I am very excited to share that a feature length documentary is coming out soon, it is in post-production regarding Trochenbrod, the small Polish town (shtetl) my father is from. It no longer exists today as it was annihilated by the Nazis during WWII. All but 33 of the 5000 inhabitants were murdered. My father, his sister, Betty, and parents, Ely and Rivka, all escaped, survived and made it to America. My dad’s one brother wasn’t so fortunate. While my mother would tell us that she was in two of the concentration camps set up by the Germans, Aushwitz and Bergen Belsen, my father told stories of his family going into hiding. At one point, they hid in the woods. They had dug a long, narrow hole in the ground, and hid there for I don’t know how long. At other times, they would ask the local gentiles if they could hide in their barn.
This one particular time, my father told me, a farmer refused them refuge, and they continued on foot for quite a long distance. That night they heard a big commotion in the distance, and learned the next day, that the Nazis had been to that farm and demolished the barn and killed everyone on site.
My father told me that he joined forces with the Russian rebellion; he was just a boy at the time. He did come to this country, speaking fluent Russian, and Polish and Yiddish. Presently, the only remaining survivor from Trochenbrod in my family is my Aunt Betty. She traveled to Trochenbrod site, which for a while became part of the Soviet Union but presently is now part of Ukraine. She is in the documentary. She is wearing a blue shirt and red and white scarf around her neck. Later on, she is wearing a khaki hat.
Watch the trailer. It says that Trochenbrod was the only all Jewish town to exist outside of Israel. Seemed like a very special place, with everyone knowing everyone else.
When I was in college one year, I traveled with my mother to Israel to attend an International Holocaust Survivor’s Reunion. We stayed with an older couple, perhaps related, that was also hiding out along with my father’s family. One day, the Nazis were coming when they were in someone’s house. Everyone, including all of the children were jumping out the back window and running for the woods. My father, his sister and parents made it to safety in the woods, however, this couple from Israel, their three children didn’t make it and were gunned down. After the war, they immigrated to Israel. After so many years of being asked by people if they had children, at some point, they began saying, no, they never had children.
I found a blog entry someone posted regarding my aunt giving a presentation to students at Malone University. She shares more details about her experience in that post. http://joedresch.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/betty-potash-gold-holocaust-survivor-recounts-horrors-to-malone-students/
The film Everything is Illuminated is based on Trochenbrod.