Bearing Witness: Stories Behind the Artifacts in the Yad Vashem Museum Collection

Tefillin (phylacteries) that belonged to Zvi Nojman, deported with his family from Dihtinet, Romania to Transnistria

Tefillin (phylacteries) that Zvi Nojman had with him throughout the war and continued to use during his life in IsraelTefillin (phylacteries) that Zvi Nojman had with him throughout the war and continued to use during his life in Israel   More photos

The Nojman family lived in Dihtinet in the Bukovina region, a town with about 50 Jewish families. Abba Nojman had migrated there from Galicia, purchased forested land and established a lumber business. Abba and his wife Esther had three children: Sally (b. 1923), Zvi (b. 1926) and Judith (b. 1933). The family lived in comfort and led a traditional religious life.

In June 1940, sovereignty over the area of Dihtinet was transferred to the Soviets. During this period, the Communist regime deported most business owners to Siberia, but Abba Nojman managed to avoid deportation by hiding in the forests with the help of his workers, who brought him food.

With the withdrawal of the Soviets and the entry of German troops the rest of Abba’s family joined him in the forest, but Romanian gendarmes found their hiding place and returned them to their home, which had been plundered and destroyed in the interim. Within a short time the Jews were rounded up and deported to Bessarabia. The deportees wandered from place to place for weeks, surviving by bartering their clothing for food, but many died nonetheless due to the harsh conditions.

Upon arrival in Tiganesti (Orhei) the deportees were housed in the empty homes of local Jews who had recently been deported. The polluted water there caused the death of many, including Chaim Rosenberg, Esther’s father, who was buried in the local Jewish cemetery.

From Tiganesti the surviving deportees were driven across the Dniester River  to Mogilev, in the Ukraine. The Nojman family was housed together with other families in an empty home, but this too was only for a short time until they were sent with others back to Tiganesti, this time to a camp surrounded by barbed wire. The inmates suffered from starvation and appalling sanitary conditions. To keep hunger at bay they sold their few remaining garments, as well as nails they removed from the barracks, to the local villagers in exchange for food. An epidemic of typhus broke out before long, and the eldest daughter Sally fell ill and died.

After six months in the camp, the Nojman family was transferred with others to Krasna, on the Bug River, where they were housed in the empty homes of local Jews who had been murdered in the nearby forest. For close to a year, the Nojmans managed to survive there by bartering and supplying basic tailoring services to the local villagers.

In total, the Nojman family survived four years of hardship, wandering and camps until Soviet forces finally liberated the area. In early 1944 the Nojmans were able to return to Romania, where they were allotted a house in Vatra Dornei that had belonged to Jews who did not return.

Zvi immigrated to Eretz Israel in  July 1946, arriving on the ship “Haganah”. He enlisted in the Palmach on his arrival. Judith followed him in 1948.