ALEXANDER KIMEL - HOLOCAUST UNDERSTANDING & PREVENTION
HOME - SITE
MAIN & INDEX
Out of the Grave
Yom Kippur Action
I Almost Killed ...
The Last Sermon
Lovers and Enemies
Shlojme the Balagule
The Fall of Sevastopol
War against Jews
Victims of Antisem
The Worst Camp
Hitler - Syphilitic
Hitler the Man
Hitler & Jews
Jews & Germans
Jews & Poles
Hlc. Sites Links
Our Mail & Press
THE FALL OF SEVASTOPOL
Willy distinctly heard the voice of Dietrich: "I believe that the Jews are laughing at us. I do have to get them, and I will get them."
"But Herr Dietrich, three months passed after the liquidation of the ghetto. All Jews are dead now." Replied Hans, Dietrich's assistant.
"I don't agree with you. You don't know those Jews.
They cling to life at all cost. They will do anything
to stay alive. We have to patrol the area until we
Willy's heart lost a beat for a moment, his blood
drained. He knew that they are in danger. Dietrich was
a Jew hater. Dietrich patrolled the area with his
German shepherd. Dietrich was a German Policeman who at
the March 20 action saved about 20 Jews. Later after the
continuation of the killing he received a letter that
his wife and children were killed in a bombing raid. He
changed overnight. He blamed the Jews for the death of
his family and was hunting Jews with his dog.
At the time of the ghetto liquidation about 30 Jews hid, in the extensive bunker, called Sevastopol. They adjusted to living without sunlight, without daylight. The news from the outside was tragic. They stayed underground witnessing liquidation of the Ghetto.
To maintain contact with the outside world they
established, around the clock vigil, at the listening
posts, at the bottom of the main vent. The news was
tragic: "They got Moses Orenstein, Willy heard screams and
later a few shots." Another sentry reported: "They found
Finkelstein. Willy heard Sarah sobbing and the baby crying.
It was heartbreaking."
The underground community was prepared for a long siege. To
maintain a resemblance of normality a rigid social system
was established. Food was rationed, everybody received the
same portion. Water was plentiful for drinking, but
limited amount were allowed for washing. There was a
problem the waste disposal.
After a few days when the things quiet down, the wonder of
human adaptation took place - friction and conflicts
erupted. The fight for the pecking order. "Ettie Barron
wanted to have grit for supper, while Regina insisted that
the potatoes, be eaten first. Grits could be preserved
To fight boredom they started to play chess. The
competition heated up and the best chess players became the
new aristocracy. Quarrels and fights provided the much
As in any organized community a natural leader emerged, the
leadership of Sevastopol was taken over by Mr. Bloch.
Realizing that the news from the outside undermined, the
morale of the community, he decreed that the news should be
shared only with a few men. "Lets save the nerves of the
women." He also established an arbitration board to solve
the chess quarrels.
Like the religious Jews waiting for the birth of the moon,
so the bunker people waited at the ventilation shaft for
the sign of daylight, to start their daily activities.
Most, started the day with prayers, some just said the
Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. With the prevailing
destruction the Kaddish stirred them up emotionally, made
them feel alive.
Looking at this strange underground congregation, reciting the
praise for the Creator, Willy felt that it was the Kaddish
that kept us together for generations. Paying homage to their
forefathers, was the link that kept generations together.
Willy spent a lot of time at the listening posts. At the
surface the ghetto was burned down and systematically
destroyed. Most of the Jews were shipped to the Belzec. From
time to time we heard some shots, the Germans were executing
the latecomers. From the direction of the shots Willy assumed
that the Germans were executing the Jews at the old at Jewish
As things quiet down, they assumed that the Germans and the local population forgot about them. Now, when Willy heard Dietrich's voice, he faced a dilemma. The news about Dietrich will create a panic. "They had no place to run, no place to hide. So, why tell them?"
Next day Dietrich was back. "Herr Dietrich, do you want
me to patrol the area every night. I won't be able to
function during the day. I do have other
responsibilities." Willy heard Hans complaining.
"Finishing of the Jews is our main responsibility. I
want you to be here every night with the dog. Just walk
the area with the dog. It is an order. No it is the
Fuhrer's order to get rid of the Jews. I am following
"Jawohl, Herr Commandant." Answered Schmidt.
Willies dilemma increased tremendously. "Telling the
people will create a panic. Where can we go? Staying
here is dangerous, leaving invites a sure death. We had
no place to go."
He decided to alert Bloch. "We have to make preparation
for abandoning the bunker. Dietrich is on our trail."
"I don't believe it. They won't find us. We have to be
quieter only. No way can they find us. And besides
where can we go. Here at least is . . . our home.
Here we have what to eat. Here we can sleep in peace."
Bloch did not want to face the reality.
Now, most of the nights Willy spent at the listening
post. One night, about a week later, the dog suddenly
picked up their scent; he started to run in circles,
barking and growling excited. Willy heard the Germans
shouting, but it was dark and they did not find them.
In the morning the Germans came back and in the
daylight discovered the masked vent pipe. "We found
Sevastopol." Dietrich shouted excited. "Now we will be
able to flush out the Jewish rats"
"How are you going to do it? I don't see any entrance."
"I will find a way. Go bring a few Ukrainian policemen.
We will need help. This has to be planned like a
military operation. We can't let them go." Dietrich was
After the Ukrainians arrived, they searched for the
entrance. They worked for till noon and did not locate
it. The main entrance was located in the cellar of the
burned out building, and neither the dog nor the
Ukrainians could find it.
In the afternoon Dietrich said to Hans. "I am going to
the Army Commandant to ask for the release of hand
grenades. We need the grenades to bring the Jews up."
"I don't believe that the Jews could have survived for
so long. Forget it Herr Dietrich."
Willy called Bloch and told him about the situation.
"We can't keep people in the dark. Let everybody decide
his fate. Let them make their own decision. We might
have to break out."
Bloch said, "Let me talk with Shlojme. He is a smart
man. I, myself would rather spare them the unnecessary
anguish. Let them die in peace. Willy forbid you to
talk to anybody about the situation."
Willy knew that Dietrich will get the hand grenades. In
Hitler's Germany the war against the Jews was the first
priority. Willy decided to close the outer chamber where
the main vent line terminated. Willy scraped up some
spare lumber, closed the tunnel leading toward the
chamber, and filling it with dirt.
Sonia was helping me in this task, when Bloch came
running. "I what are you doing for Heaven's sake? . We
will choke to death. We need the ventilation. We will
choke to death."
"We have to do it," Willy replied. "They are going to
throw hand grenades. We have to isolate the tunnel, to
retain the shock of the explosion."
Bloch was adamant. "The grenades will bury the chamber.
The closing of the area will make things worse. The
lumber will be blown away and damage the middle chamber.
Willy, forbid you to proceed. Concentrate rather on the
enlargement of the auxiliary vent. Please, open the
spare shaft to provide additional ventilation."
The entrance to the bunker, the trap door was located
under the floor of the baking oven that was in
Shlojme's stable. The stable was still smelling with
manure, and this gave us additional protection.
When building the bunker, Willy made a small opening in
the wooden trap door, and the in the chimney Willy
installed a sack with dirt. By pulling a string,
running through the door opening, we opened the sack
releasing the dirt for camouflaging. Now, Willy decided
to enlarge the opening in the trap door, to provided
ventilation. It was a risk they had to take.
Willy was working on the opening when the first hand
grenade was tossed and the thundering explosion shook
the bunker. The boom was partially absorbed by
labyrinth of the tunnels, but the electric cable was cut
plunging the bunker into total darkness. Then in short
intervals additional four explosions occurred.
Panic hit the bunker. In the darkness Willy heard
sobbing of the women. "It was too good to last, at
least we lived a few months longer, encouraged Mojshe
Binder his crying young wife.
"They are going to bury us alive. I am getting scared. I
don't want to be buried alive. I prefer to be shot in
the daylight. I want to see the sun before I die."
Mrs. Bloch became hysterical. Bloch and Shlojme tried to
restrain her. She wanted to get out.
The next explosions had a smaller impact. The blast
buried the entrance to the shallow interconnecting
tunnel but the shoring, made out of old railroad ties,
held up the impact.
Willy ran to the listening post and again he heard the
blood freezing "Juden Raus. Juden Raus." When he
returned to the main chamber he saw Bloch lit a candle,
and the flickering light revealed a ghastly scene: A
group of scared men, women and children, sitting in
circle, their faces distorted with a painful fear,
waiting for their death. "This is a grave. This is a
grave. I want to get out. I want to be shot in the
sunlight. I want to see the sun before I die." Sobbed
Willy returned to the new listening post, under the trap
door. Schmidt tried to convince Dietrich that they are
fighting the windmills like Don Quixote. "It must be an
old vent. Nobody is there. Let's go." He said.
"No Hans. I believe in my dog, Put. They must be hiding
there. I will get them out."
"There is no use of wasting hand grenades anymore. The
hole will get only bigger. Are you prospecting for oil
or coal?" Hans joked.
"No. I am getting those Jews out. I do have an idea.
Lets use smoke grenades. The smoke will surely flush the
Jews out." Dietrich was serious.
"My God, they are going to choke us to death." Willy
immediately ran to the main chamber and organized a
party. They were working feverishly to close the
tunnel, leading to the main vent. Then the area was
covered with damp bedding.
Before they could finish the job. Will heard dampened
thunder of two explosions. The end was coming. He took a
flashlight from Bloch and went to check the entrance to
the tunnel. It was holding. The smoke was retained. At
least for now. They are going to live for a few more
He returned to the listening post to discover that the
smoke backed up and attacked the Germans and Ukrainians.
He heard coughing. They will have to stop using the
smoke grenades. Dietrich ordered the Ukrainians to guard
the area, and retreated.
The news that the German failed with smoke grenades
caused relief and even jubilation in the underground
community. People became hungry and the dried bread with
water tasted like the best cake.
The night passed quietly. In the morning Willy
recognized the voice of Tomash, the Fireman. It looks
like that Dietrich brought in the manual pumper from the
"We are going to flood the underground bunker with water
from the river." He recognized the voice of Dietrich.
"But I don't have such a long hose," objected Tomash.
"We can't do it. "
"How much hose do you need?"
"About a hundred feet of hose, using the standard
"Hans ordered Dietrich take the Volsvagen and go to the
next town to get the hose." Dietrich was like a
"We will pump the water as long it takes."
"Good luck Dietrich, I hope you find some Jews, otherwise
we will become the laughingstock," retorted Hans.
Operating the pumper required hard work, and additional
men were needed. Willy heard Dietrich calling the
Commandant of the Ukrainian Police and asked them to
clear the area from the curious onlookers. "This is not
a gladiator show. If somebody wants to watch the drama
let him work."
It looks like he got plenty of volunteers because the
humming and cracking of the pumper never stopped. At the
beginning the water filled out the underground void, and
started to backup. The clogging of the interconnecting
tunnel by the explosions of the hand grenades prevented
the water from penetrating the bunker. The water from
the pumper was backing up and flooding the grounds,
running off to the river.
"Nobody is there, Dietrich, lets finish this ridiculous
show," begged Hans.
Dietrich was almost ready to call of the pumping, when
suddenly and Ukrainian called out all excited. "It
broke through . The water broke through."
Dietrich ran fast, and saw the water level at the vent
dropping fast. It was like unclogging a water closet.
"We got them. We got them. Keep pumping the pumpers.
Keep pumping." He shouted excited.
"The pressure of the water, swept away the loose non
compacted layer of dirt clogging the tunnel, and the
water slowly penetrated the bunker network."
On the surface the crowd started to cheer, while the
people in the bunker slowly resigned to our fate. The
Day of Judgment had come. Shlojme and Bloch pout on
their prayer shawls and in started to pray silently with
the typical rhythmic motion. The women kissed the
Willy went back to the listening post where Sonia found
me. She was excited. "Willy, the water is receding.
They gave up. We are going to make it.'
Indeed the water receded an inch after inch. Shlojme
looked up from under the prayer shawl and said." God
answered our prayers. The Lord is saving us."
Bloch was breathing heavily, his face was all covered
with sweat. He was gasping for air. "We need cross
ventilation, otherwise we are going to die, choke to
death. We have to dig another shaft."
"Forget up about another shaft. We have to run. Dietrich
will never give up. It is time to prepare for the
Shlojme emerged from under the prayer shawl, said "I am
too old to run again. I will stay. You can run."
At the listening post Willy heard Tomash arguing with
Dietrich: "The pumper broke down, it is not designed to
work without an interruption. I can't give you the
other pumper, without the permission of the Oberamter."
"Why?" asked Dietrich.
"In case of a fire, the whole town is going to burn
down. I cannot do it. I cannot leave the town without
Dietrich was fuming. "Get the repairman," he ordered his
After an hour, Schmidt returned accompanied by a tall
lanky Pole who everybody called Anton.
Anton surveyed the broken pumper, pulled out the supply
hose from the river and said in a firm voice. "You did
not use a strainer, The pumper is either clogged or the
cylinders jammed. "
"How long will it take to fix it?" Dietrich was annoyed:
"It depends what is broken. From one day to one week."
Came the answer.
Get to work immediately," ordered Dietrich assigning a
Ukrainian policeman for supervision.
At night, Willy warned Bloch: "Listen we have a few
hours to abandon the bunker. We have no defense against
the water. It will penetrate at the cracks and drown us.
I prefer to die fighting . . . I am leaving tonight.
Bloch remained silent for a minute. I could see the
pain in his eyes. "Good luck I. . . I will wait
another night. If you succeed in breaking out, I will
go next. I do have to do it. My wife will die here
The breakout did not occur and the next day day the townspeople had their last road show: Two flatbed, horse drive wagons were taking the defenders of Sevastopol to the cemetery to be shot. It looks like the French revolution, the condemned driven to the guillotine, and the crowds are cheering.