Translated by Martin Jacobs
And so it was: Yashinovka was filled with Jewish refugees from all around. Among them were a small number of Goniondzers. Here too the bitter end was not long delayed. On January 25, 1943 the black day came upon all Jews who were in Yashinovka. They were assembled in the market place and transported from there on sleds to the railroad station in Knishin.
When we came to the Knishin station we noticed three small closed freight cars which were standing on the tracks and waiting for us, fifteen hundred Jews, to lead us to the slaughter. Frozen, tired, and broken, we slowly get down from the sleds and go along, with the rest of the crowd, to the cars. The noise is loud as we get into the train. In the door stands a Nazi with a rubber stick in his hand and beats us without stop on our heads and faces and quickly shoves us into the car. Everyone is pushing now with all his might, because at least in the last moments of life you want to be with the family and die together with your own. But it isn't to be allowed. The truncheons rain over our heads, children are separated from parents, wives from husbands, sisters from brothers and there is great panic. My father and I hold each other's hands tightly, so that we, the two left from our whole family, don't lose each other now. One car is already packed with Jews and the door slammed shut. Now they push us into the second car. We rush in first, to avoid the terrible blows and settle in a corner. In minutes this car too is filled above capacity with Jews and the door is shut. Little by little the occupants recover and begin to settle down in the dark, narrow, black box (the so-called railway car).
Tired, depressed, broken, we sit down on the floor. But there isn't room enough for everyone to sit. One sits on top of another and the rest stand, pressed together like sardines. I have a place under the little window, but I give it up for an elderly man and stand pressed up against the wall. We are very crowded. It is impossible to move a limb. Hands and feet get mixed up and everyone is moaning that he has no room. The air is suffocating and the heat great. I slowly lift myself up on to tip-toe, to the little narrow window. I open it, to breathe in a little fresh air and look out for the last time at the world which I would soon have to leave forever...
It is a bright starry winter evening. The earth is covered with a thick layer of snow, shining against the light of the moon. In the wide white field stand little trees, set in rows, standing motionless in the stillness of the evening, listening to the sudden commotion. The air is pure, transparent. A great wide world is around us; no one can be seen anywhere. And here in the car what a contrast! Hundreds of people lie tossed about, without air, and are being led to the slaughter. But then, through the window, I glimpse the figure of a woman lying motionless on the ground. Later I will find out that this is a 19 year old girl. She was severely beaten and during the trip to the station nearly froze to death. She wasn't able to get down from the sled. The driver went to ask the murderers what to do with her. Dump her in the field and go home, was their answer. And so he did. Now the 19 year old is lying, eyes half open, in the empty field, being extinguished like a light. But I look on almost with indifference at my frozen friend, because I know that the same fate awaits me, that tomorrow I will also lie as motionless as she, not frozen but gassed and burned. No sympathetic glance will accompany me to my rest. Over me will be the sound of cynical laughter from a Nazi, satisfying his murderous instincts by snuffing out our young lives. I again look at my dying friend, I say goodbye to her with a sympathetic look and close the window, since the children in the car are crying because of the cold. It is cold, crowded, and stuffy in the car. The children don't stop crying. They are hungry, frozen, tired, and sleepy. They huddle, crying, against their mothers' hearts, asking them for help. But unfortunately their mothers cannot now help them. They don't even have the heart to quiet them, and let them go on crying. Other mothers have fainted and their children are crying over them. Then a weak, pleading, woman's voice is heard: Help, have pity, who has a little water, just a little water, my husband isn't well?. The woman's voice repeats her plea several times, but in vain. No one has a drop of water to revive him, and the woman's voice grows silent.
For a short time the human mass keeps still, but soon a mighty uproar breaks out. People become like wild animals and begin pushing and shoving each other. The crowding gets even greater. The crying of children is heard anew. Mothers scream and plead: Have pity, Jews, don't suffocate my child; you'll suffocate my child. The noise gets louder and louder. A quick rap on the door interrupts the noise. The door opens and everyone springs back from fear. Straightaway a shout is heard: 20 marks for a loaf of bread! The crowd now begins to press forward; everyone wants to grab a bit of bread. Only three loaves are distributed and the door is again slammed shut. A new uproar starts. People scream and beg a little piece of bread. Give me a bit of bread. Have pity, I have a little child. My children are crying for food. All they could distribute were three loaves of bread for everybody, another man screams. I get a little piece of bread from someone nearby. Little by little the people grow quiet. Now a general discussion starts up; first a middle-aged man takes the floor and tells this story: He himself is from a distant town, where the campaign of Jewish cleansing [Judenrein] was carried out some months ago. At the time he lost his entire family, his wife and three children. They are all now gone up in smoke. He was able to escape, and with long effort and hardship he reached Yashinovka, where the Jewish community was still in existence. When the decree hit this town too it was already impossible to escape. Actually, on the way here he again tried to save himself, but in vain. He was soon noticed and thrown back on the sled. Nevertheless he had not lost courage and called out in a cheerful voice: Despite all troubles, Jews, let's not lose courage. We'll never be too late for death. Let's go on running; when the train is moving let's jump through the window. I'll jump; who will come with me?
Several take courage and agree to jump; others say: Where will we run? No one will let us cross their threshold; later we won't be able to choose when we die any more than now. One girl tells how several people escaped from their sled. From the middle of the group a male voice is heard: I must give up my life because of my seven year old. From the corner is heard the weeping voice of a young woman with a little child in her arms; she screams at her mother: It was too lonely for you to die alone; you had to have me with you. I could have saved myself., and she bursts into bitter tears.
I stand in the corner next to my father and try to persuade him to escape. He doesn't want to. How, he says, can he escape and leave me behind alone? I explain to him that he can't help me now, because I am doomed in any event. Save yourself, Father, while you can, save yourself and help your son Tevye who has already escaped. No, I can't, he says. I cry, I beg him, I insist he escape. Why must you lose your life because of me? If I weren't with you you would surely make a run for it. Why should I die having on my conscience that I dragged you to your death with me? This has already been our fate: Mother was led to her death separately; I here, also separately; what is the point of my dragging you with me? Run, Father, I beg him, save yourself. Do it for me. I cry, practically tear myself apart begging him, I give him no peace until he promises me he will run away.
Suddenly the car shakes, the train starts to move. What a frightening moment! How dreadful the moment when conscious human beings ride to their deaths with a clear conscience. Already, the same screamed sigh is heard from everyone, already they are leading us to the slaughter. Children begin to cry and scream, women faint, men hide their weeping within themselves and moan silently. Now even the car is weeping. It seems as though even this black box leading hundreds of Jews to their eternal rest is also weeping now. Streams of tears are pouring from its walls, mixed with the cold sweat of the dying. Everything weeps and laments the destruction of the Jewish people. Enough!, a voice is heard interrupting the lamentation and weeping. Enough, the time has come to run, who will jump first? I, says my father, and falls into my arms. No pen has the power to describe our feelings. I only remember how we wept silently and could not tear ourselves from each other. But I immediately remember that time is short and I say: Enough, Father, enough, and tear myself from his arms, Now go! Good luck on your way., I cry out from the depths of my heart and be a father to your only remaining child, and take revenge, revenge for innocent blood. -- and father disappears from my eyes. Just as it was from my heart, so now from every Jewish heart the same cry is wrenched. Hundreds of voices are now transformed into one strong and powerful voice, which gets stronger and stronger, more and more powerful as time passes. This is the last cry of farewell and, at the same time, the last will and testament of the half dead, which accompanies all escaping Jews on their anguished road to life.
My father jumps out first, and after him other men jump. They encourage each other in their escape from death. The will to live at such a moment cannot be described. I stand at the window and help the escapees lift themselves up and I watch as they jump. I turn my head back and see how each one embraces those near and dear, how they pour out their pain and anger to each other, share their sorrows, cry their aching hearts out, and take leave before death.
I now stand alone in the corner. The only one of my family, the only one from my town. I don't have anyone to pour my heavy heart out to. I remember my unfortunate mother, how difficult it was for her when, also alone and lonely, she was led to the slaughter, without a child by her side, not being able to cry her heart out and share her grief with even one person. All this seethes within me and tightens about my heart. At that moment I hear one girl saying to another, Let's jump too, I first and then you. and the girls jump to freedom.
Now a thought flashes through my mind: What am I waiting for? What do I have to lose? In the last minutes of my life I don't even have anyone to pour my heart out to. Must I then suffer and die at the impure hands of Nazis? Is it not better to die right here? Hearing someone say, Who is jumping now?, I shout :Help me! I'm jumping! In a moment I'm in the window, holding on to the iron bars on the other side of the car, and then I jump - - - - - - -
And by jumping to my death I chanced to remain alive.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
On the 22nd of July, 1941, the Germans attacked Russia. Thousands of Jews escaped in the direction of Russia. However, the Germans dispersed everyone along the way, and hundreds of corpses with gunshots covered the roads. No one from the area of Bialystok was successful in saving themselves because the Germans surrounded the entire area with lightning speed and surrounded a large Russian army. There was no shortage of Jaszinowker [Jasionówka in Polish] and Goniadzer young people among the bodies.
The Germans along with the Poles set fire to the shtetl [town] in Jasionówka. All of the Jews were driven to the wall of the Polish church. The old and sick who could not leave their homes were shot and burned along with the houses. However, many dozen were successful in escaping into the fields.
The Jews of Jasionówka were at the wall of the church for eight hours, surrounded by Poles and guarded by German with machine guns, until by chance
(Photo, Shabtai Finkelshtein)
a high German military man arrived and asked what was happening. As it was explained to him that these were communists, he understood that this was not true of the old men and women and he freed them.
tal, the tandetnik. His son, Avram'l was my friend. Aizik left for the Slomianski's.
We learned that a few days earlier there was an incident with outsiders, but now things are quiet. A few days later, I arrived at the quarters of the Slomianski family on the old market, in the house of Feygl's father, Shmuel Ber Malozowski (Feygl's husband, Moshe'ke Slomianski, died in the time of the Soviets.)
Nine months later a mass grave was dug up in the cemetery and everyone was found tortured in the most terrible manner. Their hands were bound behind them with wire and there were nails in their heads (I witnessed this with my own eyes). There was sadness in the city. Sheets were brought and everyone was given a Jewish burial.
Work was varied there. If there
were good Germans the work was easier. There were cases of Germans only permitting the Jews to ride in the wagons on the return from work, and not the Poles.
Feygle Malozowski-Slomianski had three daughters and two sons; each of the children had friends. This was the only house in the shtetl where a great number of young people would come together, up to 50 people. It is worth noting that one of Feygle's daughters Golda worked at the gendarmerie (in Chaim Kobrinski's house).
The Germans were so accustomed to Jewish workers that we often discussed with them the defeats that awaited them (At that time, the front was in Stalingrad). Until a decree came from above that Jews must not work for Germans. The situation became strained. It began to be felt in the entire province as if we were on the verge of being imprisoned in a ghetto.
After great efforts by the Judenrat with great sums of money and antiques it was necessary to move out only from Dolistower Street.
This was on a Thursday and Friday. On Shabbos, the commissar declared that he was giving the Jewish population potatoes for the winter for a small amount of money.
Again joy! Early Sunday, everyone, small and large, dragged potatoes. Rivers of sweat poured out doing this and the cellars were filled for winter. Because the war would not be ending so quickly!
We immediately knew what this meant. We put on our best clothes in seconds. Golda ran to the sawmill where she then worked and came back.
Jews are not working today!
of escaping Jews. Everyone understood the danger.
We ran to the bridge in Dolko and opposite us, a German with a gun appeared from under the bridge. The German said nothing and we went back, no longer running However, we noticed two young girls running across the highway opposite the booth (the house near the highway that stood between Dolko and Guze). We ran in the same direction and also across the highway. At that moment a German gave a shout: Stop!
I was 20 meters from the German so I stopped and shouted to Berl, Berl, Stay! Berl looked behind him and ran farther. I after him And in front of us the two girls.
The German began to shoot. The road was up hill. I would fall with each shot. I heard each bullet going by with a whistle. A second German shot at me from the side. I then threw down the kurtke (a short topcoat); ran farther and threw away the marinarke (jacket) and the hat. I was left in a shirt.
The shooting was in my direction because I was the closest. When I would fall on the ground while the bullets rushed past, I would place my hand on my chest and take a look to see if there still no blood Thus we ran breathlessly for a few kilometers uphill until we arrived at the far side of the hill. There we sat for several minutes. The girls were Feitshe and Grune Hirszfeld (daughters of Ruchl-Leah's Sholem)
We rested a few minutes and ran farther, to the Downar Forest. Here we lay down on the grass and did not say anything.
Each of us knew what was happening there, from where the shooting was coming. After resting for a while, we heard wagons go by. I moved closer to the highway. I lay down on the ground and saw that Trestiner [Trzeszczyn] Jews were being taken.
It happened to be a Polish holiday on that day and they went to their cemeteries and prayed for their dead. This was close to the forest. Then a thought came to me: who would cry over our widely scattered graves?...
I could not find my friends (Berl and the two girls) again. I wandered the entire day until night and did not find them. I sat down in a broken mood. When it became dark, I shouted: Berl! I received a response from the other side of the hill. We did not say anything at first. They were frightened perhaps I had been caught.
Later, it was clear to us why we had been successful in running across the highway (running out of Goniadz). The Germans, who had been guarding the highway, had gone to Guze because they were then bringing the Jews from Osowiec (all of those who had gone there to work in the morning) and this gave us an opportunity to run across the road. A German stood every 20 to 30 meters.
I discussed with Berl where to meet him.
When we had gone back a few kilometers, we met a Christian woman near a peasant's house. She did not yet know what had taken place in Goniadz. She let us stay in the roost [hay loft] for a pair of golden koltshikes (earrings) that Feitshe had given to her. The train was near the stall. Trains passed one after another and we lay covered (with hay) in the hay loft. It was clear that I had nothing; Berl was without a kurtke [short topcoat].
In the morning, the Christian said that it was not safe here. He had small children and Germans came to him. Berl and I left to look for Aizik and the girls gave the gentiles a small, golden cross and remained there.
We searched for an entire night until we found Aizik's Christian. We saw that there were six people with him four from Jasionówka and two from Goniadz (young girls) were in the woods in a skhron (a bunker, a protective lair.) We stayed with the Christian for the night and in the early morning, when comrades (from the woods) came for food, we met them. We met Kahan, the younger son of Centura, at another Christian's. He came to the city at night. We left for the woods together. We climbed on the mountain and found the bunker. We brought kindling wood. We were nine people all together; seven young men and two young girls.
Everyone described how they had escaped.
Khona explained that he had been brought back from Goniadz with all of the workers from Otowiec. They were all assembled near the fortress.
Escaping had been difficult; this was a more certain death. Everyone in the city had been stood in the market and a member of the Gestapo gave a speech to them that they were being taken to work; that each of them needed to bring their work clothes, regular clothing and tools. Everyone had to return in half an hour. Those who did not believe the commissar hid in the city. Many were found and shot. Everyone assembled at the market. They were placed in wagons and taken to Bogusze, a concentration camp near Grajewo.
Outside there was snow and a frost; it was dark where would we go? 10 people each wanting to live! We separated. Some went to a Christian acquaintance. I suggested going to a second forest and digging a pit. Meanwhile, we learned that Jasionówka and Bialystok still existed [there were still Jews in Jasionówka and Biakystok.] The Jews were driven out of all of the more distant cities. On 2nd November 1942, dozens of cities and shtetlekh in our area were liquidated.
pits of potatoes, in forests and woods, we Berl, Chana and I arrived in Jasionówka at night. I went to work in the morning with my uncle and made a bunker in a stall. This was difficult because it was cold, 30 degrees, but we managed to create a hiding place closest to the day that the commissar had assured us that Jasionówka would remain as always.
In Jasionówka we met other escapees: Leibl Molozowski (Moshe Molozowski's brother the ed.), Gedalia Guzowski, Hajkl Jewrejski and his children and others. A few hundred Jews gathered in Jasionówka from all of the surrounding shtetlekh. The local commissar did not do anything bad. However, in a short time the 25th of January, 1943 Jasionówka was surrounded and the shtetl had the same fate as every other one.
One child had whooping cough; when steps were heard overhead, someone threw themselves on the seven year old girl and she was suffocated
After another few days of struggle, people began to leave the bunker and search:
perhaps they would be successful in finding a place. Leaving were: Leibl Malozowski, Gedalia Guzowski and a number of Jasionowkers. There were 14 of us remaining. There was no food. One comrade went out to the city at night to get bread from a Christian acquaintance of his and did not return. (Six months later we learned that when he was caught, he struck a policeman with an iron and escaped.) We would bring in a pail of snow with mud, and we would eat raw barley. We felt as if we would die of hunger. And we had already sitting there for two weeks, while in the city there were no Jews and there was a terrible frost outside.
Then we went out one by one, agreeing to meet in the field. I and my wife, Liba Azrik, were the last to go down, but we found no one when we arrived at the field
We wandered farther until we again became lost and we sat in the forest for a day. At night, we went to a Christian, who told us that during the deportations in Jasionówka, 40 Jews were shot for trying to escape and that their bodies lay around in the street for two weeks.
And as we were sitting with the Christian, a young boy from Jasionówka entered; we learned from him who had escaped. He and a brother and his two sisters were among the escapees. One sister had frozen feet; she could not walk. She could not live and also could not die. She asked that they kill her, so that she would not fall into the hands of the murderers. She could not hang herself alone. Her brothers and the other sister helped her to hang herself
time, we experienced many things. There were days when we had too much to eat and days of literal hunger.
Once we went to the field at night to find a little tree that would look like a decoration over the door of our pit. And when we were walking with the little tree, a man was coming in the opposite direction. We could not escape, so we lay down. The man opposite us did the same Until he gave a shout, Jews? We answered: Jews! This was a Jew from Jasionówka, over 60 years old. He had jumped off a speeding train. He had no money; the money remained with his wife, who remained on the train He was wandering in the dark like hundreds and thousands looking for bread.
In this way, for the second time, we met two Jews. One of them remained with us.
The story about the young boy was thus: When Jews were still permitted to live and work, -
indeed, before the Germans the young boy was a shepherd for a Christian. Now he came to his Christian in the village for bread. The Christian did not let him in; the young boy left for the nearby woods and a heavy rain was falling! He buried himself in the trees so that he would not be seen and so he would be a little protected from the rain. He fell asleep in the rain So, in such a manner, we met a Jewish child We had many such cases.
During the summer we would lie in the corn for weeks. In winter, sleeping was worse. Going out of the pit for food once in two or three weeks. It was approximately two months before the liberation, when we took two more Jews with us. We were now six.
we would set ourselves on fire and not fall in their hands
In Jasionówka up to 60 Jews assembled. This was one of the largest percentages of survivors from Jewish cities and shtetlekh.
We recovered a little in six months until an attack of the Polish bandits (A.K. [Polish resistance]) occurred. We heroically defended ourselves with return fire and they retreated with losses. In the morning all of the Jews traveled to Bialystok and we began our wandering across European cemeteries to our goal Eretz-Yisroel and we reached it!
The young boy had escaped from the forest near Downar together with all of us, when we had been discovered. He went many kilometers and presented himself to a peasant as a Polish boy who had escaped from a train when the Germans were taking his family to Germany to work. The peasant believed him because he spoke the language and knew the prayers well and the young boy stayed with him.
When the Jasionowker Jews were taken to Treblinka, the peasant sent him with all of the other peasants to take the Jews by sled to the train (All of the peasants had to take the Jews to the Knisziner train station). The Rawer sheygets wrapped himself in a hide and no one recognized him.
1. Shabtai Finkelshtein, of blessed memory, the writer of this article, was from Jasionówka, but his description includes Goniadz. He lived through the tragedy the destruction of our hometown and the extermination of our most beloved and survived it. Return
2. Itshe Francoyzl's son; dealt with ready made clothing. The Editor. Return
3. Sholem is possibly Ruchl-Leah's son. Translator Return
4. The young boy's surname is spelled in Yiddish here with both a final r and without a final r.. Translator Return
Translated by Martin Jacobs The book about the Bialystok ghetto uprising by B. Mark (published by the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw 1950) is very one-sided. According to the author (a communist) the uprising was organized by the communists, at a time when all Zionist groups had a large part in this sacred work. The author sins against the heroes and martyrs who fell for the honor of the Jewish people.
Three Goniondzers are named in the book: Avrom-Leyzer Rubin (son of Yankl the blacksmith), the dentist Levi Kopelman, and, on the other side, the scoundrel and informer Yankele Tsviklitsh (son of Yehoshua Tsviklitsh, he was executed in the Bialystok ghetto by revenge-taking Jews).
On p. 277 the book says about Avrom-Leyzer Rubinmay his memory be honored: The members of the anti-fascist self-defense, Avrom-Leyzer Rubin and Natek Goldstein, carried out the death sentence against the vile contemptible informer Yudkovsky (who was the terror of the Bialystok Jews both in and outside the ghetto Z. A.) and took revenge on the criminal.
On p. 328 it says: Breaking into the German arsenals and stealing weapons became a frequent occurrence. The fighters Reuben Levine (Sergei), Nathan Goldstein (Natek), Hershl Rosenthal (from Jasinówka) (a heroic young man, I still remember him from Jasinówka Z. A.), Avrom-Leyzer Rubin (it does not here give his origins) took these dangerous expeditions upon themselves. This very bold theft took place in the Gestapo's arsenal at 15 Szenkowicz Street. Avrom-Leyzer Rubin, the refugee from Warsaw (why Warsaw ?! Z. A.), and Nathan Goldstein, the refugee from Lodz, who were employed outside the ghettos, took 44 different types of weapon from there. This deed made an extraordinary impression on the underground and gave strong encouragement to the members of the self-defense organization.
Page 458. The Jewish partisans were of diverse backgrounds. Besides the locksmith Mulye Weiner and the mechanic Benjamin Shleifer, there was the smith from Goniondz (finally the correct designation Z. A.), Leyzer Rubin. Further on we read: Besides tried and tested fighters and heroic partisans, besides those who jumped from the trains (Kawe, Mietek Jakubowicz), were those who had already been to Treblinka and 'tasted' it (Avrom-Leyzer Rubin). Here I must point out that the Treblinka camp, which was located not far from Malkin, annihilated hundreds of thousands of Jews. Only a few individuals came out of there, and among them our Avrom-Leyzer Rubin of Goniondz. This is an indescribable act of heroism, and if there are miracles here, this one is the greatest.
Pages 466, 467. These same heroic girls rescued many Jews, those who escaped from the railway cars and even from the death camps. Among those rescued was the Goniondz blacksmith Leyzer Rubin, who took part in the uprising in Treblinka on August 2, 1943 (this uprising is a legend among all Jews, because a dozen heroes fought almost bare handed against a gang of hundreds of criminals, armed with all sorts of weapons. The heroes killed dozens of the Gestapo, and several succeeded in escaping, among them our Avrom-Leyzer. -- Z.A.) He escaped from there to Bialystok, where he hid at first in the Church of St. Roch (Kośció? Świętego Rocha), until a Polish cobbler put him in touch with the girls, who brought the heroic smith into the woods. Leyzer Rubin suffered a hero's death in the month of June, while rescuing a Serbian partisan.
Thus ended the life of our Goniondz hero Avrom-Leyzer Rubin. All of us, and above all the Goniondzers in Israel, should for ever honor his glorious deeds and extraordinary heroism in an appropriate manner.
Now a few excerpts about Dr. Leon Kopelman zl.
Page 126. Some of the coworkers of the Judenrat [Jewish council], whose names come up here and there in its first meetings as opposing the Barash-Subotnik leadership (these were the principal leaders of the Judenrat in Bialystok Z.A.), later no longer appear at the Merchants' House (where the Judenrat staff was located Z.A.). Thus on September 18, 1941 at the meeting of the Judenrat Dr. Segal and Dr. Kopelman protested against the leadership's handling of evacuation. At the same meeting Dr. Kopelman asked for more enthusiasm for intellectuals. Their names do not occur again in the minutes of the Judenrat. These were just two people who did indeed draw the right conclusions from the Barash-Subotnik policies.
The withdrawal of Dr. Kopelman highlights his moral values and honorable behavior. He did not wish to work with the Judenrat, which acted (directly or indirectly) as a spokesperson of the Gestapo, assisting in the annihilation of their own brothers and sisters. A small number of Jews had the courage and the conscience to act in this manner. Honor his memory! (Z.A.)
Page 104. There were also democratic elements among the people who devoted themselves to fighting hunger. The hungry intellectual got a free or inexpensive meal in the 'intellectual's kitchen' organized by Drs. Segal and Kopelman.
Dr. Kopelman, our friend and fellow townsman, gave great help to everyone who turned to him for help, especially our townspeople. He was killed, with the other millions of Jews, at the hands of the murderers, in the crematorium. His wife went mad from the frequent upheavals in the ghetto, and she and her daughter were also gassed. (Z.A.)
By the way, heroic figures from the collective Tel-Hai also appear in the book. In the list of the 32 members are mentioned the following names: Reuben Rosenberg from Suchowola, Hershl Rosenthal from Jasinówka (whose heroic deeds are mentioned again and again, as he was one of the leaders of the uprising in the Bialystok ghetto Z.A.), Menukha Plaskowska from Jasinówka, Jochebed Weinstein, Gedaliah Pitliuk, Peitshka Dorogoy and Yaffa all from Knyszyn. As we can see, the Knyszyners played an active part, and most of them fought in the woods near Knyszyn. The places around Knyszyn are mentioned numerous times in the book.
by Chaim Krawiec, Tel Aviv
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
It began right at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. The Germans entered Goniadz (the first time) on Rosh Hashanah and they were not there more than 10 days. However, during the 10 days they showed their cruelty towards the Jews.
The first thing they burned was our beautiful synagogue. While they carried this out, the Jews were not permitted to leave their houses. Doors and windows had to be closed; it had to be dark in every house. But everyone took a look through the cracks in the shutters and saw how the Germans labored simply to burn the synagogue. They were not successful with the exterior, because after many attempts, the synagogue did not want to burn
Everything disappeared in the smoke because we could not save anything, only two walls remained standing one wall was looted by the Christians in the city, for bricks There was sadness in the shtetl, as after a catastrophe.
Right after this, a new hunt began seizing young Jews for work. There was a noise, a disturbance; people began running to hide themselves in various places, not knowing what kind of place was suitable so that the enemy would not find them. This lasted for several days. The Nazis were unsuccessful: no one was then taken and no one was taken away from our shtetl.
On the last day of their short reign, various rumors began to be spread about the arrival of the Russian army. This encouraged us a little and a spark of hope again flashed in Jewish hearts. And this is how it was: the Germans began to withdraw from Goniadz in the middle of the day on Yom-Kippur. The shtetl was empty of Germans before nightfall and the first armored vehicles of the Russian army appeared on the highway to Osowiec.
There was new era in the life of our shtetl; our entire way of life changed. Businesses were closed and one general cooperative was created (where besides matches and several grams of salt, there was nothing more to be had). The bakeries went over into the hands of the state. Tradesmen were not permitted to work privately, but general work guilds were created. There was little work and little pay. If only to make it through the day. In September 1940 (a year after the outbreak of the war) I and several other young people from Goniadz were taken to serve in the Red Army.
I only met two soldiers from Goniadz in the Red Army during my entire time in Russia.
I experienced difficult times on the front. I was in various terrible places. Even today, being in Israel, I feel it in my bones. It is difficult to free oneself from this. I tried more than once to run away from them, but I only paid with heavy suffering, hunger and fear.
In 1943 I was transferred from the Red Army to the Polish. I arrived in Warsaw with the Polish army and there I was severely wounded in the right hand. I lay in a hospital for six months and had a rest of several weeks.
This was in February 1945. I decided then to travel for a look at my home city, where I grew up and was educated and for which
I yearned and dreamed for five years.
It drew me, although my heart foretold bad things. Yet, I wanted to take a look, perhaps something remained - - - - -
The heart breaks, although it is hardened. The body is engulfed by a cold shiver, a shudder. You become frozen like a piece of ice you do not move. Your hands shake and your teeth begin to bang against each other. You also feel hot tears on your cheeks seeing the destruction, the deadness around you.
The heart bursts when you see that the murderers Poles who murdered our brothers are living in the remaining Jewish houses. The two common graves are still fresh at the cemetery.
I did not find any Jews in Goniadz itself. The few survivors settled in Bialystok. By fits and starts, one goes there with fear to see how the shtetl looks.
Seeing the destruction and knowing what happened to our most dear, everything in you begins to waiver: should you remain here? on Polish soil, where each step is filled and infused with the blood and tears of Jewish fathers, mothers and children, where every stone from the cobblestone pavement is a silent witness for the Jews who were led to the slaughter?
No! Here is not the soil and here the survivors will not find their rest. We must search for a more secure corner. We take various roads and escape from the accursed land. And this even though we took part in the liberation of democratic Poland.
I, myself, was the first to run and after seven months of wandering in various nations of Europe, I succeeded in reaching our holy land Eretz-Yisroel.
1. town Return
2. a grandson of Gedalia Mondres Return
by Alter Rozen, New York
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
|A holy community Goniadz, may it rest in peace,
You always float before my eyes
As in reality and also in a dream,
Since your pure soul flew away
In high heaven, far.
There are your children driven a long way,
Spread to all corners of the world,
Scattered across Seven Seas.
Each has become a last Goniadzer,
By Dovid Treszczanski
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
Everyone, everyone is near to me, brothers of my sadness
You always follow me as a nightmare, day and night, Goniadz, my dear shtetele!
Home of my childhood years, of my youth. In you I rocked in my straw cradle, studied in kheder and grew into a person. In you I spent my young years as a victim in the struggle for a better world.
Endless pictures run through my memory!
Friday a wedding in the shtetl. The groom and bride are accompanied by music to the synagogue hill. The entire shtetl is lively a wedding in the shtetl, lehavdil a funeral in the shtetl. Everything draws me to the ghostly alley. Everything is wrapped in sorrow.
Joy and sadness together.
There stands our white synagogue on the hill like a light-tower. Jews would run to the synagogue hill on a warm day to catch a breeze from the river.
The old bathhouse stands beneath. Children running with their fathers to the bath How lively and familiar erev Pesakh, erev Rosh Hashanah.
Here is the old Beis-Medrash. Mordekhai the shamas heats the oven and we, friends, bring potatoes to bake. A group plays cards on a big, long table in the woman's prayer room. Mordekhai the shamas chases them out
Chana-Dina's son, Yaruhem's gemara melody reverberates by the tallow candle on a winter night
And the bel-tefilah's the always joyful Reb Eliezar, son of Rywka Ruchl's son Moshe, and Yankl Elia, the blacksmith's son. I see them in front of the synagogue lectern dressed in a kitl, in talisim asking and crying for a good year.
And the stormy meetings in the Beis-Medrash about all community matters. What was not there in Goniadz? [Political] parties, schools, groups, sport groups, reading circles, libraries and so on.
The dear Y.L. Peretz library! How much love and energy I put in among your walls! Another book! Another book! And the delight in my heart. I cannot forget the late Leibl Mankowski, the founder and creator of the library who was beloved in all circles of Goniadz society.
I remember the inscription on his headstone: Here lies a simple member of a Jewish worker family.
A number of young Goniadzers were forced to his grave where they were shot and buried.
I see you all, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, how you were forced into the cattle cars to Bogusze  Your last journey.
It is quiet in the shtetl. Death is all around.
It is Friday in the evening. No Shabbos candles. The windows black, dark holes
And the Bober swims farther on its way Dear River Bober! Our mothers would launder our childish shirts in your clear waters. How many dreams did young hearts dream, navigating on your calm waters on summer evenings? How many hearty songs did we sing on boats rented from Mikhal the fisherman?
Jews came to your waters to say Tashlikh. Jewish children will never again swim on your still waters and pious Jews will never come to you again to wash the sinning skirts of their garments
And the frogs at Dolko, Guzy and Rawe croak as always.
Where are you, dear daughters of Rawe! Your Shabbos pletzlekh were tasty! A house for everyone who was hungry Always singing and joyfulness and so much hominess.
For the Goniadz survivors an eternal, deep wound that will never heal!
However, from the great ruins rises the heroic personality of a young man from Goniadz, Avraham-Leizer Rubin, the son of Yankl the blacksmith. The hero of the uprising in Treblinka and of the partisan movement around Bialystok calls to us and demands that we never forget.
1. little town Return
2. religious elementary school Return
3. word usually used to separate the sacred from the profane Return
4. on the eve of Passover Return
5. House of Prayer or synagogue Return
6. rabbi's assistant Return
7. rabbinical commentaries Return
8. person who leads prayer at the lectern Return
9. white robe worn on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and by the groom at his wedding Return
10. prayer shawls Return
11. transit camp near Grajewo Return
12. The custom of casting bread crumbs into a flowing body of water on Rosh Hashanah to cast away one's sins. It is derived from Micah 7:19 - You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Translator Return
13. Dolko, Guzy and Rawe seem to be the names of places identified on the shtetl map on page 13. Translator Return
14. flat rolls Translator Return
Translated by Amy Samin
In our town, an ancient synagogue stood on a steep hill. The date of its founding is unknown, but the elders of the town would recount that long ago, when the area was ruled by the Prussians, a large prison stood on the spot. And how many benefits there were in that synagogue mount. Aside from the sanctity of the synagogue, and the extensive field around it that isolated it from the town also of note was the wonderful and spectacular view of the surrounding area. At its feet flowed the Buber River, which wound its course through fields, meadows, and green pastures into the distance, and on the horizon continuous dense forests which surrounded the area with a blue-green wreath. Not for nothing did the townspeople take pride in the synagogue mount.
On the winter Sabbaths, a minyan [ten men, the minimum number required for prayers] of worshipers and synagogue faithful would gather, plodding through the mud or in snow up to the knees. Though as Passover approached and the spring sun began to warm the face of the earth, the residents of the town would throng to the synagogue mount, to see whether the river had awakened from its winter slumber under a thick blanket of ice wrapped in a thin sheet of white snow. On one of the Sabbaths, as the worshippers left the synagogue, chilled to the bone, to warm up a bit in the shining sunlight and to observe the river, suddenly a declaration was heard: the ice is moving! In the air could be heard the echoes of the faint sound of the ice cracking, and from the river and beneath it came the trumpeting sound and an amazing noise, which grew louder and louder. That Sabbath day became the festival of Spring, and the synagogue mount would celebrate its victory. During the Mincha [afternoon] prayers of the Sabbath, the number of worshippers would greatly increase, and people would stand and watch the flowing ice with joy and trembling They had just finished studying Psalm 104, and here suddenly they could see with their own eyes how manifold are thy works, the river killing the ice as it rose up on its banks, its breadth and length in a glorious song of freedom, the song of Spring, a celebration of light and liberty. From Passover to Sukkot and even Simchat Torah, the synagogue was the center of prayer in the town, and the synagogue mount became a destination for day trips, conversations and gatherings for the townspeople.
Lightning struck the roof of the synagogue more than once, and under the roof was kept the lightening-struck timber, in memory of the saving of the synagogue from destruction by fire.
Many conflagrations befell the town, and during the First World War part of the town was destroyed and burned by the shelling of the Germans and the Russians. The synagogue on its high hill, and with its stone walls, remained unchanged, like an unmovable stone in a stormy sea, like Mount Zion which cannot be removed, until the blasphemous Nazis invaded the town, those two legged predators, may their names and memories be erased, in the Second World War, at the end of 1938. And so came to an end the fortress of the community of Goniadz.
Rosh Hashanah, 1939. The people demanded in secret: make weak the haters of Israel. But the opposite happened the bitter enemy of the Jews grew stronger, and with its victory over Poland, the town fell under the government of the filthy, evil Nazis. With the Days of Awe came the real days of horror.
A great fear befell the Jews on the eve of Yom Kippur. Someone spread the word that the Nazis had a terrible plot against the Jews: they were going to blow up the synagogue during the Kol Nidre prayer. The rabbi and the beadles made an announcement not to come to pray at the synagogue on the eve of Yom Kippur. They were barely able to scrape together a minyan at the rabbi's house, and there they secretly said the Kol Nidre prayer.
The belief of the townspeople was weakened when they heard that they were to avoid praying in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, because many used to come to pray in the synagogue on that sacred day of fasting, because the pure air there would ease their fast
The next day, on Yom Kippur, suddenly the sounds of a loud, threatening explosion were heard. Fire and billows of smoke - chunks of the synagogue walls went flying upwards, the roof and ceiling collapsed, and the entire synagogue mount became like a volcano. The Nazis had put their plot into action and blown up the synagogue on Yom Kippur. The Jews of the town prayed brokenheartedly in grief and sorrow: No prophet and no visionary, like the blind we will cast about and leave. Every day it is said what will be our end, our lives are hanging in the balance
During the prayers, weeping and burning tears flowed from their eyes over this new destruction the destruction of the ancient synagogue that had once been the majesty of the town.
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
On the green hill, separated from the shtetl,
Chosen on the first day of creation,
Everyone admired your magnificence
And everyone told of the glory of your importance:
An old castle from Jan Sobieski's time
From childhood on there has appeared in my dreams
When the swirl of time torments my mood,
I see the mantel lamps blazing in holiness,
I see talisim swaying, without end,
My synagogue is a ruin my most beautiful dream!
And we cry with them…
But I I cannot cry,
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