate the Jews.

TheCannon128 karma

First, great respect to your Grandpa for surviving a horrible situation.

What was the closest he came to dying, or was there a time when he was sure he was next?

smnx321209 karma

After he was transported on the trains to the ghetto, they shoved 400-500 jews into a pig pen. They locked them into this room for 8 days with no food or water. He went in and out of consciousness and his legs developed Thrombophlebitis. He was certain that he was going to die in that pig pen.

TheCannon87 karma


A second question, if I may.

Besides Jews, how many other people were imprisoned with him (i.e. homosexuals, handicapped people, etc)?

smnx321129 karma

In his ghetto, it was only jews and ukranians that had lived in the ghetto prior to the evacuation.

Jay_Amaco119 karma

What did they do to keep morale up in the camp? How did they get things (if they could) like tobacco etc?

smnx321241 karma

Those who were pessimists died quickly. His father was a huge optimist and worked as a carpenter building tables in the ghetto. He was able to get paid with pieces of bread that he shared with the family.

The Jews were allowed to take anything they could carry with them into the ghetto, but after 4 years there was almost nothing left. Especially no tobacco.

zuuko119 karma

This is more of a question for you and meant with no disrespect:

After surviving such a horrific ordeal at the hands of an enemy, have you ever felt that your grandfather now carries a bit of prejiduce against Romanians/Germans forever. I only ask because my own grandfather was a POW for a short while, and despite being an honorable man in every other way, he's had kind of an irrational and automatic hatred of the captive race that strangers have found offensive. It's not to diminish your or my grandfathers character at all, and I say that its more than fair that such a traumatic ordeal manifests itself into a lifelong fear.


Has he ever spoken about forgiving his captors, or will he never forget?

smnx321196 karma

I don't think he has any hatred towards them. I just came back from a trip to Germany and was discussing with him how nice and friendly the Germans are as a people.

As far as forgiving, he says he will never forgive and never forget. The town he grew up in (Vishnitsa) had 5,000 Jews before the war. Today 0.

[deleted]94 karma

How do you feel about Holocaust deniers?

smnx321223 karma

These are bad people, fascists!

wcg89 karma

Thanks for doing this.

  • What determined who would be killed before someone else?
  • Was there anything that he did to increase his chances of surviving?
  • What did he do to pass the time?
  • Does he still keep in touch with anyone else from the surviving 15,000?

smnx321147 karma

The Romanian soldiers guarding the ghetto did not just randomly murder the Jews. They would kill someone if they broke the rules, such as not wearing a star of David or leaving camp grounds.

He was young, 12 - 13 years old, and his father was a great carpenter who was able to work for food and support the family. But then in 1943 Nazi's came and took his father away to another part of Ukraine to help build a bridge. His older brother ended up taking his fathers place as a carpenter and brought home food for the family while his father was gone.

He says he was never bored.. He was always hungry. There was no radio, newspapers, toys, books, all he did was lay around starving for food.

All the other people he knew that survived the holocaust have passed away.

salmonfin85 karma

If you could take one piece of modern day equipment back to the Ghetto, what would it be?

smnx321150 karma

Light and a newspaper, so he would know what was going on. They had no idea what was happening and what would happen to them. They were in the dark.

Alwayspullout81 karma

Were his religious views affected because of the Holocaust?

smnx321135 karma

He was Jew then and he is a Jew now.

[deleted]63 karma

How does he feel about the state of Israel now and the conflict with the Palestinians?

smnx321158 karma

He is a big supporter of Israel and is happy that the world has Israel. He hopes that conflicts end and that Palistine and Israel will just stay on the land they have now in peace.

onefingerattack63 karma

I read that when rumors spread of concentration camps and Jewish people being put onto trains, that a lot Jews in Eastern Europe chose not to believe that such a thing was currently happening further West. Did you hear anything about what was happening before the German army arrived? Also - what was life like living in that ghetto?

smnx32194 karma

He heard these rumors, and believed them. He was in constant fear of the Nazi's coming to kill them.

ankhx10054 karma

After the liberation, what did your grandfather do? What was it like in post-war Ukraine? Did he experience any further antisemitism?

smnx32188 karma

After liberation he waited 6 to 8 months for his home town (Chernovtsi) to be liberated so that he can return to his house with his family. He was 16 years old and went to school at night and worked as a carpenter during the day. There was antisemitism after the war in Ukraine, but it was no longer public.

1337157prime52 karma

Has he ever gone to visit Hebrew schools or secular schools to talk about this with the next generation? I'd suggest you have him at least document some of his stories to video. One day there will be no survivors left and their voices need to live on.

smnx32177 karma

Yes, he did the school talks and has had a video of his survival story done. My stepfather is into Jewish history/genealogy and has documented everything.

rhuester45 karma

How did you explain ths AMA process to him? I assume you approached him rather than the other way around...what did he think of that?

smnx32189 karma

I didn't really explain the process and reddit to him. I just told him, people from all over the world want to ask him questions about the Holocaust and if he was ok with answering them. He said ofcourse. Neither of us expected such a response. I'm doing my best to answer as many questions as I can, while still giving pretty detailed responses. But, unfortunantly a lot gets lost in translation.

gibsonguy42 karma

Did you ever encounter any Canadian soldiers through your journey? What was it like realizing you were one of the few that made it out alive?

smnx32167 karma

He never encountered any Canadian soldiers and was surprised by that question. He says he thanks god everyday that he is alive.

[deleted]40 karma


smnx32164 karma

The Pianist

Edit: Schindlers list is good too

Smoricks37 karma

First of all, I wanna say that I greatly respect your grandfather and I abolished my lurking ways and made an account just for this. I'm an Israeli who had his doubts about joining the army here, as I am also an American citizen and can return to the States before my enlistment, but after I went to Poland with the rest of my grade last year (it's a tradition that 12th graders go for a week in Poland to learn more about the Holocaust) I decided that it's a must for me to help protect the nation that people like your grandfather helped establish.

Does the country you live in help your grandfather financially, etc. because of what he went through? I know that in Germany and a lot of other European nations they do help support the Holocaust survivors. Sadly, less in Israel.

Has your grandfather traveled to Israel ever and what does he think of the nation's current direction diplomatically speaking (their situation with their neighbors and the rest of the world in general?)

Thanks a lot for doing this, it's a really special AMA.

smnx32136 karma

He receives a check every month from Germany for 300-400 dollars a month (exchange rate). He was never able to visit Israel because of the Thrombophlebitis he developed in the ghetto. He wasn't healthy enough to travel, but has always wished that he could go.

[deleted]35 karma

Were any laughs had at least once and a while? People trying to make others feel better or boost spirits?

smnx32159 karma

He said there were no laughs for four years all they wanted was freedom.

[deleted]34 karma

How was the social hierarchy in the ghetto? Were there "snithces"? EDIT: Great respect to your Grandfather

smnx32137 karma

He says there was no hierarchy like this, where he was.

frigginhumid34 karma

My fiance's mother escaped from Auschwitz at 12 years of age during a work excursion that went wrong right. She is of Polish Jewish extraction and was taken in by a German Catholic family. She converted to Catholicism and denies her Jewish heritage to this day, even though she has recounted stories of her imprisonment, the death of all her family members, etc. She is 80+ years now, quite ill, and not expected to live much longer. The manner in which she lived out the rest of her life seems to have left a significant negative impact on her children.

How has your grandfather coped with raising a healthy family despite all the pain and suffering in his past?

Edit: corrected to recognize the positive

smnx32164 karma

He says he was raised well by his family and continues the same traditions. The world has bad people and good people, he does not let the bad people affect his view of the good in this world.

1mfa033 karma

Did he ever conspire (I realize he was young) or know of any efforts to take up arms in the ghetto?

smnx32149 karma

He was too young, and does not know of anyone taking up arms in the ghetto.

BoomBoomAlex31 karma

God bless you. My great grandparents died in the Holocaust, and I greatly admire anyone who survived it. How did you mentally get through it? What did you tell yourself? Did you ever lose faith in humanity?

smnx32160 karma

He says he prayed everyday to both god and his mom that he could survive to live just one day as a free Jew. He never lost faith in humanity, he always hoped that the Americans and Soviets would win the war.

morganfreemanselbow31 karma

First of all, Happy Rosh Hashannah to you and your Grandfather. Thank you so much for doing a thread like this. As time goes on, the Shoah will be just a mere story learned in history classes. Your Grandfather and you are helping out a great deal by reaching out to people and telling them his story.

I was wondering, how is your Grandfather's faith affected by the Holocaust? Does he believe in God after the Holocaust?

smnx32131 karma

Yes, he believes in god and still considers himself Jewish. But he is secular, (does not do sabbath, but does go to the synogog on holy holidays.)

jur1e29 karma

Did anyone really close to him,like family or close friends, die there?

smnx32147 karma

Almost everyone

AlexBurnsRed26 karma

What was the worst thing you saw when you were in the camps? And how have you coped with all the bad memories today?

smnx32145 karma

The worst thing he saw was when they first got to the ghetto, thousands of people were just laying in the snow freezing and dying of hunger, unable to go anywhere for warmth.

[deleted]24 karma

Does it annoy you when people nonchalantly compare anyone they disagree with to Hitler and the Holocaust?

smnx32147 karma

There is no one worse than Hitler, there is no one that even comes close.

MrE2Me22 karma

What do you think about the Holodomor?

smnx32120 karma

It was not where he lived. But he read about it.

forCommentsOnly22 karma

Did your grandfather have any contact with any of the well know Nazi? Mengele for instance.

smnx32152 karma

Luckily no.

Shabalba20 karma

How did the local population treat the Jews before the war? Did your grandfather ever return to his hometown? Did he recover any of his families property?

smnx32133 karma

Prior to the war, people where he lived treated Jews fine. He did return to his hometown and was happy to find his home and all his possessions safe. His family was very lucky.

SocialExperimenter19 karma

What motivated him to keep living?

smnx32124 karma

His whole family was very optimistic, and truly believed that they would be liberated.

[deleted]19 karma

After the war, was he tempted to seek out the bastards that did that to him and take justice into his own hands, or did he just want to get as far away as possible, to put it behind him?

smnx32135 karma

No, he was just happy to be alive and home. He let the war crimes courts take care of them.

DreadPirateBrian15 karma

How were people chosen for transport to Transnistria? Where did your grandfather's family go after liberation? Where does he live now?

smnx32127 karma

They took all the Jews from Chernovtsy to Transnistria. After liberation they lived in Chernovtsi until 1991 and then immigrated to America. My grandfather now lives in Brighton Beach Brooklyn.

Joelsaurus14 karma

What has helped your grandfather the most in coming to terms with what happened to him?

What was his life like immediately following exiting the ghetto? What happened next?

Did your grandfather marry after his experience in the ghetto? How does your grandmother feel about what happened?

Has he ever gone back? If not, is that something he would be interested in?

How do YOU feel about what happened to your Grandfather?

As an aside, I want to say that you are incredibly lucky not only to have your grandfather alive, but also that he is willing to share his story. My grandfather has never his story of his experience in Nazi Germany, and I don't think he ever will.

smnx32141 karma

He feels that it is very important to share the stories of the Holocaust to future generations, to make sure that this NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN.

When returning form the Ghetto, his family was very lucky because all the Jewish homes were destroyed except for his house. It was saved, because the chief of police had occupied it for the entire time they were in the ghetto. When they came back he fled.

He has not gone back and is not interested in going back.

i can't even begin to imagine what he has gone through.
I feel that I am very lucky to have such an amazing person influence my life. My father had passed away before I was born, and my grandfather helped my mom raise my brother and I. We grew up hearing all of his stories. If I could just have one tenth of his love of life and people, then I would be a very happy man.

Sumthingwitty14 karma

What is left of the Jewish community in Ukraine? My wife is Jewish and her family has been over here(USA) since 1910ish. We are pondering a visit but i don't know how many Jews still reside. Or if any still reside in Ukraine. * She is descended from Ukrainians.

smnx32118 karma

He feels that there are still a number of Jews who live in Ukraine, but he does not know what kind of life they live there since he has lived in America since 1991 (prior to the collapse of the soviet union).

drinkme21713 karma

What language do you speak?

How did the Soviet soldiers treat you? What do you remember about them? How was their morale? What language did you speak to them/how did you communicate?

PLEASE ANSWER, I've been to this part of the world, but did not meet anyone who wanted to talk about their past.

smnx3214 karma

He speaks Russian, Ukranian, Romanian and Yiddish. He spoke Ukranian with his family. He did not speak to any Romanian soldiers, since they were trying to avoid them at all costs. He did speak with the Soviet soldiers when they liberated the ghetto, they spoke in Russian and were very happy. The soldiers were happy too, and quickly moved on to keep pressing the Nazi's.

hyphin13 karma

How does he feel about Israel? Have you been there? As a 'part two', does he have opinions about Palestine/Palestinians? It would be genuinely interesting to hear the views of a Holocaust survivor regarding Palestinians.

smnx32120 karma

He feels that Israel has the right to be there and it would be great for Palestine and Israel to sit down and finally have actual substantive peace talks.

thedemonlover12 karma

What's your favorite movie?

smnx32121 karma

Osovazhdenya - Its a russian film, I think this is the American version of it... not sure tho..

jhonkas12 karma

Did he, his family or the community know what was happening or going to happen to them when the Germans arrived in 1941. Like did they just think it was part of the war? Not trying to give the fact you said 2-3k Jews were killed when they started occupying.

smnx32117 karma

They panicked, worrying, that they were being taken to be killed.

gvsteve11 karma

Does he have a tattooed serial number? I remember a Holocaust survivor came to my grade school when I was ~10 and showed us, that was the most chilling thing I've ever seen and the only part I remembered.

smnx32120 karma

No, luckily he was not sent to a concentration camp.

[deleted]11 karma

Did he ever encounter any particularly sadistic soldiers, who seemed to really enjoy inflicting pain and misery, like it was a game? Or where the soldiers mostly about their business and orders?

smnx32117 karma

He did not see any of the sadistic soldiers.. it was mostly business and orders.

Frankocean27 karma

Hi, much love and respect for you and your grandfather for this.

How does he view humanity then and how does he view humanity now?, he saw the worst face of what humanity can do, and how did he live is life after living trough that.

Love from Mexico.

smnx32112 karma

He hopes the world never sees another holocaust again.