The work was difficult and vast, and the project continued for a number of years. More than once, we experienced moments of discouragement and disappointment regarding hopes and expectations that were not quickly fulfilled.
Our town, the Jewish Sokoly, was erased and destroyed. Could we, the children and grandchildren of those Jews, agree that the history of our town would sink into the depths of oblivion and forgetfulness? It is forbidden to us, the witnesses who are still living in the shadow of the past, to forget.
We, the remaining few, will at least do what we can, we said to ourselves. We will memorialize images, memories of the Jewish settlement in Poland that was destroyed and is no more.
Some crazies were found, who joined the effort with all their energies, and the book was completed about 20 years after the destruction, and about 10 years after a small group of Holocaust survivors from Sokoly resettled in Israel.
In the beginning we worried that we would not accumulate enough documentary material, because only a few people from our town survived, and not everyone who passed through the crucible of suffering was able to express and put in writing what was in his heart and burning within him. Amazingly, we acquired an enormous amount of material, both documentary and in the form of personal memories.
We were not blessed with financial resources for publishing purposes. Our friend, Leah Maik, who went on a visit to the U.S., came to our assistance. Leah succeeded in recruiting active members there, who raised a significant amount of money from the members of the organization and who themselves donated generously.
Thus, we finally arrived at the awaited shore after ten years of strenuous preparation. During this period, a number of the people of our town exhibited good will; over the years, the number of helpers thinned out and only two lone friends remained to fight the battle, who took the burden upon their shoulders. They are Avraham Yitzchak Lev and Moshe Maik. Moshe Maik can be described as the engineer who designed the construction of the book. Words cannot express how much time and effort the man invested in the success of the project.
We thank all of the people of our town in New York, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Melbourne, London, and the Association of Sokoly Émigrés in Israel, for the help they provided to us.
We are very pained and sorrowed that a number of survivors from our town who were rescued from the Holocaust and lived both in Israel and abroad, did not merit to see the publication of the Yizkor book.
A small number of courageous Christians from the area around Sokoly should be remembered, who, in a world of evil, abysmal hatred and cruelty, showed humanity and mercy to pursued Jews. One of them is the priest from the village of Jablonka, who endangered his own life and property and hid a number of pregnant Jewish women in his home, who gave birth there. Thank you to the small group of Poles who did not lose the image of G-d and helped a number of Jews to escape from the inferno.
All of them are mentioned in the book and are honorably counted among the Righteous of the Nations.
Today, 12 years after the publication of the book in Yiddish, the purpose of which was to establish a monument to the martyrs of our town, we did not imagine that the history of a small town like Sokoly would awaken wide echoes and positive criticism in many countries of the world, expressed by articles and writings in many of the newspapers abroad, which are preserved and stored in our Organization's archives. A number of experts and researchers in the history of the Holocaust have determined that the Sokoly book includes very valuable historic and documentary material, which clarifies an entire period in the lives of Jews in small towns in Poland.
We have obtained Michael Maik's diary, which was written by him in the forests and in the bunker. The diary includes chronological material about the events of those days.
There was a period after the War when people who survived the Holocaust made efforts to forget the horrors of the past. They did not want their children to be shocked, Heaven forbid, by stories of the hell they went through. Later, these people came to the conclusion that they were mistaken in their perception, and that it is important for their descendants to know about the lives of their forebears and their bitter struggle. It is important for them to learn the lessons of the period, to remember them and not to forget. A philosopher of Spanish origin, George Santayana, once said: If you refuse to remember the past, you will be destined to relive it.
From this aspect, and so that our youth and the coming generations will know about the events, we decided to translate and publish a new edition of the book in the Hebrew language. Again, our financial resources were slim. When events took a turn for the worst, a redeeming angel appeared in the form of Shmuel Kalisher, who was born in Lodz. After he read the book in Yiddish, he was very excited and took it upon himself to volunteer to translate the book into Hebrew and edit it. Thus, all of the technical work was done voluntarily.
Finally, we request the forgiveness of the readers, if they reveal literary defects in the book. We wish to emphasize, again and again, that in the book we put emphasis on the contents, in which the survivors tell their stories in their own language.
|Sokoly, 1916||Sokoly, 2003|
The land of the town, like the lands of its neighbors, are soaked with the Jewish blood that cries out from within. The trees of the surrounding forests and groves are silent, bearing violent and terrible historic witness.
My awareness and expertise in the lifestyle of the town and its struggle for life came to me after I read, reviewed, and absorbed the contents of the Yizkor Book Sokoly, which was published in the Yiddish language in Israel, in 1962, at the initiative of the Committee of the Association of Sokoly Émigrés, and the unceasing activities of two of its members, Holocaust survivors, Moshe Maik and Avraham Yitzchak Lev.
Much has been spoken and written about the negative image of the Jews of the Diaspora. Under the heading, How They Led Us to Plunder, the writer Moshe Shamir, a native Israeli, writes in one of his articles in an evening newspaper, after he was deeply impressed by reading two books about the destruction of the towns Janowa and Kolbuszowa:
Over the years, they drew us a distorted image, intentionally bewitched and blackened, of the Jewish town. They pressed into our brains, and formed the image in our consciousness, of the one and only symbol of the Diaspora Jew the beggar, the unsuccessful, the parasite, the crooked, the twisted. After all these how can we complain about our youth that they don't want to hear any more about the town?It is desirable for our youth to know at least a limited number of facts, which unravel this negative image. It is important for them to look at the exalted and beautiful that was found within the town of their parents and forebears, and to hear the echo of the strength of their creativity and the joys of their lives, and even their heroism, so that our youth's horizons and world view will widen in recognition that in the town there were a high level of culture and spiritual uplifting, good education, and preservation of the eternal values and traditions of our nation.
Under difficult and discouraging conditions, among revealed enemies and friends of the past who quickly became turncoats, the Jews, among them the Jews of Sokoly, struggled and fought for their lives and their honor. Some of them succeeded in reaching the forests. In the better cases, they dug themselves holes, built bunkers, which quickly became asphyxiating and rancid. More than once, within the underground, they proved their courage and initiative, and surprised their enemies.
Not all of them went like sheep to the slaughter. Not many Jews from Sokoly survived the Holocaust. Some of them reached Israel, their hearts' and souls' desire. Others were scattered throughout the lands of the West and across the ocean.
Moshe Maik, one of the heroes of Sokoly and righteous in his ways, was privileged to build his home and establish a family in Israel. He and his father, Reb Michael, of blessed memory, stubbornly and devotedly gathered documentary material about their town and its surroundings during the dark years, in order to tell it to your children and for their dear ones who were no longer living and whose dying lips stammered, take revenge and do not forget.
The events in the book were recorded by people, living witnesses who went through and experienced the nightmare. The Nazi hell.
The reader should not search for literary values in the pages of the book. The lines were written simply, in popular language, with upheavals of the fear and trembling of the pen between the fingers of the writing hand. Possibly, not one of those narrating the events of his life will dare to believe himself, because he has never joined himself within the framework of his descriptions and the picture of his story, as long as his wounds have not healed.
There is no doubt that the reader will feel the speed of the events, as he sinks into the secret places of the pages and becomes so attached to them that the events will become part of his experiences. In any case, that is how I felt; I found myself in the town and among its Jews, and felt as if I were one of them and lived among them.
I felt a small obligation to contribute to the publication of the book in the Hebrew language. If I succeeded at all in translating from the Yiddish and in editing, and the echoes of the events will reach both young and old readers of Hebrew, in Israel and in the Diaspora, this will be my reward.
At the start of World War II, the population of Sokoly was 2500. It had organized transportation, a train station and roads that continued in the direction of Bialystok and Warsaw.
Four long streets branched out from the market square in the center of the town: Tiktin Street, Gonasoweki Street, Mountain Street and Bath Street. At one of the corners of the market was the church, and behind it was a street where the Christian population lived (Tefla Street).
The synagogue lane branched off at the other side of the market. In this lane, there were an old brick synagogue, two large study halls built of wood (the new one and the old one), and the small tailors' study hall, behind which was the old cemetery. The monuments of the old cemetery were so old that they had already sunken into the earth, and their letters were worn away.
A few new monuments were made of marble, and the frames around the graves were built of stone and concrete.
One of these monuments stood at the entrance to a building. This was the grave of the righteous Rabbi Yona Gutman, about whom only the town's elderly people could tell.
There were no factories in Sokoly. Most of the inhabitants dealt in small trade and crafts, and a few managed more serious businesses.
There were 8-10 fairs every year in Sokoly, and every Thursday was market day. During the summer months, traders from near and far came to the fairs. The Anteki [St. Anthony's Day -- Mar. 10th] and Malgorzhati [St. Margaret's Day -- May 29th] Fairs continued for two days, on the Mondays and Tuesdays of the weeks they were held. This was the season of fabric trading. Almost all of the farmers' wagons were piled high with fabrics of their own manufacture. Professionals, shopkeepers and the unemployed, also supplied fabrics to the merchants. At this season there flourished a trade in wool, linen, pig bristles, crops and leather, all of which were sources of income for the Jews.
A distance of 40 kilometers separated Sokoly from Bialystok. Part of the Narew River was, in the past, a natural border between White Russia and Poland, and its path flowed between the two settlements.
Sokoly was a typical Polish town. Nearby were the famous Mazury forests. However, in the vicinity of Bialystok lived many Byelorussians, and in certain villages only their language could be heard.
Towns neighboring Sokoly were: Wysoskie-Mazowieckie, Zambrow, Czyzewo, Bransk, Lapy and Tykocin.
Sokoly was raised to the status of a town in 1827, but in 1866 the Russians lowered its status to that of a settlement in the framework of a Village community (Gamina), bearing the same name. The status of a town was returned to Sokoly only in 1915, by the Germans.
With the destruction of the place during the World War, and after the large fire that broke out there, the town was rebuilt, but it was not nicer than it had been. A large number of small wooden houses was built, and a certain number of brick buildings.
In the general view of the town, the two towers of the church, built in a neo-Gothic style, stab upward and can be seen from a distance in the entire vicinity. The church was built in 1912, and is one of the largest in the entire area.
One of the new buildings in Sokoly is the school that was built in 1933, as the project of the District Engineer Michael Eizenberg, at a cost of 50,000 zlotys.
The community (periphery) belongs almost entirely to the Polish nobility (Shlachta), and the names of local places are: Chrzczonki, Truskolasy, Czajki, Roszki-Wlodzki, Perki, Stypulki-Szymany, Jamiolki, Krzyzewo, Sokoli, and others .
The Christian names are mostly the same as the names of the villages, such as: Czajkovsky, Roszkovsky, Perkovsky, Sokolovsky
A few kilometers from Sokoly, near the village Jamiyulki, the train passes over a small river by the name of Slina (the Narew stream), which is the Western border of the former [districts] Podlasie and Mazowsze [Mazowiekie].
The population of Sokoly numbers 2100 people, of whom 1400 are Jews and 700 Christians.
Jewish restaurants: Kreindel Charnietzky, 7 Karotka Street; Pearl Greenberg, 8 Karotka Street; Dina Maik, 7 Tikochinska Street (with places to sleep, 1 zloty per day).
Two Christian restaurants: Tadush Valstovesky, Rink 24; Vivzef Meizner, 10 Michkavitzka Street.
The train station, on the track to Lomza-Bialystok, is one kilometer north of Sokoly. A bus to Bialystok (39 kilometers) also passes by here.
The distance to Wysokie-Mazowieckie is 16 kilometers.
Market days take place in Sokoly every Thursday during the week, and eight fairs are held during the year.
We dipped our pen into the valley of tears
To record an immortalization for the holy martyrs of Sokoly
Every page of the book is a scroll of fear
About our dear ones, who were cut off with a sharp sword.
We lived in the community, we spent time together
We drank gladness and poison from the same cup
The dynasty of his grandfather the grandson the blacksmith
A continuation of the generations of the Nation of Israel.
We sat on the same bench of learning
In the same cheder we expounded Torah
We had the same study hall, rules and procedures
The same cemetery and the same graves.
We walked the same roads and streets
Young girls and youths, grandfathers and grandmothers
Under the wedding canopies we heard, with rhythm,
Notes of a Jewish melody of joy and sadness.
We were transported to those Treblinkas in multitudes
We were squeezed into cattle cars like sheep
Our destination was massacre, we turned into dust
The story of our people is written here in the book.
Where are you, Sokoly, you were our cradle
You were eroded like dust and broken like clay
Where are your Jews, infants and fathers
Old people, grooms and beautiful brides?
Where are the pulpits of gemara, and around them the sounds of commentary
Of the yeshiva students explaining portions of the Midrash
Prayers and hopes lifted up to G-d on high
Were choked off, were silenced with the smoke of destruction.
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