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[Page 483]

Kovel in Its Destruction


[Page 487]

Notes in Hebrew by Our Loved Ones

Translated by Amy Samin

To those who come after us!
Remember these young souls:
  Soroleh Y.
Kagan P.
Gibnet Y.
  Zamir Yehoshua ben Moshe 15.9.1942
Remind those who come after us!
In another hour the pure blood of our people's youth will be spilled,
Blood as clean as the waters of the Sea of Galilee.
We demand vengeance! Cruel vengeance!
  Yehuda Shechter
In eternal memory
The souls that fell in vain at the hands of the German murderers.
  Ziskind Simcha, 18
Ziskind Miriam, 50
  Frieda Stillerman daughter of Yitzhak Marder 15.9.1942
In blood and fire Judah fell, in blood and fire Judah will arise. The Eternal One of Israel will not lie. 19.9.1942
  Miriam Roizen
Earth, don't cover our blood,
Heavens, take our vengeance.

We are going to a cruel death together with all of Kovel at the hands of the cruel murderers.

  Thursday, 14 Elul
Bluma, Ya'acov, David and Yehuda

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  Sheindel Schwartz 27.8.1942.
David Eisenberg.
Leah Fish Pioneer Group.
Rahel Fogelman.
Toybitsh Hannah.
Toybitsh Baba 16.9.
Frishberg, Chaya, Berl.
Kasil Weiner
Chaya Frishberg, remnants of the Shomrim Group
I am twenty years old. Oy, the world around us is so beautiful. Why are they taking sending me down the drain; all that I am craves life. Have my final moments come? Vengeance! Avenge me, whoever reads my final wish.

Notes in Yiddish by Our Loved Ones

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Bloyweis Alter, 5.9.42 [September 5, 1942], died.
I was with Ratien; he asked me to come in a few days. Thus they caught me. Ymunache caught me.
  S. Melnicer
Kanan Fayga at the murderer's hand.
Came from outside the ghetto.

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Yankl Giwant is here. Berl, too. We all fell into the hands of the murderers on Wednesday. 3.9.1942 [September 3, 1942]
Berl fell Shabbos the 5th of September.
His death was easy.
Dear parents, brother and sister!
I greet you. I am with Fayga Kanan. She is alone. We go to a more beautiful world, bravely.
  Monday – 7.9.1942 [September 7, 1942]
Yankl – Fayga.
Alas, we wanted to live Henikh
6.10.1942 [October 10, 1942]
Perhaps   Peysi
You live – take revenge
Alas, I waited for you with Yankl for two days… The entire time I was with your brother, as with you. So good together. Motele, my heart! We leave the beautiful world. The blood should not be silent. We go to a Jewish state.
I kiss you. The entire family.

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Chaya Rabiner Monday at night. Forgive me. I did not want to cause you pain. I could not do anything else.
Rusman Zakhariah Thursday the 2nd
Yehoshaya (Shaye) Frydman was director of the People's Kitchen. Perished Wednesday 24.8.1942 [August 24, 1942]. My son, Leibl, perished two months earlier. Also Uncle Yerukhem and Chana Finklsztajn and Malka perished.
Yehoshaya Frydman
May this be a matzevah [headstone]; perhaps my son will read this!
Kapczyk Mendl, Shimkha with his wife and children. 25.8.1942 [August 8, 1942]
Shlomo Granicz's son-in-law, Liberman was in the synagogue with his wife and child three o'clock at night. 25.8.1942 [August 25, 1942].
I, Yerukhem ben [son of] Reb Shlomo Ludmirer was here for five days in Tishrei [September or October], 1942. I ask you to say Kaddish [prayer for the dead], if no relatives remain.
Generation Druker!
I, Ahron Druker, of Krakow, found my death.
Forgive me!
Mama, you should know that I was caught when I went for water. If you are here remember your daughter, Yente Soyfer, who perished 14.9.1942 [September 14, 1942].

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I, Fayge Szwarc, was here in the synagogue for five days in Tishrei (September or October), 1942.
Yakov Lewertob perished 6.9.1942 (September 6, 1942).
Yakov Geler lost 9 Elul [22 August] 1942.
Cantor of the Beis haMedrash, Pruszanski, Shlomo bar [son of] Chaim-Moshe, son of Gitele, here in the synagogue. His wife, may her soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life, 6 days in Elul 5702 [19 August 1942].
We wait here for death – Avraham ben [son of] Shmuel Rajcsztal, with his wife and child and Bila and her child 24.8.1942 [August 24, 1942].
So many dreadful scenes,
So many cruel pictures,
So much pain – without any word of protest!
Only tears - - -
No hand raised.
No clenched fist.
Only calls to God!

Leibl Sosne
22.8.1942 [August 22, 1942]

Josef and Gitl Rapaport 27.8.1942 [August 27, 1942].
We sit in the synagogue and wait for death.
Pesakh and Ester Tasgal
23 days in Elul

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In the course of 10 days, thousands of Jews were led out of the synagogue to slaughter – small and large, young and old; but the most terrible thing is this, that they went without a word of protest, like calves.

May the future generations remember this shameful death and - - disgrace.
Ben-Tzion Szer went to his death for nothing.
27.8.1942 [August 27, 1942]
B”H [Borukh Hashem – Blessed is God, meaning Thank God]
Chaim bar [son of] Shlomo Szwarc
Bar Chana
Bar Zelig
Ephraim Segal
Gitl Segal
Liebl Sasne!
They know that everyone was murdered. Now I go with my wife and children to death. Be healthy!
Your brother, Avraham
Dear Sister, who perhaps was saved and you will find yourself in the synagogue; read these, my last words. I find myself now in the synagogue before my death. Be lucky here and survive the bloody war; remember your sister.
Polye Fidlman
Sunday, I, Eidl Fiszbejn, was here.
Goldsztajn, Bet Sheva
Goldsztajn, Avraham
Goldsztajn, Borukh Leib (Butsye)
Goldsztajn, Mariam

Perished on 28.8.1942 (September 28, 1942)

Yehoshayke! Take revenge for the blood of those who perished.

Brayndl and Avraham-Yitzhak Kazak were here on the 27th of Elul, 1942 [9 September].

[Page 493]

Notes in Polish by Our Loved Ones

Translated by Amy Samin

Roza, daughter of Hinoch died in a tragic manner. I fought, I wanted to live – in spite of the futility. My heart, my heart, goes out to my Liniosinka, for her sake I wanted to live, if only to see her. My sorrow is great.

[Page 494]

Dearest Andziulu! In just a few more moments we will be departing, my brother and I, for our eternal death. Should someone from our family remain alive – may they avenge our spilled blood.
Liuba Rozenszveig has ended his years on 30.8.1942. Avenge our blood!
Farewell, my beautiful world, in the last hour of my life. Your friend, Chana Avrech.
Perl Kleiner and her brother Yosef take their leave from everyone. 12.9.1942
Ehrlich, Rahel died in a tragic manner on 6.10.1942. For twenty days I suffered because I wanted to see my brother Shalom. It is hard for me to leave this world, but that is our destiny.
I am going to the eternal silence. Sonia Melnicer.
The Sheva Goldstein family died a tragic death at the hands of the Hitlerists 12.9.1942.

[Page 495]

Yosef Apelboim! 12.9.1942 God, avenge us!
I will write one last time before my death. I don't know if any of the Jews will remain alive. Alas, I will not be the happy one.
Moszko and Tunik take their leave of everyone. 15.9.1942 The last Mohicans of the Barzilai and Tojbiczów families.
Bilah Grojser and her family were imprisoned and slaughtered 14.9.1942
I will rest in the common grave of the tortured with my best friends Sonia and Kuba Rojter, the easier for our common misfortune. 27.8 1942
The pure Jewish blood, may it drown all the Germans. Vengeance! Vengeance! May they be struck by lightning!
  Yisrael Wajnsztejn
The Lencz family was killed 23.8.1942 and I write this in the last moments before they take us out to be killed.
Niura Rajber-Landau will die today. I so badly wanted to live! 23.8.1942

[Page 496]

The murderers are coming.
Silence prevails in the world.
Listen to the sound of the hearts dreaming with all their might.
Listen to the sound of the hearts ceasing to beat.
Lord, let us take You in Your eternity
The murderers will pay, pay with their blood!!
How can I rejoice – if I am already in the grave?
But I wanted to be alive.
Their children will cut down the last to remain…
Another hour…another moment. . . . . .
I bid farewell to my beautiful world
Before I was able to know you…
  Tania Arbeiter and all of her family. 23.8.1942
Pola Wydra. 23.8.1942
Innocent blood has been spilled. Golda Wajnsztejn 23.8.1942
Rahel, Belka, and Sonia Blucher died a tragic death. They met the fate of all the Jews: loss of life. 15.9.1942

[Page 497]

Ania Bokser and her mother Dusia,
Moshe Dunawiecki and his wife. 15.9.1942
Bora Rozenwald and his wife Lema were killed. 19.8.1942
Killed: Zelik, Fenia, Eliahu Rozenwald of Brisk, on the Bug River. 20.8.1942
Gedaliah! Avenge our innocent blood! Beba Milsztejn 23.8.1942
My dear Monik (Poliszuk)! Avenge the blood of your father, your brother, and your sister, who fell into the hands of the murderers. Remember! This must be your mission in life.
  Fania - Feibel
Berensztejn, Yankel
Berensztejn, Hania
Berensztejn, Tema
Fell at the hands of the Germans.
The Fishbein family died with Pollack on 29.8.1942 Riva, Bela, Yisrael and Rahel.

[Page 498]

Avigdor Balter was imprisoned on 13.9.1942
Moshe, 45; Bela, 46; Manya, 13; Sza leave this world and everyone in it.
My dear sisters! We are not dying as others do, for our death comes at the hands of barbarians. We saved ourselves until 6.9.1942, more we were not able to do, for we were betrayed. Avenge our blood. Pray for us. Gittel Segal, born 1922, Ethel Segal, born 1924. Farewell. The fate of our parents is unknown to us. 7.9.1942
Here live the dead, crying out from their graves for justice. Benjamin Piteta
Adolph Rozencwaig 30.8.1942
Dear Yosef! Avenge us! – Dora, Amik, and Ziva Segal 12.11.1942
Fania Tannenboim and her children, Sioma and Pepa 12.11.1942


[Page 502]

What I Saw and Heard
During the City's Liberation

by Dr. Yakov Hasis

Translated by Amy Samin

The Terrifying Destruction

The fate of man is a strange thing. When I left Kovel for Moscow on the 16th of June 1941 to attend a conference for experts in the subject of lung diseases, I didn't give it much thought. My parting from my family and friends was that of someone who is going away for only ten days, with no special excitement. I would even say everything was completely normal. There was no perception of the impending Holocaust.

In 1943, when I was on the Kazakhstani prairie, it came to my attention that something dreadful was happening in the German-occupied areas. I read a great deal about the torture of the occupied population, about cold-blooded murder, about the flowing of rivers of blood, but I did not know, then, that the Jewish people had fallen into the hands of the beasts of Hitler, and were facing total annihilation.

With the advance of the Red Army, and with the liberation of the Volhynia region, my excitement grew. I believed that the authorities would remember me, and that one day I would receive a message to return to the liberated area, to the place to which I was tied with my broken, but hopeful, heartstrings.

The order was not long in coming. It arrived in April of 1944. I received a telegram from “Galbesnofer” (galbani sanitarni otadil) of the Ministry of Transportation's health services, telling me to set out for Rovno, which had been liberated from the Nazi occupation, and take part in establishing a health care institution in the field of tuberculosis.

In March of 1945 I set out once again, on a long and dangerous journey, but I knew that it was to my home I was going.

In Rovno I was overworked. I was the only professional doctor in the area, and I worked from 8 in the morning until 11 at night. There were many tuberculosis patients to be found there,

[Page 503]

mostly villagers, and in a neglected state. The question as to why they would neglect themselves instead of receiving appropriate medical treatment was answered with this horrifying reply: “Because the doctors were slaughtered.” (As we know, most of the doctors in that region were Jews.)

In Rovno I met with a group of Jews, made up of just a few people, survivors who had remained alive because they fled to the forests and joined the partisans. A few had found a hiding place with peasants in the area. But those were only isolated instances. Most of them were sent to their deaths by the Nazis.

In Rovno I learned that in Manievich there were a number of sons of Kovel who had survived the great slaughter. I traveled there and found Bella Flaumenbaum and her small daughter, Shalom Donitch, and others. They described the great tragedy – the destruction of the first and second ghettoes. We didn't sleep a wink. All night long I listened to the description of the destruction of our town, of how our precious people were tortured, shot, and massacred. Full of worry and grief, I returned the next day to my work.

On the 8th of August my supervisor at work came to me and asked if I was of a mind to accompany him on the first train to Kovel, which had just been liberated.

I accepted willingly. We traveled by train, which consisted of an engine and only one car, and we reached Vatoroy Kovel.

Up to Holova, the road had been paved, because it had been in the hands of the Russians for a number of months. But as we approached Kovel, the road was littered with trenches, the killed, and minefields.

We reached the railway workshops, which had been completely destroyed. We walked along the paths, and everywhere we went we were warned not to veer off to the sides, because the whole area was sown with mines.

The whole area was covered with tall weeds. It was obvious that no one had set foot here in a very long time. The paths of Kovel were in mourning. As we walked along, we did not meet a single living soul. We reached the train station, which had once been bustling with life and had become a pile of ruins. The entire surrounding area was also destroyed. Via Satara Vakzalna Road we entered the center of town, which was also completely covered in weeds. I reached our house on Starzchika Street. The house was undamaged, but all of the furniture had been stolen. The house was empty – not a stick of furniture and not a single person was there. Next to the house I saw a trench. The Rubenstein houses opposite ours had been destroyed. Only the Finkelstein house remained whole. The few houses that remained resembled graves, because all who had once dwelled there had been wiped out.

I glanced at a group of Russian soldiers, who with the help of Nazi prisoners cleared the area of the landmines. I found small comfort in the sight of exploding mines, which pulverized the murderers.

I felt suffocated. I was appalled at the destruction and the emptiness. The language of man is too meager

[Page 504]

to relate all that my eyes beheld. I could not endure the grief that was in my heart, and after a few hours I returned to Rovno.


The Horrors of Annihilation

After a few weeks, I returned to Kovel. I had been told that a few Jews had returned to the town – some from Russia and some from nearby hiding places. I met, among others, Pinchas Fantorine and Sima Reischtol. From them I learned of the annihilation, and of the places where the massacres took place. We traveled to the new cemetery, the place where they wiped out the last remaining remnants of the Jews of the city, who had survived the two big aktions [actions] .

We saw knolls of earth. When we asked, “What is the meaning of these mounds of dirt?” they explained to us: “The groups of unfortunates who were brought to this place of death dug ditches with their own hands. Each group stood at the edge of the ditch, while behind them stood Ukrainians, Poles, and Nazis armed with submachine guns, who cut down every last one. Immediately after the murder of the first group, a second group was brought whose task it was to cover up the dead from the first group and to dig a ditch for themselves. Peasants from the area told us that many hours after the ditches had been covered in earth, they could hear the moans of the wounded struggling with the angel of death.

From there we went to Bachba to the largest mass grave. The place was deserted, except for the shepherds who grazed their sheep. We informed the peasants of the area not to dare to graze their sheep on the mass grave, or we would take revenge on them.


The Heroic Stand of the Teacher Yosef Avrech, may his blood be avenged

While I was in the city, I heard that Dr. Zavitska, a Polish woman about 50 years of age and who had been a known anti-Semite, had survived. I was told that she wished to see me.

I discovered her address, and we met. She was gravely ill, and a short time afterwards she died from a malignant tumor. In a voice choked with tears, she told me – as an eyewitness – of the annihilation. She described the involvement of the Ukrainians in the mass murder, and told me of the disgraceful role Dr. Yaborovski played in the slaughter.

But she wanted, in particular, to mention the greatness and heroism of the unfortunates in their last moments of life. Engraved in her memory was the appearance, full of Jewish national pride and remarkable courage, of the teacher, Yosef Avrech, may his blood be avenged. That Jew, said Dr. Zavitska, revealed supreme, exalted, and heroic spiritual strength and raised the morals of the Jews to new heights that daunted the hangmen. This tormented Jew, an amputee, whose prosthetic arm the murders had removed, walked proudly upright to his death.

According to her testimony, the Jews of the city walked proudly, adorned with a halo of courage, towards

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death. In this majestic parade towards annihilation, the eternal values of Judaism and the ethics of the people of Israel were revealed.


The Horrific Actions of Dr. Yaborovski, may he rot in hell

Dr. Yaborovski was considered, so to speak, to be a friend of the Jews. He was the only non-Jewish doctor to work in the Jewish hospital. However, “friend” in his case had the meaning: “God protect me from my friends”…When permission was given to the destroyer, the monster lying dormant deep within his Jesuit soul awoke.

His “fine actions” were described to me by Dr. Zavitska as these: since he was considered a friend, many Jews entrusted him with their wealth, in gold, money, and jewelry - until the fury should pass.

When the fighting ended and the city was liberated from the hands of the impure, a few of the depositors approached Dr. Yaborovski and asked that he return the valuables they had left in his care. But he ignored their claims and did not return anything to them. More than that, he heaped derision and scorn upon the Jews, abused them with curses and insults, and told the Jewish doctors, his colleagues: “For generations you ate our flesh, and sucked our blood like leeches. Now your time has come. Now an end is put to your vile people.”

Dr. Yaborovski openly justified the Nazis' acts of annihilation.


Meetings with Kovel Doctors in Russia

At various times and occasions, I had the opportunity to meet with the Jewish doctors of our city, those who took their chances and were able to escape before the arrival of the Nazis, and thus were saved from the Holocaust.

Dr. Weitman: He was a senior physician, a specialist in dermatology. He worked in the Jewish hospital and was one of its managers. He lived in a private, two-story house, which stood next to the jail.

During the war, I met with him for the first time in Kiev, in 1941. It was in the morning, after the heavy bombing of the Darnytsia railway station in Kiev. Dr. Weitman had been drafted into the Russian Army and on his journey with the other draftees the convoy was bombed, claiming many victims.

When I met him, he was very upset. He had had a long night of wandering. Seizing the opportunity, I struck up a brief conversation with him. He didn't have much time, because he was hurrying to his unit, from which he had become separated.

In late 1944 I met him for a second time when I was in Rovno. On his way west,

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Dr. Weitman arrived in that city with his unit, and when he learned from the Jews he happened upon along his way that I was in Rovno, he asked to speak with me.

It was one of my saddest duties to tell him of the devastation of Kovel, of the complete destruction of his house, and of his family - not a single one of whom had survived. As he listened, the doctor cried bitter tears like a small child. This meeting was also brief, for he was forced to head out to the front with his unit.

At our parting, I revealed to him that I was of a mind to cross the border and immigrate to the Land of Israel. Dr. Weitman was thrilled and grateful for this revelation, and said that he also wished to do the same even though it wasn't exactly the simplest thing to manage since he was afraid to desert the Russian Army.

I have not seen him since then. I heard that he had gone with his unit to the front in the direction of Czechoslovakia.

Dr. Chachnovich: He was a senior doctor in Kovel, a cultured man who was involved with people and active in public life. He was a specialist in internal medicine and pediatrics.

In 1941 I learned that he and his wife had left the city with the Russian Army, before the Nazis had arrived. They decided to leave Kovel because their only daughter had gone to relatives in the city of Rostov, in Russia. As far as I know, Dr. Chachnovich is still alive, and spent the war years living in Siberia.

Dr. Yosef Melamed: He was a young doctor, who completed his studies in 1937. He was drafted into the Russian Army and left Kovel before the onset of hostilities, leaving behind a wife and son.

In the Russian Army, he specialized as a surgeon and was appointed chief surgeon in the military hospital. In 1944, while I was in Rovno, Dr. Melamed and his hospital arrived in that city. We met and were together for a few months, until he received orders to move west with the hospital, following the advance of the Russian Army. I know that he remained alive and is working as a doctor in the Soviet Union.

Dr. Pinchas (Patia) Retnovisky: He was a young doctor. He was also certified as a doctor in 1937. When war broke out between Russia and Germany, he left the city with the Russian Army. At the beginning of 1945, he arrived in Rovno on his way to Kovel. He came to see me. All night long we talked about the city and its residents, about the mutual friends we had, and about their horrific end. I told him of my plan to move west and immigrate to the Land of Israel. He decided to remain in Russia. After some time he traveled to Kovel, to see with his own eyes the horrible destruction. Later, he returned to his unit which was camped in Belorussia and I never heard anything more of him.

I also heard of other young doctors from Kovel who were drafted into the Russian Army and were saved, including Dr. Grisha Varba and Dr. Weisberg.


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