Below is an excerpt of the Ostrowiec youth mentioned in the book ‘HaDerech Lecherut' (The Way to Freedom) written by Joseph Zvi Halperin. [Page:27]
The Ostrovtzer youth who reached our group were sent to us by the local committee people who feared for the refugees’ lives. They arrived in two groups: The first group, five girls and a boy, arrived in the second half of May; the second group, four girls and three boys, around a month afterwards. Some of these youths belonged to Zionist youth groups before the war, mainly to Betar; others came without any Zionist motivation, at times even against their will. (From among the thirteen Ostrovtzers who came to us in Kielce, only six settled in the Land; one girl who remained in Kielce was murdered there on July 4, 1946; six girls left us along the way and settled in America.)
Yaakov Gotholc was born in 1920 in the village of Bodzechow, south of Ostrowiec. He was the oldest of us, a Betar cadet and son of a religious school teacher. He had four brothers and four sisters.
In 1942, the Jews of his village were ordered to move into the Ostrowiec ghetto. Two years later he was transported to Auschwitz. In mid-January 1945, as the Soviet army was drawing near, Yaakov found himself on the infamous Death March. After trudging through fierce cold for tens of kilometers, while west of the city Gliwice, the Germans began shooting those who were lagging behind. Yaakov threw himself to the ground and laid among the dead covered in their blood. The murderers took no notice and the procession continued its march westward. Yaakov found refuge with a local farmer, where he remained until the arrival of the Red Army.
Upon returning to his native village, he didn’t find a single Jew. A local priest invited him into his home and offered to teach him the principles of the Catholic faith, presuming he would convert. Yaakov, seeing no other option, accepted his offer and stayed with him for two months. One night his father appeared to him in a dream and the next day he picked himself up and left. He journeyed to Lodz, having heard that there were Jews there. In Lodz he met a friend who told him about the group in Kielce that was about to emigrate to the Land of Israel. Upon arriving at our community headquarters, Kalman was initially opposed to accepting him owing to his age, but after much pleading and a little graft he finally agreed.
Yaakov won the admiration of everyone in the group on account of his humility, his enheartening smile, his open heart, his pleasant demeanor, and his fatherly approach to his comrades in the group. He was always the first to identify sources of food wherever we went and he never did so out of his own self-interest. At times of crisis, it was always possible to rely on his resourcefulness. Upon joining the group, a surprise awaited him: Batsheva’s voice reminded him in its tone of his family’s and sure enough it turned out that they were second cousins. Sometime later Yaakov learned that one of his brothers, Meir, was still alive.
-For page listing all members of the group see this page.
Cover of book in Hebrew: "The Way to Freedom"