For Those That Sanctified Your Name
For The Rebels In The Ghettos
For Those That Fought In The Forests
For Those That Rose Up In Concentration Fields
For The Soldiers In The Army
For Those That Saved Their Siblings
For The Valiant Heroes
For Those That Passed To Eternal Life
The following is from the Chapter Brest of this book (pages 179/186 in the Hebrew translation), the description of the end of the Jews of Brest in the forests of Brona Gura, together with others of different cities, and among them ours.
The way in which the liquidation should be done and the preparations to carry it out appear in an official document, edited after the murders by a council consisting of representatives of the Soviet authorities, the partisans, and inhabitants of the area of Brest.
The Council president was Archady Ivanovich Tarasavich, and its memberss were the President of the Council of the area of "Berezov" Vassily Nicholayevich Buri, the representative of the partisans Iván Parvlovich Kashtalian, and the representative of the area of "Berezov" the comrade Ch. Novick.
The memorandum prepared by the Council about the cruelties, the assaults, the sufferings and the destruction that the Fascist conquerors made in the forests of Brona Gura in the area of Bereza, district of Brest says that:
"After revising the territory where Soviet citizens were tortured and shot by Fascist German conquerors, and through investigations carried out by other citizens on this matter, we obtain the following synthesis.
Soviet citizens' massive liquidationSisters Katzav wrote:
According to the program prepared by Fascist conquerors in the forests of Brona Gura, at a distance of 400 meters NE to the railroad station of Brona Gura, between May and June of 1942, they dug graves on a surface of 16.800 (square) meters.
To do this work Germans used peasants of the area, between 600 and 800 people daily. To speed up the work they used different explosive materials.
After digging the graves, by the middle of June of 1942, Germans began to transfer in railroad boxcars Soviet citizens from different places and from fields in Bereza, Brest, Dohitzin, Yanov, Horodetz and other fields in Belarus, to the station Brona Gura. Soviet citizens were also transferred on foot to the area of Brona Gura
Boxcars were replete and among them were many that died. Then they took them to the railroad crossing, where there were military deposits, some 250 meters of the central station of Brona Gura. They stopped the boxcars close to the prepared graves, and they discharged people on the land surrounded by wires of spikes.
After discharging people from boxcars, they ordered them to undress, to throw their clothes, and were left naked. Then they led them by a kind of narrow corridor among wires of spikes toward the graves. The first ones descended to the graves by a stairway and were forced to lie face down, one next to another. After filling the first "layer" they shot them with automatic weapons. Germans dressed the uniforms of the ASD and SS. In the same way they filled the second and third layer until filling the moat. The screams of men, women and children broke the heart. After shooting all the citizens, they loaded the clothes and objects on the boxcars toward an unknown destination.
The arrival and discharge of people in the boxcars, were carried out under the severe surveillance of the station chiefs in Brona Gura, Pikeh and Schmidt, of German origin. In order to erase all sign of the cruelties made in Brona Gura, Germans shot all the citizens (more than 1000 people) that inhabited the area in which were in the past military deposits.
On the surface where the terrible slaughter was made, were eight wells. The first sepulcher had 63 meters long and 6,6 meters wide. The second, 36 meters long and 6.5 wide. The third was 36 meters long and 6 meters wide. The fourth was 37 meters long and 6 meters wide. The fifth was 52 meters long and 6 meters wide. The sixth was 24 meters long and 6 meters wide. The seventh was 16 meters long and 4.5 wide. The depth of all the sepulchers was between 3.5 to 4 meters.
From June until November of 1942 Germans murdered more than 30,000 citizens in the area of Brona Gura.
October 14, 1942: The ghetto trembled. Something passed of the other side of the fence of spikes. There were tumults. Great number of policemen. What happened? At dusk they dispersed and the people quieted down a little. At 6 a.m. on October 15, a neighbor woke up us and told that the ghetto was walled, and therefore new things happened. It is difficult to describe what happened there. Some hid in previously prepared caves, and those that didn't have a hiding place ran in the streets from one side to another like crazy.Comrade Sikorsky wrote:
October 15, 1942 the Ghetto was surrounded by units of the SS and the ASD. At 6 a.m. the crop of blood began. The Hitlerist murderers entered into the houses and into the basements, and they dragged women, old men and babies. They ordered them in lines and they took them to their death.Germans had capacity to find ways of causing suffering and death. These murderers didn't have pity. The official document of the Council tells us this with clarity:
with the objective of erasing the signs of the cruelties made in 1944, Germans brought to the camp in the station of Bereza more than 100 citizens of diverse towns near Brest, and they forced them to open the graves and to burn the cadavers. The fire burned day and night for 15 days. They used as combustible wooden charts of 48 military deposits and barrack that they had in the area. After concluding the work of burning the cadavers, they were shot and burned by German hands. They were more than 100 people.Besides the testimonies picked up by the members of the Council, there are testimonies from people like Roman Stanislabovich Novis, Ivan Vasilevich Gobin, Borislav Michailovich Shetshinsky, Gregory Gregorievich Yatzkevich, and other witness who told all that their eyes saw.
On the common graves the Germans planted small trees. In some parts were remains of human bones that the fire didn't consume, women's hair dress and children's shoes, soviet coins of silver, boy's 18 centimeters long arms.
They took the members of Soviet investigation to another terrible place, not distant of the village Smoliarka in the area of Brona Gura, 50m meters of the mentioned village and 70 meters of the Moscow-Warsaw road. On this, the document of the Council stated:
Soviet citizens of the city of Bereza and of the villages of this area were transported in trucks to the graves, in the suitable place. The sufferings and the slaughters of the peaceful inhabitants of the village of Smoliarka was similar to those of the genocide in Brona Gura. Five common graves were discovered there and they all had Soviet citizens. Each sepulcher had the same measures: 10 meters long, 4 meters wide and 2.5 meters deep. The genocide of Soviet citizens in the area of the village Smoliarka was carried out in September 1942. There they were shot - according to eye witnesses - about 1000 persons.It was confirmed by Ivan Ivanovich Gantz, Ivan Stephanivitz Gantz, "Andrei Ivanovitz Levkovitz, Yosef Yakubalivich Kutanik and others.
It is also written in the "Black Book":
In the document of the Commission we read these final words:
In the area of Brona Gura Germans destroyed the railroads, and other elements of the station. In the moment of the retreat, they exploded them, set buildings on fire, and the railroads were destroyed with special machinery. The units that destroyed the railroads were called "Fimashchug" . The commandant was the German Captain Sporberg. The damage caused to the station of Brona Gura is considered 1,150,000 rubles.According to the questioning of witness and to data picked up in the area of Brest, the commission estimates that the genocide of Soviet citizens in the area of Brona Gura and in the proximities of Smoliarka, of the area of Bereza, was carried out by the commands of ASD and SS headed by following people:
1. Chief of the Office of Zonal Police in Brest, Mayor Rodhe (until the beginning of 1944).The signature of the members of the Council follows.
2. Chief of the Office of Zonal Police in Brest, Biger (from spring of 1944 until the expulsion of the Germans from Brest).
3. Chief of the First Police Station of the city of Brest, Lieutenant Hoffman
4. Chiefs of the First Police Station of the city of Brest, Cheif Holter, Cheif Grober and Cheif Bos.
5. Chief of the Second Police Station of the city of Brest, Lieutenant Frizinger (until the beginnig of 1944).
6. Chief of Police in Judicial Issues: S. D. Oubershpirer Zanatzky (German)
7. Major of Judicial Police: Ivanovsky (Pole)
8. Under commandant of ASD: Houbershturmphirer Tzibel.
9. Chief of Gendarmerie "Gavitskomisariat" Captain Davarlain.
10. In charge of evacuating murders: official of the ASD, Garik
11. Chief of the Gendarmerie in Kartuz Bereza: Senior Lieutenant Gross
12. Official of the ASD: Griber, Wuntzman directly responsible for the murders.
These names were in the memory of the eye witnesses, and they are also added to the list of murderers that are owed the fair punishment that that they deserve.The preceding are the notes of the Brest Chapter of the "Black Book."
This year, 1942, they took us and my husband's family to the Ghetto Ozetol. This was a small town 23 Km. from where we lived in Ravida Vabusrka. The Ghetto was very small. In total they were two narrow back streets.
After a lot of effort, we found a small room that we shared with seven people. The hardship was terrible. During the day there were flies and during the night mosquitoes. The hardship, the flies and the mosquitoes didn't mean anything in comparison with the fear that reigned among us. And we had no food. After a lot of effort, my husband got work as a Polish peasant, and he was able this way to - sometimes - secretly obtain some food.
My husband had been born in the area, and he knew it very well. We began to think of a way of escaping to the forest, but my father-in-law (blessed his name) was an old man and that was a big problem. My two daughters were also a problem. While we thought about future sufferings, one morning I woke up (I don't remember the exact date) and I heard cries and screams. I looked through the window and I saw German and Jews running toward all sides.
I quickly covered myself with a coat, took my two daughters and ran toward the bottom of the house where there was a hiding place. We were there two days and two nights. My husband was outside the ghetto. When I left the hiding place, I realized that I was all alone with my two daughters. I didn't know where to go. I remembered that my husband always spoke to me about a Christian family lived besides the Ghetto. I knocked on their door. The woman answered that she could not help me. She sent me to a house on the other side of the street. I didn't have any other choices so I went there. The gentile that received me told me that behind the house there was a cabin full of hay, and I could hide there. I went there but I found it locked. What to do?
Besides of the cabin I saw a lot of wood cut into small pieces. Somehow, I was able to get under them and cover myself. I went to bed thinking that it would be my end, and this was how I fell asleep . Suddenly I heard someone shouting in German "Are there Jews here?" The gentile answered "no sir, there are not." I heard steps that came closer to the place in which was lying, and among the cracks I saw a German dressed in his blue uniform enter the cabin with a scythe in his hand. After a few minutes he left. It seemed that he looked in the hay. I stayed in the hiding place until nightfall.
The owner came and I told him that I had not entered the cabin since it was locked. He opened it for me and said that two other Jewish women should arrive. They came, and they remained only a short time because they went to a more secure a place. When I was left alone I didn't know that to do. Suddenly one clear day, a peasant came that lived close to us in Broda Vaborska, and who knew about my plight. He came into the cabin and told me "Mrs. Eliashiv, today I will take you out of here". I didn't know that he had made an agreement with the owner of the place.
That afternoon the owner of the place gave me a dress and a long handkerchief that belonged to his wife to cover my head, and he told me to get dressed with it. Then he gave me a pail and he told me that I should follow him because we had to pass by a place that was watched over by German. We should look like we were going to milk cows. He took me to the road. Near the main road there was a field sowed of wheat that had not yet been harvested. He told me to hide in that field, and when another peasant would pass with his cart, I should follow it.
I said goodbye to the house owner and went towards the road. Suddenly, a gentile shouted at me "Hi Jew! Where are you going? Anyway they will kill you". It was crop time. Men worked in the fields. I began to walk. The perspiration covered my face for the terrible fear that I had. My legs trembled but I continued walking until I arrived at the wheat field.
My heart beat like it was ready to explode. Finally the cart came. I left the road and I followed it. I had to walk another kilometer until I got to the forest. The path was full with people. It seems that my destination was to be alive. Then luck smiled on me, and I found my husband and my father-in-law. My husband knew the area and his forests, and he helped me face all difficulties. Thanks to their concern we could also survive this. In 1945, when the war finished, I didn't feel any happiness. On the contrary, I could not accept that I had survived and all my dear people had not. I remember them always and talk about them. I will name them until the last minute of my life I won't stop remembering them.
Be blessed their memory!!
People of our area foresaw what was happening. They broke down the doors with iron bars and killed Kaminetzky. After several days the Germans reached an agreement with the Russian, and the Germans abandoned the town. The Russian entered it and immediately revised who of the inhabitants of the place was in control of the situation . Very quickly they were convinced that it didn't made sense to fight for their ideals, because it wouldn't be possible for the Jews to "chang their skin". Many Jews were arrested, others escaped with Poles, and many were sent to Russia. The Jews lived this way in Bereza until the Germans invaded Russia in June of 1941.
The Germans had no difficulty conquering Bereza, and they immediately formed a "Judenrat". These were its members: 1) Godel Pisetsky, 2) Naphtaly Levinzon, 3) Yacov Shlossberg, 4) Meir Rashinsky, 5) Yakov Osher Friedenshtein, 6) Yakov Moshkovitz, 7) Enach Liskovsky 8) Fishel Beizer and 9) Yechiel Urback. The Judenrat met in the house of Yosef Simcha.
The Germans authorities ordered all Jew to wear a yellow patch. Those who didn't would be shot. Then they demanded the delivery of a workers to clean the houses. Fishel Beizer was in charge of workers shipment. The Ghetto extended from Ulany Mezushe Street up to the house of Shloime Vainshtein, where there was a closed hall door. It was forbidden for Jews to leave the place.
I worked with Yacov Shlosberg. The Germans built a house for their soldiers and we made the close ups. Then I made "black works". Working with me were Yitzchak Karalif, Yakov Moshkovitz, Moishe Tuchman and Simon Kobrinsky who had a gentile wife. The person that controlled our work was not Jewish; his name was Gavin. One day was sent went to the battlefield, and in his place they put someone else.
In exchange for our work, we received 250 daily grams of bread. One day the Germans began to demand objects of value from the Jews: leather, rings, jewels. Jewish police demanded those objects and they looked for them in the houses. In the Jewish police were Shmuel Goberman, Yakov Glazer and Asher the butcher's son-in-law. If the policemen found what the Germans demanded they gave it to them, and if they didn't they sent two people to Pruzhany to make an exchange of objects. Those two people were Enach Liskovsky and Yechiel Urbach. Then the Germans demanded an exact and detailed list of Jews that were in Bereza. They sent the specialized workers to Ghetto A.
The first day of the month of Av, the SS surrounded Ghetto B. At dawn, they loaded people in closed boxcars and they transferred them to Bluden, and from there to Brona Gura, and there they annihilated them. In the barracks in Bereza were Russian prisoners; they were ordered to dig the graves and, after doing the work, they were shot. The boxcars that arrived to Brona Gura had two doors, one in front of the other one. The Germans opened the doors and they ordered people to jump to the graves; spoiled Jews made it; the murderers of the SS shot them. Our beloved families were annihilated this way.
I should highlight that I was not in Brona Gura, but I know the whole detailed truth because some people, and among them Melech Tuchman, David Sloimke Shiles, the son-in-law of Glazer, and Pesel daughter of the hat maker of Shereshev, were able to escape from the valley of the death, and returned to Kartuz Bereza. I spoke with them and they told me everything. Pesel escaped from Ghetto A with her small baby in her arms; one day there came an order of Ghetto A, and Shmuel Palak of the Jewish police went to her house and took her, her husband and her baby to a field beside the church, and there they were shot.
When Russia ruled Bereza and up until the time that Germany invaded the Soviet Union, a Russian inhabitant was harmed, and for that they hated it to all Jews. One time when gentile workers were transporting firewood of the forest of Michalovka, they had seen Jewish partisans there. Immediately they told the SS about it.
One day the SS arrived in the ghetto and gathered all Jewish workers, who were taken in front of the Judenrat. They were: 1) Yosef Berkleit, 2) Yosef Minkovsky, 3) bothers Yoske and Leizer Glazerman of Bluden and 4) the siblings Velvel and Motel Beniomin Rabinovitz. With them and the Judenrat, the Germans went to Yosef Chomsky, and the following day other 20 workers were brought to the Judenrat. The residents of the ghetto suspected and began to hide; for this cause Herschel Beizer (blessed his memory) could not find any more specialized workers.
Germans got angry; they opened a grave beside the church, and they shot not only Jews of the town but also of the towns of the surroundings like Malcz, Selcz and of nearby villages.
The first annihilation of Jews of the Ghetto B happened July 15 1942. About a thousand Jews of Ghetto A were still alive. I was among the 200 Jews of the Ghetto A whom the Germans sent to forced labor the day July 16 1942.
We spoke Yiddish among ourselves. Our intention was that Jews hidden in basements, bunkers and any other hiding place, might hear us and understand that there were still Jews in the town. When we passed next to the house of Hershel Velvel Liubashevky father-in-law of Yitzchak Goldberg, we heard a voice from the basement: "Jews, survive!" We remembered in our memory the number of the house and we continued our task. Also of the house of Yosef Chomsky came a voice of Jews that requested help. They also requested help at the house of the Rav Trop and of Ester Reshes; we registered it in our memory.
When we returned from work we hurried to inform to the Judenrat, The following day when we went to work, we went together with Jewish policemen to the house of Liubashevky and we took out of there the wife of Leizer Fishelzon, the Rav Mordechai Flotzky, and his daughter-in-law of Kosovo and their two small children. From an attic in the house of Chomsky we took out Morchechai Kaplan and his wife. From the attic of the house of the Rav Trop we took out Arieh Glazer, his wife and their two children. From the house of Reshes we took out Meier Fridman together with his wife and their children. We gathered them in our work group, and then they passed to the ghetto.
After three days of the first action, we bribed our companion and we went in search of hidden Jews outside of the city. We found another six Jews hidden among high grass of the fields, and among them was the old man Mordechai Simanovsky (he was the oldest man in the ghetto) and also Yaacov Leib Portnoy. We brought them to the ghetto before Dec. 15 1942. Until that date we worked, and there wasn't any other action.
My wife and my children were in Pruzhany for several weeks. The day of September 14, I arrived to Kartuz Bereza to take my two sisters from the ghetto. That same night the gestapo together with White Russian and Lithuanian policemen surrounded Ghetto A from all sides. Inside the ghetto exploded a terrible tumult, and each person looked for a way of surviving. The workers were no longer there because they were sent to their working positions.
In one of the encounters, I asked Shloime Vainshtein: what is your opinion on the situation?" and he answered "I am no longer anybody, am I liquidated!"!. He knew what awaited him. Siblings Huberman, Moishe Tuchman and Leizer Kolodner escaped to the forest. I transferred my wife and children to the Ghetto of Pruzhany: when Germans surrounded Ghetto A, I managed with great difficulty to get them out of there.
Bereza was already burned, and I escaped to Malch. On the way, I found Abraham Gaz of Bluden and Chaim Balebat. We arrived at Pruzhany. The following day we were joined by Yacov Zalman and the 'black" ASAF. We were there until Jewish partisans arrived. They killed some of the SS, but the German caught us. My wife and I were transported by Germans to Auschwitz together with Yaakov Zalman and Yosef Lashtein. On the way, other Germans surrounded and shot at us. My wife, my children and my wife's family died.
Only I, Yudke, am alive, a saved log, a murmuring ember. My hands tremble and I am not in any condition to write of those terrible days.
Redaction's note: Yehuda Vilechik emigrated to Israel in 1949 and he established his home here. Lives in Kyriat Motzkin. Yehuda was saved twice. The first time when he left one day before the liquidation of the Ghetto of Kartuz Bereza. Then he spent a few years in the extermination camp at Auschwitz (the testimonies are in the files of Yad Vashem) and was able to stay alive!. Vilechik gave vivid and fresh testimonies in 1947, in Germany, to Chaim Rabinovitz. The testimonies were written in Yiddish. Due to re request of the Redactors, the writer and poet Noach Peniel also of Bereza, translated them to Hebrew.
After a while, a local council was organized, and my father Rueben Bekler was names as the representative of the Jewish population. Their task was not easy, especially when due to a severe decree, our population had to pay a large amount of money, had to surrender their domestic animals without compensation, had to wear the yellow patch in front and in back, had to walk in the middle of the street and not in the pathway, etc.
Germans imposed all kinds of work on us. They made us go on foot to the nearby train station of Bluden, about 7 kilometers away, load boxcars with their produce plundered from the local population, and discharge the groceries for their army. In winter we cleaned the ice and snow accumulations from the train rails.
Several times we returned from work with head wounds due to blows inflicted by Germans. Often friends fainted from the heavy load they had to carry.
On May 25, 1942, the population of the city was transferred to the Ghetto of Kartuz Bereza, and were put into various homes. When we arrived, my father (blessed his memory) was invited to be a member of the Judenrat of Bereza, and to represent our city in the Council. He rejected the offer because we knew about the cruelties made by the members of the Judenrat.
Life in the ghetto was unbearable. The people obtained their sustenance by smuggling those products that entered the ghetto. This way of life continued until July 14, 1942. That day the soldiers of the SS and the Belarus and the Ukrainian police surrounded Ghetto B. The residents of this ghetto who had work certificates were transferred to Ghetto A which was considered a productive ghetto. The morning of the first day of the month Av, or July 15 1942, the Nazis took the Jews of the Ghetto B out of their homes, toward their final destination.
The activity that the Nazis prepared for the later executions was so hidden that people didn't imagine that they were being sent to slaughter. The Nazis told them that they will be transferred to the Ghetto of Byalistok, and they allowed them to take their belongings, in a quantity not greater than 5 kilograms. Of course people took objects of value like gold, brilliant and dollars. People of the ghetto were transferred in two groups. Youths (some of whom had previously been the land of Israel for a long time) were loaded on trucks to prevent them from escaping. The rest, like a flock, were taken on foot to the rail station in Bluden, a distance of about 5 kilometers. Some youths foresaw what was waiting for them and they tried to escape, but German bullets impacted their bodies.
In the station they loaded the unfortunates in boxcars, and took them directly to the place of slaughter in Brona Gura that was surrounded by spiked wires, and it was completely impossible to escape. My dear relatives were among them. The residents of the Ghetto A heard the echoes of the shootings that came from Brona Gura, but who could have imagined that there fell the pure and innocents of the ghetto? Only after some fool German soldiers told what happened, those who were in the ghetto began to believe them.
Just before this slaughter, some were able to slip away and to join the line of the partisans. I was one of them.
After the slaughter of the Jews of Ghetto B, the partisans sent my friend Abraham Apelboim and me to the ghetto to communicate our opinions to the youth through printed material and also in oral form. We told them that they should be organized for sabotage activities in their work positions, and to be connected with the partisan groups to pass weapons and radio recordings to the posse of the forest. Our mission had its small achievements because several days later the youth was organized and were active during their permanency in the ghetto. They also introduced weapons to the ghetto in secret form, and they sent a reinforcement of men and weapons to the partisans' line. When we could leave the ghetto, eight people of the Ghetto A joined us.
I am deeply sorry but, of all of them, no one survived. Some returned to the ghetto after the first German attack on August 1 1942, in which we liberated the Ghetto Kosovpolsky. Some fell in the attack and other - heroes - in different battle fields.
Ghetto A remained for several months after the liquidation of the Jews of the Ghetto B, and in autumn of 1942 it again was surrounded by Nazis and Ukrainian.
Members of the defense were organized in several groups with weapons in hand, and they awaited the nightfall in their hidding places. It didn't make any sense to fight during the day, because the only street of the ghetto was replete of people who were not allowed to leave to go to their work.
That night was "Pesach" for people in the Ghetto A. The night began with a deadly silence, but suddenly the sky of the ghetto was illuminated and a rain of fire of rifles and machine guns crossed the clean and dark air of the ghetto. The heroes of the defense put several houses of the ghetto on fire, and they tried to leave the circle of death with weapons in their hands, and to level the road toward freedom. The Nazis were suspicious of the unusual movement in the ghetto during the day and reinforced their defense, and when the rebellion exploded, they threw a fire rain, large and wide in the ghetto.
The fire ceased slowly, and when the last of the heroes that still had a machine gun in his hand fell, his face was pointed toward freedom.
The few Jews of the ghetto that were still alive after the terrible battle, the following day found death in a common grave dug by themselves, near the place where flamed the flags of blood of the first slaughter. The blood of the Jews of Selcz mixed with the blood of the Jews of Kartuz Bereza, rose toward the heights together with those who sanctified HIS NAME.
This is the finish of the chapter of our city, in which I grew and was educated. It is a link in the chain of hundreds and thousands of small and big communities that after hundreds of years of existence, were erased from under the sky of G-d
Rigid, alone as two stones
We are next to the common grave
My tears sprinkle thousands of cranial bones
My child trembles of fear
Suddenly, I lose sense
I fall faint! Oh! Forgive me!
My dear, my dear, cries to you a wounded woman.
Why do you cry, mummy? I am afraid, I am afraid.
I don't understand the language you speak
Whom? Whom? Oh! Mother take me!
Why you extend your hands and you request
Here there is nobody, only trees and forest
Surrounded by piercing wires.
No! Here is the memory, the echo of horror
Sacrificed, murdered with no justice
Here lie the Jews of Kartuz Bereza
All my and your friends
Here from earth sprout innocent blood
Caused by Nazi murderers and enemies
With fear, with lost values,
Covered with sand half alive
The world nothing saw, neither heard
As breathed the earth, trembled continually
Here, without pity burning tears flowed
Here tortured in life.
That murderers take in their conscience
G-d grants them the verdict that they deserve
Why, mummy, tell me?
Tortured, murdered, covered!
I don't understand, I don't understand, mummy!
Why didn't they escape?
They drove them as innocent sheep
Hungry, without forces, defenseless
For anybody protected, alone, abandoned.
For the murderers they didn't have any value
Nobody gave them a hand
Only pines were their cradle, and they murmured
In Brona Gura prayers and sounds were listened
The birds crying said " Kaddish "
The bloodstained sun hid at dusk,
I revive my feeling,
The birds murmur secrets
My child requests my hand
Mother, come, come, it already darkens
Where do you want to go my boy?
Nobody is here in Kartuz Bereza,
There are only dead chimneys,
There are no houses, everything is grass.
There isn't the tree I sometime climbed
I hear mummy's voice ordering me to lower
The two doves are not fluttering
There are not children with brilliant Jewish eyes
With curl, frizzy hair,
With innocent look,
With genuine and delicate pity.
There is not home, neither belief,
Neither sign to follow
Disappeared all beautiful looks
Only is an eternal duel
A lament and a demand
The Germans entered the town on Monday, June 23, 1941. Part of the Jewish population fled. [On the other hand,] the Christian population received the Germans as liberators. After a few days, many Jews returned to the town, after wandering in the fields, forests and villages and fleeing out of fear from the peasants who threatened them. [It is convenient to remember that a] part of the town, on Ulany Street opposite the post office, the saw-mills, and houses close by, was destroyed during the bombing.
On June 26, the Germans set fire to Hevra Kadisha's synagogue. The fire destroyed one side of the market place and the nearby streets. When the inhabitants tried to save their property, the Germans threatened they would open fire on them. The Germans assembled the Jews in Ulany Street [and in May 3rd Street]. The road was empty and the Jews were forbidden to live on [both sides of] it.
When the Germans entered they set up a Judenrat composed of: Nissan Zackheim, Naftali Levenson, Fishel Beiser, Hanoch Liskovsky, Meir Roshinsky, and others [(Yaacov Moscovitch, Binyamin Shapira, Yaacov-Asher Fridenstein, Gotel Pisetzki, Yaacov Shlosburg, Leibe Danzig and Leibel Molodowski, who served as translator)].
[A Jewish police was set up to help the Judenrat. Its commander was Shmuel Geberman. The policemen included Rogolsky, Yaacov Zakheim, Yosef Shushan, Kalman Epstein, Yaacov Glezer, Eliezer Schtucker and others whose names I do not remember.]
The task of the Judenrat was to execute the orders of the German authorities, i.e. mainly the supply of Jewish workers aged 16 to over 50. They had to fulfill German demands by payment of contributions, gold and valuables confiscation and supply of "gifts". [The Jewish police had to translate the orders into practice.]
During the first few days of their arrival, the Germans ordered every Jew to hand over the gold he possessed. Afterwards, they confiscated radios and other valuables. Non-fulfillment of orders presaged the death sentence. The Jews fulfilled the sentences, which got more difficult daily. In the initial months [after German conquer], there was still some contact with the outside world. Peasants of the area came to town and sold food in return for materials and domestic objects. As yet, there was no starvation. The Judenrat distributed 250 grams of bread to everybody.
All the Jewish inhabitants aged 16 to 50 or more (apart from mothers of babies) turned up standing in rows outside the home of Matya Berman, where the German command was situated. The Jews wore [two] yellow-patches, one on the chest and one on the right side of the back. The Germans would select work groups and drive them off to work camps. One of the local Christians acted as supervisors of the groups. They derived enjoyment from the afflictions of the Jews.
The jobs included repairing roads, [cleaning in camps: at Bluden railway station, trucks were loaded and unloaded. They also did construction work]. The Germans ordered the reconstruction of the housewall of Hananya Eisenstein, Lichovitsky and others. The shoe cooperative, set up during Soviet rule, continued working under the Germans.
Occasionally, the workers would return from work beaten up and injured. The Germans claimed the Jews were responsible for the war and should be beaten. [The Jews hoped the Germans would soon be defeated by the Russians.] In the first months of the German conquest, a group of SS commanders arrived at Chomsk and killed nearly all the Jews there. From there, they went on to Sporewa, Olszewe and Nauke and other villages, killing all the Jews. A few Jews survived and reached Bereze. The Jews of Seltz, Bluden and [part of those] from Malch were also expelled to Bereze. The Germans also rounded up Jews living in small villages to make the work of destruction easier.
After it became clear that the Jews could not meet the contributions imposed on them, the Germans gave them licenses to travel to nearby towns to raise the required sums. The Jews of Bereze survived between one slaughter and another in this way.
Life became more difficult daily, without hope of expectancy. If the Christians had wanted to help the Jews, many Jews could have survived. However, as long as they did not suffer from the Germans they watched the Jews suffering with indifference and enjoyed their torture. Some of the Jews had opportunities to escape from the ghetto to the forests, those who worked outside the ghetto. [Very few did it because] every Jew knew that if he escaped, the Germans would take revenge on his family and other Jews. Each individual was linked in life and death with the destiny of Jewry[; mutual responsibility was very high].
One day, the Germans divided up the Ghetto into Ghetto A and Ghetto B. They held a census of Bereze Jews beforehand and assembled them in two ghettos. Ghetto A was situated in Ulany street from the home of Shlomke Weinstein to the home of Yehuda Potack [and it included several peasants' huts in Pruzana street, which bordered on Ulany street]. The Jews who worked for the Germans, the "productive" Jews, lived in Ghetto A. All the rich people who succeeded in bribing the Germans lived here. There were families that were split up between both ghettos. The borderline was the street where Rabbi Trop lived, by the river. [In Ghetto B lived Jews who did not manage to get "productive" work for the Germans.] The two ghettos were surrounded with barbed wire. Workers had permission to leave and enter under the supervision of a Christian resident.
In the month in which the ghettos were established, on July 15, 1942, the two ghettos were surrounded by German and other police. The Germans told the Judenrat that the Jews in Ghetto B were being sent to Bialystock for "productive" work. Jews destined for Ghetto B who were still living in Ghetto A were transferred.
In Ghetto B, the Germans went from home to home, assembling all the Jews in the street and marching them off to the railway station at Bluden. The old and sick who were unable to form up outside, including Rabbi TROP, were shot on the spot. On the way to Bluden, a few Jews tried to escape, but were shot by the Germans. [In Bluden] the people were placed in train wagons and taken to the station at Bronna Gora, in the direction of Baranowicz; there they were all killed by the many ditches dug for their burial. At Bronna Gora, there was a mass grave of Jews from many small towns. Yitzhak Orlovsky, the son-in-law of Hanna-Gitel Lieberman and Elimelech Tuchman, were miraculously saved, [they returned to Bereza] and reported back on the murderous cruelty of the Germans.
After the destruction of the Jews in Ghetto B, the Germans promised they would not harm the other Jews who were of advantage to the German army. Many young people did not believe the Germans and began escaping. Many fled to the forests and others to Pruzana. There, they lived in the ghetto in better conditions, because Pruzana belonged to Prussia and was included in the "Third Reich". Since the Germans did not have detailed lists of the Jews who were killed, Jews escaped to the forests, [without suspecting their relatives could suffer because of it]. But the Christian population in the villages and on the roads threatened them and endangered their lives. Russian gangs wandered in the forests under the guise of "partisans" and every Jew who fell into their hands was killed. Thus it happened that Jews came back from the forests to the ghetto.
The Germans began suspecting many Jews of maintaining links with the partisans. One day, 21 Jews working in the saw mill were arrested on suspicion of holding contacts with the partisans. They were arrested at the home of Yosef Chomski and on the morrow they were all shot in the church garden. The Jews in Ghetto A were once more frightened to death.
On October 15, 1942, the ghetto was surrounded by SS men and the police. The Jews realized their last hour had come. They collected all their valuables, sewing machines and clothes still in their possession and brought them to the home of the tailor Avraham Greenberg and set the house on fire. The blaze spread to more homes in Ghetto A. The members of the Judenrat gathered at the home of Eliyahu Simcha Epstein and committed suicide by hanging. There was also an underground canal leading from Ulany Street to Pruzana Street and some Jews fled into it. All were choked to death, but nobody knew how this occurred.
On October 16, the Germans entered the ghetto, rounded up all the Jews still there, took them in vehicles to a hill five kilometers away and killed them all in prepared ditches. [Henach Liskavsky, Shmuel Goberman, Mayrim Savinsky and Shmuel Nodel survived the slaughters. They worked as tailors and shoemakers for the Germans, but after a week they too were killed.]
Lejzer Berman, who worked at the power plant set the saw mill on fire after the slaughter of Ghetto B Jews, and he escaped. The Germans pursued him; he wrested a rifle from a German's hand and killed him, but Berman was also killed.
At Bronna Gora, at the place where the Jews of Ghetto B were killed, about 90,000 Jews from the area of Brisk and Bialystock were liquidated. Shlomo Weinstein and Godel Pisctzki, - Bund members who refused to participate in the Judenrat -, were also killed there. They marched at the head of the Jews were led to death.
After the slaughter at Bronna Gora, the wagons returned full with the clothes of the dead. The SS sat down to drink and distributed the blood-soaked clothes of the Jews to the peasants. The floor of the carriages was littered with Polish banknotes and torn dollars
On the night prior to the liquidation of Ghetto A, the Judenrat members and their families and Dr. Lichtiker and Dr. Shapira and their families committed suicide. 1,800 people were killed in Ghetto A. Before the war, the spot where they were killed was used by Bereze children for Lag Baomer walks.
A few Jews prepared an underground channel that led to the Aryan side and tried to escape. Later, the peasants found the bodies of 180 Jews, some of whom had been choked and some burnt to death. A few were saved and are in Israel. Most of the survivors fell in the forest at the hands of the "partisan" groups or the Germans.
When I returned to Poland in 1946 I visited Bronna Gora death valley of Kartuz Bereza and vicinity, where the Germans murdered about 100,000 Jews. It was then clear to me that at the end of 1943, the Germans dug ditches, took out the bodies and burnt them. The Russians surrounded the spot with barbed wire and pointed out there was a mass grave at the site. The place where 1,800 Jews of Ghetto A were killed was covered with weeds. There was no fence, no inscription, nor anyone coming to weep.
The Jewish cemetery was also destroyed. The gravestones were uprooted and served as steps for streets of the Goyim gentiles. There was no sign of any Jewish life in Bereze.
Izgadal Veizkadash Smhmei RabáUntil the last one they were murdered, nobody was left
(His Eternal Name is Exalted and Sanctified)
Forget them? Never! Until the last instant,
Eternally we will cry the innocent blood,
They lived modestly, they respected their roots,
Until a Hitler arrived and everything erased.
Numerous families lived there during centuries
The very well educated youth, knitted illusions,
The Nazi when came they destroyed everything,
No Jew of Bereze had the happiness of surviving.
Branagorie (Brona Gura) a forest that adorned our town,
There we took the children in "Lag Baomer",
And in summer we went for a walk on Saturdays enjoying
And this place Germans chose for the common grave.
Contained boxcars Jews brought,
That none is left alive GESTAPO watched over severely
Murdered mass, in prepared graves,
Murdered until the last one, before finishing the day.
Many still alive, all of them were covered
And the blood sprang from the earth like a river,
The innocent blood sprouted a long time,
Said the gentiles that looked from a distance.
The question tortures my thought,
First they took youth, sick and old,
Who was assigned to be the last one
And to see the pain and the suffering of dear beings?
My dear mother! I want to ask,
Who left first to eternal road?
Sure you have seen the suffering,
How? do they throw your children to graves?
Oh! How terrible should have been your last minutes,
Were you alone, or next to dad?
And maybe G-d saved you of the pain
And did you die first in that place?
I know the children were next to you,
Maybe they curled up next to their mom
And for sure swallowed bitter tears
When the "Shemá" (Israel listen!) of dad was heard.
This draw I always have in my memory
They had taken roots in me, they are part of me.
Neither time neither consolation will erase them
Until the end, when my eyes will be covered.
Words are pale to describe,
The misfortune, the pain that suffered our generation.
I stayed alive, but I feel like a stone,
Because I lost everything, I am alone.
Near my native city,
There is a mount of pines,
In that forest in my youth
I went out with friends ,
To pick up blackberries and mushrooms
In Tisha Be-Av (9th. of the month Av).
That beautiful place,
Chose frivoles and vile,
The sepulcher for people of my town
And near towns.
They dug big and deep graves for all them
That day, the most bitter day
They brought people of my town,
Tender daughters, old men and children,
They threw them to open graves,
The skies trembled for screams and sobs,
But the bullets of the vile silent the clamor
Of those murdered cruelly.
That clamor was recorded in the foliage of the pines,
And until today it ascends to the heights,
On seas, and earth, at night and by day,
An emissary wind runs toward me,
Bringing a page, a single line,
On smoky wings, black news.
Of my city only destruction and suffering,
This occupies one single line,
With letters of blood were for ever written:
"In Kartuz Bereze already nobody is!.."
In spring, florid with white and aromatic flowers,
Your warm and vigorous youth,
Where is it? Where is it?
All, all, big, small and young,
To all, who swallowed them?
The river that hardly moved its waters,
As celestial tape to the town adorned,
In their banks small flowers doesn't forget,
And the green grasses covered everywhere,
Leafy branches as protective arms,
They covered with shade afternoons of heat.
The river that was never torrential
Where my ancestors refreshed,
Where families enjoyed,
It never rebelled, it only cleaned,
The powder of the fatigue.
And in months of winter, frozen missed,
To allow to break its hard shell
Of ice, and when just arrived summer,
How many mischief there have done?
The river, shared slipping with everybody the laugh,
Flailing still to both sides.
As a good grandfather that lets you mount,
And small children played,
Sprinkling their face with tender hands,
But he winked them with his eyes.
The river always embedded with their
Sweet waters the whole town
And suddenly, from the bank it left, is it truth?
A beast rushes on you,
To all it caught, I cannot believe it, I cannot believe it!
Tell me river who are you,
Where are they, where?
I will swallow the curses to my town
And my mouth will stop your waters eternally,
That they don't flow, that they don't run,
Don't have infantile waves,
Your waters should dry off in a marshy well!
The river knelt down, its head bent over,
Watered with tears their innocent eyes:
Me not, if was me, that my waters dry off!
They swam in my current,
Numerous, sometimes few, toward other banks,
And I offered them my arms
I wanted to retain them with life until
Your wave, your radiant youth, where is it, where it is?
Maybe the forest with currants and mushrooms?
So many generations know your trees,
How proud we were of you,
Because you have taken roots in our heart!
He caressed couples with love
In spring afternoons and summer
It brought them closer to their chest, it wrapped in their shades,
Their dreams knitted, their nostalgias silenced.
You maybe offered your branches and arms
For forks and logs and to all you mutilate?!
Did it maybe happen this way there? Small forest,
Where the children played in Lag Baomer,
You were in my memory like the first lover,
Tell me you were you have gone!
I won't forgive, I won't forgive,
I will blow the sparks of vengeance, I will transform them into flames,
And I will burn as you to us,
Their roots and branches!
The old and leafy forest trembles:
I hid them in my depths,
Among the thickness of my entangled branches,
And order to the leaves: remain silent! silence!
Cover them of the airplanes of death,
That neither the sky discovers them.
I covered them, planning to save them, until .
Your wild white florid field, where is it, where is it?!
Maybe the good earth, faithful and fruitful,
That nurtured with best things to so many families!
An orchard and a garden all had,
Vegetables and fruits in homes all ate.
And behind the town, a field
This blessing smiled in each home.
Blessed the hands, all help
To plow, to sow.
Dad before the sharp plow
His wife and the children throw potatoes,
In right furrows, step by step,
Taking care of distance,
Without twisting the arm.
Mom at home, children arrive from school,
Smiles the earth with abundance of happiness,
Happy, radiant, abundant,
And they flourish blue, yellow and green in
Some parts of the field, in each species,
Vegetables, cereals with golden spikes,
And they fill barns, for long winters.
Hens cackle happy aloud,
Because there is already a fresh egg for all at home.
Every day some liters of milk the cow gives us,
And a calf every year will come,
There are for Saturdays and some festivity
Also a thread of meat for weekdays
Here and there a flask of clotted milk
Later take away a spoonful cream ,
And then butter, also fresh cheese.
For this whole miracle, thanks to the earth,
That there is not at home a hungry one, G-d!.
But suddenly, this blessed earth exploded,
And a deep well opened up,
As immense and terrible infernal mouth,
And swallowed their children that nurtured in its lap,
I cannot believe that mother earth punishes
This way to their children, she?
That extends her hands,
Faithfully, and nurtures them and gives them to eat and drink
And now to all sink them in an abyss?
Earth, earth: if for you I am in duel
That like a flood fall the curses ,
For always damned,
That you never produce anything for anybody!
The earth shivers and it trembles
Its skin is cut, fever shakes her
No, not me, not me!
Are witness and they can tell
In my deep tunnels, in underground caverns,
This way among my destroyed bowel,
I hugged your siblings and sisters.
To protect life to your dear beings,
But I cannot avoid their death.
The forest howls, the river cries and the earth is with fever:
Nobody listened their clamor.
In their own blood they drowned their scream,
We are not guilty of their destruction and pain.
Neither fire, neither water, neither earth, neither forest.
This was made by human beasts.
The river, the forest, the earth, they are witness,
Eternal witness of millions of lost people
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