After less than two years, on June 22, 1941, the Nazis broke the Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact and invaded the Soviet-held territories. By July 2 the Nazis entered Korets and immediately instituted their racial policies against the Jews.
TESTIMONY: “NAZIS ARRIVE IN KORETS”
“Jews were not “human beings.”
Everything that the refugees had described about the German persecution of the Jews was now a stark reality for Meir and all the Jews of Korets. The Nazis conducted random searches in Jewish homes, and physically attacked Jews on the streets.
For Meir, the situation became particularly personal when the Nazis decided to set up a Jewish council called the Judenrat to help govern the Jewish community. As a leading figure in the community, the Nazis ordered Meir’s father to be part of this council.
It was difficult for Mr. Kransnostawski to know whether to comply with the Nazi orders, but he hoped that by being involved in this way he would be able to help his fellow Jews.
TESTIMONY: “THE Judenrat ”
“And then, five people were chosen…”
In August 1941 the Nazis closed off the roads leading to the Jewish neighborhood, creating a ghetto surrounded by a barbed wire fence and guarded by soldiers. In this way, the lives of the Jews came under complete control of the Nazis.
One day, a few months after Meir turned 13 years old, he was suddenly seized by Nazi soldiers who took him to their headquarters.
TESTIMONY: “MEIR’S JOB”
“At the beginning, I was their servant.”
Meir spent many hours working in the Nazi headquarters. At times, Meir worked as a translator because he had already picked up a bit of German. One man that Meir accompanied as a translator, Sergeant Kurt, took a special liking to the boy. In his private life, Kurt was married and had five children, but as a sergeant he was known for his tremendous cruelty. Kurt would mercilessly shoot at any Jew who did not take his hat off in deference to the sergeant. However, when dealing with Meir, Kurt treated him like his own son, making sure that no harm came to him.
Kurt also allowed Meir to eat leftover food from the kitchen and to bring some home to his family, which was crucial to their survival as food became more and more difficult to find. Many Jews bartered away all their valuables in exchange for food, but the Kransnostawskis managed to survive on the food Meir obtained from the Nazi headquarters.
In February of 1942 Meir and his father hid many of their remaining possessions underground, in the hope that after the war someone from the family would survive and retrieve their belongings to begin life anew.