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Dr. Sommerstein’s Daughter Describes German Destruction of Lwow Jews

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The whole story of what happened to the Jews of Lwow was unfolded to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent here by Myra Sommerstein-Woliz, daughter of Dr. Emil Sommerstein, prominent Zionist and a member of the Polish Committee of National Liberation, and her husband, Dr. Marek Woliz.

“Before the Germans came,” she began, “there were well over 100,000 Jews in Lwow, and no more than 10,000 of them succeeded in escaping with the Red Army. It was fortunate that during the year of Soviet rule thousands of Jews went East and thus their lives were saved.

“The Germans came July 1, 1941. Within two days they forced all Jews to wear white armbands bearing Stars of David. July 15 all the Jews were told to register with the police for work. That day thousands were taken directly from the registration points and were never seen again. It is believed that five to six thousand were killed then. About 2,000 Jews remain in Lwow today. So you can see what happened.”

The Germans, she continued, assigned her husband to work in the Jewish hospital as a physician, while she was sent to work in the Jewish Hospital for Infectious Diseases. In the Catholic and other hospitals, nurses and other personnel were inoculated against disease, but this was not permitted for Jews.

GERMANS EXTORTED HUGE BRIBES FROM JEWS IN LWOW

Within five or six months after the German occupation, a ghetto was established, but the Germans did not seal it off from the rest of the city in consideration of a bribe of 2,000,000 zlotys, about $400,000. Similar payments were made several times, and the ghetto was not closed off until November, 1942. In the Spring of 1942, thousands of Jews were killed in the streets of the ghetto and in their homes, marking the beginning of large-scale massacres.

Myra and Marck Woliz were slated to be killed in August, 1942, but were saved by two Italian officers with whom they had become friendly. For eight days they hid in the officers’ house. During that time all of Dr. Woliz’ family, some 18 or 20 people, were killed. When the pogrom had subsided, they returned to the Jewish hospital.

On September 1, at 4,30 A.M., Gestapo men drove up to the hospital and guns in hands forces the doctors to lead their patients into the cars. Infuriated by the doctors’ slowness, the Gestapo dragged ill women and children, and aged men into the cars. Many doctors were also killed.

LEADERS OF LWOW JEWISH COMMUNITY HANGED FROM BALCONY BY GESTAPO

The same day the Gestapo hanged Dr. Landberg, chairman of the “Judenrat,” and seven other prominent Jews from the balcony of Landberg’s home, which was across the street from the hospital. All Germans in the city were invited to come and see how Jews were hung. Rabbi Levin of Lwow was seized in the street while en route to the home of the Catholic Bishop to ask him to intercede with the Nazis, and was taken to prison where he was beaten to death.

Obtaining forged Catholic birth certificates, Myra and her husband fled to Krakow and from there to Chelm, where Dr. Woliz worked as a lumberjack. They stayed there until the end of July when one day, unexpectedly, Soviet tanks lumbered into the village of Lumuv, near Chelm, where they had been living.

After the liberation of Chelm, they discovered that Dr. Sommerstein was still alive and had become a member of the Polish Committee of National Liberation. A few days later Myra was reunited there with her father who could hardly believe that she was alive.

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