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[Page 18]

History and Recollections

 

[Pages 19-34]

A History of the Jews of Korelitz

by Hassia Turtel–Oberzhanski

Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky

 

Part A – The History of the Town

Korelitz[1] (Korelice), a town in the Novogrudek Vyboda (wojewodztwo nowogrodzkie ( during the Razitzpostpolita period, in the county of Novogrudek, the Minsk District, White Russia – during the rule of the Russian Czar. Korelitz is located on the banks of the Ruta River in a picturesque, fertile and forested area, on the Slutzk–Niesviezh–Mir highway and at a distance of 3 miles on the north–eastern side of Novogrudek, on the highway leading to Lithuania and to the other crown lands of former historical Poland. During the Polish kingdom, Korelitz was the possession of the great Lithuanian Princes of the dynasty of the Tchartoriskis) Czartoryski) and the Radziwills(Radziwillowic). Afterwards it passed by dowry of the Princess Stephania to the House of Radziwill (Radziwillowna Stefania) to the authority of the princes of the house of Wittgenstein. In the 16, 17th and 18th centuries Korelitz was a focus for important historical events of independent Poland.

In 1505 it was used as a passing station for the Tartars who robbed and looted it. In 1655 it fell victim to the Swedish troops who invaded Poland. In 1705 the Czar Peter the Great stayed there for 24 hours, on his way from Grodno to Moscow.

In 1733, following the death of King Augustus II, the Polish nationalist patriotic representatives of the nobility came to Korelitz, for consultations about crowning a king from the Piast Dynasty. In 1812 the remnants of the defeated Napoleon Army passed through during their retreat from Russia. After the first division of the Polish kingdom in 1772, the western districts and Lithuania were annexed to the Czarist monarchy under the rule of Catherine the Second (1729–1796). From then onward for 142 years until the First World War, Korelitz was included within the northwestern region of the boundaries of Jewish settlements of the Russian Czarist rule – until it was abolished in 1916.

 

Part B – The Jewish Settlement in Korelitz

The beginnings of the Jewish community in Korelitz are some time in the 17th century. However the official documentation about Jews is from the first quarter of the 18th century.

 

Part of Zalamanka Street

 

Leasing contract documents (Kontrakt) have been preserved from the years 1723, 1726, 1730–1733 between the Princes Anna, Michael, Kazimierz of the House of Radzwill and the local Jews Avraham Chaimovitz, Shmuel Itzkovitz and others, who received by lease flour mills, taverns, inns, the right to trade in wool and flax, sugar, salt etc – for several years, renewed according to mutual agreement.

In 1772 a lease–contract was made between the princes of the House of Radzwill and between 2 Jews from Korelitz – David Ben Yitzchak and Yosef Ben Yaacov.

Even in 1807 – 35 years after the annexation of Korelitz to the Russian Czarist monarchy – representatives of the House of Radzwill, whose permanent place of residence was in Niesviezh– collected land taxes from the Jews of Korelitz.

 

Part C – Life in the Community during the Polish Reign

During the time of Independent Poland, the community of Korelitz was subject to the authority of the “Committee of the Four Lands” and regularly paid a per capita tax.

In 1752 the “committee of counts, governors and officers chosen from the leading communities” met in the city of Mir – and imposed a per capita tax of “two hundred and two and ninety Polish gold coins.#&148;

In 1765 the Korelitz community had 336 taxpayers who paid a per capita tax to the “Committee of the Four Lands” –a fact indicating a well known community with a large population. From the point of view of conducting internal matters – the Korelitz community was bound to the Slutzk “kahal”, the leadership in the community was composed of “community leaders” as well as nine “dignitaries”, who were rotated every month (Parnas hachodesh).

From sections of the Pinkas Hakehila (Community Records) from the end of the 18th century, which have been preserved to this day, we learn that it was a pious community, keeping the commandments, where all aspects of daily life were based on religion and tradition. The Assembly (Hakahal) ruled aggressively and kept a strict eye on the lawfulness of every detail, and any attempt of revolt or disobedience was repressed in all strictness including ostracism and boycott. Thus for example, according to a judgment of Hakahal in Tammuz 5540 (July 1780), the woman Batya daughter of R' Yitzhak Eizel was punished with a “great ostracism” after being found guilt of travelling alone in a cart with a farmer from Novogrudek to Korelitz with no chaperone.

Thus according to the Pinkas Kehilah at the same time, – 2 other members of the community R' Yaakov and R' Gershon, apparently scholars, were punished because “they opened their mouths against a P”h Parnas Hahodesh (dignitary) and against the rest of the honorable people in the Bet Midrash [study hall or synagogue].

Hakahal also determined the economic way of life of the community which, from the point of view of the socio–economic level, was divided into two statuses, as defined – landowners – on one hand and tradesmen on the other hand. During the last quarter of the 18th century, “community leaders” discussed and decided that “as the outcry of our people in the community is growing and has reached our ears due to the increasing pressure of the tailors' craft which exists extensively in the business of sewing garments”, Hakahal has therefore determined the level of payment for work which the tailors are to receive and, if it becomes clear that one of the tailors of the community is transgressing the aforementioned regulation and is showing contempt for one of the members of Hakahal, he will be penalized with a fine, the amount of which will be deemed appropriate by a meeting of HaKahal.

 

A portion of Taube (Pigeon) Street

 

Part of the Market Square

 

The tailors gave in and accepted the judgment and didn't take more that was specified “on the price list”. The Jews of Korelitz made a living from small trade, shops, peddling, leasing taverns, inns and from crafts. Almost half of the community from the 19th century until the outbreak of the First World War made a livelihood from crafts of various types – they worked mainly for the internal market and farmers of the environs.

It should be pointed out that the craft passed on as an inheritance from father to son: generations of tailors, saddlers, capmakers, bootmakers etc were a regular phenomenon in the socio–economic structure of the community. Only thanks to the democratization process that began after the First World War was there a type of “transition” from the status to status: sons of landowners were not ashamed to learn a trade and on the other hand sons and daughters of the tradesman infiltrated the branches of trade, shop keepers, brokerage services etc.

 

Part D – The Community in the 19th Century

The Jews of Korelitz suffered for all those legal restrictions, discrimination and persecutions that were part of the Jewish life in Czarist Russia.

Also in this period most of the livelihood was from small trade and crafts, and most of their customers were the farmers from the environs who would come to the town on the weekly market days and the annual fairs, The community did not have an official status – and all its expenses were covered by collection of the meat tax (karobke) that was collected by one of the community members who was given this responsibility by lease.

In the town there were two synagogues and a kloiz [house of worship], called a Chassidishe shtibil [Hassidic little house] that went up in flames during the great fire in the 18th century, as it was made of wood. This synagogue, which replaced the Alteshule [Old Synagogue] was called the Bet Midrash [study hall] since until the First World War yeshiva boys regularly studied there, who were supported from [achilat yamim“ – eating days” – in the homes of the town's well–to–do families. This Bet Midrash was used also as a hostel for groups of students of Eyn Yaacov, Mishnayot and “Psalm Reciters”.

The following charitable societies were also active in the town: Hakhnasat Kala – “the Bridal fund” for poor girls, Linat Tzedek – “Lodging for the Poor”– for both men and women (founded in 1898), the Chevra Kadisha – Burial Society. In the community there was also the Kupa Tzedaka – “Charity Fund” – to support the needy, so that they would not have to seek charity in other towns and would not humble themselves in front of others.

On 2 Sivan, 5659 (11 May 1899), HaMelitz newspaper published a letter signed by one of the community, M.A. Aberzhansky, announcing that in the year 1898 the “Lodging for the Poor” was founded by several of the honorables of the community. The number of members was 150. Also the women banded together into one society to come to the help of sick women and the number of members was 110.

The Korelitz community was famed as a Torah–abiding community, religious and with a high public –moral level and many well known rabbis and illustrious scholars considered it a privilege to serve as rabbi or judge in the town.

Already in the thirtieth year of the 17th century there was a rabbi of the community called Rabbi Yosef. In the 60th year of the same century, there was a president of the rabbinic court by the name Rabbi Yosef, and towards the close of that century and beginning of the 18th century – there was a head of the rabbinic court in Korelitz – a scholar named Mordechai.

His successor was his son–in–law Rabbi Haim – father of the Rabbi and Gaon (Genius) R' Yisrael Michal from Minsk. In the 19th century the most excellent rabbis R' Eliyahu Proziner, R' Iliya–Baruch Kamay, who was head of the Mir Yeshiva and in 1887 Rabbi Mordechai from Bitten, known as Mordechai'le sat on the chair of the rabbinate in Korelitz .

The people of that generation saw him as a holy and exemplary man and both Jews and non–Jews flowed to Korelitz to request his advice and become intoxicated from his personality.

Since the many guests and visitors became a bother to the townspeople, the community published on Rosh Hodesh Av 5649 (23rd August 1889) an announcement in HaMelitz, signed by four of the most important house–owners and leaders of the community: R' Avraham Yitzchak Aberzhansky, Dov Tzvi Maeyerovitz, Yeshayu Kushelivitz and Mordechai Poluzski, in a request to the public, “to stop coming to Korelitz seeking advice from the Gaon, may he live long and happily, Amen! , because guards had been placed outside his house… so that not everyone could come to see him…, and so that they would not come in vain… for they would not be permitted to see the Admor, may he live long and happily”.

In 1890 Rabbi Mordechai'le left Korelitz in order to preside as the rabbi of the Slonim Community.

His departure – caused “the ways to Korelitz to mourn. Without holiday travelers, her houses are silent, their owners are sighing”, as one of the men of the community, ZalmanYudelvitch, lamented in a letter in Hamelitz of Elul 5650 (2 September 1890).

The community – which remained without a spiritual shepherd – sent messengers to negotiate with the Rabbi the Gaon [Genius] R' Avraham–Yitzchak Cohen from Plashnitz, “Der Pleshnitzer Ilui” [Genius]. And it came about that Rabbi Mordechai'le changed his mind and expressed his desire to return to Korelitz. But he made two conditions: “that all the women will shave their heads and that there will be a meat tax.”

The community became divided into two rival camps, but in the end those siding with Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Cohen had the upper hand, and he was appointed Rabbi of the flock until the First World War.

Even this orthodox and mitzvoth–keeping community –could not completely hide itself from the winds of advancement and knowledge.

In the summer of 1881 the branch of Mefitzey–Haskalah (Disseminators of Enlightenment) was founded in Korelitz, with a library, as it appears from thank you letters appearing on the 30th August of that year in Hamelitz: “The enlightened youth thank the committee of Mefitzey–Haskalah for sending good and necessary books to read”.

In 1897 the local branch of “Lovers of Zion” (Hovevei Tzion) was established in Korelitz. On the anniversary of its founding – that is on 27 Iyar 5658 (19 May 1898), its members organized a grand celebration, a detailed report of which appeared in Hamelitz as follows: “In a town as small as Korelitz they managed to gather over the year one hundred and sixty rubles for the benefit of our lofty idea… and the heads of the members can be happy that they have seen laudable results of their hard work”. Even more, members of the branch also managed propaganda for the Zionist idea in the nearby towns and, thanks to their initiative, branches of Hovevei–Zion were established in Novogrudek, Mir and other places.

The head of the Zionistic branch was Moshe Haim Cohen – the local rabbi's son, who was famous as a writer, journalist and one of the editors of “HaOlam”. He describes in detail the celebrations of the first anniversary of the branch: “On Monday, the second of the Intermediate Days of Passover, many of the townspeople came together to one of the Batei Midrash [study halls, synagogues] and there they gave a financial account… read booklets…. about the Zionist idea”.

“But the many listeners marveled at the pleasant sermon of one of the heads of their group – the full–time yeshiva student, Moshe Haim Cohen, son of the local rabbi who is also a writer and edits the letters sent abroad”.

“After we refreshed their hearts with fruit, produce of our holy land, the assembled people returned home happy and in a cheerful mood with Zion engraved on their hearts”.

Education of the young generation was in the hands of the melamdim [teachers] who maintained hederim [classes for the youngest pupils] – amongst these, teachers of beginners – and also teachers of Talmud and rabbinic authorities. Sharp–witted and talented youth moved to the well–known yeshivot [seminaries] –Mir, Volozhyn and Slobodka.

Towards the end of the century there were already progressive youth in the town, who read secular books, literature in the holy tongue and also in Russian. Those who were especially active in field of enlightening the youth in the town were the sons of the local rabbi, Avraham Yitzchak Cohen – the above Moshe Haim, Shalom and his daughter Brayna, who spent hours with boys and girls thirsting for knowledge in Hebrew and Russian.

On the other hand, there were girls of the poor classes without any education. And here we learn that in 1902 young public activists established a school for girls without means.

On Purim of the same year a party was held, the proceeds of which went towards this school, as was described in a letter of M.Tz. Hirshavitz in Hatzfira from the 6th April 1902.

We do not know the number of members of the Korelitz community in the 19th century.

According to the first census of the Russian–Czarist Empire in 1897 – there were 2559 inhabitants in Korelitz – of which 1840 were Jewish (71.9% of the total population).

On 16 Sivan 5671 (12th June 1911), a fire swept through the town and within a few hours destroyed 150 houses –more than half of the town – including the “Old” Synagogue (“Di Alte Schule”) , the “Bet Mirchatz” (bath–house) and other public institutions.

Among the casualties of the fire were dozens of wretchedly poor families who did not have even enough money to insure their homes, who were forced with no roof over their heads to sleep in the cowsheds, stables and under the open skies, as the rabbi of the congregation, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen, described the situation in the town in an appeal published in “Hatzfirah” of 23 Sivan 5671 (19th June 1911) – to come and help those burnt and help rebuild the ruined town.

 

Certificate to Yitzchak Katznelson

 

Legend around the photo:
Writers of Israel
Yitzchak Katznelson

LHS Text:
Born in the city of Korelitz, (District of Minsk) in the year 5645 in the month of Tammuz, an original Hebrew poet and writer. “If a pleasant hour falls upon you
If the hour of play comes – become addicted to it, devote your soul to it. –
For the hour may never come again”

Under the scroll, LHS: (the illustrator's name in Russian)

The community of Korelitz produced from its ranks important people in various areas including: the martyred Yitzchak Katznelson (1885–1942), who was killed in the Warsaw Ghetto; the poet David Einhorn, may he live long! (1885). Korelitz was the birthplace of the well known bacteriologist Prof. Shaul Aharon Adler (1895–1965), among the first scientists of the Hebrew University[2], and also the architect Baruch Ben Yonah Hirshovitz, who was active towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century in Petersburg – as a first rate architect and in the public and Jewish fields especially in an organization for spreading the acquisition of skills of crafts and agriculture amongst Russian Jews.

 

 
Haim Yossilevitz,
grandfather of Professor Adler
 
Prof. Shaul Aharon Adler

 

Part E – The Community During the First World War

When the German armies broke through to White Russia, and since the front was close to Korelitz and its surroundings – the civilian population was evacuated from the area. The non–Jewish residents mostly tried to escape to Russia– and the Jewish population found temporary shelter in Novogrudek.

When the battles subsided and the Peace Treaty was signed in 1918, the Jewish refugees began to return to Korelitz. The town was completely destroyed and ruined and only a few houses remained standing without windows or doors.

Also the two synagogues remained standing and were not very damaged.

The work of rehabilitation began, the houses were rebuilt – and the basis for re–establishing the community began. The economic situation was very bad.

These were the first years after the October Revolution of 1917, and the new regime repressed any attempt of independent–economic rehabilitation. All types of commissars appeared, who expropriated everything in order to “avoid speculation and exploitation of the working class”.

According to the agreement signed in Riga in 1921, Korelitz was annexed to Poland after the Polish–Soviet Russian War. In Korelitz, according to the census there were 799 inhabitants, of whom 535 (66.9%) were Jews.

For the next 18 years – until the Soviet invasion of the area in September 1939, the Jewish community looked towards its spiritual continuity. Two heders were founded – which became the nucleus for the Hebrew School Tarbut and the children also went to the elementary –Polish school. Those parents who could afford it, sent their daughters to the Polish–government Gymnasium in Novogrudek and to the Hebrew teachers' seminar Tarbut in Vilna. In the 1920's, branches of all the Zionist Youth Movements were established – HeChalutz, HeChalutz HaTza'ir , Hashomer HaTza'ir, Betar, Zukunft–Bund, which were the moving spirit of all the Zionistic activity for the National Funds – The Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeYisrael) and the Keren HaYesod.

The young people would organize dances, parties, a dramatic circle –where artistic talents were discovered, and a library with many volumes of books in Hebrew and Yiddish.

Members of HeChalutz, Hashomer HaTza'ir and Betar were privileged to make aliyah [emigrate] to Eretz–Israel where they joined kibbutzim, worked on road construction, etc. From that time until the Soviet invasion in 1939 the stream of those making aliyah did not stop – the best of the sons and daughters of the community.

The economic situation of the community was difficult. Most of the livelihood was from small business, crafts, gardening, especially from cucumbers, from leasing fishponds and fruit orchards. Apart from a small minority – most of the Jews of Korelitz were supported by their relatives overseas. In the town there was a cooperative bank, which gave loans at low interest rates.

On the eve of the Second World War the local population numbered about 2000 souls, of whom 1300 (65%) were Jews.

When the area was annexed to Poland in 1921 – Poles came – soldiers of the Pilsudski legion and settled on the lands that had been confiscated from the Russian and Polish nobility who had fled the area when the First World War broke out.

These settlers (Osdaniks) began to incite anti–Semitism, and to call for an economic boycott of the Jewish traders.

 

Part F – The Second World War and the Destruction of the Community

With the outbreak of the Second World War on 1 September 1939, the Germans distributed leaflets from aeroplanes announcing that their aim was to annihilate the Jews.

The non–Jewish population was encouraged and began to be hostile towards the Jews. They did not hide their intentions – when the time would come – to rob and pillage the Jewish property.

On the 15th September 1939, – after the Ribbentrop–Molotov Pact – the Soviet forces entered Korelitz and the hostile, Jew– hating atmosphere calmed down a little.

Close to two years – until the 21st June 1941, the town was under the rule of the Soviets, and the Jews of the place tried as best they could to accustom themselves to the new conditions. The young people found work. And here on the 21stJune 1941, came a lightening attack of the Nazi Germans on Russia and within a few days White Russia was flooded –and with it Korelitz – with a wave of the conquering German army. Part of the population joined the frightened fleeing Red Army, while the Germans were bombing them from the air and blocking their paths of retreat to greater Russia. With the entrance of the Germans to the town the life of the Jews became hell and an inferno.

Every day as darkness descended, bands of peasants from the surrounding villages would infiltrate the town, break into the houses of the frightened Jews, steal and pillage whatever they could.

There were also cases of opposition to the robbers by daring courageous Jewish youth.

The Germans did not hide their satanic plans – complete annihilation of the local Jewish population – which were passed onto the Belarus authorities to carry out.

The entire administrative machine – including the police, was put into hands of the Gentiles, the supposed neighbors and friends of the Jewish population for centuries.

The Belarussian Gentiles in the town ruled the Jews, treated them cruelly, beat them, murdered and robbed them.

 

The courtyard of the Synagogue in Korelitz
Translation of Yiddish handwriting: Synagogue Courtyard in Korelitz

 

There are known cases of assault on the tailor David Nissilevitz and another community member Yoel Mayerovitz by the Belarussian police, who tortured them, robbed them and almost killed them.

Yoel Mayerovitz – being healthy and strong, remained alive and even managed after the war to emigrate to the United States.

Towards the end of July 1941, a division of Nazis appeared from Novogrudek. They called Rabbi Yisrael Viernik and various other Jews and ordered them to set up a Judenrat, (Jewish Council), at whose head was Shimon Zaleviansky. One of the first decrees that the Judenrat was ordered to carry out was the institution of “the Jewish Star” (Judenstern) on the front and back of their outer garments and a Jew who dared to appear in public without the “Jewish star” was shot on the spot.

And thus orders and new decrees were issued to the supervisors who imposed them on the Judenrat – as mediators between the Nazis and the Jews.

Thus they were ordered to hand over their jewelry, and other valuables – and anyone refusing to do so faced the punishment of death.

On one of the days in July 1941 appeared men of the Nazi S.A. (Storm Troopers) in Korelitz and ordered the Judenrat to immediately bring together all the men, old people and youth to the marketplace.

After the Jews appeared, they were stood in dense rows and the Nazi soldiers took out 105 men, old people, youth – including members of the Judenrat –and imprisoned them in the synagogue which was surrounded by a guard of Belarussian police who did not let anyone come close, not even to bring food to the prisoners. The next day trucks arrived in Korelitz, on which the hundred and five prisoners were loaded and taken to an unknown location. Afterwards the cruel and bitter truth was discovered –they had been shot to death.

On the 15thAugust 1941 the Germans passed through Korelitz, invaded houses on the pretense of looking for weapons, but they robbed and pillaged everything they laid their hands on. They also treated the Jews cruelly. And when a Jewish woman requested permission to travel on one of their trucks to another place, she was thrown into a cellar together with her husband and their 8 year old child and shot to death.

On another day the Judenrat was ordered to call Rabbi Yisrael Viernik with another ten Jews. When they came –they received an order to take out all the furniture from the two synagogues, and to pile it up and set it on fire. Also into the fire were thrown Torah scrolls, prayer books, prayer shawls and other holy articles [Sifrey Torah, siddurim, talitot, and other tashmishey kodesh]. The Germans planned to throw Rabbi Viernik himself into the fire. But some disagreed, because the fire would burn for too long. So it was decided to throw him into a nearby well, but they changed their minds, and made content with pulling out the hairs of his beard together with his flesh – and mortally wounded –sent him home. The Nazis tried to throw other Jews into the fire, they escaped and ran towards the synagogue – but were shot on the spot. The next day Rabbi Viernik was brought to Novogrudek, tortured for several days in the prison and finally murdered.

The fear of death enveloped the town. With nightfall, the Jews shut themselves in their houses. The synagogues stood silent and wide open with no Torah scroll or holy articles. Public prayer took place in private houses.

Life carried on in the shadow of the array of decrees and orders, one worse and more humiliating than the other such as the prohibition to be seen on roads outside the town, and anyone violating the order was abandoned to the cruelty and wickedness of the Belarussian police.

And even so, a cell of Jewish partisans was organized in the town. They purchased weapons, made contact with the Russian partisans who were active in the area, but because of the warnings of the Germans, that if one person was missing from the place, there would be a general massacre and all the Jewish population would be destroyed, they desisted at that time from joining the partisans and waited till the time would be right to escape from the town to the forest.

 

Part G – The Establishment of the Ghetto in Korelitz

In February 1942 the Jews of Korelitz were ordered to leave their houses in the marketplace and the central streets –and move to a side road. They even received orders that they must take out their belongings – only once, with strict orders not to return to their houses a second time.

All the Jews were crowded into all sorts of houses, with terrible crowding and awful sanitary conditions. In each house there were more than 50 people. Slowly they got used to life in the ghetto – the craftsmen even were permitted to go to the market and receive orders from the local peasants, who in most cases didn't pay anything, except for those farmers who gave in exchange potatoes, bread, and other necessary foodstuffs.

In May 1942 the Germans ordered the Judenrat to make an exact list of all the craftsmen, who were ordered to move with their families to Novogrudek.

But the craftsmen were convinced – that the move to Novogrudek – meant death. So they decided not to move from Korelitz.

 

Part H – The Liquidation of the Community

Towards the end of May and the beginning of June 1942, the Germans called the members of the Judenrat and ordered them – that within three days the Jews must make all the preparations to leave the place, in order to make it Judenrein – free of Jews. They said that the elderly and the children would be loaded together with their belongings on carts, and all the rest – would go by foot. Within minutes the rumor spread to the local villages about the imminent departure of the Jews, and for all of the three days – peasants came to the town in hordes, wanting to buy all sorts of things from the Jews, but actually taking whatever they fancied without any payment whatsoever. In the morning hours of the 2nd June 1942, carts driven by peasants appeared in the town and immediately began the loading of elderly, the children and their belongings onto the carts.

All the Jewish population was expelled from their houses and concentrated in the marketplace, and its surrounds – the gaping, jeering Gentiles rejoicing at their calamity. The sick and the frail were murdered in their beds and buried in the cemetery.

And here began the tragic and fateful exodus from the town – their birthplace and that of their forefathers – for many generations.

The expelled people burst into tears and the cries of the women and children filled the space of the murdered Jewish town. There were even those that turned back to their houses, preferring to die in the town. The police, however, began to shoot – and immediately the dead fell down on the spot. With no choice, the townspeople trudged – forward.

The carts loaded with Jewish belongings left before the masses towards Novogrudek and once they were at a distance – the peasants driving them stole valuables that they liked. The police, too, took part in the looting.

The banished community covered the 21 kilometers to Novogrudek in the course of a whole day – and all this in intense heat and under the whip and bayonets of the police. When they entered Novogrudek in the evening they were taken directly to Perishika – the large ghetto in Novogrudek where, apart from the local Jews, Jews from the surrounding towns were concentrated. They stood at the gates of the ghetto in pouring rain and in the sinking mud for many hours, and were finally taken to cowsheds with ramshackle roofs. It rained all night and many of them – especially the children and babies were chilled and got badly sick.

In the Novogrudek ghetto they met Jews from the towns of Volma and Ravzavitz – Rubiezewicze – who lamented that before they were brought here all the elderly and children were murdered. After one day of rest the young and healthy people were sent to work camps to the nearby towns, to work on roads etc.

Several of the Korelitz youth exploited the first opportunity, dodged out of the ghetto or from their work camps and ran to the forest – to the partisans.

 

Pereshika (Persika)

 

Part I – The Liquidation of the Ghetto in Novogrudek

The craftsmen amongst the Korelitz Jews in the Novogrudek ghetto were transferred with their families to the workshops that had been set up in the Court of Peace building in the city.

And here at the beginning of August 1942 there were gloomy rumors of a great massacre which would take place in the coming days.

This time the Germans deceived their victims: they circulated a rumor that they were going to send Jews to forced labor in Smolensk and accordingly the Judenrat and the police were ordered to urge the Jews to leave the ghetto and appear at 6am in the morning of the 8th August 1942 – in the marketplace of Novogrudek – from there they would be sent to Russia. The Jews, carrying backpacks – together with their wives and children appeared at the city marketplace – and immediately the Gestapo and the police came and ordered them to take off their backpacks and lie of the ground – with their faces downwards.

From the masses of people lying on the ground, a hundred Jews were chosen – and transferred to an unknown place and murdered.

After a few hours, trucks came to the market place, on which the Jews were loaded and brought outside of the city to pits which had been prepared in advance, where they were mown down by machine guns.

After the massacre on the 8th August 1942 the ghetto in Novogrudek was almost emptied; still about 2000 people were living there – craftsmen and their families, among them Korelitzers – in the town Court House.

In September 1942, another aktzia was carried out was carried out, where 3000 Jews were murdered.

In this operation of death, very precise searches were carried out by the Germans under the direction of Reuter, the acting Regional Commissar, in the workshops within the Court House. They were looking for children who had been hidden by their parents. The above German, Reuter, would throw the children that were discovered from the windows of the second floor to a truck that stood outside, but instead of falling inside it, they fell on the pavement and were mortally wounded, and their blood splashed all over the stones.

The massacre in September 1942 brought in its wake the complete destruction of the Novogrudek ghetto. The ghetto still existed in the Court of Peace which was securely locked and surrounded by the police on all sides. The remnants of the craftsmen and their families were imprisoned in the Court House.

Those imprisoned in the Courthouse dug a tunnel under the building and in a dark night several hundreds of them succeeded in escaping to the forests. Amongst those that succeeded to escape was also the carpenter – the artisan R' Tzvi Hirsh Shkolnik, may his memory be blessed, who remained alive, came to Eretz Israel and lived until his death with his daughters Vital Tzipporah Arieli and Esther Horovitz. On the 7th May 1943 the third and final massacre took place of the prisoners in the Court of Peace – among them the last Jews of Korelitz.

The very few who fled to the forests of Naliboki joined the partisans, remained alive –amongst them were those who came to Eretz–Israel or to the United States. Thus came to an end on the gallows the once vibrant community of Korelitz with its glorious historical past – a jewel in the chain of towns, or shtetelach in White Russia.

We, the last remnants – are ordered – to cherish their memory and pass it on to our children – for the future generations.


Footnotes

  1. In Jewish sources: Korelitz, Karelitz, Karelitch, Karelichi Return
  2. At a young age he came with his parents to England. He studied medicine at the University of Leeds and specialized in the Institute for Research of Tropical Diseases at the University of Liverpool. He worked in research of tropical diseases in the Jones Laboratory in Sierra –Leone in Africa. From 1924 he was stationed in Eretz–Israel and from 1928 served as Professor of Parasitology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His important research in tropical diseases and their cures, and especially his achievements in cutaneous leishmaniasis “Shoshanat Yericho” and visceral leishmaniasis “Kala Azar” diseases gained him international fame. Since 1957 he has been a member in “The Royal Society of London for the advancement of Natural Sciences”. (Massada General Encyclopedia, published by “Alumot”, 5718, (1958) Volume 1. Page 111) Return

 

[Page 34]

Bibliography:

Hamelitz, St. Petersburg: Volume 17, Issue 32, 30th August, 1881, Page 683.
Hamelitz, Volume 19, No. 61, 20th August, 1883, Page 979.
Hamelitz, Volume 27, 9th October 1887, No. 211, Page 2,250.
Hamelitz, Volume 29, No. 179, 25th August, 1889, Page 2.
Hamelitz, Volume 30, No. 188, 2nd September, 1890, Page 5.
Hamelitz, Volume 39, No. 96, 11th May, 1899, Page 4.
Hamelitz, Volume 38, No. 100, 19th May, 1898, Page 3.
HaTzfira, Volume 29, No. 70, 6th April, 1902, Page 278.
Hatzfira, No. 128, 19th June, 1911, Page 3.

Yad Vashem Archives

1. Zichronot shel Mordechai Mayerovitz (Memories of Mordechai Mayerovitz) 032/106.
2. Zichronot mighetto Novogrudek vehisulo (Memories of the Novogrudek ghetto and its destruction) a) 04/17 – 3 –5; b) 03/1786; c) m 11/b 283; d) m 1/e 807
Black Book of Localities whose Jewish population was exterminated by the Nazis.

Bibliography – Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem – Jerusalem, 1965. p. 135
In the file: the General Archive of the History of Israel, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
3. Slownik geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego. Warazawa. Tom. IV 1883 pp. 400–401 [AB– Translation from the Polish: Geographic dictionary of the Polish kingdom]
4. Encylopedia Judaica Berlin Vol. 10, 324.
Dubnov, Shimon : Pinkas Hamedina (Notebook of the State), Page 259
Zeitshrift far Yiddishe Geshichte, Demographia un Economik, Minsk, 1928; Vol. II–III, page 367
2. Sprawy Zydow dotyczace arendy propinacyjnej w kluezu korelickim 1722–1807. [AB– Translation from the Polish: “Cases pertaining to Jewish tavern leases in the Karelichy region 1722–1807”]

 

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