Uzhorod (Czechoslovakia), Kam”yanets’-Podil’s’kyy
Fein was born in 1928 in Uzhorod in a region called the Carpathian Ukraine, which belonged before World War II to Czechoslovakia. He lived there with his parents, two sisters, and one brother. Fein was brought up in an Orthodox home and says that he had already encountered anti-Semitism in his childhood.
In 1941 Hungary, an ally of Nazi Germany, occupied the Carpathian Ukraine and started to deport all non-Hungarian Jews, which were called alien Jews, to the Hungarian-administered part of Galicia.
In July 1941, Fein and his family were taken to Kam”yanets’-Podil’s’kyy, where about 15,000 Jews were gathered. In this ghetto, which was situated in an old castle, two very small rooms were supposed to be sufficient for at least three families. Due to the terrible sanitary conditions and the shortage of food, many people got sick and some died. The SS was in control of the ghetto and established a Jewish council, which was used by the Nazis to organize all facets of ghetto life.
On August 26, 1941, all inmates were told that they would be sent to their homes, and they must march to a warehouse near the railroad station, where they stayed for the night. There the actual terror began. In the evening, praying Jewish men were shot by German guards without any reason. The next morning the SS started to collect all valuables and drove all prisoners out into a field, where some of them had to dig huge ditches in the ground. Then the SS forced the Jews to line up and run toward the ditches. When the reached the edge of the ditches the Germans started to shoot everyone with machine guns. There was no escape. Since Fein’s mother was born in Austria and the whole family spoke German fluently, they pretended to be non-Jews and a SS officer believed them. They were taken out of the line but had to watch all day long the extermination of their Jewish co-religionists.
In the evening, Fein and his family were taken together with thirty-six other individuals, who had been spared as well, to the ghetto, where they were allowed to pick up their belongings. The SS ordered all men to undergo a medical examination the next day to find out if they were indeed non-Jews. Fein and his family immediately consulted a Hungarian officer in the city hall. This officer provided them with German papers and fake names and sent them to a city called Kolomyia, which was occupied by Hungarian troops. There Fein’s father worked for a Hungarian bakery that supplied the army, and the whole family pretended to be German. In the spring of 1942, the Nazis established a ghetto in Kolomyia just across the street, form where Fein’s family lived. Fein notes that he witnessed many incidents of violence against the inmates and deportations. One day a small baby was slashed to pieces by a German guard’s dog. Fein also recalls outrages against the Jews by the inhabitants of Kolomyia. He remembers the stoning of a wounded Jewish woman by local teenagers. In 1944 the Russian Red Army liberated Kolomyia. Fein served in the Russian army for three years and then immigrated to the United States. Ten members of his extended family perished during the Holocaust.
Date: May 12, 1992
Interviewer: Esther Weine
Format: Video recording