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[Page 5]

An eternal light for the Stolin community

Translated by Laia Ben-Dov

Edited by Irit Dolgin

This book – a testament and remembrance of the community of Stolin and its vicinity – is but a bundle, a collection of memories and sketches of our dear town and several of the nearby settlements that were found within the sphere of its influence, from its beginning until its last days.

The defiled hands of the oppressors of our generation, the Nazis and their accomplices, who brought ruin upon the Jews of Europe by annihilating six million of our brothers and by destroying hundreds of ancient communities down to their foundations – also grabbed Stolin, with the nine thousand Jews who lived there in 5702 [1942], the year of the destruction.

From the time that we heard the terrible news of the massacre in the town, we, the sons and daughters of Stolin in the Land of Israel, made it our intention to memorialize our community that was erased; the memory of our parents and dear ones who fell; the enterprise of generations of Jewish settlement in the Diaspora, full of tradition and education through suffering, that was destroyed.

*

For generations, the Hebrew characters have been used for purposes of memorial and remembrance, whether they are engraved – on monuments over graves, on memorial tablets for the dead, for the war fallen, and for martyrs – or whether they are printed on parchments and in books. And it may be fairly assumed that these characters will be preserved and will remain for many generations, just as they preserved all of the spiritual properties that were left to us as an inheritance from our forefathers in long-ago times. And therefore we have chosen this form, to publish a memorial book that will serve as an eternal light for the community, its people and its past that was full of so much glory and suffering.

With the arrival of the tenth anniversary of the destruction and with awe and reverence, we now approach the fulfillment of the idea that has pierced us since the satanic news. We know: as much as we will strive for completeness; as much as we wish the book to encompass the daily life of the community from its beginning until its end, we will be afflicted by something missing, because many sources have already been closed, many bearers of memories have departed and are gone, and all factual material has been lost. Nevertheless, we have done our very best to carry out the project.

The great events that have taken place in recent years in our land: the War of Independence and the establishment of the State of Israel, put the matter of the memorial in the shade, and meanwhile, time had a hand on the material, as stated. However, the memory of the murdered millions, and the memory of the people of our town among them, can not give us rest. The wound in our bodies and souls is deep, and it will not heal easily. We could not, therefore, resign ourselves to an additional delay; and from the inner compulsion of a holy command, we approached this task, to depict – even if in a modest and imperfect way – our town and people.

From the various articles published in the book, the picture appears before us of Jewish Stolin, its movements and institutions, its people and its righteous men, its pride and poverty, its blossoming and its decline, its daily life and its cruel end. Not everything that deserves to be in the book has been published, and not everything that was published is complete. This fact is apparent and known to the editors, who faithfully carried out their mission by lighting a memorial candle for the community of Stolin, a Jewish congregation that was wiped out as if it never existed.

Before us is the story of the life and destruction of Jewish Stolin, which shines for us from the past with its charm and modesty, its glory and splendor. Indeed, it was humble and splendid, and a unique charm was strewn over its public and educational institutions. It raised sons and daughters who brought its name afar, many of whom were fortunate to reach the Land of Israel and they are continuing to weave the chapter of Jewish Stolin in our eternal homeland, fastened to and combined with the new spirit of our Land.

So that we will remember the souls of our martyrs forever, so that we will never forget the Holocaust, and so that the last generation will know – we will continue to be concerned with other forms of memorializing our martyrs as well.

We will preserve the eternal light so that it will not be extinguished!

The Editors


[Page 6]

A Vow

Translated by Laia Ben-Dov

Edited by Irit Dolgin

In the name of my eyes that saw the bereavement
And loaded rebukes on my dejected heart,
In the name of my mercy that ordered me to pardon,
Until there came days too terrible to forgive –
I made the vow: to remember everything,
To remember – and not to forget a thing.

Not to forget a thing – until the tenth generation,
Until my humiliations are covered over, all of them, all of them
Until all the rods of discipline are exhausted.

Mourn them if the night of rage will pass for nothing
Mourn them if, in the morning, I will return to my place of expulsion
And I learn nothing, this time also.

A. Shlonsky


[Page 7]

sto007.jpg
Schematic plan of Stolin in 1935


[Page 8]

Remember the Holocaust of Israel…

Translated by Laia Ben-Dov

Remember the Holocaust of Israel, the destruction and the bitterness; they shall be a sign and a lesson for you forever;

This memory will accompany you always – when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you wake up;

You will forever be betrothed to the memory of brothers who are no more;

And the memory will enter your flesh, your blood and your bones;

Gnash your teeth and remember: when you eat your bread – remember; when you drink your water – remember; when you hear a song – remember; when the sun shines – remember; when night falls – remember; and on holidays – you shall surely remember;

When you build a house, you shall leave a gap in it, so that the destruction of the House of Israel will always confront you;

When you plow a field, you shall erect a pile of stones in it – a monument to brothers who were not brought to Jewish burial;

And when you bring your children to the marriage canopy, you shall raise above your happiness the memory of the children who will never marry;

They will become one: the living and the dead; the fallen and the survivor; those who departed and are no more, and those few who survived;

Listen, Jew, to the voice calling you from the depths: over my blood do not be silent.

Dr. M. Dvorezhitsky


[Page 9]

Yizkor

Translated by Laia Ben-Dov

Edited by Irit Dolgin

 

In memory of the souls of the martyrs of Stolin and the vicinity

It is natural for a person to always keep his birthplace in mind and mention with reverence that place where he first saw the light of the world, especially if he grew up, was educated and spent part of his life there – the period of his youth. It is not surprising for a man to be faithful to his birthplace, to the cradle of his childhood – it is the way of the world. Unique threads draw and tie man to his past and his youth, and a hidden, wonderful power strikes his consciousness: remember!

Our town, Stolin, our cradle in exile in a foreign land, far away in the swamps of Polesia, how dear you were to us in your blooming and how pained is the heart when we remember your tragic end – the tragedy of burying your Jewish children. Trembling and shivering take hold of us when we remember your name, because we immediately see before our eyes the terrible tragedy of our fathers, our brothers and all of our dear ones there, when you were emptied of them all at once and forever.

For months, and years, we did not want and were unable, to accept the thought, and even now it is difficult to tell ourselves that that is what happened to them and to us, that indeed, all of the families, all of these relatives and friends, and all of the Jewish sons and daughters of the town, were taken out one morning, on the eve of Rosh HaShana 5703 [1942], outside the fence of the ghetto and brought to the pits that had been specially dug in Stasin, where they met their death. And all this occurred in broad daylight before the eyes of the entire world, cruel in its silence and animal indifference toward the murder of an entire people.

We will remember you, our quiet town, your streets and the row of shops that stood in your center in the market square; your synagogues' yards (the shul-heif) next to the Rebbe's “court;” the magnificent buildings of the Tarbut School and the orphanage; the Zionist library and the charitable institutions that were in you; the blessed Zionist activity that encompassed the majority of local Jews; the various youth movements that were active in you and prepared their members for Aliyah [immigration to the Land of Israel] and a life of creativity and building in the Land of Israel. We will remember, with trembling, your Jews: Chassidim [followers of the Baal Shem Tov], Mitnagdim [followers of the Vilna Gaon] and Maskilim [supporters of the Jewish enlightenment], with all of their merits and their faults. We will not ask “Where are they?” The bitter truth has already been revealed, that all the Jews of Stolin, along with the remnants of David Horodok, the people of Rubeliya, Belihush, Horyn, Linka and other settlements in the vicinity – approximately 8,000 souls – were among those massacred by the Nazis and their accomplices. They were among the martyrs of the nation torn to shreds by the massacres of 5701-5703 [1941-1942]. They were, they lived, and they are no more!

How did it happen? It is unbelievable – after all the unimaginable threats and nightmares had already come true…

*

Our town, your fate is bitter, frightful and terrible, because your greatness has come to an end; you have been leveled to the ground. The sons and daughters of our Nation will no longer live in you; the vibrant life that had existed for many generations has come to an end. The people of Israel will no longer continue to build communities in the Diaspora and will not cause a foreign land to become fruitful; the end has come to the bitter past and the darkness of two thousand years; the end of all of the evil on the land that burns and swallows the remnant of Israel.

However, we will remember our past in you and we will preserve for you, Stolin, the kindness of youth, the time when we grew up in you, we walked in you, we played, we were educated, we wove a fabric of life; we were active in various areas and we dreamed of revival and deliverance, freedom and redemption, of the content of life and the future of our People; the time when we aspired to realize the hope of generations, and we left you when the homeland captivated us and demanded that we make aliyah to build and revive it. And we left you as you became foreign and cold to us and, as we felt in every place of our exile, in our step-homeland; and it is possible that under the surface of our consciousness, we sensed what was about to happen to our People in your land. As we left you, you were blossoming and prospering; the lives of the Jews made you into a populated and progressive city, but we remained strangers within you, in all the depths of our feelings. And if we remember you – your memory will remain in our hearts as a place of a continuous passage over hundreds of years, whose rulers hated us, exploited us, and in the end, turned their backs on us and our race, and did evil to us more than any foe or enemy.

*

From among the ruins of our town and in the shadow of the terrible Holocaust that poured out over our heads, it appeared to us as if cruel fate had mocked us because we did not look ahead and we did not sense that indeed, the ground was burning under our feet - that here, here the rage would break out and we would be consumed. We were complacent, and the tragedy did not delay in coming; we were struck by a blow so hard as to be beyond any measure. But if indeed we sinned toward ourselves, did our punishment have to be like this – ruin and annihilation? No, it was not to disgrace us – in the words of the Psalmist – but for our sake; there is a sign of Cain on their foreheads that will never be erased. The blood of old people and children, the blood of millions of the nation will never be cleansed, and for all eternity it will cry out and claim revenge and payment.

Indeed, we were tired of believing that with the liberation of man in the world, the Jew would also be liberated. The habits of the dark exile slapped us in the face, and we received a lesson that we never imagined for ourselves; we paid with the best of our blood – and when we fell into the trap, when we sat imprisoned in the ghetto, we thought only of how to save our bodies, to get out of the hell and flee. Where to? – This nobody knew, because in every city and town, the Jews sat imprisoned like us, and what was the purpose in fleeing? But here, a spark flickered – to rebel, to break the lock of the evil enemy and go out, even when there is no hope of conquering him, only to fulfill the supreme heroism of “my soul will die with the Philistines”… as in other places, Jews tried to take such a step. And how can we go to slaughter like sheep, without expressing the feelings of hatred and contempt for the despicable and impure? Indeed, they held on to this idea in the Stolin ghetto, and the plan was prepared in all its details, but – it was not carried out… and the secret of its failure went down into the grave forever, together with our unfortunate brothers.

*

When we remember burned Stolin and our slaughtered dear ones, and when we recite “Yizkor” for their pure souls, we absorb their cries as they walked the path of suffering during the last moments of their lives. We shall engrave on our hearts the events of the era, the terrible era of blood, and we will learn a lesson from them for days to come. We will lift an eye to the future, as a liberated people that respects its past and remembers former generations who paved the way for those following them; the forefathers who preserved the glowing ember so that it would not be extinguished.

We, the sons and daughters of Stolin, and with us the entire nation, shall remember our martyrs; we will remember the creation of the generations; we will honor the activity and Torah of the men of the past. We will tell our children, and the entire world, of the greatness of their souls and spirits from generation to generation, and we will understand that when their souls raised to heaven, releasing them from their sufferings – they commanded us to live forever. We are an eternal people, and the eternity of Israel will not fail!

We, the sons and daughters of Stolin and every person in Israel, are commanded to record and tell of the glory of our past; and if that is not any comfort, we shall regard it as the fulfillment of a calling. Our obligation, the obligation of those who continue the chain of the generations, is to remember the chapter, the likes of which history has never known, and draw from it wisdom and consciousness. The souls of our victims will look down upon us like shining stars to guide us on the long road of the eternal People. Let us go, the first generation of the redemption, in the path of those who paved the way for us with their blood and their souls, with their bodies and spirits, and establish a generation of strong will – prepared to act for the continuation and completion – in our rebuilt Land, our redeemed Nation and our independent State.

Aryeh Avatichi


[Page 11]

How she sat alone
(To the day of the massacre in Stolin, Erev Rosh HaShana 5703)

Translated by Laia Ben-Dov

Edited by Irit Dolgin

How the town of Stolin sat alone. Indeed, it was not a highly populated city – it was small in territory and few in inhabitants (though, according to information that reached us, about 8,000 souls were brought to slaughter), but it was noble among the towns and its good name spread far beyond the boundaries of Polesia, Poland and Lithuania.

Not only justice lodged there – in those days justice lodged in all of the towns of Israel – a greater spirit lodged there. Our pure and innocent forefathers were accustomed to putting the remembrance of Jerusalem over their greatest joy, and now it has been decreed that we must remember the destruction of the Diaspora - much crueler and dreadfully terrible in its dimensions than the destruction of the First and Second Temples combined. Because if the Land of Israel is destroyed, Ezra and Nechemia will rise and rebuild its ruins, but six million souls – men, women and children, massacred under the sky – there is no replacement for them, and they can never be revived.

In ancient times, we were a nation like all the nations, in this small, multi-branched Land of Israel. The Land of Israel was small in territory and varied in its climates – Judea, Samaria, the Jezreel Valley, the Jordan Valley, the Upper Galilee, etc. It varied not only in its physical climate and layers of atmosphere – it was also multi-branched in its spiritual layers – kindness, bravery, glory, eternity, splendor, essence, kingdom. Each district and each tribe was superior in a specific attribute: one in kindness, one in bravery, one in splendor, one in essence, and all of these elements merged into complete perfection in Jerusalem, the holy city.

With the destruction of the Second Temple following a desperate war of bravery against powerful Rome, the glory of the kingdom of Israel was smashed to pieces, and of all its splendor and delights, the exiles of Israel took with them only traces: traces of kindness, traces of bravery and traces of glory; they took them to the places of their exile, and there, they cultivated them. In a place where one or another of these attributes took root in a foreign land and formed a defined character – the Nation, with its historic sense, called such a place by the name “Jerusalem.”

There were many such centers in our martyrology, and one of them is the region of Polesia, the cradle of Karlin Chassidut and Weizmannist Zionism.

Stolin was praised for the excellence of three of its virtues – for the Tarbut School, which provided the youth with values of language and culture; for the Zionist activity that prepared a generation of pioneers for the Second, Third and Fourth Aliyahs; and for the golden chain of the Chassidut of Karlin, Beit Aharon v'Beit Yisrael [House of Aharon and House of Israel].

In the days of our youth, we were fascinated by other lights – the Haskalah [Enlightenment] and the Zionist movement – and the light of the Chassidut disappeared from our eyes; and there were some of us who saw it, unjustifiably, as a failing movement and one that was opposed to the light. The truth of the matter is that this movement had an awakening and renewal, and it brought a great deal of light and gentleness, heart and soul into our desolate lives.

One cannot exaggerate when praising the personal greatness of the Admorim [spiritual leaders of the Chassidim] and Rebbes, especially at this time. There is no cult of personality in Jewish tradition, and the Aggadah attributes to Moses the saying: “May a thousand Moses be harmed, but not a single fingernail of Israel.” The entire congregation of Israel is holy and pure during their lives, and even more so in their horrible deaths. It only should be pointed out that there was a unique atmosphere in Stolin, which was infused by the leaders of this [Chassidic] movement, its followers and its supporters.

Imagine a small town, far from the centers [of population], without any mines, industry or manufacturing; a sizeable river does not pass through it and steamships do not visit it – why, therefore, is there great amount of movement and preparation on its streets and in its lodging places on holidays? What are the voices and echoes coming from every house on the nights preceding and following the Sabbath?

There is a well-known legend about the son of a king who was kidnapped and turned into a dog by a magic spell, and only on Shabbat (the “Sabbath Queen”) do the spells not have control over him, when he again becomes the son of a king. And this is the secret of the greater soul of Israel on Sabbaths and holidays.

And if every man of Israel is viewed as a king, or a son of a king, only on Passover and the Sabbath, then the Rebbe was, in those days, the symbol of the kingdom of Israel on every day of the year: this majestic appearance, these splendid customs of hospitality, this holy court with its houses of prayer, its reception rooms and its hallways full of people. This is the table prepared in the shteibel for the many guests from the vicinity and from afar; these are the tunes renewed a several times a year, the tunes of Passover and the tunes of the “High Holy Days”; these are the folk players and singers who never heard music in their lives, but all their bones speak in song – is all this not part of the secret of the glory of the kingdom, of which Stolin was the metropolis and Plotnitsa and Blizov were its “Tsarskoye Selo” [Tsar's Village], and its colonies spread from Polesia, Volhynia, Ukraine, Frankfurt-on-Main to Jerusalem and Tiberias?

The Karlin-Stolin Chassidut was Zionist in its own way, and in the days before World War I there was a strong link between Stolin and Jerusalem. A Torah scholar and an esteemed man from Tiberias, was the teacher of the “Sons of the Yenuka” in Stolin, and Chassidim from there would frequently visit and spend months and years in the holy court.

On the other hand, the Rebbe would set aside a certain percentage of the Ma'amad [charity] raised by the Chassidim, for settling the Land of Israel and for building houses of prayer and dwellings for the Chassidic congregation in the holy cities of Jerusalem, Tiberias and Safed.

This is merely a small part of the praise given to Stolin. Commonalities can be found between the Chassidut in the exile and the Kibbutz Movement in the Land of Israel. Is not the “how good and pleasant it is for brothers to live together” of the kibbutz a continuation of the Betzavta [togetherness] of the Chassidut? Is there not a reincarnation of a melody here? Is not the dining room of the kibbutz a reincarnation of the Rebbe's “table”? Is the Rebbe's seder not an example and model of the magnificent “seders” that have become a tradition in the kibbutz? Is not the Hora a reincarnation of the Chassidic dance, of the traditional encirclements? Didn't we dance and sing in the square opposite the Bialik House – and sometimes together with him – just like our forefathers sang and danced in the Shulheif [synagogue] Courtyard in Stolin?

All of this glory, and more than that – millions of our brothers and sisters were killed with furious cruelty; there is not, and never will be, a replacement or restoration for them. Our fathers would combine the memory of the destruction with the hope for redemption. And we, in our generation, must combine the restoration with the gathering of the surviving remnants, to assemble the broken pieces and return to plant them in the soil of the Homeland that is renewing its youth.

Ben-Zakkai


[Page 13]

The town of my birth

Translated by Laia Ben-Dov

Edited by Irit Dolgin

Oh, Stolin, the town of my birth, how did the Reaper arise against you? How did your houses become debris, burying underneath them piles upon piles of bubbling life, of an entire Jewish community? How were all of your residents destroyed under your sky in one day: fathers and children, mothers and grandchildren, until nothing was left of them? How was the wick of the life of an ancient Jewish town detached - a town full of tradition and a great deal of suffering, that knew decrees, calamities, pogroms, fires, changes of regimes etc., and nevertheless stood firm and brought forth generations of Jews: simple and common people, and educated, bnei Torah (sons of Torah); Chassidim fervent with faith and sharp-minded Mitnagdim; and pioneers and various people of action?

Like the colors of the rainbow and their gentle transitions, within you there were variations and sub-variations of classes and positions, of memberships and organizations, of political parties and youth organizations, until the arrival of the day of the directive; a bitter and violent day when wild beasts burst into you and raised their defiled hands over you, over everyone… over everyone…

The heart is enraged, and the soul yearns. Where are you now, remnants of the sons and daughters of Stolin, escapees from the sword and survivors of the storm? The hand of fate scattered you over the seven seas, in far-off America and the steppes of Russia. You, the survivors, wandered over different paths until many of you arrived, at great risk, in our Land, at the final stop, to begin a new page and a new, improved life.

Bitter was your end, my town Stolin; there is no consolation for the great tragedy… none.

Moshe Gal


The holy and pure ones

Translated by Laia Ben-Dov

Edited by Irit Dolgin

Dear you were to me, holy and pure people of Stolin, and sacred is your memory in my tormented heart. I see you before my eyes, simple Jews, active and laboring, carrying the yoke of a livelihood, rising early to pray, welcoming guests, being faithful to your origins and awake to the problems of time, the nation and the community.

Dear you were to my heart, innocent and honest on weekdays, Sabbaths and holidays; dear for your Jewish labors and livelihoods, and for the opinions and movements - as varied as the colors of the rainbow - that were among you, among the broad community and among the youth of the last generation: Chassidim, Mitnagdim, Maskilim, Zionists, Bundists, those bearing the ideals of the pioneer, the youth organizations full of longing for the Land of our Fathers and for a change of values; a miniature of the assembly of the People of Israel, which is struggling for its existence and awaits redemption.

I see you, my dear ones, hurrying, rushing and busy, some with worries of survival, some with the commandments and good deeds, some in matters of the Land of Israel and Aliyah. You fill the market and the streets, you stand in your shops and work in your workshops, full of life and absorbed in dreams of the future… And finally, my imagination accompanies you on your last journey, when you are brought by the evildoers, the messengers of Satan, to the pits … a complete community marches to devastation…

How did the Reaper rise against you, sons and daughters of my community Stolin?

You, Zionist and people's Stolin, noble among the towns, a greater soul dwelt within you; hard work and diligence existed within you, and now – you are a murky valley, an abyss of slaughter. To me, you are empty today, Stolin, emptied of everything and bare; your radiance has gone; your glory has gone. Your soul has departed forever… And you, all the cities of murder that have absorbed rivers and streams of the blood of our holy brothers and sisters, when you agreed with the murderers to kill, to destroy and annihilate, you who murdered and also profited – may an eternal curse come to you – may neither dew nor rain fall upon you.

Yehuda Strosky


[Page 14]

This will be our revenge…

Translated by Laia Ben-Dov

Edited by Irit Dolgin

We are too insignificant![1] We will not rise
against you with axes…
We will not burn the roofs of your houses over you
And with staffs of steel
we will not break the skulls of infants…
Our blood will penetrate and enter you
and poison the foundations of everything you have
and envelop your cold, desolate eyes
and your heart, which is harder than a block of grindstone…
And you will not realize!
Every day, it will fill you; every day, it will poison you
And you will not understand
Until the day of revenge arrives,
a day of recompense for us too!

S. Tchernichovsky

 


  1. Insignificant as compared to the “Almighty” Return

 

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