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[Page 336]

From Those Terrible Days

Nechama Inzelbuch

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Dark clouds spread over the shtetl [town] right at the start of the war, on the 22nd of June 1941. The Germans marched and approached us at a rapid pace. The residents of the shtetl were confused, frightened – we did not know where to run. A number ran to the border to Negarele and the others – to the surrounding villages in order to hide and survive the frightening days.

My husband, Josl, worked as a Soviet employee at the train station and had to be at his work until the last minute. When the first German bombs fell on the train station, I ran there immediately to see how Josl was. There was a threat of death if one left work. He actually was mobilized on the same day, but as a family man with four children, he was immediately released. On Sunday the Germans surrounded Pilsudski – Szpitalna – Nacale Streets and threw grenades and firebombs in the houses, on the pretext that Bolsheviks were hiding there. Everything burned. Josl, carrying a child, ran out of the house into the garden. I found both of them dead a few hours later. On Sunday they shot around 200 souls on our street. We buried all of them in our garden. A few months later, we carried the bones to the Jewish cemetery.

I remained alone with three small children. No troubles were lacking. It was being said that we would soon be fenced into a ghetto. On the eve of the first slaughter, I got the idea: dress my Chana in a pair of shoes with high heels, through this, try to save one daughter. I lost my two small daughters, Tsipele and Tsernele in the first slaughter. Thus we lived in fear, in need and pain. Went through two

The Filshcik family
Nechama, Josef, Shulmit, Tserne, Tsipe

 

[Page 337]

slaughters and saw with my own eyes how my own dear ones were slaughtered and everything was being annihilated.

There were about 200 women and a small number of men in the ghetto on the eve of the third and last slaughter. Returning from work, we noticed that the ghetto was being surrounded on all sides by Belarusian and Lithuanian police. Then, my daughter Chana and I decided to escape from the ghetto. It was a cold December night and we saw that two boys had cut the fence wire in one place. We did not think about it for long and we quietly crawled out through the fence and the wire. We crawled on our knees to the Christian cemetery where we met several other Stolpce Jews: Etil [diminutive of Ester] and Zlatke Kaplan, Sevek Horenkrig, Silim Manaker's two girls and two boys. Together we began to crawl through the fields until we reached the train line.

Kalman Inzelbuch's family
Yehudis, Chana, Leah, Chaya, Nechama and Kalman

 

Shooting from the train guards, who heard our steps, opened up on us when we were crossing the train line. The night was very dark and yet the bullets fell near us. We ran until we reached the woods not far from the slaughterhouse. What would we do next? It was dark. Shivering from the cold and fear, we barely survived the day. In the morning we heard steps and saw a gentile boy in the distance. The Kaplan sisters immediately recognized him as Janek Starzich from Zadwarie, who had worked for Welwl Tunik in the slaughterhouse for many years. Asking him where it was easier to run, the gentile boy thought for a while and told us not entirely willingly that Ezriel Tunik and Dwoyra Kaplan, their sister, were hiding with his family. The gentile boy said that he had to go to work first. He advised us to go deeper into the woods and to stay there until night. Then he would come to take us. We had heavy hearts – could we believe him because most Christians ran to report to the Germans.

However, not having any choice or anything to lose, we went deeper into the woods where we sat hungry and waited an entire day in great fear.

Of those who escaped from the ghetto with us only my daughter and I and the two Kaplan sisters remained. The others had gone in different directions throughout the day.

The gentile boy came in the evening. He found us by the light of a pocket lamp. We went with him to his house in the corner of the village. There were a few houses neighboring his. The gentile boy's mother, seeing such a group, was not very enthusiastic. I immediately sensed where we stood. I took off my things. I gave her my boots, my coat, the little money I had

[Page 338]

with me and I even gave her the gold crowns from the teeth in my mouth. Taking everything, she became friendly and said: I will hide you. You will be with me and eat what I eat. She immediately led us into the house, gave us food. Each night we all dug out a hole in the shed near the house, covered with boards and straw and sand. We only left open a small hole to crawl in. The hole was hidden and masked a little so that it would not be obvious to a stranger, particularly the neighbors or Germans who very often would come to their daughter, Zashke. The Christian woman padded the hole with a little straw that would get wet and decay. At night I would crawl out of the hole and go into the house to help the Christian woman with her household work. Often I would be deathly afraid when someone would knock at the door at night.

We remained in the pit from the end of December 1942 until the beginning of July 1944 when the Red Army freed us.

The Christian was not rich and she gave us, six people, food and many times it was not enough. Therefore, the fear, suffering and pain satiated us. The Strzik family earns the full right and should be counted in the general Jewish history among the pious and good among the non-Jewish people.

Of the six saved: I, my daughter Chana (Lev), Ester Kaplan (Zinger), Zlatke Kaplan (Gutman), Ezriel Tunik, and their families found their home in Israel. Dwoyra Kaplan and her family are in America.


[Page 342]

The Death of the Jews in the Villages

by Mendl Machtey

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

On the right side of the shore of the Nieman [River], four kilometers downstream, on the side of the village of Zhukovy Borek, near the village of Atalez, lived the family of Pina Garmize and his wife, Beilka (Szlajf). They had a tar-works, inherited from Nachman Szlajf and they drew their income from it.

Down the river on the left side of the Nieman, in the village of Berezna, lived the family of Shmerl Lis, Shima and their children. They had much to endure when the Minsk governor ordered that the Jews be driven out of the village. They would hide with their Jewish neighbors on the right side of the shore, which was Vilna gubernia [province], because Jews were not being driven from there. In general, there was nothing in their luck to envy. When someone traveled past, their windows were stuffed with pillows because when a village Christian got drunk he would break the windowpanes of the Jews. True, he would pay for his enjoyment, but where did one immediately get another windowpane? – But this also carried the name of life…

Ruwin and Hoda Krinicki and their children lived in the only house on the right side of the shore, two kilometers past Berezna. For many years, they leased the ferry and the field from the Mir Prince Mirski and earned their living from this. Before the First World War, merchants and forest officials would lodge there during the summertime, particularly those from Stolpce, such as Dantzig, Darski and still others, because the Sula River flowed into the Nieman there. The family also bankrupted a manager, an anti-Semite and [he] carried on a court case against them in order to drive out the Jews. It should be understood that the prince was just.

Once when Ruwin was not at home, the prince's forest rangers came and [they forced] the Jewish family to go on a small boat across the river. What could Ruwin do? Vayeishev [“Jakob settled…” – the name of the ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis], he settled not far away in a small settlement named Klin. He was greatly ruined and he was very tormented.

On the left side of the Nieman shore was a very small settlement – Krinicnia. There lived the old Feywa Krinicki and his son Berl and his wife Chaya-Gitl from the village Dudak (Shulier) and their small children. They all worked and were involved in agriculture and there was nothing with which to envy them in how they earned their living.

They also did not avoid the dark times. Their daughter, Ester, who married Peretz Garodajski in Mir, escaped with her children to her village of birth. Perhaps it would be better to survive there. However, she had no place to run from the murderer and she met misfortune there. Ester was disguised as a Christian and went to Mir to ask what was happening at the Judenrat [Jewish council created by the Germans in occupied areas]. It was known at the Judenrat that [the Germans] were preparing to come to murder the Jews in the villages. They knew this from Oswald Rupeyzn, who served as a translator with the Germans. He would give the Judenrat such happy news with great self-sacrifice. They learned of this, but it already was too late and where could they escape with small children, as there were traps throughout to catch Jews?

The murderers came quietly to Berezna. The Lis family was driven out with violence. Also the Krinicke family as well from the village of Klin, along with the old Feywa, Chaya-Gitl and Perec and the children. They were brought to Krinicnia. They were led behind the barn and everyone, 20 men, was shot. Berl had gone to search for food for the children; he was not there at that moment. He unfortunately even heard the last shouts of the wives and children. His sister Ester was supposed to arrive and she could have fallen right into the hands of the murderers. He met her and told her the dark news. They could not to go the ghetto in Mir. It did not occur to them that they could go and hide in the forests. They decided to go to the Stolpce ghetto. The Germans shot those passing by on the spot, but they were lucky and the murderers

[Page 343]

permitted them to enter the ghetto. Berl and Ester and a few other Jews then succeeded in escaping in the direction of Krinicnia, their birthplace. They labored for two years in the thick forest around their house and lived to see the defeat of the Germans.

Sonya, Josef, Heikl, Ester, Peretz Garodajski

 

In the village of Stary Sverzhen across the river from Stolpce lived a Jewish family: the tailor Borukh Yankelewicz and Rosha and their children. As the Christians explained, they lived for a long time after the liquidation of the ghettos in Stolpce, Sverzhen. When the Germans came to the village, they never [went to them]. They thought that a poor Christian lived there. Thus they lived in need and in deadly fear. However, it was good that at that time a Jewish family could live there.

Only one daughter, Ruchl, who was not at home (she escaped to Russia), survived. After she returned home to the village, she learned from her neighbors that the Orthodox priest (the Christian clergyman) had supported her family with food. It was her friends with whom she had grown up and with whom she had studied who had betrayed her family to the Germans. (Under the Polish regime, the village was sympathetic to the communists.) The Alter family with two unmarried sisters lived in the nearby village of Peretoki; but they had settled in Stolpce before the destruction.

Thus the Jews who lived in the villages around Stolpce paid with their lives.

 


[Page 343]

Remembrance

by Basia Milcenzon (Johannesburg)

Translated by Esther Libby Raichman

The heart grieves from lament
I would gladly huddle together
To the cold sand and stone
To hear regards from my home.

Empty and grey is our life,
In the heart a fire burns.
Tragic, grey pictures hover,
Everything that is dear has disappeared.

I long for my village
Where I enjoyed a life.
Every tree and leaf is dear to me
Of death, ruin, who thought of it.

I see the market, every cart.
Of synagogues, houses and shops,
No trace has remained.
Our community's name has been erased.

The most holy, the enemy has trampled
And mocked at every prayer.
The streets are empty and silent
“The guardian of Israel will not flee”- where then is the guard?
At every step you can feel destruction and death
Where are you Jewish daughters?

The forests around grieve
The Niemen is turbulent with rage
It calls and storms: God above, come,
See what has become of your people.

We go to say “Yizkor”
All together, bent over in three.
We keep on crying
Days and nights with swollen eyes.

The day of revenge is still far off
But a time will come
Of Jewish domination and struggle once again.
The nation of Israel lives… (Am Yisroel Chai)

 

Seated from right: Unknown, Daniel Horenkreig, his wife Chienka, Chana Lieba Sagalowich;
Standing from right: Horenkreig, unknown, Cheinka Sagalowich, Meilach and Bashke Milcenzon, Esther from Swierzne, Esther Sagalowich, (Getzes), unknown
[1]

 


Footnote

  1. Clara Slimak (née Horenkrieg) has told us that this picture was taken on the occasion of the marriage of her parents, Daniel Horenkrieg and Cheinka Merin, who are seated in the middle. Clara was also able to identify some of the unknown people in the photograph and their relationships as follows:
    Seated from right Esther Horenkreig, [mother of Daniel Horenkreig], Daniel Horenkreig, his wife Chienka [née Merin], Chana Lieba Sagalowich;
    Standing from right: Jezek Horenkreig [Daniel Horenkrieg's brother], unknown, Cheinka Sagalowich, Meilach and Bashke Milcenzon, Esther from Swierzne, Esther Sagalowich (Getzes) [should be Getzel's daughter], Tola Horenkrieg [Daniel and Jezek Horenkrieg's sister]. Return

 

[Page 355]

Letters from Africa and Argentina

Translated by Melissa Rubin McCurdie and David Rubin

6 August 1949

Dear Friends Meishel and Getzel,

I received your letters and read them with great joy. I've heard that slowly the remaining people of the massacres are getting together. Our exhausted and depressed (haunted) brothers and sisters of Stolpce, may we hear better things from one another.

Our Jewish nation should already be able to close the pages where our history is written in blood.

Please forgive me for my lateness in answering your heart rending letter. It was not through ill will, God forbid, but I had an accident with my hand and I couldn't write, but I did everything that was necessary.

My dear brothers I can tell you that since the great disaster that befell our Jewish people we cannot remain at peace knowing that the remains of my flesh and blood remain wandering on the way[1].

We are currently collecting money to help our brothers and sisters. All the collection of money takes place at my house. The 2nd in command to me is Chatche Russak, he is always with me and my daughter Brochke is the secretary.

Receiving your letter that you want to establish a Gemilut Chessed, we immediately called a meeting. Having collected a little money we wanted the opinion of all the friends because a few then suggested dividing the money amongst the needy as support without any conditions.

In the meantime we again collected money and then with Chatche I called a meeting again and discussed the meaning of a Gemilut Chessed, and we were able to confirm your plan. We wish you all success in your work.

Even though we were not with you in those gruesome and shocking days of suffering, pain and destruction, we have a responsibility to be with you today to help you with whatever we can to build up anew with the feeling that we lonely sole survivors of a family, Stolpce brothers and sister are taking part in the rebuilding of our age old land Zion and Jerusalem.

I am sending you a list of members who have committed themselves to support for the good of the Gemilut Chessed in the name of the Holy ones of Stolpce, may they rest in peace: Brochke Klatzko (Milcenzon) and her husband, Basia Milcenzon, Avron Russak and wife, Yaakov Boruch and wife, Hirshel Neifeld and wife, Nochum Malbin and wife, Beryl Bernshtein and wife, Yossel Reiser and wife, Yosef Renzon and wife, Mordechai Matityahu Rosovsky and wife, Yedidya Bernshtein and wife, Zissel Dvoretzky and wife, Hershel Dvoretzky, Reizel Neifeld, Yehudit Melamed (Russak) and husband, Luba Shapiro (Russak) and husband, Minna Zeidel (Reiser) and husband, Shashe Kafyan (Lublinsky) and husband, Yoel Lublinsky and wife, Yossef Lublinsky and wife, Pale Kohn and husband from the USA are here guests.

Be well. We greet you warmly from all Shtoibtze in Africa, be strong we are with you.

Bashke (Basia) Milcenzon
2 February 1945

 


Translator's Footnote

  1. Presumably the author is referring to the Jewish idea of souls going to heaven which is effected with a proper Jewish burial and Kaddish said). Return

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