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ALEXANDER KIMEL - HOLOCAUST UNDERSTANDING & PREVENTION

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THE JUMPER

Written by Alexander Kimel - Holocaust Survivor.

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Willy was a survivor. In the Yom Kippur action he was caught, and shipped to the Belzec death camp. He jumped the train and a week later, returned to the ghetto. In the December action he was caught again.

The market place was surrounded by armed Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Crimean Tartars, all part of the Special Forces engaged in the process of annihilation. Cries of the wounded were mixed with the shots and joyful cries of the raiders. For them the manhunt was a joyous experience, like for the Englishmen engaged in the fox hunt.

In the other corner of the market place there was a big commotion. Lea, his neighbor, was stirring up the crowd: Jews, let's all get up and run. All at the same time. They cannot shoot all of us. It is better to die here, than to face a torturous journey."

An German Officer recognized the danger, pulled out the pistol and shot Lea and some other ring leaders. The rebellion was nipped in the bud. The shooting had a calming effect on the victims. It is strange how calming and hypnotizing the barrel of the gun is.

In the afternoon, the crowd of hapless victims was formed into a column, four abreast and marched toward the railroad station. The sides of the marching column were flanked with the armed guards, and the sidewalk was lined with onlookers, enjoying the show.

Before forming the marching columns the Commanding S.S. Officer made a short speech to the victims: "You are being resettled to the East where you will be working of for the Wehrmacht. You will be working hard, but you will be left in peace. You have to follow orders. This is a large scale operation, and we have to maintain order. Anyone that resists will be shot on the spot." After the speech the mood of the victims improved.

The victims, desperately wanted to believe the German officer. How easily one can fool people under stress. Nobody can visualize his own death. In cooperation with the executioners they see their only hope of survival.

At the railroad station, people were divided into small groups, surrounded by the S.S. and Ukrainian, ordered to disrobe and turn in all valuables.

"Upon arrival you will be issued working clothing. Your clothing will be disinfected and returned back to you."

Naked people boarded the cattle cars. When the Germans locked the cars, the mass of throbbing, sweating humanity was packed tightly. 150 people were left without food, air to breath, or sanitary facilities; women fainted, children were screaming. It was a real inferno.

Looking for escape routes, Willy pushed himself toward the small barbed window. He looked at the windows and got scared; the windows were closed with steel grates, wrapped with barbed wire. The Germans took all the precautions. It was impossible to get out.

Suddenly a flash came through his mind. At the window he saw that one steel bar was fastened with screws from the inside. "If I can find a screw driver I could fashion a crow bar." he thought.

He has to find a way to unscrew the steel bar, but he had no tools. "Can I do with my nails? He thought bitterly.

He lifted himself to the window, and tried to turn the screw with his fingernails.

He has to ask for help. He turned around and yelled out "Jews we need your help. Anybody has some tools, a coin, a metal object, please lend me. We want to open this window. We need some air. Please."

"I have a gold coin, hidden in my anus," yelled somebody. The naked man pushed himself through the crown and handed Willy a Russian gold coin, called "swinka."

This will do, he said thankfully. With the help of another boy, he unscrewed the bar and using it as a crow bar, he started to work to pry the wooden planks. His hands started to bleed and stained the metal bar.

Prying the wood open and in his excitement he did not notice that the train was moving for some time. It was night, pitch dark outside. "This is good time to jump." He was working feverishly on prying the other planks of wood.

The train came to a sharp stop. He heard Ukrainian voices. "Come here Ivan, it looks like it's here." The Ukrainian guards were approaching our car. He kept his breath. Through the slot he saw two Ukrainian guards checking the cars with flashlights. "Everything is OK. Ivan, let's go."

The guard called Ivan replied "Why don't we tell those fucking Jews to be quiet, to stop moaning and crying. They drive me up the wall"

"Leave them alone. We are not far from Belzec. There they all will be gassed and burned. In a matter of hours they all will be a hip of ashes. Leave the dead alone. Will you?"

Willy was startled. He knew that they are on a death train, but somehow he did not believe this. The Germans always used code names. Killings they called resettlements. The brutal truth shook me to the bones and increased his determination to jump.

The silence was interrupted by a loud voice singing "Al Mole Rachmim," the prayers for the death. I looked around and saw the old man, Reb Nahum standing half naked in the cattle car crowded with the mass of miserable humanity .

"Reb Nahum what are thanking God for? That he created us in his image to be transported in cattle cars for the slaughter? Please be quiet and don't get on my nerves." Willy shouted annoyed.

"You don't understand my son. It is written in the Kabbalah that when A Jew dies and is about to go heaven, he sees all his parents, grandparents, all his family welcoming him to heaven. He dies quietly and is filled with peace and joyful expectations. The wicked one are full of anxiety and concern before their death because they see the flames of hell. I see the gates of heaven, and I see my Mother , blessed their memory waiting for me impatiently, and I am thankful God for the tranquility he gives me before my departure from this world. You must be heading for hell they way you behave. I am sorry for you son."

"No, Reb Nahum," Willy said softly, "I am not ready to die. I am returning to the hell of the ghetto. I jumping this train. My time has not come yet."

"God bless you my son. Israel Betach Badonai. Despite everything we Jews have to rely on the Lord for our salvation. He put his hands on I head and blessed him. Yewrercha Adonai W'Yeshmirecha .."Let God bless you and protect you ..."

After ten minutes the trains started to move again. Willy worked feverishly to enlarge the opening. He was preparing to jump when he heard a frantic voice. An old naked lady was pushing toward him.

"What are you doing boy? You cannot jump. The German will kill all of us if they discover that you are missing. They counted carefully the people."

The old lady was naked with hair dishelved and had this crazy, disoriented look on her face. She was half mad and scared.

"Lady," said Willy calmly. "We are all going to be killed. They will not count. Please let me go."

"Over my dead body," cried the Lady, pushing herself toward the opening.

He felt the blood rushing to his head. "Lady if you don't get out of my way I will kill you." He drew nearer looking menacingly.

"No over my dead body you will jump," replied the woman. Willy grabbed her at the throat and squeezed with all his strength. When he let her go, the old woman was dead.

Without looking back, Willy approached the opening and slowly lowered himself. When the train slowed down, he jumped.

Before he hit the ground he saw a flash, and seconds later he heard the boom of the shot. He hugged the ground and, lying motionless waiting for the train to pass.

A minute after the train passed, he slowly raised himself from the ground, slowly moved his legs, and realized that he is stark naked.


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kimel@systec.com