The Life and Destruction of Olshan
(Gol'shany, Belarus)

54°15' / 26°01'

Translation of
Lebn um umkum fun Olshan

Edited by: Former residents of Olshan in Israel (Irgun Yotzey Olshan)

Published in Tel Aviv, 1965

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Project Coordinators

Jack Leibman

Sheldon Clare (emeritus)


This is a translation from: Lebn um umkum fun Olshan;
The life and destruction of Olshan. Tel Aviv, former residents of Olshan in Israel (Irgun Yotzey Olshan), 1965. (H,Y)

Note: The original book can be seen online at the NY Public Library site: Olshan

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Introduction about this translation

I am a retired physician, now 88, born in 1927 in Baltimore, living in San Francisco since 1951. I received my B.A. from Johns Hopkins U. in 1947, and my M.D. from U. of Maryland in 1951. Since then, I have been writing intermittently, initially in the scientific area, then more generally, mostly essays, reportage, memoirs, poetry, and a few translations from German.

I knew very little about my family background. But my son, who is much more interested in genealogy than I, had come up with some interesting new information about my father's origins, new to me. He had ferreted out copies of my father's naturalization certificate and his draft registration, which led to additional facts about the actual location of his village in Poland-I had always thought it was in Russia. My father had served in the Russian Army in WWI, and had been wounded. When he came to the US in 1923, he left behind a family, a wife and two sons. Somehow he, his mother and younger sister made their way to Copenhagen, and boarded a ship to America. And the outlines of his subsequent history were fairly clear. He had married my mother in 1926; she had come from a shtetl in Latvia, named Preili. But what about his earlier history in Poland? His shtetl was named Olshon or Olshan, near Lithuania, an area occupied by the Germans in WWI, then for three years by the Russians, interrupted by Cossack raids, then again by the Poles, the Russians, and finally by the Germans. During the Russian interval, my father had been drafted into the Russian army. Then came a momentous finding by my son. He had discovered, from an archive in the NY Public Library, a Yizkor book about Olshan. A Yizkor book is a remembrance volume, dedicated to the history of a town and its inhabitants, and there were many such volumes to honor each small town eradicated by the holocaust.

As I glanced at this volume on-line, I noted that the more Polish name of the town was Holshany, that there were 580 pages, and it was all in Yiddish. I had learned to read and understand Yiddish in my childhood, and with the aid of some fluency in German, a dictionary and a few consultants, I began to read. I found that I was able to translate most of the material, much of it written in a clear colloquial style, reminiscent of the sounds of my childhood. Of course I hoped to find some mention of my family name, and indeed I came across several brief references, in a list of land plot owners- a pair of brothers perhaps, dated 1929, most likely cousins. The Necrology contained two memorials for at least three with my family name, and also one picture I remembered as the husband of my aunt.

The history described daily life in the shtetl of Olshan, before, during and after WWI, the inter war period and the Holocaust in great detail, enlivened by personal anecdotes about many of the more prominent town inhabitants, often enhanced by nicknames. A final section describes the remarkable odyssey of a young man's career as a partisan.And so I became engrossed first by the challenge of the translation, then by the remarkable vignettes themselves, culminating in the exciting survival odyssey of a young partisan fighter.

I was informed that this Yizkor book was originally translated by Sheldon I. Clare, under the auspices of JewishGen. Repeated contacts with Mr. Clare and the associated web searches have revealed only the Table of Contents, the Necrology and one chapter on “The Jews of my Generation”. Therefore I have undertaken my own comprehensive translation.

Jack Leibman



[Page 2]

Book Committee

Executive Committee

Shabtai Kaplan, Ziml Abramovitch, Pesakh Gershonovitch, Shifra Kotin-Trabski, Reuven Leond, Aharon Shuster


Aharon Abramovitch, Arye Gershoni, Yitzhok Khodosh, Yakov Kozlovski, Khaniya Yisraeli (Gurvitz), Moshe Ziskond

Editor of Hebrew Part

Meir Shli

[Page 3]

Reception by the Book Committee for Yakov and Batya Kaplan from America
Sitting from Left: Ziml Abramovitch, Shabtai Kaplan, Batya Kaplan, Yakov Kaplan, Ayre Gershoni, Aharon Abramovitch
Standing from left: Khanya Yisraeli, Reuven Leond, Aharon Shuster, Shifra Kotin-Trabski, Yakov Kozlovski, Pesakh Gershonovitch, Moshe Ziskond, Yitzhok Khodosh


The Town of Olshan Until World War I
17 Historical Notes  
19-39 The Jews of My Generation Yakov Kaplan
40-44 What I Remember About the Shtetl Olshan B. Z. Goldberg
45-48 This Is What the Shtetl Looked Like Shepsl Kaplan
48-50 The Jewish Workers Movement Moshe Baron
The Period Between the World Wars
53-60 In the Years of the First World War Shepsl Kaplan
61-63 Child and Teenage Years Arye Gershoni
64-65 The Tragic Fate of Esther Levin Memories from 1918 Shlomo Halevi–Levin
66-68 Memories of Childhood Leah Bloch–Rudnick
69-72 Teachers, Cheders and Modern Schools Shepsl Kaplan
73 The ‘Tarbos’ School and its Educational Activity Pesakh Gershonovitz
74 The ‘Tarbos’ School – the Light of the Town Shifra Kotin–Trabsky
75-77 Report of a Letter to Friends in America  
The Religious Life
86 Rabbi Reuben Khodesh, Cantors, Singers and Prayer Leaders Shepsl Kaplan
87 The Synagogues Pesakh Gershonovitch
90 Erev Shabbos in Shtetl A.A. Potashnik
The Economic Life
95 The Jewish Farmers and their Land Ownership Pesakh Gershonovich
97 Horticulture (Gardening) Shepsl Kaplan
99 Hand Knitting and Handicraft  
101 “Gmilos-Hesed” (Non-interest Loans) Box  
102 Cooperative Peoples-Bank  
104 “Linat Hatzedek“  
107 Firemen  
108 “Hakashra” and My Zionist Activities Arye Gershony
109 The Activity of “Hakhalutz” - Pioneer Settlers in Palestine Reuven Ben Aharon
110 (Beyt-R) and Its Cultural Activities Shifra Kotin-Trabsky
111 The Money Collection For “Keren Hakayemet” - National Fund Pesakh Gershonovitch
Types of People and Images
121-138 The Day-to-Day Lives of Olshan Jews Shepsl Kaplan
Borokh the Pharmcist  
Sh. L. Dolinski and His Communal Activities  
The “Gabai” (Synagogue Warden) Gershon Abramovitch  
The Olshan Shokhet (Ritual Slaughterer) Mordkhe-Nete and his Peasant Trade  
R' Shimon Segolovitch the Prayer Reader  
R' Yudl the Physician and His Wife “Heyvn”  
R' Itsche the Sexton and Hebrew Teacher  
R' Yoneh Gdalye the Timber Merchant  
Bonyeh Kaplan and R'Elye Schvartz  
Berl the “Emperor”  
Dudke the Smith
Yehoshua the Smith  
The “Pinchukes” (Old Family Name)  
Peshe the Baker  
Blume Berkman  
Shmuel Beyarski  
R' Leyb the Butcher  
Hirshl Rudnik  
The Family Varanovski  
The Family Gurvich  
R'Meyer the “Agent”  
139 Elyakum Litzki and His Love for “Soil Work” Mina Zhalovski-Litzki
140 The Toiler (worker) Families of Oshmaner Street Shifra Kutin-Trabski
143 Dina Potashnik Rabbi Eliezer Potashnik
144 The Family Liond Reuven Liond
145 The Family Abramovich Zeydl Bagdanovski
148 The Fanily Kozlovski  
150 The Famity Potashnik An Olshaner
Olshaners in America
160 Emigration and Longing (Nostalgia) Y.Leyb Potashnik
164 Olshaners in America Shepsl Kaplan
166 (Traykayt??) and Pride Zeydl Bogdanovski
169-190 In the Years of the German Extermination Shepsl Kaplan
The Outbreak of World War II  
The Festive Entry of the Red Army  
Germans Occupy Olshan  
The Polish Police, Local Authorities and German Fateful Sentences  
Establishment of the Jewish Council  
Looting of Jewish Possessions  
Saved myself from Olshan Slaughter and Holocust in Volozhin  
179 The Great Slaughter in Volozhin  
In the Volozhin Ghetto (?? Witness)  
In the Vishniever Ghetto (??? Witness)  
The Systematic Extermination in the Olshaner Locale (Environment)  
Resettlement of Olshan in Oshmana Ghetto  
188 The Martyrdom of Rabbi R'Moshe Aharon Feldman On the (Arisher) Side  
191 From Volozhin Back to Olshan Hana Lev-Tcherniovski
193 Zhelanke - The Mass grave of 400 Jews Haya Kzura-Katz
194-198 Under the German Regime Pesakh Gershenovitch
June 24, 1941  
The Tragic Death of Pharmacist Borukh Abramovitch Killed in a Gypsy “Action”  
Olshaner Nazi-Regime compelled to Drag Two Tanks  
199-203 Olshan Jews in German Concentration Camps Shepsl Kaplan
The Nazi Murder of Children
204 The Extermination of the Children by Germans in the Kashidar Camp Shepsl Kaplan
207 Childhood in the Shadows of the Gallows Haya Altman-Abramovitch
216 The Extermination of Children in Zhezhmir Camp Haya Kzurer-Katz
217-232 The Tortured Jews run to the Partisans Shepsl Kaplan
Anguish and Extermination in the Aleksat Camp  
The Death March and the run to the Woods  
Encounter With Soviet Troops in German Uniforms  
(Punishment - Expedition Fired Upon our Group)?  
The (Hebrew?) line?, Row) of Liberation  
The Death of Bunzeh Kaplan on the Eve of Liberation Return to the Former(old) Home After the Liberation  
233-240 The Way Through Anguish Haya Kzurer-Katz
241 In the Extermination Camp Lament (Estonia) Aharon Shuster
254 Women in Ghettos and Camps Rivka Davidson-Segalovich
262 From Camp to Camp Henye Blozer-Tchepelansky
265 The Camp in Vilna in the “Inexpensive Houses” Rivka Shkop-Abramovich
268 My Experience in the Years During the German Extermination of Jews A. A. Potashnik
Struggle (Conflict) and opposition
283 The Hero's Death of Tschepelonsky's Partisan Group Michle Gurvich-Kozlovsky
285 In Struggle against the Germans Zisl Abramovich
289 In the Woods (Forest) Sima Rudnik-Soladukha
292-364 Armed Partisan-Struggle Reuven Liand
365 Final Word  
373 Victims of the Shoah (List)  
381-429 Necrology (Obituaries)  


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