Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil Karelich, [the name in Polish is Korelicze], is a small town 21 kilometres from Novogrudok. In the period of the Rzeczypospolita Karelich was in the wojewodztwo (district) and powiat (sub-district) of Novogrudok. Most of the Polish wojewodztwo of Novogrudok was part of the Minsk gubrnia in the days of the rule of the Tsars of Russia. Karelich, which is known for its fertile soil, is situated on the river Ruta on the road to Slutsk, Nesviz and Mir, which is the main road to the heart of Lithuania and the kingdom of old Poland.
The landlords of Karelich, since the distant past, were the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, followed in turn by the Princes Czartoryskis, the house of Radziwills, then it was given as part of the dowry of Princess Stefania Radziwill, when she married a Prince of the House of Wittgenstein. Later the Putkamers and, after the first WW, Count Zoltowski were the landlords.
Important events in the history of Poland and Lithuania occurred in Karelich. It was fought for by many invaders. In 1395 Swidrygajlo with the help of the crusaders fought against GD Witold. In 1505 the Crimean Tatars devastated the town. And again in 1655 the Swedes occupied Karelich. Russian Tsar Pyotr the Great, in 1705, on the way from Grodno to Moscow, stayed in Karelich. In the following year the town was once more ruined by Swedes. The patriotic Polish shliachta gathered in Karelich in 1733 in an attempt to crown Stanislaw Leszczynski.
As a direct result of the division of Poland in 1795, Karelich had become part of Russia until WW1. In 1812 Karelich was host, in turn, to the French, Polish and Russian troops. The Radziwills built a well known gobelin tapestries plant in Karelich.
The oldest tombstones in the Jewish cemetery in Karelich were from the 18th century, according to a person of our generation, who visited Karelich on the eve of WW2.
There is some information that the Jews settled in the town much earlier. It would appear that initially they buried their dead in the cemetery of a neighbouring congregation, and in the 18th century they established their own cemetery. According to the census of 1765 there were 336 Jewish persons in the congregation , who paid head tax. As head tax was paid by the adult population, we can deduce that of the order of a thousand Jews lived at the time in Karelich. According to the census of 1897, 1840 Jews were resident in Karelich (out of an overall population of 2259) (Evrejskaja Encyk.1X, 751).
During the Russian rule, the congregation did not have a formal status. Funds for the needs of the congregation was raised from the meat tax - karabeika, which was collected by a Jew, who acted as a custom's official.
The synagogue, which was built in place of the Alte-Shul, was called Beit-Midrash, because up until WW1 Yeshiva Bochers (Torah students) studied there. During their time at the Yeshiva, they were invited to eat days (ie eat each day) in different homes. The Beit-Midrash was also a hostel for the students societies: Ein-Yaakov, Mishnayot and Tehilim reciters.
There were also in the town the Chevrah Kadisha, Linat Tsedek (sleeping quarters for the needy) Hachnasat-Kala, which arranged weddings for poor brides, and lending cash boxes for the needy. According to the information given by a person of our generation, the congregation took care of its poor and needy, so that they did not have to humiliate themselves by seeking alms from strangers.
Karelich was known for its famous Rabbis. This showed that the standard of learning of the Torah of the community was high. Among those who served as leading Rabbis until WW1 were: Rabbi Mordchele also known as der Oshmianer (from Oshmiany), Rabbi Eliyahu Prochiner, Rabbi Eliyahu Baruch Kamai, who was the head of the Yeshivah in Mir and the Gaon Rabbi Avraham Itzchak Cohen from Plashnitz, who was called The Eelui (genius) from Plashnitz and was the Rabbis who came to town on the eve of WW1. The Rabbis were not paid a regular salary but made a living from duties on yeast and candles. Karelich was the birthplace of the poet and martyr Itzchak Katsenelson (1885-1942) and the writer David Einhoren (1885-).
The first concern was the children's education. Two cheders were established followed by the school Tarbut (five classes). Jewish children went also to a Polish Primary school, and those with means continued their education in the government high school in neighbouring Novogrudok or in Vilna in the Hebrew Seminar for teachers or the high school Tarbut. Social life in town was dynamic; the youth displayed a lively spirit.
All Zionist Youth movements were represented: the Young Chalutz Chalutz, Hashomer Hatsair Beitar, and the Bund (non Zionist).
The youth worked for the national funds: J.N.F Keren Hayesod Keren Hachlutz and the like. There was a big library with books in Yiddish and Hebrew, which had developed from a small children's library.
Karelich contributed greatly to pioneering and Aliyah. From the beginning of the twenties there was an uninterrupted stream of men and women who went on Aliyah after years of working in Hachsharah in Hachsharah kibbutzim of Hachalutz or Hashomer Hatsair.
There was one Jewish doctor (apart from the Christian doctor who served mainly the Christian population), a midwife and one pharmacy. The community had from the beginning of the twenties a bank, Cooperativer arbeter un hantwerker bank (the cooperative bank of workers and artisans). It served the community by providing loans at a low interest rate.
The Jews worked hard but found it difficult to make a living. With exception of a few families; most were supplementing their income with financial help from relatives overseas. The economic situation deteriorated, especially when the Polish colonists (osadniki), who served in the legion of Piltsudski, came to the district from other parts of Poland to settle as farmers. They initiated a wave of anti-semitism, and incited the Byelorussian village population (which lived with Jews peacefully for generations) to boycott Jewish shops. Some Jews from Karelich managed to migrate to Erets-Israel, just before the holocaust.
In June 1941, with the start of Hitler's offensive against the Soviet Union, the Germans invaded Byelorussia and the fate of the Karelich community was similar to the fate of the other Jewish communities that came under the cruel enemy rule. The Germans built a Ghetto in the town, drafted men for forced labour and slowly started the physical extermination of the Jewish population.
In February 1942 they started to transfer the Jews of Karelich to neighbouring Novogrudok, where a large Ghetto was built for the Jews of the district. Most Jews of Karelich together with their brethren from other towns surrounding Novogrudok were exterminated.
Only a few managed to save themselves by escaping to the forests of Naliboki and joining the partisans. They numbered no more then 20 souls.
That is how a remarkable Jewish community, which was like a gleaming pearl in the string of sacred communities in the Jewish Diaspora of Eastern Europe, was erased from under God's sky.
On Memorial Day, which was decided upon by the organisation to be kaf'gimel-Kaf'Dalet in the month of Av, all the people of Karelich from Kibbutzim, Kvutzot, Moshavim, Moshavot, from Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, assemble in order to commemorate the memory of their murdered brothers and sisters.
The committee of the organisation consists of 9 members. They meet 3-4 times a year.
The committee members are: Chairman Michael Beigin, China Kaspi, Yaakov Abramovitch, Yaakov Pluzanski, Avraham Koznitch, Noach Gershonovski, Mordechi Meirovitch, Rivka Reuveni, Yehuda Shapira. The address of the organisation is: Michael Beigin 13 Straus St. Jerusalem
To our regret our financial resources are scant and we are at a loss to know how we are going to bring about all these modest plans to fruition.
We hope that our brethren across the seas will stand by us with financial help, so that we will be able to erect a memorial worthy of the community of Karelich.
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki My township Selub, where I was born, is situated 14 km from Novogrudok. For several hundred years, about 100 families lived there. The Jews of the town spread firm roots in the land and made a living from that land. Almost every household owned a piece of land. They worked on the land and lived off it. A Jew in Selub ate his own home-grown potatoes and his own bread from grain grown by him on his own land. He sowed and harvested his own food. Everybody had cattle and everybody had milk, cheese and butter. Almost everyone was a worker or a tradesman. Even business people and shopkeepers worked on the land in their spare time. Selub was a small township with a small market place in the centre, where all shops were located. From the market place, four streets emanated, forming a cross. There was a small lane were the synagogue was situated. Selub had one synagogue and one pharmacy, one Jewish woman doctor, one timber merchant, one flour mill (which ran on water), four shops selling textiles, eight food shops, six haberdashery shops, two bakeries, a rabbi, a slaughterer, a melamed (religious teacher of the young) and two teachers, one hatter, two blacksmiths, four cobblers, ten tailors, two butchers, two cabmen and two wool combing factories. It was a Zionist town. In anti-semitic Poland the youth did not have an economic future in a small town. In the 1920's after the First World War many young people emigrated to Venezuela and Argentina. Later the ideal of every youngster in Selub was to immigrate to Eretz Israel. Only those who left the town survived. The most prominent Jew in town was the Rabbi, Reb Nataniel Zarkain, a son of a Baranovich turner, who hid (the future marshal of Poland) Pilsudski. He was a quiet Rabbi who did not interfere in local affairs. He preached in the synagogue twice a year. He was not a great preacher. His wife managed the business, which was selling yeast. He sent his daughter Sorele to study in a Polish gymnasium, which was not readily acceptable by the rabbis. Reb Kalman Yeshie Shmulevich was a Jew who knew well the Torah, but he did not want to be a rabbi. He was fluent in Shas, in the Agoda and Midrash. His son Josef was a brilliant student. They had a food shop which Reb Kalman's wife Fejge managed. Apart from Josif, they had three other children: Tuvie, Abe and Hinde Bejle. Reb Yehuda Vigacki was one of the respected citizens. He was a tall, handsome Jew, fluent in his knowledge of the Torah, and had a fine tenor voice. He was the ritual slaughterer and also performed circumcisions. He was a student of religion and an intelligent Jew. He had intelligent and well brought up children. Reb Eliezer Jona Halevi Movshovich was an honest, fine Jew who was a preacher. He travelled a lot on behalf of the Jerusalem Yeshiva Ethach Chaim. The house was run by his wife Shejne, who was a good pious woman who took on the duty of earning the income for the family. Jona Movshovich preached religion and also Zionism. They had four children: two daughters, Zlata and Liba, and two sons, Zvi Hershl, a tailor, and the second son Yehuda, who was studying in the Yeshiva. The brothers Mate and Yessel leased the flour mill from a from a Polish landowner. They were good, hard working fellows, and with the help of their children they ran the mill. The nicest house in the market place belonged to the timber merchant Binchanski. His son Jankel was also active in communal affairs. The two textile shops were also in the town square. They belonged to the brothers Matke and Hershl. The third textile shop belonged to Gershon Berkovski. His son Leibl was a communal worker in town. He was the chairman of the Zionist organization; he was the organizer of all communal and cultural affairs, created a dramatic circle, created a Jewish library and represented the town in contacts with the government authorities. After he married he moved to Lida. During the German occupation Gitl Berkovski with her daughter Sonia were first hidden by farmers and later joined the Bielski partisans. They survived the war.
Selib was a town of tradesmen. The best tailor in town was Nojach Berkovski, who employed two apprentices. One of them, Sender, immigrated to Argentina, but came back and married a local girl. Nojach the tailor had three sons: Isroel, Jehuda and Josif. Chaim Eliahu Berkovski lived in the market place. His daughter Chana was in hiding during the war and lives now in Haifa. Nochim Berkovski was a tailor. His wife Henie learned tailoring from her husband, and together they made leather coats and textile jackets for the farmers. They also kept bees. The old tailor, Dovid Berkovski, roused the Jews for sliches [a prayer asking for forgiveness which is recited before the high holidays]. His sons Leizer Berl and Avrom Leib immigrated to Venezuela. They lived in Shul Heif Lane. If one walked through the lane, one would hear various melodies from Yoim naroim, which he converted to Zionist tunes and would mingle them with the sound of the sewing machines. There were also a few tailors in town who travelled and worked in the villages during the week, and for Sabbath they would return home. The same was true for the cobblers, Berl Leizerowski, Michl the cobbler, Dovid the cobbler, Hertzl Berkovski, Jashke the cobbler, and his son Chaim Eliyahu. He was a jolly one; he would jest and tell jokes. Among the settled inhabitants of the town were the shop owner Michl Gurvich, the family Shmulevich, and brothers Rubinski. All those families were Zionists. Their children went on hachshara and immigrated to Israel, where they are among the few survivors of the town. Selub was a small township but the Jews lived an intensive, communal, Zionist and cultural life. They were simple working people, good people immersed in the Jewish nation and the Jewish spirit. This is our memorial to them. They all perished on the 8 December 1941. May God avenge their blood.
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki As a misty memory stands before me, my shtetl Selub, with its few streets, the Jewish market square with the synagogue, the fine households around the market square. When I think of it now, I can see that we lost a nice, small, decent religious community. I remember how many chevres (groups, societies) such a shtetl had - chevre Shas, chevre Mishnaies, chevre Thilim, a chevre which studied every week a portion of Chumash. I am thinking, where did all those humans come from? It was really simple; it was their main interest in life, and children were educated to follow the way that was binding the people with God and mides toives be adam lechaverim (good deeds of man to man). This is why in those days there were no Jewish thieves, bandits and every one was sameiach be chelko (contented with his lot), his poor, primitive life. In the market square, all buildings were Jewish. In the centre was the house of Jakov Brodner. He owned a textiles (Manchester) shop which had a high porch. He was rich, highly educated, and strictly religious; his children were well educated, and he owned a substantial library. He subscribed to several papers, including Hebrew ones, which he subscribed to with partners. Opposite him lived Reb Leib a householder, a wealthy Jew, nice, clean, a Jew who wore Tfilin. He had honest, nice, hard working children. All children who married were taken on as partners in the business, and it was a household of unity. They were devoted to each other and had respect for their elders. And they lived to an old age. Reb Sloyme Maker was a respectable citizen, who had a house in the market square, conducted a nice household, and rode in a horse driven carriage which was followed by a dog. He looked as if he was perpetually cross; however he had a good nature. He was always ready to help out, if help was required. Reb Kalman Yshayhu had a haberdashery shop and a house in the market square. He was a Jew who studied day and night. His wife Reize ran the shop. The customers had complete trust in them, and knew that they would not be misled. They had a daughter Feige Rochl who was well educated, enlightened, and was very clever. She married a gifted man and the chain of the faith continued. Moishe Itzchok of blessed memory was a learned Jew, very clever, always friendly, though he was always depressed, because his wife was constantly sick. The children had a religious upbringing and married students of the Yeshiva and continued the tradition. Reb Mendl the blacksmith, a fine, honest, religious man. He was always ready to help anybody in need. His wife Frume was a fine Jewish woman. In another part of the house lived his brother, Arche the cobbler. He was an honest, good Jew. In that house lived six families. In the market square lived Smuel Josl the tailor. I remember his wife particularly well because she, Slava, was making eiderdowns and I liked her work. Her husband was called American, because he once lived in America. He was a learned man. He had a hotel, but struggled to make a living. His children were well educated. I think that one of their daughters lives in America. In the middle of the market was a big cross. Many Christians were praying in front of it. All processions ended at the cross. This did not trouble the Jews. The whole week the Jews were concerned with worries of earning a livelihood, because there were very few affluent Jews. But on a Sabbath there were no poor people in town. On Sabbath in all houses, even in the lane, where poor people lived, there were on the table all varieties of meat, fish, and good cholent. The whole town was filled with the spirit of Sabbath. Delicacies - which are now unknown, but anyone of us would eat them gladly included special dumplings, veal shanks etc. On Sabbath one ate enough to last the week, because meat was not served every weekday, particularly in the summer. Everything was cooked on the day it was eaten and the food was never smoked. I think of the women of those days, and I think that they must have been brave. They cooked and they baked in the one oven three separate times. First biscuits and challah, then they reheated the oven and cooked milk based products, then reheated the oven again and cooked cholent made of a variety of ingredients. They washed and ironed, brought up eight to ten children, did all their sewing, knitted socks for the winter, mended, baked bread, and plucked feathers in the winter evenings. On a Sabbath everyone would go for a walk on the hill. On Lubch street, some distance away, was a nice peaceful stream with yellow sand and small fish, which would disperse in fear of every passer by. One could find there a big stone to pummel the washing. Close to the bridge, nut-bearing trees grew densely. Further on was a place to bathe in the river, but the water was cold. Further along was the tall, nice hill with flowers on both sides. Next to it was the Count's orchard with the branches of the trees breaking under the weight of the fruit. In the orchard were flowers and alleyways and benches to sit on. This was a place to relax in and have pleasure. Some would walk into the pine forest, which was located one kilometre from the township. They would fetch food and spend the day there. The Selub Count was a handsome, good man. He was enormously rich and owned a lot of land, including the land the town was built on. His fees for the lease of the land were very modest. Jews had been leasing from him the flower mill for many generations. The last lessee was my grandfather Moishe Percig, a wealthy man. I remember that every Passover it was traditional to give the Count matzo and wine. The Count supported the poor of the town and gave enough wood to the synagogue to heat it through the winter. Even money for Passover for poor people was given by the Count. His end was tragic. When the Red Army came, he was arrested and taken through the town on a wagon used for carrying rubbish. The Jews of the township cried when they saw him. He was in the Novogrudok jail and was made to do demeaning work. He died in jail.
Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil There was a small Jewish shtetl. It sounds today like a fairytale.
The Jews, the people of Gemarah, Jews of Tehilim, men of property, (Ba'alei-Batim) and tradesmen and the town disappeared and fell silent. Honest and innocent people, who worshiped God faithfully and believed whole heartedly in the coming of the Messiah. They died sanctifying God's name with the belief that Netzach Israel Lo Yeshaker (the people of Israel will tell the truth). And we, the few who stayed alive, remember them with respect and love. We will never, never forget them. We will never forget and never forgive what the Amalek of the twentieth century did to us!
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki Tsemach the coachman was renown in the whole district of Novogrudok, regardless whether they did or did not travel with him from Novogrudok to Selub. They all knew him. When he was approaching Novogrudok from Peresike, you could hear people in Shloss Gass say uwaga pan Tzemach jedzie (take care, Mister Tzemach is approaching). He was of above average height, with sinking cheeks, a twisted nose, with large eyeglasses held in white frames, with bleached trousers and a mended jacket. With a short white whip in one hand he held the reins in the other as he was walking next to the cart and calling Mister Tzemach is coming. The farmers knew him and gladly made space for him to pass. Tzemach's cart was arranged like a taxi - four seats in the back and three in front. The cart was filled with straw and covered by a peasant's overcoat. The back of the cart was raised higher than the front to allow the passengers to sit comfortably. Tzemach would help the passengers get onto and off the cart, particularly girls and young women. He would shout at them you kids get quickly off the cart. The road from Novogrudok to Selub was not paved till just before the Second World War and Tzemach's cart struggled along the sandy road. His horse was not very strong or well fed. As they would come to a small elevation, Tzemach would jump off the cart and the passengers would follow and climb the rise on foot. If anyone failed to do so, they would get a tongue-lashing, and even the elderly women dismounted. That would cause Tzemach to shout even louder who asked you to come down, it will take you half an hour to get up again. Tzemach had a great self-esteem and everyone had to travel with him. If they did not, he could stop them in the street in Novogrudok and would shout you, young goat, don't you like riding with Tzemach? Wait till I tell everybody who you go around with at nights. That was enough. The young girl would beg her parents, aunties and uncles in Selub to travel only with Tzemach, else she might end up an old maid. Tzemach was also known to shout in the synagogue. If for any reason praying was interrupted or a quarrel would start in the synagogue Tzemach would shout louder then anyone. He often did not know why he was shouting, but if there was shouting, he would also shout. The only person who could silence him was Chaje, his wife. If she would poke out her head through the curtain of the women's section they would warn him Tzemach, Chaje is watching. And that would silence him.
The other coachman in Selub was Judmem, who initially came to town to marry someone's daughter. His name was Shloyme. When he arrived in town to get married, they tried to cheat him out of the promised dowry. He started to shout If you give me the dowry all will be well, if you wont I will do you a judmem and a memjud (which are initials of Russian swear words) and I will go back and leave the bride to you. The potential father and mother in law took fright of Judmem and counted out the promised dowry. Tzemach, however, was not frightened of Judmem,and prevented him from taking on passengers. Judmem had to wait till Tzemach's coach was full before taking on passengers. It took a time for Tzemach to get used to the idea that Judmam was also a coachman and had the right to carry passengers to Novogrudok. But the citizens of Selub travelled mainly with Tzemach.
Later a new calamity occurred. A bus started to travel between Selub and Novogrudok. The prosperous people of Selub were ashamed to travel by horse and cart. Later arrived more competition - a second bus. Almost everyone started to travel by bus and Tzemach lost most of his livelihood.
Later still, the Second World War started. The Soviets arrived, commerce stopped, and there was no reason to travel anywhere.
I saw Tzemach for the last time on Monday the 8th of December 1941. The Germans had amassed all the Jews in the district court at the end of Korelich Street. All the buildings were packed with Jews from everywhere. All the Jews from Selub were there. As the court buildings filled, up the Germans started hoarding Jews in the building that served as the wood store of the court. More than 500 people were packed into the store. The Germans started by selecting the people: who were to live and who to die. When the Germans came to the store one of them shouted: typhus and all Jews from Selub were led to the trucks to be taken to their death. Tzemach started arguing with the Germans - he wants to live, he is still young, he will work, but he must not be killed. He started to shout and was taken shouting to the death pits of Skrydlevo.
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki Novoyelnie was a small township, a place that has left good and pleasant impressions not only in the memories of the Jews of Novoyelnie, but also in the recollections of many people of the district. Firstly, Novoyelnie was known for its railway station, the only contact between Novogrudok and the world. Novogrudok was joined with Novoyelnie by a narrow gauge rail line. The small train travelled so slowly, particularly in the winter snow, that it would have been quicker to walk. Sometimes the passengers would jump off the train, rub their hands with snow or throw snowballs at each other, run a bit to warm up and still manage to catch up with the train. The railway station in Novoyelnie was the centre point of the township. Here one would meet friends and relatives. Here one could conclude commercial transections. In winter it was quiet in the township, interrupted only by hooting of the locomotives. The Jewish life in Novoyelnie was concentrated in the main street, where a few dozen Jewish families lived. They made their living by commerce. Once a week on a market day, the farmers from the neighboring villages would come to purchase things and to sell their produce. For the rest of the week, it was very quiet and the rabbi together with the chasan and several traders, with my father OBM among them, had time to pray and study after lunch. The young people were educated mainly in Novogrudok and would come home only during vacation time. Next to the township was a large pine forest, which was deserted in the winter, but during spring it would wake up. Immediately after Passover the Jews of Novoyelnie started preparing for the vacations. Novoyelnie was a holiday place for the whole district. In the summer people from all neighbouring towns would come to Novoyelnie. The pine forest and the river would attract both young and old. Here the TOZ had its holiday home. There were pensions and houses for rent by families. The vacationers rested and amused themselves in Novoyelnie. They had a good time and could forget their daily worries. The forest was alive. Late into the night one could hear laughter and singing of the young people in the alleys of the forest. Each of us had happy memories of the pleasant times in the forest. The German assassins wiped out this life suddenly, and many near and dear ones were murdered.
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