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Dina Pickholz Ostrower photographs

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2012.243.1

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    Photographs of the the Pickholz family in Synowodzko Nizne and in Stryj, Poland before the war; photographs of Donia during the war in Bolechow, when she worked in a German beerhouse pretending to be an illiterate Ukrainian girl; photographs of Donia with the Jewish couple Malka and Shlomo Reinharz, whose lives she saved during the Holocaust; and photographs of Josef Ostrower and his bride Donia after the war, in Cyprus and later in Israel.
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Dina Pickholz Ostrower
    Collection Creator
    Dina Ostrower
    Dina (Donia) Pickholz was born on December 26, 1923, in Stryj, Poland (Stryi, Ukraine), to Mates (Matitiahu) and Sheindl Pickholz. Mates was born in 1898 in Synowodzko Nizne (Nyzhnje Syn’ovydne, Ukraine), and Sheindl was born in 1895 in Stryj. Mates and his father, Baruch, were the managers of a small farm owned by an Austrian named Gestenberg(?) in the village of Synowodzko Nizne, south of Stryj. Donia was the second of four children: Liba, born 1921; Gita, born 1926; and Yitzkhak, born 1927. Synowodzko Nizne was very small and had five Orthodox Jewish families. The children attended the local Polish school until fourth grade and then attended school in Stryj. Donia and her siblings spoke Ukrainian, in addition to Polish and Yiddish, since they had a Ukrainian nanny. The family was observant and had a comfortable, happy life.

    On September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded eastern Poland. Fearing a pogrom, the Pickholz family moved to Stryj, the day after the Soviets arrived, staying with Ukrainian friends. During the Soviet occupation, Donia got involved in the black market selling leather goods to support the family. On June 22, 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union. The Germans occupied Stryj on July 2, and began to implement anti-Jewish measures. A Judenrat was created, Jews were forced to wear Star of David badges, and a ghetto was established. On August 22, the intelligentsia of the village, about 1000 Jewish males, including Donia's uncle Fiszel, were rounded up and shot. By August, the Pickholz family was in the ghetto, which was very overcrowded with poor sanitary conditions. The family was forced to sell most of their possessions. Donia worked in a tannery and convinced the owner to allow her to grow a vegetable garden in the back. She delivered vegetables to his wife in exchange for bread, and smuggled vegetables to her mother. There were two large actions in September and October 1942, when thousands of Jews were transported to Belzec killing center. The family hid in a secret space had built in the basement, but they were discovered and put into an overcrowded cattle car. Some men bent the rusted iron bars on the window and escaped. Donia begged her family to escape, but they would not, so she jumped out alone. She walked three days and reached Stryj where she lived live with her maternal aunt and uncle, Josef and Malka Heller, and worked at the tannery. One day, Josef removed the Jewish patch from his clothing and snuck out of the ghetto to return to his home village, Trochanow. He visited the local priest and requested false identity papers for Donia. The priest, who had been hidden by Jews during the Soviet occupation, gave him the documents of a Ukrainian girl named Efrozyna Skobelek, who had died in an accident. The roundups were extremely frequent in the spring and summer of 1943, when many Jews were shot in Holobutow forest. Josef urged Donia to take the false papers and run, but she did not want to leave. Josef took Donia to Rabbi Perlov who told her she must save herself. In July 1943, Donia went into hiding. While working at the tannery, she had heard that a beerhouse was being opened for the Germans in the neighboring town of Bolechow (Bolekhiv, Ukraine). She destroyed her Jewish documents and badge, put on a colorful Ukrainian head covering, and traveled to Bolechow by train. The Stryj ghetto was liquidated at the end of July. Josef and Malka were killed. Stryj was declared free of Jews in August.

    Donia got a job at the bar in Bolechow and pretended to be an illiterate Christian Ukrainian orphan with a fiancé working in Germany. Donia was given permission to raise pigs in the bar’s courtyard. Another Ukrainian girl named Maryjka Kolczycki began to live and work at the bar. Donia suspected that she was also a Jew in hiding but did not say anything. They went to church together every week. The bar manager requested that a Jewish bookkeeper named Shlomo Reinharz come work for her. Shlomo and his wife Malka were living in a labor camp for the leather factory. In August, Donia and Maryjka decided to hide the couple. They had heard that a large force of Germans would be arriving and surmised that they were coming to liquidate the camps. They made a small hiding space above the outhouse for the couple. The noise and smell of the nearby pigs helped conceal them. Donia and Maryjka brought them food by saying it was for the pigs, but bringing them water was more difficult so they were often thirsty. A week after being hidden, Shlomo and Malka heard the shootings of the remaining forced laborers. The bar manager’s sister came to visit and asked Donia to come work for her, but Donia would not leave Shlomo and Malka and said she was awaiting the return of her fiancé. The Germans ordered that the town be searched for hidden Jews. Donia caused one of the pigs to choke to provide a distraction from the search of the outbuildings. The pressure of hiding the Reinharz' became too much for Maryjka and she left to work at the local orphanage. During the winter, Maryjka brought the couple duvets from the orphanage when the outhouse became cold.

    Bolechow was liberated by the Soviet Army in August 1944. Donia, with Maryjka's help, had hidden the Reinharz for thirteen months. Maryjka revealed that she was Jewish and her real name was Frydka Lest. She left for her home town, Kolczyce. Donia never saw her again. Donia returned to Stryj, and when the war ended in May 1945 went to Sambor to look for her family, but found no one. She moved west in summer 1945, passing through Krakow and Bytom. In December 1945, she left Poland for Czechoslovakia with the aid of the Bricha movement that helped refugees travel illegally. In January 1947, Donia left Leipheim displaced persons camp in Germany with Bricha members. They went to Italy, then left for Palestine. Palestine was ruled by the British who restricted immigration. The group was captured and sent by the British to a detention camp in Cyprus. In the camp, Donia met Josef Ostrower, who was born July 3, 1913, in Stanislawow, Poland. He had survived under an assumed identity in Poland and then the Soviet Union. In 1948, as the British prepared to withdraw from Palestine, they began permitting detainees to leave for Palestine. Donia left Cyprus in April 1948. The independent state of Israel was established in May. Josef arrived in June and he and Donia married on June 12, 1949, in Tel Aviv. They had two sons in 1950 and 1955. Shlomo and Malka Reinharz immigrated to Israel in 1950. Josef, age 94, died in December 2007.

    Physical Details

    1 folder

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Administrative Notes

    The papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012 by Dina Pickholz Ostrower.
    Funding Note
    The acquisition of this collection was made possible by the Crown Family.
    Record last modified:
    2024-03-19 11:32:07
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