The Town of Parafianov
By Haya Foss (Markman); Moshe Mor (Markman)
Parafianow was a small town and it's train
station serviced also the town of Dokschitz, 10 km away. It's
houses were spread over a wide area, on both sides of the railway.
One the one side were the residencial houses, and on the other,
the railroad buildings, the police and the clerks. The municipal
authorities and the Catholic church were situated about 2 km from
Parafianow, in the village of Parafianow. In the village itself,
lived the manor lord, to whom belonged most of the lands around
and also a liquor factory. There were about 130 families in the
town, half of them Jewish. In the 1920s up to the depression in
1929, most Jews worked in the lumber trade and all adjacent jobs.
Two big saw mills were bulit in town where the work was done at
the maximum rate, in order to keep up with demand, and trains
fully loaded with lumber would leave the town often. The Jews had
a large number of stores and also a monopoly on the butcher shops.
The authorities hurt the Jews by transferring the right to sell
meat to the Poles. The rural population and the non-Jewish part of
town was mostly Bialorussian (White Russians), the minority of
which, were Catholic. They talked in their own language and were
not fond of the Polish authorities, which tried to bring people
from far away places in Poland to influence the population's
attitude toward the regime and to promote antisemitism. Normally,
the Jews and gentiles had a good relationship. The Christians
would take part in the Jewish festivals and cultural events. The
fire department building served as a theater and festivity hall
for the entire populace. Jews and Christians work together under
the same roof and in relative quiet. The town boasted one
synagogue and it's two main streets were populated mainly by Jews.
Up to the year 1937, Elchanan ben David Markman performed as
cantor (leader in prayer), circumciser, and officiant. He also
served as slaughterer in the rural area and in the nearby town of
Krolevshtchizna. In 1937 a young rabbi took his place. The town
Jews held Zionist notions. Adults and young men busied themselves
with the national funds, and not a house was to be found that did
not give generously to this sublime cause. The youngsters studdied
in a public Polish school and in the afternoons went to the Hebrew
school, under teachers brought to town especially for this
purpose. The younger generation was active in the pioneer
movements in town, and were raised on the values of "Hashomer
Hazair". Comrads went to pioneer training organized by "Hachalutz"
and "Hashomer Hazair" movements. Thanks to this, some of the town
people reached Israel before the war.
A Group of Keren Kayemet in Parafianov (dated June 21, 1939)
This handful of boys organized plays in Hebrew
and raised a library which included some of the best Hebrew and
Yiddish literature. The library was in the slaughterer's house and
was handled by his sons and daughters. These same youngsters
organized a string ensemble, which played in the cultural
activities of the youth and with the cooperation of the town's
people. After the treaty signed by Russia and Germany in 1939, the
Russians entered Parafianow. As a result of the change of regimes,
a major change took place in the town and in the nearby area. Jews
were given responsible duties. A Jew was put at the head of the
municipal council - Aharon Levitan. The religious services were
not abolished by the new authorities. The postal communication
between the town's people and their relatives in Israel was
maintained. Some of the youth returning to the town after it's
high school studies, began studying in the municipal schools in
the area, to obtain a general and professional education.
Bottom left in white pants: Szloma Gejdenson, father of U. S. Congressman Sam Gejdenson
The "Tarbut" (Culture) School in Parafianov (1932)
With the coming of the Hitlarian army to the
area in 1941, the town became a nightmare. The first thing the
Germans did when they entered the town was hang Aharon Levitan,
the local council chief. The Jews were, in fact, allowed to remain
in their homes but the Germans took some of them to work and
forced the Jews to pay them different sums of money every once in
a while. In October the Germans concentrated all the Jews in a
ghetto, which was a side street in town, and put seven, even ten
families into a small house. The Jews worked communally and lived
in atrocious conditions. They youth was drafted to do cleaning and
field work. The Nazis began to persecute the children and demanded
they be employed doing manual labour, nitting and doing needle
work for the Germans. Thanks to this, the children stayed with
their parents. The guarding of the ghetto was put in the hands of
local youth. They organized a head count every day. Making false
promises and lying, the Germans demanded more and more produce and
moneies, as a condition to the Jews' remaining in town.
On May 31, 1942, at 4 a.m.. the Germans,
with the help of the local police and dogs, surrounded the ghetto.
The Jews were ordered to dress in their finest clothes and to take
all their money as they were being transferred to a nearby town
for work. On the way they were taken to the fire department
building, where they were undressed and beaten to shock them. In
their underclothes they were led along the long main street, the
gentiles looking from all sides. Thus they were taken close to a
small village, where a big pit, destined to be their grave, was
dug. They were lined up in a row and shot mercilessly. The pit was
covered with earth and plaster and eyewitnesses told that for a
long time the earth would rise from the river of blood flooding
the surrounding area. A number of young men managed to escape in
different ways from the murderers and ran to the nearby forest.
Some joined the partisans, and some were handed to the police by
the local farmeres and were killed by the Nazis. The slaughterer's
daughter, Haya Markman, visited the town coming back from Russia,
and saw the unknown common grave. Only the fact that the place is
higher than it's surroundings led to the discovery of the grave in
the wide field. The Jewish possessions were taken by the local
populace. Some of the houses are in the hands of the Russian
authorities. There once was a small town, Jews had inhabited it
for generations, made a living, and led an extensively developped
cultural life in it, until the Nazi murderers arrived. Now there
is not one Jew left.
Trip of the students and graduates of the Hebrew School in Parafianov (1937)
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