NOTE: Chaim Rabin (1910-1990), the editor of the Shumsk Yizkor Book and author of this foreword to the Yiddish section of the book, was born in Lanovits. His mother, Dina (Berensztejn) Rabin, was the daughter of Kovka and Ides (Yehudis) Berensztejn, prominent members of the Jewish community in Shumsk. Chaim Rabin's parents, Dina and Uziel Rabin, perished in the Holocaust as did two of their children. Chaim Rabin immigrated to Palestine in 1934. He was a prolific author and translator and edited more than 10 Yizkor Books.
When we remember Shumsk, we remember Yiddish, the language of our eternally dear murdered parents, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors-- all of the dear Shumsk Jews. We know that they held on to their language as a means of defense to protect their Jewish way of life and maintain their uniqueness. In it they spoke, thought, and whispered the 2,000-year secret that brought us back into our Land of Israel, and in it they created, sang, and traded their lovely Jewish jokes and ... cried in times of uncertainty and death.
Therefore we have devoted a large section of the book to Yiddish, although our intuition regarding Yiddish tells us that in the future Yiddish will be supplanted by the use of Hebrew.
We undertake this with love.
The Yiddish section is not a translation. It is the language of creation of the authors and, just as the entire book has been created by the efforts of a few who have taken pains to write, so is the Yiddish in the book the creative language of its authors. Fortuitously, it is almost a parallel reflection of Shumsk to its Hebrew reflection.
Here is a section of nostalgia, of longing for the past of our shtetl with its sorrows and happiness.
Here is a picture of its society, which was built upon a moral law and code of the soul, with its shaded and bright characters.
Here is the longing of its youth for their own state and a safe, secure Jewish life.
And, above all, here is a description of the massacre of the people of Shumsk by three witnesses saved from death.
Worthy of mention is the treasury of Shumsk folkore in the chapters by Muni Chazen and the diary of Elye Hersh Nite's daughter Zipora Rojchman, which was written in the 1930s in the midst of seas and oceans, between sky and water, when she was an illegal immigrant to Israel and her heart was torn between her love of Israel and her longing to return home to Shumsk.
The Shumsk landsmanshaft in Israel did everything so that the book in Hebrew and in Yiddish would be a fitting memorial to our holy, dear Shumsk Jews, a tribute to all Jews murdered in all lands and generations, and an accurate picture of our shtetl.
We presume that here and there errors and oversights were made. This is natural and pardonable, for if we had not made the effort to prepare this book we would not have fulfilled our duty to immortalize Shumsk for our children and for Jewish history.
We thank all of our Shumskers, whose demand for the book gave us the courage to put up with the obstacles and financial difficulties, and brought the dream of a Shumsk Yizkor Book to realization.
Let us consider this book as the collective expression of all of us Shumskers.
My small shtetl,
Its surroundings so beautiful
Houses straight in a row,
Study houses, a synagogue between them.
Streets short and long
Shops in a line on the square
The Braver, a distillery, and also a mill
All beautiful and delicious to everyone's senses.
The walk to the woods
Through the wood and up the Gorki
When every Sabbath, everyone big and small
Would head from the shtetl
After the delight and rest of Sabbath
Everybody, everybody, you and I.
And the orchard at the New Town
In summer used to blossom so well.
I think now of you and your people
And of your beautiful evenings
The sky, such a pure blue, moon shining
In it, I remember today
The quiet streets, the people sleeping
There was always happiness, cheerfulness
But suddenly evil took you.
Obliterated, I can no longer see you.
By the hand of German murderers
There remains no more than burnt walls.
And together with you
Your people were obliterated
My sisters, brothers, and who was not?
O Shumsk, I will never forget you
In my memory you will always be engraved.
EDITOR'S NOTE: After the massacre of almost the entire Jewish community of Shumsk on August 12, 1942, about 100 people who had succeeded in hiding but were subsequently found were selected by the Germans, housed in the synagogue and assigned work. During the ensuing five weeks, many of them were killed, and a few succeeded in escaping. Then only 15 remained in Shumsk. Accounts of this five-week period are in other chapters of the Shumsk Yizkor Book: The Last Days of Shumsk by Ruth Stztejnman Halperin, My Last Days in Shumsk by Haim Cisin, Shumsk, My Tragic Host by Moshe Grenoch, and Shumsk at Her End by Yaakov (Yankel) Geler, son of Chaim Geler.
From all of Shumsk only 15 of us were left, among them myself and my poor son. We worked for the Germans, serving them and cleaning for them, and at night came back to the synagogue to spend the night in the Ghetto.
Once, when I came to the German, who was a sailor, he was not at home, and his wife, a Russian, said to me: Tomorrow they are going to shoot you and finish you off, the last 15 Jews. Save yourself; I hate the Germans; do not sleep in the synagogue tonight.
I conveyed this to everyone and the 15 of us took off to the villages rather than spend the night in the synagogue.
I and my son Yankel went to a gentile, who was a Shtundist, an evangelical that is, a neighbor of mine. When he would meet me on my way to work for the Germans, he would say that he would risk his life to save me and my son. I would tell him that it was dangerous for him to hide me. But on that night, I went to him and told him everything. Do as you see fit, I said to him.
As we were talking a gentile from a village came in and says he brought the Germans potatoes and the storehouse is closed, so he has to make the trip back home with the potatoes. My acquaintance speaks up: Take these two Jews home with you and keep them safe.
This gentile was also a Shtundist, but he had come with another gentile, not a Shtundist, and he says that he was afraid of the other gentile. So I tell him, Go to the other man, let him go home alone, and at night take us to your house.
I told him to go just out of town and wait for us. From there we would go together.
Leaving town was highly dangerous but we safely made it through all the streets. It was very dark. We arrived at the spot, and the gentile was not there. He was fifty meters further on but in the dark we didn't find one another. So, we went back to our acquaintance.
The gentile also went back there, so the three of us now set off for his village.
It was terribly dark. We walked 30 kilometers all the way to his home. Our clothes were wet from perspiration. He took us up to the garret, where we dropped down and fell asleep like the dead.
In the morning he comes up and says his wife is very scared to keep us. The Germans come into the village every day, so we must move to another gentile, he will take us there.
It took nine days for him to find a gentile, also an evangelist, and we went to him. On the way he says, Don't reveal that you were staying with me. Say that I found you in the woods. Otherwise he will tell me to go on keeping you.
In the five weeks that only 15 of us had remained in the ghetto, I had realized that we had to put away some goods in case we managed to save ourselves. I had left two crates/trunks of belongings with my Polish acquaintance, clothes and other things. So I tell the gentile, You hide us and I will reward you. I asked Valenik to go to the Pole, take the belongings from him, sell them, and buy provisions for our current gentile [the one now caring for us].
He came back having found everything was in order, but he had seen a new pizshak, so he put it on himself. This was my older son's pizshak, which he had never even managed to try on when alive. When I saw the pizshak I almost fainted; I felt ill and the gentile noticed it. So he took off the pizshak and said, You can take it with you to the garret. It's cold there.
But I didn't take it.
At night he would keep us in the house because it was very cold upstairs. One night I heard a loud knocking on the door and shouting in Russian, Open. I understood that it was the Ukrainian hooligans. So I yanked my son awake and we got out in time to the garret. The hooligans saw that there were no Jews there, so they left.
From then on, we were afraid to be in the house. We stayed in the cellar until Passover. It was very cold in the cellar but better cold than dead.
Once the landlord came to the cellar with the elder Shtundist and he saw that I was standing and praying with tfillin. The elder said, You ought to know that we consider tfillin foul. I would like you to burn them; we are not allowed to have them in the house. I instructed Yankele to remove the parshiot, to put them away somewhere safe, and to burn the batim.
And so every day we now prayed with parshiot. During Passover we did not want to eat hametz so we got by on three to four potatoes a day. Non-kosher food never passed our lips and the gentile did a fine job of guarding us.
One time, panic broke out. Ukrainian robbers came in looking for Poles to murder, so the parents of our landlord's wife, Poles, came to hide. Says he, unfortunately, I must save my wife's parents and you have to go to someone else.
Meanwhile we learned that other Jews, a boy and a girl, were hiding in the village. I said to him, bring us to that gentile and I will also pay for the two of them. He went and came back, and said the other one did not agree. So I sent off my son: You go to him and promise him a lot [of money].
The gentile heard this and agreed. We came into the attic and two people were sitting there, a boy and a girl, afraid that he might send them away and keep us. I calmed their fears and told them that I was also paying for them, and the four of us remained.
I arranged with the Shtundist that he allow us to dig out a pit for the four of us. We did the digging at night and covered the pit with boards, earth and planted grass over it, so that it would not be detected. The pit adjoined the chamber and he handed us food, bread, potatoes and water through the small door.
We did not go out of the pit. We relieved ourselves in a pan and at night we emptied it.
In about March, the gentile comes and says that the Russians are already here, and we should leave as he no longer wants to keep us.
It was cold, the frost strong and the snow over a meter deep. From lying for so long in one place, I could not stand straight, but he simply drove us out.
At 12 midnight we went out, took with us two more Jews who were at a neighbor's, and set off into the frost and blizzard. The Partisans noticed us. We were going to Shumsk and it turns out the Germans were still there. We stayed there until a Jewish Partisan saw us and told us that Jews were gathering in Zdolbunov, near Rovno, so with his help we went to Zdolbunov, from there to Kiev and after much wandering we arrived in Israel, thank God.
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