Escape from the "Action"

Before long the "Actions" began. This was the name given to the systematic extermination carried out in accordance with a definite plan, and with precise German order. On one occasion, for example, orders were given to kill 1000 Jews between the hours of 4-12. If by chance another Jew came along after twelve, the murderers sent him away until the next Action.

On September 3, 1942 a major Action occurred. The Action lasted three days during which 5,000 people were deported to the Belzec concentration camp. As my grandfather and father were going to work that morning they were caught in the Rynek at the beginning of the Action. My grandfather protested their capture, saying they were important workers and should be free to go. His words fell on deaf ears. They were forced to sit on the ground with other captured Jewish men, women and children while the Action continued, all the while praying that my grandmother and aunt were able to avoid capture.

The Action continued through the day with SS and Ukrainian troops beating and killing Jews unmercifully. At the end of the day those captured were marched to the Great Synagogue and were shut inside. Here they remained over night without food or water. All attempts to bribe the soldiers guarding them failed.

When morning came they were taken to the railway station where they were met by SS and Ukrainian troops with dogs and herded onto railway cattle cars. Those inside were packed tightly together. They slid the doors closed and began to board up and put barbed wire over the small windows. My grandfather and another bribed the guards not to nail the boards too tightly, so that they could possibly escape by pushing out the boards from the inside.

They waited all day inside the cramped car. When evening came German soldiers climbed in mounted gun boxes spaced along the length of the train, which then began to leave the station. After the train traveled some distance, my grandfather decided that he and my father should escape and he and others pushed out the window boards. He tried to coax others to come along but very few decided to go.

The only way to escape was to climb out the window feet first, hang onto the side of the window and push yourself off while the train was moving, making sure to stay clear of the barbed wire. My grandfather helped my father out the window and he jumped off safely, landing on the grass away from the gravel covered track bed. My grandfather went next and as he jumped his coat caught the barbed wire causing him to fall on the gravel bed and injured his mouth. How many had escaped the did not know, but if they had waited longer to jump the train would have been passing over a bridge and they surely would have perished! After the train had passed into the distance they gathered themselves together and followed the tracks back to the Jewish Quarter in Stryj. Upon returning they went to look for my grandmother and aunt, who luckily escaped capture hiding in a bunker they previously prepared. All along they thought my grandfather and father were at work and didn't even know they had been captured! The train my grandfather and father were on was bound for the Belzec concentration camp, where most of the Gross and Edelstein families perished.

Deportations to Belzec

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