by Chaya Niegnievitski - Atlanta, Georgia
Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
Our family was comprised of 8 persons: our parents and 6 children. It was my fate to be the only one of my unforgettable family to survive.
My parents were honest, hard-working people who made every effort to give their children a good education. We, the younger children, were influenced by our older sister Eshket, who was a very gifted and intelligent girl, and we always wanted to follow her example. She was killed with her husband and two children in the small town of Mir.
When the Germans led away the Korelitz Jews to Novogrudek in the spring of 1942, I was with my family. In the Novogrudek ghetto, we already felt that the Germans were bringing in Jews from surrounding towns to kill them there.
In June 1942, when the action (slaughter) took place in the Novogrudek ghetto, my sister Rivka and I were in town and the remaining family members were in the orchard buildings, and so we remained alive. Rivka and I, along with some other Jews were designated to go into the barracks and, as we believed, the Jews in the barracks were destined to live. When we got there, however, our places had been taken by other Jews. It was chaotic and the Germans took us back to the Pereshke ghetto. I realized that the ghetto was a trap and that we had to escape. Taking advantage of the opportunity that presented itself in our being led past the work bureau, opposite the jail, Rivka and I broke away from the column of Jews without being noticed and we went up into the attic. I decided to hide there because I worked there with the Molares and I knew every little corner.
I realized that the Molares would not be killed because they were professional people and that they would return to work after the action and that I would find out more about the situation from them and whether we could leave our hiding place. We lay a long time under the gravel, broken bricks and sand - for 5 whole days without bread or water. When the Molares returned, we became aware of the extent of the tragedy. Many Jews were no longer among the living.
We couldn't stay in hiding any longer. We were tortured by hunger and thirst. I told my sister that I would go out to look for a place of rescue and in case I was unable to give her a sign that I was alive – this meant that she should try to save herself as best she could.
When I got out into the street about to collapse, some Christian children noticed me and knew I was Jewish. They informed a policeman who immediately arrested me and was taking me to the police station. I realized that it was the way to death. With tears in my eyes and with courage, I begged the policeman not to take me to the police station and to give me a chance to save myself. Apparently, my tears and pleading had an effect on him and instead of conducting me to the police station, he took me to the Jews who had remained alive after the action. He even agreed to bring my sister Rivka from her hiding place and brought her to me. Later, however, she was tragically killed together with my dear parents and brother, Avraham.
I remained alive together with my two younger sisters, Dobe and Gittele, in the Pereshke ghetto, alone, in hunger and need. We had the feeling that our lives were coming to an end and that we had to find a way to save ourselves. At that time, many Jews were already running away from the Novogrudek ghetto to join the partisans in the forests. We already knew that the escapees were with Bielski's unit.
Death lurked all around us. It was imperative that at least a trace of our many-branched family should survive. On March 15, 1943, when the sun had already gotten a little warmer and the snow was beginning to melt, the urge to stay alive also grew stronger. It was then that we decided to escape from the Novogrudek ghetto individually. Our goal was to meet at a certain point near Korelitz.
We quickly got through the barbwire fence surrounding the ghetto, each one separately. We hoped that familiar Christians in Korelitz would help us. Unfortunately, however, Dobe and Gittele were caught around Korelitz and were murdered. And so I lost them forever.
Thus, after escaping from the Novogrudek ghetto, I didn't meet up with my sisters at the arranged point. I trudged around the villages, on the roads and in the forests for two weeks. With the last of my strength, I made my way to a forest where Jews who had escaped from the ghetto after the slaughters were in hiding. We would leave our hiding place at night to look for something to eat. We would go begging from house to house and I often regretted that I had remained alive. We never spent the night in the same place we were during the day. Some hidden Jews were murdered by the Germans as well as by armed partisans. It was a great miracle that I managed to save myself from their murderous hands.
In October 1943, our group of Jews united with Bielski's unit in the Nalibok forest. We were no longer alone in the unit and were protected. I carried out my duties as a partisan: standing on guard and performing other tasks. While in the unit, I got married to my husband, who was a good partisan.
In the summer of 1943, when we were liberated and left the forests, I returned to our former, dear small town of Korelitz. My heart was pained to see how the town had become an orphan. There were no more Jews, the houses had been taken over by local Gentiles, every Jewish house seemed to be weeping and in sorrow. There was no purpose in my staying in Korelitz and after waiting for my husband to return from the Red Army after the war, we both ran away from the cursed ground that was soaked with Jewish blood. That was in September 1945. It took another 4 years until we managed to make our way to America, where we set up home in Atlanta, Georgia.
by Chaim-Leib Dvoretski
Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
I originally came from Ivyeh and married Teibel Tratski from Korelitz. My father-in-law, R' Moshe-Shmuel Tratski, died while still young. He was known in Korelitz as a kind-hearted, good Jew, learned in Torah, who loved to do a favor. He was a lumber merchant and had a good reputation in our small town and in the area. My mother-in-law, Bayle, and her children, Motke and Basha, had fine names in Korelitz and gave charity to the needy. They were murdered in Novogrudek during the great slaughter.
I was in the ghetto in Ivyeh with my family, which consisted of 23 people. I shall never forget the sad day – 9th of Av in Ivyeh - the beginning of our great distress. On that day, the Germans assembled men on the market place. These were 200 of the dearest, finest Jews of the town, especially the intelligentsia: rabbis, ritual slaughters, religious judges, teachers and members of other free professions. My dear brother, Shmuel (Molieh), was also taken away from us on that sad day.
Later, the Jews from all the smaller towns of the area were gathered together in Ivyeh, including Jews from Lifnishak, Subotnik, Baksht, Trab, Borisevke, as well as Jewish farmers from the surrounding villages, and on May, 12, 1942, the Germans carried out the most terrible mass slaughter.
During the selection, others believed that the craftsmen would at least remain alive. Therefore, a family from Ivyeh entrusted their son to a blacksmith from Trab, hoping that he at least would remain alive so that one member of the family would at least survive. The child and the blacksmith, however, were destined to be killed while the parents were left alive and are now in Israel.
The remaining Jews were locked up in a small ghetto which was surrounded by barbwire. We lived in crowded conditions, in hunger and cold, and subject to beatings.
In January 1943, the German regional commander in Lida issued an order requiring that Ivyeh be made Jüdenrein, cleansed of all Jews. The Jews were driven out of the ghetto on foot in the bitter cold to the Gavish train station, where formations of freight cars were standing ready and waiting. Some of the Jews were sent to a work camp in Borisov and others to the workshops in Lida. We were among those sent to Lida.
The situation in the Lida ghetto was very difficult at that time. We all knew that we wouldn't remain alive for long, but we had no way out. Teenage boys and girls tried to make contact with partisans. A few actually managed to escape from the ghetto and a few, after escaping, fell into the hands of the anti-Semitic partisans. It was much harder for families with children to escape. We took stock of the situation: Who would accept us with small children? We actually lost hope of being able to save our lives.
One day, as we were awaiting death, a messenger from Bielski's unit came into the Lida ghetto and brought us a letter from Yaakov. He wrote that we shouldn't wait any longer and escape as quickly as possible and join them in Bielski's unit. He added that, if possible, we should bring a gun; if not, we should come without one. He promised that he would see to it that we would be accepted into the unit.
Here I must note that this letter from Yaakov brought us much hope and courage, and we decided to try to escape from the ghetto. And so, one evening, our family along with another group of Jews broke through the barbwire fence surrounding the ghetto and wandered through the forests, covering a distance of 40km. Thus, hungry and exhausted, we made our way to Bielski's unit. The first to welcome us were Yaakov and Yoel Mayerovitch. Other Jews from Korelitz were also very friendly to us.
Yaakov would often come to our tent and bring us food and even a pat of butter for the children. He would always come with a smile and comfort us with warm words, reminding us that we would now be able to avenge the spilled, innocent blood of our family members who were tragically and cruelly murdered, and assuring us that we would live to see the liberation.
by Michael Walzer-Fass - Hod Hasharon
Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky
An autumn Shabbat evening. A typical Israeli in the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv. The beginning of November 1970. In the company of Yaacov Avramowitz, one of the prominent activists of the Korelitz Book committee, I sat at the table with Idel Kagan - one of the biggest business men in England, who had been invited by the government of Israel in the framework of meetings with rich Jews from overseas who have strong attachments with the State of Israel, caring for its fate and willing to put their shoulder to the wheel to help the state with guidance and actions in economic matters.
I did not know Idel Kagan previously, I had only heard his name: a Jewish youth from Novogrudek, who had spent much time in Korelitz before the war with his uncles and grandfather, passed as a youth the seven departments of hell in the Novogrudek-Korelitz Ghetto, was with the partisans; and after the war went to England and rose very high in the economic hierarchy. He rose but did not forget his beginnings, and was strongly attached to his partisan friends and with the State. The meeting was organized for me in the framework of the book that people from Korelitz are publishing in remembrance of their town and its good townspeople. This is the same youth Idel Kagan whose feet froze in the icy river water during one of the escapes to the partisans, who returned illegally to the ghetto and was primitively operated on with a kitchen knife; this is the same youth who escaped with people of the ghetto via a tunnel and remained alive after the Germans killed most of the escapees. Idel Kagan speaks of those days, on the eve of the war, the few days of happiness in the bosom of his family and the relations in Novogrudek and Korelitz; of the first days of the war and the selections, the death of his father, mother, sister, uncle and his family; of Berel Kagan his cousin, the partisan who is now in Israel, who also was the only one of his family to remain alive; of the attempts to invest in Israel, of his first days in England, his rise in life, his marriage and building of a family and of his decision to come here forever …
There I was present, looking on the illuminated Jewish face of the man sitting opposite me and telling his story. I knew that the man sitting opposite me - visited Israel no less that fourteen times, and I thought to myself, what is the enormous strength inside this man? What strengthened that youth in those terrible days when he stared death in the face so many times, standing opposite a German firing squad, and would he be able to overcome all these things? What is the strength that helped him to surmount while seeing his beloved ones falling one after other - his father who remained alive after many selections and was killed when he was escaping from the Koldichevo concentration camp, his mother who was murdered with her daughter in one of the selections in the ghetto, while Idel, still recovering from his foot operation was miraculously saved while lying on a bed of wooden boards under a pile of rags and pillows, which the murderers had thrown there, not discovering his presence.
What made it possible for him, after all this, to continue, to move around Germany, Russia and Poland and to try his luck here and there and to begin a new life in England, to succeed and remain loyal to his destiny - to his people, to his friends and to his dear ones?
A common saying is that when Fate invites a man to meeting at a certain place, the man will cross all the obstacles to arrive at the meeting place and meet his fate. Idel's fate waited for him on London - there he started on the road to his destination which is not yet final; for because of his many journeys to Israel - it seems, that Idel Kagan can expect a rosy future in the State of Israel.
The cup of tea on my table has cooled a long time ago, time passes as if instinctively for the guest, and I have no desire to turn to the cup and sip from it - but to listen, more and more about what happened to this man. And Idel Kagan speaks as if he is drawing you a living picture from the valley of death, from the ghetto and its environs; and on the other hand - his struggle for life after the war from his struggle and the beginnings of his steps in Great Britain. The names of his dear and loved ones that he mentions seem engraved on the board of his heart forever; Berel Kagan the partisan, his cousin who is older by several years and is sitting here with us in the hotel - to whom the youth Idel strived to meet in the forests to the partisans.
You hear again about the terrible horrors of the Nazis, their monstrous actions against the Jews, actions that still no-one has been able to get up and explain their meaning: Why? How could this thing happen?
In Poland they were used to seeing the Jewish Litvaks (Lithuanians) who dwelled in the cities and towns around the Russian border - proud courageous Jews with their clear and practical (way of) thinking and indeed this Judaism extracted from it famous and glorious names in literature, philosophy, medicine, technology and economics all over the world. In front of me sat such a practical Litvak, who always does what is necessary without getting overly excited or vocal.
Idel Kagan grew up in an ideal family in the city of Novogrudek, his father Yaacov and his uncle Moshe married two sisters Dvorah and Shoshana Gurevitz from Korelitz. The two families each had two children and they lived together with real friendliness and devotion. Idel's father had a shoe and sandal factory and shop. The youth Idel therefore grew up in a pleasant family atmosphere. He would come to Korelitz, as the way his older cousin Berel came, to his maternal grandmother and to his uncles. His friends from Korelitz speak about the handsome and always neat youth who would come every year to Korelitz, who loved its people and thirstily drank up the stories of the youth and adults. Many stories that Korelitz was always blessed with.
When the war broke out and the Jews in the towns and cities of Poland saw the poisoned German arrows were mainly aimed at destroying them - they began to seek a way to escape, to hide: every town thought that they would be able to exist in another town. When a deputation of the Kagan family was sent to the Korelitz family in order to check the situation, Idel Kagan together with his older cousin Berel Kagan, was with the group which passed the German guards on foot and arrived with their lives in danger to Korelitz, only to see and to be in a selection that already was done there the next morning and to be saved from death by a miracle. They quickly returned on foot to Novogrudek in order to pass on the bad news that the ring of destruction had encircled everything. Everything.
In the first period of the war, when he is only 12 years old, Idel Kagan works collecting stones of destroyed houses and in other types of work. His father and brothers change their shoe factory to something more useful - harness-making. And among other things - they make saddles that the German army needs for their horses. But even this craft does not help for too long. The uncle Moshe Kagan, his wife Shoshka and their son Eliezer are executed in one of the first selections. From all the family, only Berel Kagan remains alive, thanks to his work as a locksmith in the barracks of the German army. After the selection he remains with Idel Kagan's family in the Novogrudek ghetto.
Beatings and abuse are the only tunes accompanying the work and every moment their lives are hanging on a thread. In one of the selections he is brought in front of a firing squad and waits to be shot. Idel tries to turn his back in order not to look death in the face. But the German turns him back again with his white-gloved hand to face the rifle barrels. Another miracle: the execution is postponed because in the eyes of the executors it seems to be too normal a death, and they decide to add them to the next selection which will take place in the next few days. In the meanwhile he stands to be executed in another selection: a selection of children and youth. Idel puts on his father's clothes in order to look older, and somehow passes this selection and remains alive.
The area of Novogrudek-Korelitz was well known in Poland for its large ancient forests. In these forests during the war years, Jewish partisans as well as Polish and Russian partisans organized themselves into groups, and likewise bands of robbers in various dress organized into groups with the aim of stealing and looting and especially stealing from and murdering Jews. In order to save their lives, the Jewish partisans in Poland more than once had to fight against those seeking their death amongst the Polish partisans and others who saw as a mitzvah (good deed) and right to kill a Jew or to inform on him and hand him over to the Germans. The Jewish partisans were exposed to the danger of death from the various Gentile partisans and they had to be careful of bandit groups or of any Gentiles. but many of the Jewish youth sought flight from this (time of) great distress by escaping to the thick forests that the Germans were afraid to penetrate: the actual feeling of holding firearms gave security to the Jewish partisans, knowing that here at least if they fell - they would fall in battle with weapons in their hands and would not be led like sheep to their deaths. When this awareness of the partisans matured in some of the Jewish youth, his cousin was one of the first who joined the partisans in the forest. The youth Idel also began to search for a way to the partisans and to his cousin. The story of his attempt to join the partisans, an attempt that ended with frozen feet, is written in the Novogrudek Book by Idel Kagan himself. The failed attempt to escape led to his being considered an invalid in the ghetto and even to be illegal as he was no longer registered in the ghetto.
Returning to the ghetto after the first escape, he was comforted at least that he had returned to his family and relations, but the Germans did not let this illusion remain for long. The selections came one after the other and in each, whole parts of the ghetto were exterminated in violent deaths. After his mother and sister were killed by the Germans, Idel thought he would hold his father's hand and pass the rest of the way with him. In days of despair his father planned to commit suicide with his son, but his father was sent abruptly to another camp. There he was killed during an attempted escape.
The tunnel that the people of the Novogrudek-Korelitz and others from the area dug is one of the biggest and most daring that was planned in the most modern way. Several hundred people surreptitiously overcame the Germans, the informers and the collaborators, and found a way to maintain discipline in the weak-characters and the pessimists. Over several months they dug a tunnel of several hundred meters and finally all left via it to freedom, which unfortunately only part of them achieved in the end, for the Germans sensed their escape when they were on their way out and killed many, while others were killed while running away. Idel, who had tried already once to escape alone in this way and failed, made a short cut together with his friend. In his escape he discovered the partisans and these brought him quickly to his cousin.
The war finished when Idel Kagan was 15. Satiated with suffering, but his health had improved. With the end of the war, he underwent a series of surgeries on his feet because of the frozen toes and thus began to return to his strength. His hometown no longer existed; Poland was a bloody country and is not suitable to stay in. Idel decided to emigrate to England to a family relative. After a short time of staying in England, he tried to come to Israel. In Israel he finds his friends from the struggle and suffering and hopes, but the time is the Period of Austerity which did not encourage the aliyah of young people, and Idel returns to England.
He begins to work as an independent, as a wage-earner. The period is one of economic growth in all of the Western world: free enterprise and prosperity join hands and very many who were talented and blessed with good luck succeeded and rose very high. Factory after factory is built and Idel Kagan also begins to think about himself. He resurrected the Kagan family. He married Barbara Steinfeld and they had three children: Michael (after his uncle Moshe), Jeffery (the father - Yaacov) and Dvorah (his mother).
But the road has not yet ended.
Idel Kagan sitting in front of us in the Hilton hotel in Tel Aviv on an autumn Shabbat evening - his eyes and heart are both given to the memories of those days and to the future. His many visits in Israel only strengthen and connect him to his friends and to the land. I will come he says, I will come forever.
And I am certain that it will happen.
[This is a pen name = A son of the town HS]
Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
Dovid Lifshitz, son of Aharon and Sarah-Rachel, graduated from the Polish public grade school. Since he came from a large family and they could hardly make a living, David stopped studying and went to work with his brother Beryl in a hairdresser's establishment (wig makers), which enabled him to help his family. He was a member of Hashomer Hatsair (Young Guard) and belonged to the town band. He was always happy and full of life.
Little by little, his family emigrated abroad. The majority, including his parents, went to pre-state Israel. Dovid remained in Korelitz all alone because he had to go into the Polish army.
In 1942, a ghetto was set up in Korelitz. Their big house became part of the ghetto. Our family was moved into their house. Jews from surrounding communities and from the small town of Tsirn were also settled in their house. They made bunk beds and people even slept on the floor.
The situation went from bad to worse. The SS people and their leader Henzike would issue all kinds of decrees and would beat the Jews mercilessly. The Germans from the local headquarters and armed forces, Birkritz, Ehrhardt and others, forced the Jews to make all kinds of "contributions". The Jews did everything possible to pay the ransom and stay alive. If you didn't obey the order, you paid with your life.
Dovid and I (I was very young then.) would very often have a talk in the evening. We mainly discussed the question: What can we do? Dovid let me in on a secret: He met with Moshke Funt from Ivenitz (Yisrael Slonimski's cousin) and Moshke promised him that he would soon come and take him and enroll him in a group of partisans. I asked him not to forget about me and my brother Gavriel. He promised me that if the plan succeeded, he would think about other young men from Korelitz, including us.
A short time went by and Dovid was no longer seen in the ghetto. He carried out his plan. I hoped and waited for him to keep his promise, but it was in vain.
Dovid joined a group of partisans and carried out various operations against the Germans. His name became famous: a good Jewish partisan.
A group of Christian and Jewish partisans, including Dovid and his friend Moshke Funt from Ivenitz, marched into the small town of Nalibok. Their task was to take over the police station. The Germans from Invenitz, however, unexpectedly found out about the plan, and a large force of German soldiers arrived in Nalibok from Ivenitz. The partisans fortified themselves in a church in Nalibok. The Germans surrounded the church and, using a loud speaker, ordered the partisans to surrender voluntarily. The heroic partisans, however, did not give themselves up alive into the hands of the Germans. They kept shooting at the Germans until their last bullet. The whole group of partisans was murdered. Among them were also our first partisan, Dovid Lifshitz, and his friend Moshke.
His sister Chana and brother Moshke live in Israel and another sister lives abroad.
Reuben Dushkin, a meat dealer by occupation, was a quiet, honest, hard-working man with a large family. His eldest daughter, Sara, married Shlomo Navitsky, and the two men operated one meat market.
In 1941, as the Nazis drew near, the peasants and townspeople of Korelitz set about pillaging Jewish homes, going from one house to the next and dragging out furniture and other household goods.
A band of hooligans came to Reuben's home, sacks ready to be filled. But Reuben and his sons - Yankl, Motl and Hayyim - and son-in-law beat them back. The hooligans bided their time until the Germans came into Korelitz. But the Jews knew what was coming, and those who managed to flee and join the partisans gave a good account of themselves.
His wife, Munia, helped him in his work as a butcher.
When the Germans came into Korelitz and they and their collaborators began rounding up and tormenting Jews, Reuven's daughter, Chaykeh, managed to warn her brother, Yankel and her brother-in-law Shlomo to escape to the forests. She was unable, however, to warn another brother, Motel, who worked in a steam mill in another part of town. He was tortured to death by the local hooligans.
Yankel, Chaykeh and two children survived. They joined the partisans and left for America after the war.
He was born in Korelitz in 1914. His parents were Yitzchak and Tcherna Slutzky. His father was a leather tanner, but he also had a wagon and would bring merchandise from Baranovitch for the shopkeepers in Korelitz.
Yaakov attended a Polish public school and also had private instruction in Hebrew and Yiddish. He loved to read.
He and several of the partisans were killed when one of the mines he himself had prepared and planted under the railway exploded prematurely.
He carried out many acts of revenge and was highly respected by the Christian partisans.
NOTE: This is actually a copy of Page 159 and appears here by mistake -H.S.
The First Partisan from Korelitz continues on Pages 260-261 with the item on Hershel Shkolnik (Hershel the Carpenter), whose biography (in English) may be found on page LI - H.S. ].
We called Yoel Mayerovitch Yoel Moshkes (Moshke's son). He was of average height, broad shouldered and well-built. He and his brothers and sister managed the dry goods store in Korelitz. His sisters sewed articles of clothing for the business. They also cultivated their fields.
Their mother died. His sister Chaya got married and also operated a dry goods store in Korelitz. Her husband, Hershel Slutski, came from a fine, respectable family in Tsirn. They led a fine and respectable life.
When the Germans marched into Korelitz, his brothers were among the 105 men who were led out to their death. Yoel and his sisters, Nechama, Sarah and Minieh, and their aunt Kreine moved into our house because it was too dangerous to live in the center of town. The Germans and police used to rob and beat everyone without pity and their first victims were those who lived in the center of town.
A few weeks later, the police took Yoel away. They beat him mercilessly at the police station. They broke his hand and tortured him. Then they threw him out into the yard almost on the verge of collapse. Yoel, the strong fellow, came to, ran through the woods and came to our yard. We heard someone falling in the yard near the door. I opened the door and found Yoel there almost in a faint. With all my strength, I brought him into the house and revived him because he had fainted from his serious wounds. When he came to, he told us that they asked him for money and items at the police station. When he refused to give them these things, they beat him until he lost consciousness.
We began to think how we could help him. Yoel was weeping. He said that the thugs had broken his bones and asked us to save him because he couldn't endure the pain.
His sister Nechama and I went through the fields to Dr. Livitzki, who wrote a note that Yoel had fallen and broken a hand (He was afraid to write that the police had done this) and sent him to a surgeon in Novogrudek.
We immediately hired a wagon and his sisters, Sarah and Minieh, went along with him.
At seven o'clock in the morning there was a knock on the door. The police were looking for Yoel.
Where is he?
You took him away, I answered, and didn't bring him back.
Later we found out that the police had dug a pit and wanted to shoot him. That's how he was saved from death.
When the Korelitz ghetto was liquidated, the sisters met with Yoel. We were together in the Novogrudek ghetto.
Yoel was the only one from his large family to remain alive. We met in the forests. After the war, Yoel was drafted into the Red Army. He was wounded and came on a visit to Novogrudek. We wouldn't let him return to the army. We included him in our list of family members, and he went with us. We reached Italy and stayed together the whole time. We were in a kibbutz (group) near Rome.
We wanted to take him to pre-state Israel with us, but his family in America sent for him. He naturally wanted to meet some members of his family, so we said goodbye in 1947.
He went to America, got married, adjusted, worked and made a living. He kept up a correspondence with us the whole time. He promised to come see us in Israel, but the heroic, good Yoel suddenly died on January 29, 1967, 20 Tevet 5728.
Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
Hershl the Carpenter (the best in Korelitz) was taken to the Novohorodek concentration camp in 1942 and put to work in his craft. But he also succeeded in fashioning an escape tunnel from the ghetto, and succeeded in getting to the partisan camps, where he fashioned stocks for rifles. After the war he made his way to Israel and joined his daughter Vitl in Jerusalem, where he continued with his craft.
His wife, Sonia, died shortly before the holocaust. She had a store in Korelitz which her daughters, Vitl and Merke, managed when she got older. Another daughter, Ester, was still in school at that time.
Vitl went to live in the land of Israel and encouraged her sister Ester to join her there. Merke got married and she and her husband managed the store in Korelitz. They and their children were murdered by the Germans.
Hershl was kept alive thanks to his skill as a carpenter.
Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
Groups of Jews from Korelitz were taken away to the T.A.D.T. work camp in Dvoretz during the German occupation. In a small, broken-down house that was hardly big enough for one family, bunk beds were made- one above the other. And 30-40 men even slept on the floor if there was room. People were infested with lice and covered with scabs. There was no food.
One day, people were standing in small groups. Something was in the air, the Germans were preparing something. The camp director summoned the president, Novik, and the vice president of the Jewish council and told them that the work at the Dvoretz camp had ended, but since the Jews in the camp were useful, he was sending all the workers to another place to work. The first group was to consist solely of carpenters who had to prepare barracks for the workers in the new place. In addition, he said, if one of the carpenters was missing, they would all pay with their lives.
My brother Gavriel and Binyamin Shatskis, who were both quilt makers by profession, were called into the Jewish council. They were told to prepare bootlegs from canvas hoses. The carpenters were ordered to prepare small blocks as shoes for barefooted Jews because many were walking barefoot. Who knows where they would be taken? At least they should have shoes!
The work and preparations for leaving the camp went on at a fast tempo. It didn't take long, however. In the winter of 1943, the camp was surrounded by machine guns. Many vehicles with German murderers came for that purpose. They began to lead away the unfortunate Jews. They led them straight to the ditches which had been dug not far from Dvoretz. The Jews were then thrown alive into the ditches. Some of the Jews in the camp prepared hide-outs. Some ran through the camp confused, not knowing what to do, looking for ways to stay alive.
My brother Gavriel, Binyamin Shatskis and Leibish Bernstein hid in a small house which was on a side near a fence. Gavriel and Binyamim were in the attic – Leibish under a bed. When the thugs were finished with their cruel work in the camp and they didn't see any more Jews - they left Dvoretz. Only a few walked around with guns.
Then the peasants made a dash into the camp to rob the remaining Jewish possessions. When a peasant came into the house where the three boys were hiding and had remained alive - he found my brother and his friend. They gave him a present and he promised he wouldn't tell anyone about them. He told them that when it got dark, they should climb over the wire fence and go on further. Leibish Bernstein, who was lying under the bed, stayed there miraculously. He had a desire to drink and was very thirsty. Finding a bottle containing a fluid, he took a good drink. It was brandy. He overheard what the peasant said to his friends.
The peasant reported this to a few workers, one of whom was called Korileh. Korileh went up into the attic and brought down the two terrified boys who were shot. Their bodies were then burned.
Leibish stayed under the bed and heard everything. When it got dark, he went out of the camp. He met some more friends who also managed to be saved from death. He told them about everything. Wandering over the roads in freezing weather, Leibish's toes became frostbitten and he couldn't walk any further. He died on the way.
I met the group on the way and they told me about it.
by Bezalel-Kalman Osherovitz
Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky
Shaul, the son of Yaacov and Haya Bedana Kopilovitz, died in Israel. He was the son of a respected, observant family. He was involved in the Jewish social life in the area. Before the Second World War, Shaul lived in Novogrudek. When the city was conquered by the Nazis, his family was annihilated and he was sent to a work camp. Since he was an excellent motor mechanic, the Germans wanted to exploit his specialized talents for their own diabolical aims, as they did with many skilled Jews, who were left alive all for the time they were of use. However Kopilovitz did not acquiesce in this situation, and once, when fixing a car, he managed to evade the eyes of the Nazi guards and escape to the Naliboki Forest, there he joined Bielski's partisan regiments.
During his movements from one place to another, he caught a severe chill with a bad cough, which could be heard from a distance and could have caused his fighting friends to be captured by the enemy. In order to prevent this danger he distanced himself from his friends and lived a solitary life in difficult conditions and without any medical attention. His health deteriorated until he developed tuberculosis, and when the area was liberated by the Russian Army, Kopilovitz returned to Novogrudek, in a critical and almost terminally ill condition. Thanks to the devoted and dedicated treatment of his second wife, he slowly improved until he was totally cured. However his health remained unstable -he suffered from chronic asthma all his life. When he made aliyah to Israel with his wife in 1951, there was no limit to his happiness and joy. Here it was as if his youth was renewed and he was aware of all that was going on in Israel, especially with regard to security matters. He was wondrous of all that he saw here, loved everything and everyone, especially the young generation of builders and fighters. Despite his very social character in the Diaspora, here he preferred to isolate himself at home and was not outstanding in society.
When Shaul Kopilovitz died, the last remnant of this dear and honorable family disappeared.
by Fruma-Gulkovitch Berger
Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
Dedicated to my cousin, Efraim Gulkovitch, who fell in battle (May, 1944), serving in the Tchkalovske partisan unit.
Why? Why? If there is a meaning to death,
I will take revenge for your sakes. – swears Efraim the partisan.
Yesterday he was pining away in the ghetto, with bowed shoulders.
He saw there are no miracles today, he sought advice.
A quiet voice called to him in the black night.
I see the last glance of their final hour,
I won't forgive the murderers,
Forward, forward, he rides on his white horse,
He flies like a flaming bird, like an eagle.
But Efraim the partisan fell in battle –
He left a warning for the world, a challenge.
(continuation of Page 226)
by Frumeh Gulkowitz-Berger
Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
The flame of blind hatred caught them,
All were horribly killed: fathers, mothers, babies -
Driven under guns to the mass graves where they were made to strip,
The ground quickly gave way from under the naked.
And the world was blind, was deaf,
Not a trace was left of the Jews in the ghetto
Desolate are the homes, empty are the houses under roofs,
by Fruma-Gulkovitch Berger
Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
The hour has struck, the time has come.
A call: Go out to battle – the gun is quickly taken.
The wind was driving around the ashes of the murdered.
My courage is written with the blood of the millions of martyrs.
A shot rang out - I am on guard.
There's a commotion in our camp, we grab our guns.
Night is already falling, we count our losses,
And if such was our fate that the world betrayed us,
At the hour of liberation I stand like a guard,
From my generation of destruction by the bloody (German) knights
I am the last - nowhere to hurry
Many pictures pass before my eyes.
Fruma Gulkovitch-Berger, Tuvia Bielski,___
by Yaakov Avramovitz
Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer
Ben-Zion and I travelled from Novogrudek to Korelitz in a wagon. As we got closer to Korelitz, having covered 21 km, our hearts began to beat strongly and our faces changed color. We looked at each other without talking, but we understood and knew what was awaiting us.
When we got closer to the steam mill which had belonged to Reuven Begin and Tartak, we met many Christians with wagons filled with grain, waiting for their turn at the mill. Glancing around, we looked for a Jew, a partner of the mill. Unfortunately, no one. Where is the happy, cheerful Begin, who would always be at the place? Everything is destroyed, as if no one had ever been there….
The mill is in operation. We go on further. We are both quiet, carrying the same pain in our broken hearts. We came closer to the Zalmenke spring which used to give the Korelitz Jews fresh, clean water. Once, many women, men and children would stand on line and there was always enough water. Now no one is seen there….
We're approaching the center of the blacksmith shops - to the left, the Zapale Hill. Every day the sounds of hammer and anvil would ring out here. Yudke the smith, Yaakov Slutski, Avraham Lifchin with his children, Alter Avromovitch and many more who worked here. … Today it's quiet. Everything is closed.
In Feigel-Tsire's hotel - everything is quiet, no one is here. You don't see a single Jew here for a cure.
Here is Yankel Zalemanski, the egg dealer's, house. Yanker, with his red beard, would stop the Christians who came into the town from the villages of Zapalie, Liesok, Kalzenoi, etc, and would take them to sell grain and chickens. He would then bring them to his yard and buy products from them. It was really very noisy there. No there's no one! Quiet.
We get closer to our house. Our hearts begin to pound. We stop and go into the house. We started crying. We found peasants living in the house. I told them that I was the former owner. I was born there and lived there many years with my family until the Germans came in and drove us all away.
The peasants welcomed us, gave us food and told us that they were from Russia and were allotted the house. They said that they were not responsible for the misfortune that had befallen us. As we left, they also gave us a small loaf of bread, a small piece of butter and few eggs.
With a pain in my heart and with tears in my eyes, I said goodbye to my house. My beloved mother, my brother are no longer there - everything lost!
We go by the large house which belonged to Shlomke Oberzanski, the town elder. There would always be a lot of noise in his house. People would drink beer and buy cigarettes there. There were always a lot of customers. It was always merry and gay there. Now there's no one.
We don't meet any Jews. The whole town is empty. You don't see anyone. Where are you, my dear Korelitz Jews?
We're at the synagogue yard. We see our community synagogue which was always happy and cheerful with the voices of Jewish children - Shlomeles, Yankeles, Dovidels. And of our warm-hearted teacher. Now it's quiet. Everything is lost!
And we see both study halls. Not one Jewish word is heard. Here is Rabbi Viernik's house from which we used to hear words of Torah. People would go to the rabbi for an answer to their questions and for a decision on a matter relating to Jewish law. Now it's quiet, empty as if no Jews had ever been or lived there.
We come to the cemetery, but you can't tell that there was once a cemetery here. Something of a stone sticks out - this means a gravestone. Everything is broken, desolate and destroyed.
We go down to Mill Street. Here I see my Uncle Ezra Pomerchik's house, where we spent our childhood years. This was a house for everyone. We were a group called the big ones. We used to gather all together: my uncle, my aunt and the whole family. We spent a lot of time together and joked. Every Saturday night my Aunt Liebe used to cook for all the company - sometimes oat grits with chicken fat and potato pancakes, too; sometimes, lentil soup and a bun for everyone; sometimes potatoes with herring. We would all sit together at the table, eat and have a good time. My aunt and uncle were not like old people, but like our friends. They used to take part in our discussions and show an interest in and about everyone and everything. We loved them and had a lot of respect for them.
In their house we now find a Korelitz peasant who has his own house, but this house is bigger, better and nicer and cost him nothing - Jewish toil in vain. He just took it without asking anyone. I ask him:
Where are the owners, my good, smart Aunt Liebe, my Uncle Ezra, Beryl? Where are they? - No one answers.
I see the lovely orchard behind the house which the children had planted by themselves. Everything is in place, but the people are no longer here.
We meet a Christian woman from Mill Street, Todoretchke. She recognized us and asked how we were and what we were doing there.
You're still alive? !!, she wonders in surprise.
Yes, I answer. We're still alive and we'll outlive you. We're looking for Jews from Korelitz, we say.
Yes, There is Zelde Mashke, the carpenter's daughter, she answers. Sadzhie the __________. Michael Kagan, Motel the ______ and his son Leibe.
Where are they?, we ask.
You'll find them, she answers.
We go on looking for the few individuals who are in the town, a trace of the hundreds of Korelitz Jews.
We go past Ben-Zion's house, but we don't go in. We already knew what to expect…
We met with the few remaining Jews and we wept together. Each of us knew the same news.
With broken hearts, we returned to Novogrudek. We had taken a good look at our beloved little town and said goodbye to it. Who knows if we'll ever again be in Korelitz , the Korelitz of this world below?
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