Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Dark clouds spread over the shtetl [town] right at the start of the war, on the 22nd of June 1941. The Germans marched and approached us at a rapid pace. The residents of the shtetl were confused, frightened we did not know where to run. A number ran to the border to Negarele and the others to the surrounding villages in order to hide and survive the frightening days.
My husband, Josl, worked as a Soviet employee at the train station and had to be at his work until the last minute. When the first German bombs fell on the train station, I ran there immediately to see how Josl was. There was a threat of death if one left work. He actually was mobilized on the same day, but as a family man with four children, he was immediately released. On Sunday the Germans surrounded Pilsudski Szpitalna Nacale Streets and threw grenades and firebombs in the houses, on the pretext that Bolsheviks were hiding there. Everything burned. Josl, carrying a child, ran out of the house into the garden. I found both of them dead a few hours later. On Sunday they shot around 200 souls on our street. We buried all of them in our garden. A few months later, we carried the bones to the Jewish cemetery.
I remained alone with three small children. No troubles were lacking. It was being said that we would soon be fenced into a ghetto. On the eve of the first slaughter, I got the idea: dress my Chana in a pair of shoes with high heels, through this, try to save one daughter. I lost my two small daughters, Tsipele and Tsernele in the first slaughter. Thus we lived in fear, in need and pain. Went through two
|The Filshcik family
Nechama, Josef, Shulmit, Tserne, Tsipe
slaughters and saw with my own eyes how my own dear ones were slaughtered and everything was being annihilated.
There were about 200 women and a small number of men in the ghetto on the eve of the third and last slaughter. Returning from work, we noticed that the ghetto was being surrounded on all sides by Belarusian and Lithuanian police. Then, my daughter Chana and I decided to escape from the ghetto. It was a cold December night and we saw that two boys had cut the fence wire in one place. We did not think about it for long and we quietly crawled out through the fence and the wire. We crawled on our knees to the Christian cemetery where we met several other Stolpce Jews: Etil [diminutive of Ester] and Zlatke Kaplan, Sevek Horenkrig, Silim Manaker's two girls and two boys. Together we began to crawl through the fields until we reached the train line.
|Kalman Inzelbuch's family
Yehudis, Chana, Leah, Chaya, Nechama and Kalman
Shooting from the train guards, who heard our steps, opened up on us when we were crossing the train line. The night was very dark and yet the bullets fell near us. We ran until we reached the woods not far from the slaughterhouse. What would we do next? It was dark. Shivering from the cold and fear, we barely survived the day. In the morning we heard steps and saw a gentile boy in the distance. The Kaplan sisters immediately recognized him as Janek Starzich from Zadwarie, who had worked for Welwl Tunik in the slaughterhouse for many years. Asking him where it was easier to run, the gentile boy thought for a while and told us not entirely willingly that Ezriel Tunik and Dwoyra Kaplan, their sister, were hiding with his family. The gentile boy said that he had to go to work first. He advised us to go deeper into the woods and to stay there until night. Then he would come to take us. We had heavy hearts could we believe him because most Christians ran to report to the Germans.
However, not having any choice or anything to lose, we went deeper into the woods where we sat hungry and waited an entire day in great fear.
Of those who escaped from the ghetto with us only my daughter and I and the two Kaplan sisters remained. The others had gone in different directions throughout the day.
The gentile boy came in the evening. He found us by the light of a pocket lamp. We went with him to his house in the corner of the village. There were a few houses neighboring his. The gentile boy's mother, seeing such a group, was not very enthusiastic. I immediately sensed where we stood. I took off my things. I gave her my boots, my coat, the little money I had
with me and I even gave her the gold crowns from the teeth in my mouth. Taking everything, she became friendly and said: I will hide you. You will be with me and eat what I eat. She immediately led us into the house, gave us food. Each night we all dug out a hole in the shed near the house, covered with boards and straw and sand. We only left open a small hole to crawl in. The hole was hidden and masked a little so that it would not be obvious to a stranger, particularly the neighbors or Germans who very often would come to their daughter, Zashke. The Christian woman padded the hole with a little straw that would get wet and decay. At night I would crawl out of the hole and go into the house to help the Christian woman with her household work. Often I would be deathly afraid when someone would knock at the door at night.
We remained in the pit from the end of December 1942 until the beginning of July 1944 when the Red Army freed us.
The Christian was not rich and she gave us, six people, food and many times it was not enough. Therefore, the fear, suffering and pain satiated us. The Strzik family earns the full right and should be counted in the general Jewish history among the pious and good among the non-Jewish people.
Of the six saved: I, my daughter Chana (Lev), Ester Kaplan (Zinger), Zlatke Kaplan (Gutman), Ezriel Tunik, and their families found their home in Israel. Dwoyra Kaplan and her family are in America.
Translated by Melissa Rubin McCurdie and David Rubin
6 August 1949
Dear Friends Meishel and Getzel,
I received your letters and read them with great joy. I've heard that slowly the remaining people of the massacres are getting together. Our exhausted and depressed (haunted) brothers and sisters of Stolpce, may we hear better things from one another.
Our Jewish nation should already be able to close the pages where our history is written in blood.
Please forgive me for my lateness in answering your heart rending letter. It was not through ill will, God forbid, but I had an accident with my hand and I couldn't write, but I did everything that was necessary.
My dear brothers I can tell you that since the great disaster that befell our Jewish people we cannot remain at peace knowing that the remains of my flesh and blood remain wandering on the way.
We are currently collecting money to help our brothers and sisters. All the collection of money takes place at my house. The 2nd in command to me is Chatche Russak, he is always with me and my daughter Brochke is the secretary.
Receiving your letter that you want to establish a Gemilut Chessed, we immediately called a meeting. Having collected a little money we wanted the opinion of all the friends because a few then suggested dividing the money amongst the needy as support without any conditions.
In the meantime we again collected money and then with Chatche I called a meeting again and discussed the meaning of a Gemilut Chessed, and we were able to confirm your plan. We wish you all success in your work.
Even though we were not with you in those gruesome and shocking days of suffering, pain and destruction, we have a responsibility to be with you today to help you with whatever we can to build up anew with the feeling that we lonely sole survivors of a family, Stolpce brothers and sister are taking part in the rebuilding of our age old land Zion and Jerusalem.
I am sending you a list of members who have committed themselves to support for the good of the Gemilut Chessed in the name of the Holy ones of Stolpce, may they rest in peace: Brochke Klatzko (Milcenzon) and her husband, Basia Milcenzon, Avron Russak and wife, Yaakov Boruch and wife, Hirshel Neifeld and wife, Nochum Malbin and wife, Beryl Bernshtein and wife, Yossel Reiser and wife, Yosef Renzon and wife, Mordechai Matityahu Rosovsky and wife, Yedidya Bernshtein and wife, Zissel Dvoretzky and wife, Hershel Dvoretzky, Reizel Neifeld, Yehudit Melamed (Russak) and husband, Luba Shapiro (Russak) and husband, Minna Zeidel (Reiser) and husband, Shashe Kafyan (Lublinsky) and husband, Yoel Lublinsky and wife, Yossef Lublinsky and wife, Pale Kohn and husband from the USA are here guests.
Be well. We greet you warmly from all Shtoibtze in Africa, be strong we are with you.
Bashke (Basia) Milcenzon
2 February 1945
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