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[Pages 677-684]

On the Road to Treblinka

by Keila Yevreyski-Kremer

Translated by Martin Jacobs

Forward

Following the great “campaign” of November 2, 1942, which took in dozens of towns and villages, Goniondz included, the Germans left the Jews of Yashinovka where they were, as a trap for the Jews fleeing from the surrounding areas.

And so it was: Yashinovka was filled with Jewish refugees from all around. Among them were a small number of Goniondzers. Here too the bitter end was not long delayed. On January 25, 1943 the black day came upon all Jews who were in Yashinovka. They were assembled in the market place and transported from there on sleds to the railroad station in Knishin.


When we came to the Knishin station we noticed three small closed freight cars which were standing on the tracks and waiting for us, fifteen hundred Jews, to lead us to the slaughter. Frozen, tired, and broken, we slowly get down from the sleds and go along, with the rest of the crowd, to the cars. The noise is loud as we get into the train. In the door stands a Nazi with a rubber stick in his hand and beats us without stop on our heads and faces and quickly shoves us into the car. Everyone is pushing now with all his might, because at least in the last moments of life you want to be with the family and die together with your own. But it isn't to be allowed. The truncheons rain over our heads, children are separated from parents, wives from husbands, sisters from brothers – and there is great panic. My father and I hold each other's hands tightly, so that we, the two left from our whole family, don't lose each other now. One car is already packed with Jews and the door slammed shut. Now they push us into the second car. We rush in first, to avoid the terrible blows and settle in a corner. In minutes this car too is filled above capacity with Jews and the door is shut. Little by little the occupants recover and begin to settle down in the dark, narrow, black box (the so-called railway car).

Tired, depressed, broken, we sit down on the floor. But there isn't room enough for everyone to sit. One sits on top of another and the rest stand, pressed together like sardines. I have a place under the little window, but I give it up for an elderly man and stand pressed up against the wall. We are very crowded. It is impossible to move a limb. Hands and feet get mixed up and everyone is moaning that he has no room. The air is suffocating and the heat great. I slowly lift myself up on to tip-toe, to the little narrow window. I open it, to breathe in a little fresh air and look out for the last time at the world which I would soon have to leave forever...

It is a bright starry winter evening. The earth is covered with a thick layer of snow, shining against the light of the moon. In the wide white field stand little trees, set in rows, standing motionless in the stillness of the evening, listening to the sudden commotion. The air is pure, transparent. A great wide world is around us; no one can be seen anywhere. And here in the car – what a contrast! Hundreds of people lie tossed about, without air, and are being led to the slaughter. But then, through the window, I glimpse the figure of a woman lying motionless on the ground. Later I will find out that this is a 19 year old girl. She was severely beaten and during the trip to the station nearly froze to death. She wasn't able to get down from the sled. The driver went to ask the murderers what to do with her. “Dump her in the field and go home”, was their answer. And so he did. Now the 19 year old is lying, eyes half open, in the empty field, being extinguished like a light. But I look on almost with indifference at my frozen friend, because I know that the same fate awaits me, that tomorrow I will also lie as motionless as she, not frozen but gassed and burned. No sympathetic glance will accompany me to my rest. Over me will be the sound of cynical laughter from a Nazi, satisfying his murderous instincts by snuffing out our young lives. I again look at my dying friend, I say goodbye to her with a sympathetic look and close the window, since the children in the car are crying because of the cold. It is cold, crowded, and stuffy in the car. The children don't stop crying. They are hungry, frozen, tired, and sleepy. They huddle, crying, against their mothers' hearts, asking them for help. But unfortunately their mothers cannot now help them. They don't even have the heart to quiet them, and let them go on crying. Other mothers have fainted and their children are crying over them. Then a weak, pleading, woman's voice is heard: “Help, have pity, who has a little water, just a little water, my husband isn't well?”. The woman's voice repeats her plea several times, but in vain. No one has a drop of water to revive him, and the woman's voice grows silent.

For a short time the human mass keeps still, but soon a mighty uproar breaks out. People become like wild animals and begin pushing and shoving each other. The crowding gets even greater. The crying of children is heard anew. Mothers scream and plead: “Have pity, Jews, don't suffocate my child; you'll suffocate my child”. The noise gets louder and louder. A quick rap on the door interrupts the noise. The door opens and everyone springs back from fear. Straightaway a shout is heard: “20 marks for a loaf of bread!” The crowd now begins to press forward; everyone wants to grab a bit of bread. Only three loaves are distributed and the door is again slammed shut. A new uproar starts. People scream and beg a little piece of bread. “Give me a bit of bread. Have pity, I have a little child.” “My children are crying for food.” “All they could distribute were three loaves of bread for everybody”, another man screams. I get a little piece of bread from someone nearby. Little by little the people grow quiet. Now a general discussion starts up; first a middle-aged man “takes the floor” and tells this story: He himself is from a distant town, where the campaign of “Jewish cleansing” [Judenrein] was carried out some months ago. At the time he lost his entire family, his wife and three children. They are all now gone up in smoke. He was able to escape, and with long effort and hardship he reached Yashinovka, where the Jewish community was still in existence. When the decree hit this town too it was already impossible to escape. Actually, on the way here he again tried to save himself, but in vain. He was soon noticed and thrown back on the sled. Nevertheless he had not lost courage and called out in a cheerful voice: “Despite all troubles, Jews, let's not lose courage. We'll never be too late for death. Let's go on running; when the train is moving let's jump through the window. I'll jump; who will come with me?”

Several take courage and agree to jump; others say: “Where will we run? No one will let us cross their threshold; later we won't be able to choose when we die any more than now.” One girl tells how several people escaped from their sled. From the middle of the group a male voice is heard: “I must give up my life because of my seven year old.” From the corner is heard the weeping voice of a young woman with a little child in her arms; she screams at her mother: “It was too lonely for you to die alone; you had to have me with you. I could have saved myself.”, and she bursts into bitter tears.

I stand in the corner next to my father and try to persuade him to escape. He doesn't want to. How, he says, can he escape and leave me behind alone? I explain to him that he can't help me now, because I am doomed in any event. Save yourself, Father, while you can, save yourself and help your son Tevye who has already escaped. “No, I can't”, he says. I cry, I beg him, I insist he escape. Why must you lose your life because of me? If I weren't with you you would surely make a run for it. Why should I die having on my conscience that I dragged you to your death with me? This has already been our fate: Mother was led to her death separately; I here, also separately; what is the point of my dragging you with me? Run, Father, I beg him, save yourself. Do it for me. I cry, practically tear myself apart begging him, I give him no peace until he promises me he will run away.

Suddenly the car shakes, the train starts to move. What a frightening moment! How dreadful the moment when conscious human beings ride to their deaths with a clear conscience. “Already”, the same screamed sigh is heard from everyone, “already they are leading us to the slaughter.” Children begin to cry and scream, women faint, men hide their weeping within themselves and moan silently. Now even the car is weeping. It seems as though even this black box leading hundreds of Jews to their eternal rest is also weeping now. Streams of tears are pouring from its walls, mixed with the cold sweat of the dying. Everything weeps and laments the destruction of the Jewish people. “Enough!”, a voice is heard interrupting the lamentation and weeping. “Enough, the time has come to run, who will jump first?” “I”, says my father, and falls into my arms. No pen has the power to describe our feelings. I only remember how we wept silently and could not tear ourselves from each other. But I immediately remember that time is short and I say: “Enough, Father, enough”, and tear myself from his arms, “Now go! Good luck on your way.”, I cry out from the depths of my heart “and be a father to your only remaining child, and take revenge, revenge for innocent blood.” -- and father disappears from my eyes. Just as it was from my heart, so now from every Jewish heart the same cry is wrenched. Hundreds of voices are now transformed into one strong and powerful voice, which gets stronger and stronger, more and more powerful as time passes. This is the last cry of farewell and, at the same time, the last will and testament of the half dead, which accompanies all escaping Jews on their anguished road to life.

My father jumps out first, and after him other men jump. They encourage each other in their escape from death. The will to live at such a moment cannot be described. I stand at the window and help the escapees lift themselves up and I watch as they jump. I turn my head back and see how each one embraces those near and dear, how they pour out their pain and anger to each other, share their sorrows, cry their aching hearts out, and take leave before death.

I now stand alone in the corner. The only one of my family, the only one from my town. I don't have anyone to pour my heavy heart out to. I remember my unfortunate mother, how difficult it was for her when, also alone and lonely, she was led to the slaughter, without a child by her side, not being able to cry her heart out and share her grief with even one person. All this seethes within me and tightens about my heart. At that moment I hear one girl saying to another, “Let's jump too, I first and then you.” and the girls jump to freedom.

Now a thought flashes through my mind: What am I waiting for? What do I have to lose? In the last minutes of my life I don't even have anyone to pour my heart out to. Must I then suffer and die at the impure hands of Nazis? Is it not better to die right here? Hearing someone say, “Who is jumping now?”, I shout “:Help me! I'm jumping!” In a moment I'm in the window, holding on to the iron bars on the other side of the car, and then I jump - - - - - - -

And by jumping to my death I chanced to remain alive.


[Pages 685-700]

How I Survived It…
The Storm Breaks Out

by Shabtai Finkelshtein[1]

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

On the 22nd of July, 1941, the Germans attacked Russia. Thousands of Jews escaped in the direction of Russia. However, the Germans dispersed everyone along the way, and hundreds of corpses with gunshots covered the roads. No one from the area of Bialystok was successful in saving themselves because the Germans surrounded the entire area with lightning speed and surrounded a large Russian army. There was no shortage of Jaszinowker [Jasionówka in Polish] and Goniadzer young people among the bodies.

The Germans along with the Poles set fire to the shtetl [town] in Jasionówka. All of the Jews were driven to the wall of the Polish church. The old and sick who could not leave their homes were shot and burned along with the houses. However, many dozen were successful in escaping into the fields.

The Jews of Jasionówka were at the wall of the church for eight hours, surrounded by Poles and guarded by German with machine guns, until by chance

The Editor

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(Photo, Shabtai Finkelshtein)

a high German military man arrived and asked what was happening. As it was explained to him that these were “communists,” he understood that this was not true of the old men and women – and he freed them.

I Sneak Into Goniadz

I left Jasionówka after eight months and went to the Bialystok ghetto. This was Passover 1942. After being in Bialystok for a month, I had the premonition that an “aktsia” [a roundup or deportation] would take place there, and that I, a man from the provinces, would certainly be the first on the fire. Aizik Rozental (a Knyszyner, who had lived in Jasionówka) and I left the ghetto at dawn, with all of the workers – and Aizik led us to Goniadz, where he knew a family: Feygl Slomianski (Shmuel-Ber Malozowski's daughter). We were delayed for a few days in Knyszyn and from there we left for Goniadz. Arriving in Goniadz, we met a Jew who informed us that it was not good there: the commissar was searching for outsiders. But we still entered. I left for Khatskl Rozen-

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tal, the tandetnik.[2] His son, Avram'l was my friend. Aizik left for the Slomianski's.

We learned that a few days earlier there was an incident with “outsiders,” but now things are quiet. A few days later, I arrived at the quarters of the Slomianski family on the old market, in the house of Feygl's father, Shmuel Ber Malozowski (Feygl's husband, Moshe'ke Slomianski, died in the time of the Soviets.)

The First Blows

The first blow Goniadz received from the war was from the Poles. The Germans did not even stop in Goniadz. And the Poles carried out methodical pogroms under the secret leadership of the priest (khomer – Hebrew word for priest).

Nine months later a mass grave was dug up in the cemetery and everyone was found tortured in the most terrible manner. Their hands were bound behind them with wire and there were nails in their heads (I witnessed this with my own eyes). There was sadness in the city. Sheets were brought and everyone was given a Jewish burial.

All of Goniadz Works in the Fortress

Goniadz was organized for work in the Osowiec Fortress. Osowiec was a general assembly point for all weapons and clothing that the Soviet army had left behind and there everyone in the shtetl capable of working worked; even a small percent of Poles. Later, after the liquidation of Goniadz, all of the Poles had to work.

Work was varied there. If there

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were “good” Germans – the work was easier. There were cases of Germans only permitting the Jews to ride in the wagons on the return from work, and not the Poles.

We Live Together with “Good Germans”

The young people would stroll in Kliap's orchard after work. Incidentally, the orchard was a back way for Jews (from Tiple Street to the old market) to avoid the street. Until the Poles learned that the Jews were holding “communistic meetings” in the orchard. With luck that became known to the Jews before the commissar arrived there with a gun…

Feygle Malozowski-Slomianski had three daughters and two sons; each of the children had friends. This was the only house in the shtetl where a great number of young people would come together, up to 50 people. It is worth noting that one of Feygle's daughters – Golda – worked at the gendarmerie (in Chaim Kobrinski's house).

The Germans were so accustomed to Jewish workers that we often discussed with them the defeats that awaited them… (At that time, the front was in Stalingrad). Until a decree came “from above” that Jews must not work for Germans. The situation became strained. It began to be felt in the entire province as if we were on the verge of being imprisoned in a ghetto.

After great efforts by the Judenrat – with great sums of money and antiques – it was necessary to move out only from Dolistower Street.

This was on a Thursday and Friday. On Shabbos, the commissar declared that he was giving the Jewish population potatoes for the winter for a small amount of money.

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Again joy! Early Sunday, everyone, small and large, dragged potatoes. Rivers of sweat poured out doing this and the cellars were filled for winter. Because the war would not be ending so quickly!

What Do We Need the Wagons For …

On Sunday night, a peasant, a “soltis [village chief]” from a village came to a Jew who was close to him and explained that tomorrow all of the Jews would be taken away and that wagons had already been scheduled. The news was quickly spread in the entire shtetl. There was a panic. Representatives of the Judenrat – Lipsztajn and Pinkewicz – went to the commissar. The commissar assured them that they could stay calm because the wagons that he had scheduled were for bringing trees to plant along the highway. It was again good!... Particularly, because potatoes were already in the cellars for winter.

“Children, Get Dressed!”

My friend, Aizik, who would work the entire week “as a furrier” (finishing skins) in the village and would come to Goniadz for Shabbos and Sunday, woke up on Monday at five o'clock in the morning and left for the village. The workers (of the shtetl) again left for work in Osowiec. Shmuel Ber – dressed in his Shabbos kapote [long coat worn by pious Jewish men] – came in at seven o'clock and woke everyone up: “Children, get dressed!”

We immediately knew what this meant. We put on our best clothes in seconds. Golda ran to the sawmill where she then worked and came back.

Jews are not working today!

We Escape From a Trap

Berl (Feygl's son) and I escaped to the field. The field was full

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of escaping Jews. Everyone understood the danger.

We ran to the bridge in Dolko – and opposite us, a German with a gun appeared from under the bridge. The German said nothing and we went back, no longer running… However, we noticed two young girls running across the highway opposite the booth (the house near the highway that stood between Dolko and Guze). We ran in the same direction – and also across the highway. At that moment a German gave a shout: Stop!

I was 20 meters from the German so I stopped and shouted to Berl, “Berl, Stay!” Berl looked behind him – and ran farther. I – after him… And in front of us – the two girls.

The German began to shoot. The road was up hill. I would fall with each shot. I heard each bullet going by with a whistle. A second German shot at me from the side. I then threw down the kurtke (a short topcoat); ran farther – and threw away the marinarke (jacket) and the hat. I was left in a shirt.

The shooting was in my direction because I was the closest. When I would fall on the ground while the bullets rushed past, I would place my hand on my chest and take a look to see if there still no blood… Thus we ran breathlessly for a few kilometers uphill until we arrived at the far side of the hill. There we sat for several minutes. The girls were Feitshe and Grune Hirszfeld (daughters of Ruchl-Leah's Sholem[3])

We rested a few minutes – and ran farther, to the Downar Forest. Here we lay down on the grass and did not say anything.

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Each of us knew what was happening there, from where the shooting was coming. After resting for a while, we heard wagons go by. I moved closer to the highway. I lay down on the ground and saw that Trestiner [Trzeszczyn] Jews were being taken.

It happened to be a Polish holiday on that day and they went to their cemeteries and prayed for their dead. This was close to the forest. Then a thought came to me: who would cry over our widely scattered graves?...

I could not find my friends (Berl and the two girls) again. I wandered the entire day until night and did not find them. I sat down in a broken mood. When it became dark, I shouted: Berl! I received a response from the other side of the hill. We did not say anything at first. They were frightened – perhaps I had been caught.

Later, it was clear to us why we had been successful in running across the highway (running out of Goniadz). The Germans, who had been guarding the highway, had gone to Guze because they were then bringing the Jews from Osowiec (all of those who had gone there to work in the morning) – and this gave us an opportunity to run across the road. A German stood every 20 to 30 meters.

We Look for Aizik – And Find Six Jews in the Forest

When it got very dark, Berl had to take us across the train line because he had worked there for the Russians when they built an aerodrome (airport) there. I knew the way from there to Aizik's (who left in the morning to work in a village) and

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I discussed with Berl where to meet him.

When we had gone back a few kilometers, we met a Christian woman near a peasant's house. She did not yet know what had taken place in Goniadz. She let us stay in the “roost [hay loft]” for a pair of golden koltshikes (earrings) that Feitshe had given to her. The train was near the stall. Trains passed one after another – and we lay covered (with hay) in the hay loft. It was clear that I had nothing; Berl was without a kurtke [short topcoat].

In the morning, the Christian said that it was not safe here. He had small children and Germans came to him. Berl and I left to look for Aizik and the girls gave the gentiles a small, golden cross and remained there.

We searched for an entire night until we found Aizik's Christian. We saw that there were six people with him – four from Jasionówka and two from Goniadz (young girls) were in the woods in a skhron (a bunker, a protective lair.) We stayed with the Christian for the night and in the early morning, when comrades (from the woods) came for food, we met them. We met Kahan, the younger son of Centura, at another Christian's. He came to the city at night. We left for the woods together. We climbed on the mountain and found the bunker. We brought kindling wood. We were nine people all together; seven young men and two young girls.

Everyone described how they had escaped.

Khona explained that he had been brought back from Goniadz with all of the workers from Otowiec. They were all assembled near the fortress.

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Escaping had been difficult; this was a more certain death. Everyone in the city had been stood in the market and a member of the Gestapo gave a speech to them – that they were being taken to work; that each of them needed to bring their work clothes, regular clothing and tools. Everyone had to return in half an hour. Those who did not believe the commissar hid in the city. Many were found and shot. Everyone assembled at the market. They were placed in wagons and taken to Bogusze, a concentration camp near Grajewo.

We “Adopt” the Rawe's[4] Young Boy

Two days later. Aizik went out to a Christian at night and met a 10 year old young Jewish boy there – the son of the Rawers from the watermill. He brought him to us. The bunker (the protection lair) became very small, so we went out to enlarge it and a Christian noticed this. We were afraid that he would talk about it. We returned to the Christian at night to find out. He told us to escape from there, “Because in the morning they would come to us to burn two villages of peasants.”

Outside there was snow and a frost; it was dark – where would we go? 10 people – each wanting to live! We separated. Some went to a Christian acquaintance. I suggested going to a second forest and digging a pit. Meanwhile, we learned that Jasionówka and Bialystok still existed [there were still Jews in Jasionówka and Biakystok.] The Jews were driven out of all of the more distant cities. On 2nd November 1942, dozens of cities and shtetlekh in our area were liquidated.

Back to Jasionówka

After a few difficult days lying around in farmyards, without the knowledge of the Christians, in

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pits of potatoes, in forests and woods, we – Berl, Chana and I – arrived in Jasionówka at night. I went to work in the morning with my uncle and made a bunker in a stall. This was difficult because it was cold, 30 degrees, but we managed to create a hiding place closest to the day that the commissar had assured us that Jasionówka would remain as “always.”

In Jasionówka we met other escapees: Leibl Molozowski (Moshe Molozowski's brother – the ed.), Gedalia Guzowski, Hajkl Jewrejski and his children and others. A few hundred Jews gathered in Jasionówka from all of the surrounding shtetlekh. The local commissar did not do anything bad. However, in a short time – the 25th of January, 1943 – Jasionówka was surrounded and the shtetl had the same fate as every other one.

In the Stall

14 people arrived in the bunker (from Goniadz: Leibl Molozowski [spelled Malozowski elsewhere], Berl Slomianski and Gedalia Guzowski). There was only room for eight. Almost 22 people – with children – arrived at night. The situation in the bunker was terrible; there was no air. We did not dare open the door because there was a constant vapor and we would surely be caught. We could not light a fire because it would not burn because of a lack of air…

One child had whooping cough; when steps were heard overhead, someone threw themselves on the seven year old girl – and she was suffocated…

After another few days of struggle, people began to leave the bunker and search:

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perhaps they would be successful in finding a place. Leaving were: Leibl Malozowski, Gedalia Guzowski and a number of Jasionowkers. There were 14 of us remaining. There was no food. One comrade went out to the city at night to get bread from a Christian acquaintance of his – and did not return. (Six months later we learned that when he was caught, he struck a policeman with an iron and escaped.) We would bring in a pail of snow – with mud, and we would eat raw barley. We felt as if we would die of hunger. And we had already sitting there for two weeks, while in the city there were no Jews and there was a terrible frost outside.

We Are Discovered – But Not Caught

On the 14th day, a Pole looked for gold in the Jewish stall and – found us. He immediately ran to report to the police. The shtchit (top most part of the roof) was a double one; all 14 of us went inside it – with two children. In around five minutes, the stall became full of police and Germans. They shot and searched – and did not find us. We heard how they spoke to each other: “There are no footprints in the snow; it is still warm in the bunker – so where are they?” It was cold; the days were short; it became dark – they only left a guard, and in the morning they would again try to search. We heard the policemen say that there was no need to bother, just to shoot immediately. When the policemen became cold, they shot to frighten us and they went to a neighbor to warm themselves.

Then we went out one by one, agreeing to meet in the field. I and my wife, Liba Azrik, were the last to go down, but we found no one when we arrived at the field…

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We Search for Food – In the Night

Forlorn. Sky and snow – and we were in the middle, not knowing where to turn and what to do. It was foggy, so we wandered back into the city. With luck, no one noticed us and we escaped. After a night of roaming, we shoved ourselves into a pile of hay in the field. We remained there for an entire day. At night, we went out and were drawn to a fire opposite us. We came to a village, went into a house and a Christian welcomed us and gave us food.

We wandered farther until we again became lost and we sat in the forest for a day. At night, we went to a Christian, who told us that during the deportations in Jasionówka, 40 Jews were shot for trying to escape and that their bodies lay around in the street for two weeks.

And as we were sitting with the Christian, a young boy from Jasionówka entered; we learned from him who had escaped. He and a brother and his two sisters were among the escapees. One sister had frozen feet; she could not walk. She could not live and also could not die. She asked that they kill her, so that she would not fall into the hands of the murderers. She could not hang herself alone. Her brothers and the other sister helped her to hang herself…

We Dig Out a Home in the Woods

We knew a Christian and we lived in his field in a pit of potatoes for a month, in cold and hunger. During the month we learned about the area and dug a small pit in a small woods and camouflaged it so that no one would notice it. We stayed there for five months. In the course of

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time, we experienced many things. There were days when we had too much to eat and days of literal hunger.

Once we went to the field at night to find a little tree that would look like a “decoration” over the door of our pit. And when we were walking with the little tree, a man was coming in the opposite direction. We could not escape, so we lay down. The man opposite us did the same… Until he gave a shout, “Jews?” – We answered: “Jews!” This was a Jew from Jasionówka, over 60 years old. He had jumped off a speeding train. He had no money; the money remained with his wife, who remained on the train… He was wandering in the dark like hundreds and thousands looking for bread.

In this way, for the second time, we met two Jews. One of them remained with us.

A False Alarm

Once we were sitting – my wife and I – and we sensed that someone was coming, not far from us. There was a heavy rain outside – and the steps came nearer to our pit. We thought that someone certainly had seen how we had earlier planted trees on the pit and around the pit. We felt that someone was digging and sitting on the little tree that was over the door. We were sure that one had gone for the police and the other was sitting over us and not letting us out… I tried to open the door – someone was sitting! I spoke in Polish, lifted up the door with all of my strength – and turned over a person. As I stuck out my head, I saw how a 12-year old Jewish boy lay confused… We immediately took him in our pit…

The story about the young boy was thus: When Jews were still permitted to live and work, -

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indeed, before the Germans – the young boy was a shepherd for a Christian. Now he came to his “Christian” in the village for bread. The Christian did not let him in; the young boy left for the nearby woods – and a heavy rain was falling! He buried himself in the trees – so that he would not be seen and so he would be a little protected from the rain. He fell asleep in the rain… So, in such a manner, we met a Jewish child… We had many such cases.

We Are Denounced

A Christian denounced us, “Jews were going around in the area.” A second Christian warned us that we should escape. We escaped four at a time in a large storm and rain, across a river and 10 kilometers from our pit. There on that day two Jews had been shot, one from Jasionówka, the second – a Knisziner. As a response to this, several Jews with rifles shot two policemen the next day.

During the summer we would lie in the corn for weeks. In winter, sleeping was worse. Going out of the pit for food once in two or three weeks. It was approximately two months before the liberation, when we took two more Jews with us. We were now six.

The Last Two Weeks in the Pit

The German artillery was literally on us for the last two weeks. This was five kilometers from Jasionówka. The Soviet artillery was two kilometers on the other side of the shtetl, where we had been for five months. We lay for two weeks in hunger and in fear. Over our pit, German was being spoken… We had matches ready: if we were caught,

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we would set ourselves on fire and not fall in their hands…

We Are Freed and Reach Eretz-Yisroel

After those two weeks, we lay in the pit for two more days not knowing that we had been liberated by the Red Army. We had a warm welcome from the Soviets. They gave us food and things (clothing).

In Jasionówka up to 60 Jews assembled. This was one of the largest percentages of survivors from Jewish cities and shtetlekh.

We recovered a little in six months – until an attack of the Polish bandits (A.K. [Polish resistance]) occurred. We heroically defended ourselves with return fire and they retreated with losses. In the morning all of the Jews traveled to Bialystok and we began our wandering across European cemeteries to our goal Eretz-Yisroel – and we reached it!


[Page 700]

Epilogue

Two months after we were freed, a “sheygets” [gentile boy] named Wladek came into a Jewish house in Jasionówka. He learned that Jews lived here so he returned to his persecuted brothers not wanting to be a “Christian” any longer… This was Leibl Rawer's young boy from Goniadz.

The young boy had escaped from the forest near Downar together with all of us, when we had been discovered. He went many kilometers and presented himself to a peasant as a Polish boy who had escaped from a train when the Germans were taking his family to Germany to work. The peasant believed him because he spoke the language and knew the prayers well and the young boy stayed with him.

When the Jasionowker Jews were taken to Treblinka, the peasant sent him with all of the other peasants to take the Jews by sled to the train… (All of the peasants had to take the Jews to the Knisziner train station). The Rawer “sheygets” wrapped himself in a hide and no one recognized him.


Translator's notes:

1. Shabtai Finkelshtein, of blessed memory, the writer of this article, was from Jasionówka, but his description includes Goniadz. He lived through the tragedy – the destruction of our hometown and the extermination of our most beloved – and survived it. Return
2. Itshe Francoyzl's son; dealt with ready made clothing. – The Editor. Return
3. Sholem is possibly Ruchl-Leah's son. – Translator Return
4. The young boy's surname is spelled in Yiddish here with both a final “r” and without a final “r.”. – Translator Return


[Pages 701-705]

Goniondzers in the Bialystok Ghetto

by Zeydl (Note Dvoshke's son) Altshuld

Translated by Martin Jacobs

The book about the Bialystok ghetto uprising by B. Mark (published by the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw 1950) is very one-sided. According to the author (a communist) the uprising was organized by the communists, at a time when all Zionist groups had a large part in this sacred work. The author sins against the heroes and martyrs who fell for the honor of the Jewish people.

Three Goniondzers are named in the book: Avrom-Leyzer Rubin (son of Yankl the blacksmith), the dentist Levi Kopelman, and, on the other side, the scoundrel and informer Yankele Tsviklitsh (son of Yehoshua Tsviklitsh, he was executed in the Bialystok ghetto by revenge-taking Jews).

On p. 277 the book says about Avrom-Leyzer Rubin–may his memory be honored—: “The members of the anti-fascist self-defense, Avrom-Leyzer Rubin and Natek Goldstein, carried out the death sentence against the vile contemptible informer Yudkovsky (who was the terror of the Bialystok Jews both in and outside the ghetto – Z. A.) and took revenge on the criminal.”

On p. 328 it says: “Breaking into the German arsenals and stealing weapons became a frequent occurrence. The fighters Reuben Levine (Sergei), Nathan Goldstein (Natek), Hershl Rosenthal (from Jasinówka) (a heroic young man, I still remember him from Jasinówka – Z. A.), Avrom-Leyzer Rubin (it does not here give his origins) took these dangerous expeditions upon themselves”. “This very bold theft took place in the Gestapo's arsenal at 15 Szenkowicz Street. Avrom-Leyzer Rubin, the refugee from Warsaw (why Warsaw ?! – Z. A.), and Nathan Goldstein, the refugee from Lodz, who were employed outside the ghettos, took 44 different types of weapon from there. This deed made an extraordinary impression on the underground and gave strong encouragement to the members of the self-defense organization.”

Page 458. “The Jewish partisans were of diverse backgrounds. Besides the locksmith Mulye Weiner and the mechanic Benjamin Shleifer, there was the smith from Goniondz (finally the correct designation – Z. A.), Leyzer Rubin.” Further on we read: “Besides tried and tested fighters and heroic partisans, besides those who jumped from the trains (Kawe, Mietek Jakubowicz), were those who had already been to Treblinka and 'tasted' it (Avrom-Leyzer Rubin)”. Here I must point out that the Treblinka camp, which was located not far from Malkin, annihilated hundreds of thousands of Jews. Only a few individuals came out of there, and among them – our Avrom-Leyzer Rubin of Goniondz. This is an indescribable act of heroism, and if there are miracles here, this one is the greatest.

Pages 466, 467. “These same heroic girls rescued many Jews, those who escaped from the railway cars and even from the death camps. Among those rescued was the Goniondz blacksmith Leyzer Rubin, who took part in the uprising in Treblinka on August 2, 1943 (this uprising is a legend among all Jews, because a dozen heroes fought almost bare handed against a gang of hundreds of criminals, armed with all sorts of weapons. The heroes killed dozens of the Gestapo, and several succeeded in escaping, among them our Avrom-Leyzer. -- Z.A.) He escaped from there to Bialystok, where he hid at first in the Church of St. Roch (Kośció? Świętego Rocha), until a Polish cobbler put him in touch with the girls, who brought the heroic smith into the woods. Leyzer Rubin suffered a hero's death in the month of June, while rescuing a Serbian partisan.”

Thus ended the life of our Goniondz hero Avrom-Leyzer Rubin. All of us, and above all the Goniondzers in Israel, should for ever honor his glorious deeds and extraordinary heroism in an appropriate manner.

Now a few excerpts about Dr. Leon Kopelman z”l.

Page 126. Some of the coworkers of the “Judenrat” [Jewish council], whose names come up here and there in its first meetings as opposing the Barash-Subotnik leadership (these were the principal “leaders” of the Judenrat in Bialystok – Z.A.), later no longer appear at the Merchants' House (where the Judenrat “staff” was located – Z.A.). “Thus on September 18, 1941 at the meeting of the Judenrat Dr. Segal[1] and Dr. Kopelman protested against the leadership's handling of evacuation. At the same meeting Dr. Kopelman asked for more enthusiasm for intellectuals. Their names do not occur again in the minutes of the Judenrat. These were just two people who did indeed draw the right conclusions from the Barash-Subotnik policies.”

The withdrawal of Dr. Kopelman highlights his moral values and honorable behavior. He did not wish to work with the Judenrat, which acted (directly or indirectly) as a spokesperson of the Gestapo, assisting in the annihilation of their own brothers and sisters. A small number of Jews had the courage and the conscience to act in this manner. Honor his memory! (Z.A.)

Page 104. “There were also democratic elements among the people who devoted themselves to fighting hunger. The hungry intellectual got a free or inexpensive meal in the 'intellectual's kitchen' organized by Drs. Segal and Kopelman.”

Dr. Kopelman, our friend and fellow townsman, gave great help to everyone who turned to him for help, especially our townspeople. He was killed, with the other millions of Jews, at the hands of the murderers, in the crematorium. His wife went mad from the frequent upheavals in the ghetto, and she and her daughter were also gassed. (Z.A.)

By the way, heroic figures from the collective Tel-Hai also appear in the book. In the list of the 32 members are mentioned the following names: Reuben Rosenberg from Suchowola, Hershl Rosenthal from Jasinówka (whose heroic deeds are mentioned again and again, as he was one of the leaders of the uprising in the Bialystok ghetto – Z.A.), Menukha Plaskowska from Jasinówka, Jochebed Weinstein, Gedaliah Pitliuk, Peitshka Dorogoy and Yaffa – all from Knyszyn. As we can see, the Knyszyners played an active part, and most of them fought in the woods near Knyszyn. The places around Knyszyn are mentioned numerous times in the book.


Translator's note:

1. The Yiddish says “Froy D"r Segal”, which can mean a woman doctor (or dentist), but it can also mean the wife of a doctor named Segal Return


[Pages 705-709]

A Visit to the Shtetl[1] after the Destruction

by Chaim Krawiec[2], Tel Aviv

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

It began right at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. The Germans entered Goniadz (the first time) on Rosh Hashanah and they were not there more than 10 days. However, during the 10 days they showed their cruelty towards the Jews.

The first thing they burned was our beautiful synagogue. While they carried this out, the Jews were not permitted to leave their houses. Doors and windows had to be closed; it had to be dark in every house. But everyone took a look through the cracks in the shutters and saw how the Germans labored simply to burn the synagogue. They were not successful with the exterior, because after many attempts, the synagogue did not want to burn…

Everything disappeared in the smoke because we could not save anything, only two walls remained standing – one wall was looted by the Christians in the city, for bricks… There was sadness in the shtetl, as after a catastrophe.

Right after this, a new hunt began – seizing young Jews for work. There was a noise, a disturbance; people began running to hide themselves in various places, not knowing what kind of place was suitable – so that the enemy would not find them. This lasted for several days. The Nazis were unsuccessful: no one was then taken and no one was taken away from our shtetl.

On the last day of their short reign, various rumors began to be spread about the arrival of the Russian army. This encouraged us a little and a spark of hope again flashed in Jewish hearts. And this is how it was: the Germans began to withdraw from Goniadz in the middle of the day on Yom-Kippur. The shtetl was empty of Germans before nightfall and the first armored vehicles of the Russian army appeared on the highway to Osowiec.

There was new era in the life of our shtetl; our entire way of life changed. Businesses were closed and one general cooperative was created (where besides matches and several grams of salt, there was nothing more to be had). The bakeries went over into the hands of the state. Tradesmen were not permitted to work privately, but general work guilds were created. There was little work and little pay. If only to make it through the day. In September 1940 (a year after the outbreak of the war) I and several other young people from Goniadz were taken to serve in the Red Army.

I only met two soldiers from Goniadz in the Red Army during my entire time in Russia.


I experienced difficult times on the front. I was in various terrible places. Even today, being in Israel, I feel it in my bones. It is difficult to free oneself from this. I tried more than once to run away from them, but I only paid with heavy suffering, hunger and fear.

In 1943 I was transferred from the Red Army to the Polish. I arrived in Warsaw with the Polish army and there I was severely wounded in the right hand. I lay in a hospital for six months and had a rest of several weeks.

This was in February 1945. I decided then to travel for a look at my home city, where I grew up and was educated and for which

I yearned and dreamed for five years.

It drew me, although my heart foretold bad things. Yet, I wanted to take a look, perhaps something remained - - - - -

The heart breaks, although it is hardened. The body is engulfed by a cold shiver, a shudder. You become frozen like a piece of ice – you do not move. Your hands shake and your teeth begin to bang against each other. You also feel hot tears on your cheeks – seeing the destruction, the deadness around you.

The heart bursts when you see that the murderers – Poles who murdered our brothers – are living in the remaining Jewish houses. The two common graves are still fresh at the cemetery.

I did not find any Jews in Goniadz itself. The few survivors settled in Bialystok. By fits and starts, one goes there – with fear – to see how the shtetl looks.

Seeing the destruction and knowing what happened to our most dear, everything in you begins to waiver: should you remain here? – on Polish soil, where each step is filled and infused with the blood and tears of Jewish fathers, mothers and children, where every stone from the cobblestone pavement is a silent witness for the Jews who were led to the slaughter?

No! Here is not the soil and here the survivors will not find their rest. We must search for a more secure corner. We take various roads and escape from the accursed land. And this – even though we took part in the liberation of “democratic” Poland.

I, myself, was the first to run and after seven months of wandering in various nations of Europe, I succeeded in reaching our holy land – Eretz-Yisroel.


Translator's notes:

1. town Return
2. a grandson of Gedalia Mondres Return


[Pages 709-710]

A Holy Community Goniadz…

by Alter Rozen, New York

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

A holy community Goniadz, may it rest in peace,
You always float before my eyes
As in reality and also in a dream,
Since your pure soul flew away
In high heaven, far.
There are your children driven a long way,
Spread to all corners of the world,
Scattered across Seven Seas.

Each has become a last Goniadzer,
You are lost to them forever.

 

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