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[Pages 81-87]

Sislevitch In Our Generation

by Kayla Zakuta, Canada

It's already 36 years since I left my birthtown Sislevitch.

All through the years, most of them hard and painful in this new land, I never even missed the country where we were counted as strangers, oppressed, persecuted and chased.

On the other hand, my little town Sislevitch, where I was born and spent my best young years, there was left a deep impression in my heart.

No time, no distance did beat the memories, and didn't tear apart the connections of closeness and friendliness to my Lansmen all over the world.

With love and respect, and pride I always remember our little town Sislovitch. Even through the terrible hard economy and political situation the little town still progressed.

And they went farther in progress than most other towns, the close ones and even far.

Farther back in the 1900's Sislevitch had a name, “Little Warsaw”.

Whether it was the look of the town, whether it was cultural and industrial development, Sislevitch still appeared a big city in miniature.

Sislevitch was one of the first towns to wake up from a deep sleep; from backwardness which it was drowned in Jewish life.

The theme of the “Enlightenment Epoch” was you should be a Jew at home and a human being outside – in Hebrew “ Hiya Yahudi b' o ha lecha v' adam basatecha”.

The Epoch was beating deep and put roots down in Sislevitch.

A small group of Enlighteners had a successful battle against the backward establishment of the town.

They organized the first high school, the first Chader where they taught Hebrew, the country's language and all the usual secular elementary classes.

They even started to teach in the Talmud Torah an hour a day of the country's language.

They also established a library.

The Jewish progressive parents, the ones who could spend more, of course, sent their children to high schools, which were, at that time, only in big cities.

A few of them even reached universities.

For the Jewish Holidays they, the high school students, also come with the Yisheva students to town where they parade in the streets in their uniforms with their brass buttons and ribbons.

With great respect and envy the plain (those on a lower economic level) children in the town looked at the students.

The Jewish youth in Sislevitch learned with huge enthusiasm. They read and they were making progress in all subjects.

Young Jewish men started to work in all the leather factories.

They learned professions and started to make a living and provide for themselves.

In town showed up strange people.

They were the leaders and agitators from different political parties.

Under their supervision they established different political groups.

In earnest the youth were studying and reading the now published illegal literature.

They agitated, debated, took part in secret meetings, and they often fell into the hands of the gruesome Russian Police.

The youth in Sislevitch became very revolutionary. They even organized demonstrations with red flags and songs, and went into the Police area and forced the Police to join with the demonstrators.

But right after that another force of Police followed.

They searched for and arrested the demonstrators.

One evening is engraved in my memory.

The terrible picture of a young neighbor; at our house they cut up the bed covers and pillows, they turned over the broken cabinets to look for illegal literature; the hopeless crying from children and parents when they took away their young son without guilt in handcuffs.

I was then only 7 years old.

[Page 83]

Right away the next morning I decided to go through all my books and see if they are kosher (no illegal political literature).

The first sacrifice was my Siddur (Prayer Book). I threw it in the fire in the oven. “Only the first page was missing with the script that said the way it was written was allowed by the censors.”

The first sacrifice of that time was Perets Bernstein, a young boy born in Sislevitch. He was beaten to death by the barbarians in Grodna Prison.

It has to be also noted about the decisive and courageous handling by the Sislevitch youth.

In the time of the Pogrom, it spread over all of Russia, the terrible, not friendly call, Slay the Jews and save Russia (Bay Zhidov Speci Rosei) .

When the organized pogroms came close to our area, the farmers showed up in the market with axes and big jute bags ready to loot, with all the wild hate and the readiness of those farmers to go through in a wild slaughter.

Those murderers could smell that it wouldn't be an easy task. The Jewish Self Defense Youth in town were organized and decisive. They would not be killed like sheep.

I remember very well one gathering place of the Self Defenders. Part of the prepared weapons used to defend yourself were hidden in a chicken coop behind the stove in my grandpa's little apartment by the trenches.

Even though I was a little child there was still the scare and the unusual fear for that in which the whole town would have been involved was left forever in my memory.

Until today I still shake when I hear bells ringing in a church, because the ring from the church was many times a call to Pogroms.

Along with the big stream of Jews at that time a large group of the population of Sislevitch left town.

The year was 1910 when the big fire erased of Sislevitch. The next few years without houses, poverty and epidemics brought very hard times to our little town.

But Jews manage. Sislevitch rebuilt with nicer, roomier, and more modern houses. We didn't have time to rest from the fire before the heavy clouds of World War One came.

The years from 1914–18 were very hard ones; they were filled with pain and suffering.

The Russian mobilization, when so many young boys had to leave for the war.

And the Russian retreat of 1915.

The lootings and killings, the German invasion and the fright and danger from positions of the battlefields (the war came close from different directions).

The terrible epidemics and the long bitter suffering beneath the terrible German militaristic boots.there were years of bitter and dangerous battles for the day to day existence.

Just for a little piece of dry bread and for a garb made of old jute bags.

Life was still worse in the cultural and spiritual life of the town; all libraries, and schools were closed shut.

Every gathering and meeting was forbidden. The youth did not study anything; didn't read.

It was a real danger that the whole generation would stay backward and be demoralized.

But the Jewish spirit didn't allow the youth to be oppressed altogether.

Disregarding all the orders and danger they opened in secret Yiddish and Hebrew libraries. They taught everything until late in the night. They had to read by the light of a small flame “curnicle”.

I remember how my mother used to call me the “girl with the mustache” and the mustache came from the flame of the gas lamp. The gas at that time was one of the big valuables.

Late in the night we used to wait for a newspaper or telegram which we used to pick up from the last train arriving.

Later on we could subscribe to a newspaper . We became 4 parties to the newspaper because we didn't have the few cents neither.

[Page 85]

I remember the very deep joy we had and the better mood and the expected hope which the Balfour Declaration brought.

Right away they organized the Zionist Center and right away it divided itself into different groups:

  1. Ordinary Zionists
  2. Rightists and Leftists, Zionist Youths
  3. Rightists and Leftists, Poalei Zion
  4. Left and Right, Zionist Youths
  5. Bundists
  6. Peoples Party
  7. Communist
About 7–8 political parties in a town between 4–5,000 people.

And it was really very joyful and a living town. Especially after the retreat of the Germans.

I remember how in the Zionist Center we went on discussions

and debates without end.

They started splitting on and on to the right and left; and when it came to elections it was in the region and the city and later on the Polish Parliament.

This little town became electrified.

I remember when I kept on and on to convince my mother she shouldn't vote like my father; she should not vote for the regular Zionists but for the Labor Ballot.

The atmosphere in the house was loaded with gun powder.

I never found out how my mother voted; she always insisted on a secret ballot.

I was sure for myself that a Labor Ballot won because of my mother's and other mother's votes.

Deep in my mind is engraved the summer of 1920: The Polish–Bolshevik War.

First the retreat of the Polish Army.

The hateful Poles, under whose Anti–Semitism the Jews had suffered so much were defeated in Sislevitch.

They hardly managed to run away in front of the Bolshevik Army's attack.

[Page 86]

What kind of fear and impatience, hope and security, did we, the Jewish Youth expect from the Bolsheviks?

I remember very well the night when the successful Bolshevik Army marched into town.

With the tune of the “Internationale (Le Marseillaise)”, the wonderful speeches which they spoke in the markets, and what kind of joy and hopes we were promised in the speeches.about equality and freedom.

Oh, how naive we were.

And we believed all that.

How fast and bitter everything turned to a disappointment.

The liberation came out with a true face; drunk in their power with a funny thirst for revenge.

They ruled over the town with no restrictions.

It didn't take them long to break all of our beliefs and hopes.

We convinced ourselves very fast that the despotism and wild revenge and bloody tyranny would equality and freedom never be.

How wicked and senseless and misleading the words of the “Internationale” echoed.

We could hardly wait to be saved from this salvation.

And it became darker and darker.

For us Jews it was just like going from fire into water.

We knew very well what we could expect from the arriving Polish victors.

The wild Anti–Semites even wanted to make the Jews from the little towns the sacrificial lamb for their ugly loss and the previous retreat.

If not for the American Commission which came along with the Polish Army, the Jews from Sislevitch wouldn't have wound up so lucky.

The hard economic situation, the new orders and suppression by the Polish Anti–Semites made Jewish life not bearable to the future with no hope.

In 1923 I left Sislevitch.

I left everything which I loved so much and was dear to me.

[Page 87]

The separation was hard and painful.

I never forgot my little town; not during the week days with the hard work of making a living, and not with the peaceful, beautiful, exalted holidays from the Sabbath and the holidays.

Together with the deep muds outside Pesach Eve, and the depressed gray days before Rosh Hashana.

I also didn't forget how beautiful our little town was in the Spring when the orchards were blooming; the cornfields with the blue colored flowers from which we made wreaths.

The wonderful beautiful summer nights when the moon poured out her magic light over the big market and it looked like it (the moon) watched over the little town as it slept.

I don't want to forget the dense orchard with its dense trees; the olives always in the forest by the train where the youths used to promenade, singing, playing and having love affairs, dreamed and imagined.

There were those who also dreamed of a national home in Eretz Israel; some dreaming of a national autonomy in the Diaspora and some of a Communist Revolution.

The ideals were all different, but the dreams were all of our beautiful and bright future.

Oh what kind of dark, terrible, merciless and gruesome future it was just waiting ahead for the Jewish youth.

Young lives have been cut off in the Vyshavnyker Forest which became the mass graves of the fathers and mothers.

Burnt and erased from this earth is our little town.

Senseless did the murderous neighbors, like the wild vultures,

wait impatiently to steal the Jewish homes, belongings, and property.

Not a memory was left in that town except the Jewish Cemetery.

Now only fall winds are blowing and crying above the lonely gravestones.

Dead is my little town with all its close and dear people; but in my heart everything is alive and all their images remain.


[Pages 88-90]

My Friend Feivel Rubin
may G–d avenge his blood

by Ch. Sh. Rubin (Egosevitch)

The poets and writers can tell us about the spiritual powers that were hidden in small towns, about the men of science and diplomacy, who were for the most part conceived and born in small towns.

Even in the most recent generation: Bialik (a native of the village of Rubche), Sokolow (a native of Wyszograd) Ahad Haam (Skvira), Peretz (a native of Zamosc), Weizmann (Motol), Friszman (Zgierz), Tshernikovsy (Mikhailovka).

All of them were born and raised in small communities. There, they received their education and their personalities were formed. The cheders, Talmud Torahs and Yeshivas forged their spirits.

We do not know what factors caused their sublime talents to take form specifically in small towns. We cannot imagine that the people of the small towns were made of better material than the people of cities and medium sized towns – in fact, the opposite is true. How can we explain why the growth and maturation of these talents, which also existed in large cities, should turn into strong trees specifically in a small town? The explanation is that there was a concentration of tradition in small towns. The love and honor of Torah was felt wherever one turned: in the home, in the house, and particularly in the Beis Midrash. A talented child was recognized, a scholar was honored, and righteousness was displayed before everybody. The spirit of Torah and the spirit of the field joined together and forged solid personalities, pining for knowledge and desirous of righteousness. The enticements to other forms of enjoyments aside from wisdom and knowledge, which were recognized and valued in the area, did not exist in the town.

In our small town as well, geniuses stood out already in their early youth. Some of them died in their prime, and other ones later joined the stream of life. Some of them did not find their way because of difficult conditions, and other ascended the stepladder.

I wish to deal with one of them here, my friend Feivel Rubin. We studied together in cheder and later in Yeshiva. It caused me no small amount of anguish that I wished to be equal to him, but I could not because of my lack of talent.

I recall that his father Eliezer Rubin first brought him to the house of my father, who was a teacher of Talmud to nine–year–old children. His father was a tanner, and he still stands before my eyes with his tanner's hands, that are not amenable to be cleaned for a long time – as he was supervising a young, eight year old child, as if he was taking care to ensure that his he would not touch the spice container with his dirty hands, as he presented the student who should learn together with children a year or two older. When father of blessed memory refused to accept him because he was too young, Eliezer stood his ground and insisted that he be given an exam. Father agreed to examine him, and was astonished at his quick grasp and depth of understanding. I followed every answer with great jealousy. Father said that this is a “vessel”. He turned his gaze to me and said, “Do you see”. His words were like the point of a sword to me. I nevertheless decided to measure up to him, but I was not able to. Nevertheless, I overcame my jealousy and befriended him, particularly since Feivel's home consisted of one room with a corner kitchen, and his mother suffered terribly from gallstones and spent most of her time resting with hot water bottles – despite this, the house had a pleasant atmosphere. A strand of grace was spread through every corner. The bitterness of the suffering was affected by the sweetness of the pleasure of Feivel. His mother was related to families of great rabbis, and she saw the realization of all of her dreams in her progeny. She saw me as a good friend for her son, and was pleasant to me despite her suffering. The cup of tea that his sister, the graceful Freidel, would serve to me shone with the polish of nobility. The “pedigree” and nobility instilled splendor and glory upon this home despite the poverty.

His parents ensured that he would also obtain secular knowledge. Within a brief period of time, he mastered all of the knowledge of the public school. Warchygyn's workbook on difficult math problems was simple to him[1]. Students of the Russian seminary in Svisloch would turn to him to answer their questions. However, all of these things to him were like trivial matters with respect to Gemara, which captivated him.

We were separated for a brief period, and met again at the Yeshiva of Rav Reines in Lida. This Yeshiva, which blended Torah and secular knowledge with the purpose of educating the Jewish intelligentsia in the spirit of tradition and Zionism, was not homogenous. People came to it from different strata. There were careerists who came to the yeshiva to obtain secular knowledge, with the intent of leaving later. These were cynical egoists. Others had the Zionist enthusiasm, and dedicated their studies to the learning of Hebrew language and culture in addition to the study of Gemara. Most of these people made aliya to the Land of Israel, or were Zionist activists. A third group were those who were attracted to the genius of Metich. They neglected the study of Hebrew language and secular subjects, and dedicated all of their energies to the study of Gemara, its commentaries, and didactics. Feivel belonged to that group. He was one of the choice students of the Genius of Metich. The reason for this was that he did not find a field of endeavor for his wonderful talents in Hebrew knowledge and secular studies. His diligence in didactics overtook him completely. At home and on the street, in the Beis Midrash and outside of it, one could see him concentrating on didactics. He would forget himself even when he was walking on the street, as he would wave his hands as he pondered his studies, that did not allow him to attend to his own needs. With time, political changes came that forced the genius of Metich to move his residence. Feivel also uprooted himself with him.

I separated from him and set out on a different path. I always took interest in him, and wanted to know what was going on in his life. I heard that he was swept up in the stream of life, and his talents did not spread out afar. I could not make peace with this situation of “this wonderful person being swallowed up in the earth”. At the end, his fate was the same as that of his millions of brethren. He was murdered by the cruel ones.

What did these wild animals perpetrate upon our nation and mankind! How many geniuses were there, in actuality and potentiality, if a one small town could contain a few of them. Is it within our power to estimate the deep loss that the executioners inflicted upon all mankind?!


Translator's Footnote

  1. The metaphor used here is ‘like a string through halvah’. Return


[Pages 91-93]

Memories from my Father's House

by Yafa Szpak Rabicki

My father Michael Rabicki of blessed memory was a native of Zwolen. My mother was Rachel Leah of blessed memory. They raised a family in Svisloch consisting of three girls and two boys.

My grandmother Chasia of blessed memory was a widow who lived with us. She was a pious and wise woman. She helped anyone in need and took part in every tribulation. I remember the situation at the time of the First World War, when the Cossacks broke into our house, which was full of women from my family and the area, in order to perpetrate pillage and rape. Grandmother took out a bag full of gold coins from her treasury and waved it before the eyes of the Cossacks. Thus did she turn their inclination toward the gold and distract them from their designs. They grabbed the gold and left.

She supported every charitable endeavor. She assisted the ill and was a faithful member of the Chevra Kadisha (burial society). She died at about the age of 90.

My father of blessed memory was considered to be well off. His hand was open to charity and the doing of good deeds. He loved Zion, donated money to the Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund), and read Hebrew. My mother supported the poor in her way, from within the house. Liba Dziga, one of the poor people of the town, partook of his Sabbath meals with us until the day of his death.

The education of the children was in the traditional, religious fashion in combination with secular knowledge at the level of the public school. There was no high school in our town, so we continued our studies with private tutors. Russian was the language of the secular studies until 1914. We were under German rule during the time of the First World War, and we had to study German. However, several hours were dedicated to Hebrew. The teachers were Jewish. We were imbued with the Hebrew national sprit. Our cultural activities outside of our studies were in Hebrew. I recall the play “The Sale of Joseph” that we performed successfully.

In 1918, when the Bolsheviks invaded Poland, we were under Bolshevik rule for a brief period. However, within a short period, terrifying events passed over us. When they entered the town, a command was issued that every youth must volunteer for the Red Army. Whomever would refuse would have his property confiscated and his family killed. My brother Menachem and Mendel Bigonski and Dhatzkelewicz were in a village outside the city, and did not know about what had taken place. My father, who was familiar with the Russian hatred of the Jews and remembered the pogroms, girded himself with might. He endangered his family and did not tell his sons about the command. He also convinced Leizer Chaliuta, who was in educational contact with Mendel, not to tell. The matter ended peacefully with the speedy retreat of the Russians. At the end of the war, the economic depression began in the city. Many immigrated abroad. The rest received support in the form of money and packages from their relatives. The gentiles also benefited from this. The town managed somehow, and also absorbed refugees from Lopic.

Photo page 92: The family of Michael Rabicki.

Life flowed along in an orderly fashion with the Poles joining forces with the Jews. The mayor of the town was Pawlowicki, and his deputy was Wigonski. The leadership of the firefighters was Jewish, including: Alter Broida, Menachem Rabicki, Nachum Dinowski, and others. There were many Jews in the band. In general, a Jewish atmosphere pervaded in the town. On Sabbath eves, Melech Dali of blessed memory, a pure Tzadik, announced the advent of the Sabbath. Candles were then lit in every home. On the High Holy Days, a feeling of awesome holiness was felt throughout the town. We celebrated appropriately on the festivals. The customs were observed. The joy was expressed primarily with eating and drinking, as well as assisting the needy with “Maos Chittin”[1] or in other manner. There were the traditional charitable institutions: Gemillut Chesed, Bikur Cholim, and Linat Tzedek were supported by the communal council[2].

In the meantime, the movements began to penetrate through the various strata. The youth were influenced by the movement. The organized themselves into various youth movements. Young Zion, Hechalutz Haboger, and Mishmeret Tzeira (Young Guard), of which I was a member. We stood out in our uniforms: khaki and blue ties. A counselor from Bialystock named Chavionik would come to direct us in drill practice. Our practical activities were centered on the collection of the Keren Kayemet boxes and the organization of ribbon days. We remained in constant contact with the Land of Israel. Every event there had an echo among us. The opening of the university[3] was celebrated with the lighting of candles in the houses. The day of the Balfour Declaration literally turned into a holiday. The synagogues were filled with celebrants. The veteran Zionist activist Mr. Yosef Katzenelboigen, who stood out over everybody, ascended the podium and lectured with enthusiasm. The pogroms of 1929 inspired a group of young people from Hechalutz to arm themselves with weapons. A Polish captain directed them. However, he only had time for this on the Sabbath. Rabbi Miszkinski categorically rejected this activity on the Sabbath. When it was explained to him that this was for the Land of Israel, he permitted the activity.

We also had places of Hachsharah near us, and we arranged work also for people from outside the town.

The peaceful life continued during the first years after the war. Poland was drunk with its own independence and did not afflict the Jews. The head of government was liberal. The Jews took an active part in the elections. Indeed, there were cases where gangs pillaged and murdered on the roads, and tormented bearded Jews in trains. However, in many cases, the relations between the gentile population and the Jews were very proper.

The situation changed after the 1920s. The tax burden upon the Jews was increased with the goal of removing business from them. The Polish youth began to become unruly, and searched for pretexts to begin disturbances. On one occasion, a gentile entered the store of the Jew Soloveiczik on a day of a fair. The gentile suddenly dropped dead. The gentiles became agitated, and a death pall fell upon the town. Thanks to the intercession of Jews with the keepers of law and order, and thanks to the preparations of strong young wagon drivers who stood guard, the situation passed peacefully.

The town, like the rest of the Jewish communities, became enveloped in morning after the death of Pilsudski. It was felt that the protector of the Jews departed. The Polish authorities increased their pressure upon the Jews with taxes, fees and various decrees. The entire Jewish population became impoverished. Wealthy people became needy. The Nazi spirit also spread quickly, and a general oppression pervaded the town. This feeling increased with the terrible news from the Land of Israel of the disturbances of 1936, and the white paper.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Literally “Money for wheat” (i.e. wheat for the baking of matzo), a generic term used to describe charity given to the poor before Passover to enable them to observe the holiday appropriately. Return
  2. Gemilut Chesed – granting of charitable support. Bikur Cholim – the visiting of the sick. Linat Tzedek – the providing of accommodations for wayfarers. Return
  3. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Return


[Pages 94-95]

Avigdor Berezanicki
may G–d avenge his blood

by Tz. Finkelstein of Tel Aviv

Photo page 94: The first Hechalutz organization. Avigdor is in the center.

The first time I saw him was when I was a student in one of the lower grades of the Hebrew School of Svisloch during its first years of existence. One of the teachers got sick, and a young man with smiling eyes entered the class in his place and gave the Hebrew lesson. This was Avigdor Berezanicki, the oldest of the four sons of Reb Efraim Berezanicki, the owner of the tanning factory at the edge of the city at the end of Amsitiwowa Street. All of the sons helped their father in his work, and took part in Zionist activities during their free time. Avigdor, his second brother Avraham Yitzchak of blessed memory and a few other friends founded the Hechalutz chapter in Svisloch. Avigdor was the chairman of the chapter from its founding until the Holocaust. Many of the members of Hechalutz (including his two brothers Avraham Yitzchak and Yosef) made aliya. Avigdor did not succeed in this. Aliya was closed down by a decree of the Mandate authorities when he was preparing for aliya. His fate was as that of the rest of the Diaspora.

During its years of existence, Hechalutz in Svisloch conducted Zionist–pioneering cultural and educational activities. Its members eagerly participated in general Zionist activities as well. With his help and energy, a pioneering Hachsharah kibbutz was established, whose members worked in the factories and sawmills of the town. Within Hechalutz, the older Zionist youth – lacking any future in their place of residence – found a purpose and direction along the path of pioneering Hachsharah and aliya to the Land. Many of the townsfolk who studied in Hebrew educational institutions in Vilna, Grodno, Bialystock – such as Feivel Haperin, Hershel Finkelstein, Moshel Elkonicki and others – became involved in the cultural work of the chapter until they made aliya. When they left the town, Avigdor Berezanicki was the only one who continued on in the leadership of the chapter. I remember that I went to take leave of him on the eve of my aliya to the land. He walked with me from place to place in the factory that was attached to their home and said: “look at each and every detail and give over to my brothers in the Land a living picture of their father's house”, as if his heart prophesied that he would never see them again. May G–d avenge his blood.


[Pages 96-97]

In their Memory

by Shimon Finkelstein

Photo page 96: The Finkelstein family.

Our house was on Warsaw Street, which was partially populated by Jews. The civic garden was at one end of the street. There, the youth would enjoy games of sports, and weave their first dreams of love.

This street lead to the boulevards on the route to Jalowka. The boulevards were crowded with people out for a stroll on Sabbaths and festivals. The river that cut along the road served as a place for bathing, laundry, and Tashlich[1] on Rosh Hashanah. From there, the windmills could be seen about which many stories circulated. The houses of the gentiles were surrounded by fruit gardens, and the houses of the Jews were bare. Our home was large, and stood out was its closed porch and colored windowpanes. The porch served as a dwelling place for us on the holiday of Sukkot, when the shutters of the roof were opened[2]. We children decorated it.

During his youth, father was active in the first revolutionary movement of 1905. He was active with the defense when there was a fear of pogroms, and he was always a communal activist. He was a member of the local committee during the German occupation of the First World War. Later, he became a member of the communal council, and was active in the Zionist movement. He donated and canvassed for the funds, and was called upon as a mediator in monetary disputes. He was observant of tradition. On Sabbaths and festivals, particularly on the High Holy Days, a sprit of holiness pervaded the home. He donated generously to the Beis Midrash, and maintained a claim on specific honors. For example, the opening of the ark for Neila[3] was my father's right. I recall that once American guests arrived, and he gave over this honor for a high price. I felt this to be a great travesty and injustice, and I entertained the though of jumping ahead of the American to open the ark. It seems to me that this event affected my relationship with the Beis Midrash and the prayers.

Father was also the Torah reader, and he read the Megilla[4] on Purim for the women and elderly people in our home. His business was in the manufacture of leather. There were good and bad times, and during the 1930s, he thought about liquidating his business and making aliya. However he put this off for some time. Later, aliya became difficult, and even I, who made aliya in 1936, was not able to help.

My mother of blessed memory, Pnina of the Meizel family, excelled with her great contentment. She studied Hebrew, as did all of the members of the Meizel family, and she served as a teacher in Jalowka and Sokolka during her youth. From 1911 to 1913, she studied in the course of kindergarten teaching given by Michael Halperin in Warsaw. She continued teaching Hebrew after her graduation.

There is no need to state that our parents concerned themselves with the needs of the family, and were diligent in the education of their sons and daughters – particularly mother who had received a complete Hebrew education.

I had three sisters. All of them were talented and socially oriented. Thanks to them, our house was bustling with youth and exultation. Despite all of the efforts of the parents to educate their children, the children had to forge their way in life with great effort. My eldest sister Menucha completed her studies at the teacher's seminary in Grodno. She served as a teacher in various places, finally at the Hebrew Gymnasium in Pinsk. My sister Leah studied in Slonim and build her family in Mikszewicz. My third sister Sara, who excelled in her beauty and talents, completed the Gymnasium in Slonim with excellence and was about to enter the university in Jerusalem, but she met with difficulties. During the Russian period, she served as a nurse in the hospital of Bialystock.

I remained in the land and concluded my studies at Mikve Yisrael. I awaited their aliya. This idea did not depart from me until the Holocaust came and cut down our family along with myriads of families of Russian and Polish Jewry.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A prayer service conducted at a river bank on Rosh Hashanah, which includes a symbolic casting off of sins. Return
  2. To make a Sukka. Return
  3. The final service of Yom Kippur. Return
  4. The book of Esther, which is read publicly on Purim. Return


[Page 98]

The Jewish Settlements near Svisloch

by Naphtali Eden

As we erect a memorial monument for our town, we should not neglect the memory of the nearby area. There were two Jewish settlements a distance of a few kilometers from town: Alibod (Colonia Galiliska) and Mikhalka (Colina Izrailska). They were strongly connected to our town with regard to all types of communal institutions, such as the schools, synagogues, etc. They were founded approximately 200 years ago by the Russian king Alexander II, who wished to scatter some of the Jews in villages, thereby turning them into a productive element. In order to expedite this process, he freed the Jewish settlers from army service and various taxes for the first 25 years, and granted the Jewish settlers the same rights that were given to Russian farmers. At the beginning, the relationship between the Jews and their neighbors was good. They even helped them at first with the work of the land. However, during the 1880s, with the outbreak of a wave of anti–Semitism after the murder of Alexander II, the relationship took a turn for the worse. The Jews of the settlements, who were already more or less rooted in farming, and some of them even in other trades such as tailoring, shoemaking, dyeing, flour milling, postal services, etc. – began to feel that they were no longer in favor with their neighbors. At that time, Baron Hirsch, as is known, advised settlement in Argentina, with his great support. Some of the settlers moved there, others moved to nearby cities, and still others moved to the Land.

Despite the fact that several families left the settlements, the situation of those that remained worsened, for those that left sold their land to Russian farmers. Despite this, the Jews loved their settlements, and they did not want to leave their land, which was very dear to them. We estimate that there were approximately 10 families in Izrailska (Mikhalka) and several dozen families in Galiliska (Alibod).


[Page 99]

The Revenge On The Police Commissioner

by Eliahu Ayin

It was 2:00 on a nice hot day in the summer of 1907. Because of his love of music the Volunteer Fire Brigade took into its orchestra, the young boy, Srulke Zuses. They (the Fire Brigade) dressed him up like a miniature fire fighter, with ribbons, belts, and a silk robe with tassels. The boy, with pride, used to play the drums as he walked over the streets. From everywhere people used to come to the orchard which people called, “the little horses,” the park with the big old maple shade trees. There walks (today) two thirds or three quarters of the Jewish people in Sislevitch, with its official name Swislocz, to give honor and an honorable good–bye to the Police Commissioner who is being transferred to the county capital of Slonim, in the same state as his superior, the Police Inspector.

He (Police Commissioner) was different than most typical Russian officers. He was a calm man, a good one, a pleasant person who hated to have unpleasant occasions. In Sislevitch there were a few hundred well paid leather workers. All were revolutionaries. He never bothered them and he let the boys play. He always said they didn't bother anybody, and when their draft (notice) will come, a part of them will leave for the military service, another part will run away to America and some of them will be free; and those who are left will come back from the service and get married. And that will be the end of the revolutionaries. After the wedding the girls will not become revolutionaries. That's why if somebody reported to him, or if an order came from Volkovisk to make a search in somebody's home, he would quietly inform someone (who would mention it to the affected person), so as to give them time to hide illegal books and proclamations.

There was also in town wet tanneries to work on the skins. The workers in the wet tanneries were mostly low paid farmers. The town people didn't want to spend time with a “stupid hobby” (they did not want to work for such small pay).

[Page 100]

In the orchard they made speeches with compliments to the Police Commissioner. The young Alcohol Tax Collector was leading the orchestra as the fire brigade played the music. Everybody sat down on the grass, ate well and drank beer. Then, in the name of the community, they presented to the guest a silver cigarette box with a fitting inscription. The honored Police Commissioner made a thank–you speech and was very moved. When the ceremony was finished he was lifted on people's shoulders and carried around while everyone was shouting “hurrah, hurrah.”

The new Police Commissioner who came to replace him was also present. He was more of a spectator than a participant. He thought to himself, “What a beautiful spectacle. Everything is good and lovely, but what is the end?” The superior of the Police Commissioner knows very well about the Revolutionary Movement in town. He knows how big the Bund is, the S.S. (Territorialists), the Poali Zion. He even knows there are a few anarchists and Russian Nationalists. He knows even about the only Jewish Pe–Pe–Es'nik, which the Polish Party educated and trained to organize but did not use because they committed terror acts in the big cities in Poland. He knows there are meetings around town, discussions in the house of study, in the orchard, in the alleys of the trees, in the Warsaw streets, and in the forests of Vishnek, Patzu, and others. The Police Commissioner reigns over a large territory for a few years and does absolutely nothing at all. It is not for nothing that the Police Commissioner lost the trust of his superior. Once there came to the county office an anonymous report that 2 dangerous revolutionaries came to Sislevitch. The Superior right away sent some of the Volkovisk Police to make a search in the middle of the night without the knowledge, until the last minute, of the Police Commissioner. The two revolutionaries were watch makers. They really came to look for work, and they found jobs here. One of them had the flu which was an epidemic at that time. The searchers even checked the pieces of toilet paper. Even though

[Page 101]

they didn't find anything, the Superior still didn't trust the Police Commissioner.

“ For his popularity in the community the Police Commissioner now pays a dear price. The Police Commissioner is not only for the little town but he is over the whole state which takes in a few little towns and many villages. The job of the Superior, although he is over a big city, in reality has a lower level job. A Russian officer must be very smart to protect his livelihood with might and life. The best way to be promoted to a higher rank is to be hated by the population, especially by the Jews. I will remember everything well.”

And sure enough, later on, that's the way it was. The new Police Commissioner showed his dissatisfaction with the 20 Ruble monthly wages he quietly received from corruption. The Jewish Community paid him a bribe for not bothering the kosher butcher shops. He asked for more. The residents understood well that if they gave him more, he would later ask again for more. They were in no hurry to pay him. It didn't take long and he showed what he could do. And the news traveled from mouth to mouth that the Commissioner is going for “sanitary inspection.” Everybody went to their garbage boxes (in their back yard) and made them as neat as possible. They swept the yards with brooms and sprinkled yellow sand on the ground, just like the floors in their homes. The Police Commissioner, together with another clerk came, and if they found a piece of paper on the ground or the garbage box didn't appeal to him, he would write up a protocol (report) and that is the way he went from house to house.

Very often you can see him late at night sneaking around behind the windows with his ears pointed to the apartments. Probably he is preparing to grab a Revolutionary. With meetings and gatherings we have to be very careful. We have to put guards very close, one next to the other. We have to improve our system of signals through whistles. The Revolutionaries came to the decision that the only thing that could help (them) was to win over the Police Commissioner. Ssshsh, I can hear a bugle. Yes, it

[Page 102]

is the bugle.There is a fire somewhere. I take a look out the window and I see very close–by a fire. I think it is Mosha Yahuda, the tailor's house. I run outside and I can feel that Mendel Isaac Pinhas is enjoying and getting a lot of pleasure blowing the bugle, and very loud. It is about an hour after dinner. Outside there is mud, and it is wet and slippery. Everybody is running to Amstibover Street and enjoying doing a mitzvah and yelling out “fire.” We can soon see them coming with the barrels of water on wheels or a pump on wheels, and we put up our hands and help them get to the fire. Still further, where the gate to close the city over night against enemies is located, close to the School for Christian Boys from town and close villages, burned an old barn. On a wet evening like that, from what and how it happened nobody knows.

Everybody who helped put out the fire was proud of himself. But who can compare to the Russian who held the water hose in his hands. He was so shaky and worried somebody would take it away from him. He listened to me, a young, schnook like I am, what I told him. I told him “I read somewhere that a wide stream of water from a hose puts out the fire better than a solid stream.” I yelled at him, “Spread it.” Right away he put his hand on the opening of the hose and spread around the water.

The barn was torn apart into pieces and the fire was as good as out. The crowd was getting smaller and smaller. Sometimes we could hear a creak from one end of the ruins and then an answer from the other end.

It was a tradition, and maybe also a law for many years that the Police Commissioner must come to take a look at the scene of the fire. The next morning I heard the news; when the Police Commissioner went back (home) from the fire, some strong, agile

person sneaked behind him with a rock in his hand and gave him (the Police Commissioner) a blow to his head. And now the Police Commissioner is bed–ridden and we don't know if he is going to survive. He laid there for many weeks.

[Page 103]

When he recovered he became a good man, a soft one. So good “you could put him on an open sore (very literal Yiddish translation).”

And Sislevitch became very lucky to have the best Police Commissioner they ever had. They told me that before he left they gave him a bigger good–bye party than the previous Police Commissioner. Years later I was told that the hero (boy) who did the town such a good dead was Moshka Potsoher.

Picture: In the Box it says “S.O.S.P.”
26/VI/38r
1938
Firemen In Action


[Pages 108-111]

The Destruction of Svisloch

by A. Ayin

According to the article of A. Ayin in the Yizkor book of Volkovisk, according to the testimony of: Simcha Kaplan, Emanuel Goldberg, Meir Galperin, Avraham Stopszowski, Berl Orlanski, Yerachmiel Lipszitz – partisan, and according to the testimony of two Christians from Svisloch.

In September 1939, German airplanes bombed the military train in the Svisloch train station, and a large number of Polish soldiers were killed. After a short time, the Red Army conquered the town.

A civic committee was established under their rule. The leather factory was confiscated, and a director from outside was appointed. Similarly, the best houses were confiscated for the use of outside officials. These included the houses of the rabbi, Leizer Chaliota, Minkes, and others. Religious study was forbidden, and the cheders were closed. Life slowly got established, and the residents began to become accustomed to the new authorities.

The Germans attacked the town from the air in June 1941. They spread leaflets stating that they had come to free the world of Jews, and that their property would be confiscated for the benefit of the Christians. Many set out to flee to Russia, but the routes were already blocked. The Nazis conquered the town on June 26, 1941. On the first day of the occupation, an edict was issued ordering all of the Jews to register and to wear a white band on their left arm. A few days later, the Jews were ordered to wear a 10 cm yellow patch on the left side of the chest and a second patch on the back of the right shoulder.

Many young Jews were shot during those days under the pretext that they were Communists. Heavy fines of money and goods were imposed on the Jews, with terms of a few hours for payment. The penalty for non–payment would be immediate shooting. There were Christians who collaborated with the Nazis. Many of them turned into Nazi followers, and snatched Jewish homes and businesses.

In accordance with an edict of the Nazis, a council was formed, headed by Szlachter, the principal of the Hebrew school, and assisted by Efraim Zadnowicz. The other members of the council were Mendel Wigonski, Alter Borda, Motka Kalmanowicz. The secretaries were Dr. B. Meizel and Pinia Kleinerman. All edicts were sent to this council, and it was responsible for carrying them out. In July 1941, a ghetto was established through an edict of the Nazis. It included the area of the synagogue courtyard and Grodno Street. The Jews were commanded to move to the ghetto on that day, and to bring their horses and livestock to the market to give over to the Christians. Life in the ghetto became hell. The murderers would break in to the ghetto, beat the Jews and steal whatever they wanted. The Jews were forced to work at all sorts of difficult, degrading tasks under the constant guard of Nazi gendarmes. Announcements were posted on the streets forbidding Christians under pain of death to sell anything to the Jews, particularly food. Nevertheless, an underground commerce opened up between the Jews and the Christians.

In the spring of 1942, Commander Adenbach summoned the head of the council and commanded him to gather together all of the Jews between the ages of 15 and 60, men and women, to send them to work on the road that had been paved between Baranovitch and Bialystok. The edict was filled immediately. The Jews of Svisloch worked on the section that was next to the village of Kvatery. They worked for 12 hours consecutively, with meager food. Nevertheless, they worked diligently under the false hope that this would save them from death. Despite this, the Nazis found reasons to beat many workers over the head with rubber clubs. When the Jews asked for help from the council, the request would be turned to the commander and the officials, who would accept bribes for whatever they still had. The beatings would then stop for a short period, and would then start again with greater strength, in order to extort from the Jews the rest of their clothing and money. Thus were the Jews tortured throughout the summer of 1942. The work was completed at the end of October 1942, and the Jews returned to Svisloch.

On Saturday, October 30, 1942, the Christians were ordered to prepare 500 wagons. The rumor spread that this was to expel the Jews from the town.

At dawn on November 2, the Germany army and Ukrainian, White Russian and Polish gendarmes surrounded the town. On Monday, November 2, 1942 (Cheshvan 22, 5702), at 5:00 a.m. they began to expel the Jews from their homes, including the elderly and infirm. All of them were commanded to gather in the marketplace. They were permitted to take only their personal clothes. The gathering area was in the destroyed stores between Amstiwowa and Radawka streets. The marketplace was sealed off. The Christians were commanded to watch the spectacle. At 8:00 a.m. Commander Adenbach came as the head of the German captains and began to sort the Jews: the youths and middle aged people in one place, the elderly and infirm together, and the women and children together. The group of youths was arranged into rows of four and marched to the train station via Brisk Street. Many people whose bags were too heavy to carry left their bags aside, and the Christians snatched them. At the train station, they were loaded onto transport wagons, 80 in a wagon, and sent out in the direction of Volkovisk. A few remained outside due to a shortage of space on the wagons. Those were gathered together, sent out to the Wyszbinik Forest and shot. The elderly, women and children were led along Rodowka Street and Hauf Gasse to the Wyszbinik Forest. Those who fell behind were loaded onto wagons, including the rabbi of the town, Rabbi Chaim Yaakov Miszkinski, his wife, and other town notables.

Pits had been prepared in the forest. The victims were commanded to strip down to their underwear. They were lined up in rows of ten, led to the pits, and shot. According to the testimony of Simcha Kaplan, the rabbi lectured to them to encourage them in the Sanctification of the Divine Name[1]. They did not shoot the small children, but rather tossed them into the pit alive. Some were beaten over the head with clubs. (As told over by a Christian). Some of the Jews were appointed to bury the quivering bodies. They were promised that they would be left to live. The forest was surrounded with a heavy guard to ensure that nobody would escape. This murder aktion lasted all day. Toward the evening, when they realized that the slaughter had not yet finished, the rest were lined up in rows and shot. All of them, including those lightly injured, were cast into the pits. After the conclusion of the slaughter, the murderers went up to a villa in the forest and celebrated all night. The Jews who were involved in the burial were imprisoned in the cellar of the villa. They too were shot the next day. According to the testimony of Avraham Stowaszewski, several succeeded in escaping from the villa. However, they made an error. Rather then running in the direction of the Bilibizh Forest, they ran in the direction of the Biritowicz station, where they were captured and murdered.

The belongings of the Jews were gathered up by the Germans and brought to a grain storehouse. The best were sent to Germany and the rest were sold or distributed to the local Hitlerists.

The youths were brought to Volkovisk, and put up in six bunkers (for their fate, see the next article). Out of a population of 3,500 Jews of Svisloch, only four remained alive: Meir Galperin escaped to Bialystok, and was sent from there to a work camp; Berl Orlanski escaped from the camp in Volkovisk and succeeded in joining up with the partisans. Niame Lewin was tortured in the Auschwitz and Dachau camps until she was liberated by the American army; Yerachmiel Lipszitz escaped to Bialystok and also succeeded in joining the partisans. One girl, Alta Szeweliwicz (the daughter of Yossel Broszka) also was in Auschwitz until the liberation. Then, she came back to see her native city, and was murdered by Polish murderers who recognized her as a Jewess. Aside from those, 38 Jews who were living in the region during the Nazi occupation survived. Some of them were by chance in different places at the time of the conquest of the city, others escaped from the camps and joined the partisans, and still others served in the Red Army or were sent to Siberia at the time of the Russian conquest of the city.

Photo page 111: The children of Pinchas Alichowicz.


Translator's Footnote

  1. A textual footnote appear here, at the bottom of page 110: “Simcha Kaplan was not among them. He heard these things from Christians, when he went to visit Svisloch after the war.” Return


[Pages 112-114]

The Torture that the Svisloch Natives
Endured in the Volkovisk Ghetto

by the Editor

The information given here is what I gleaned from the booklet on Volkovisk published by “YIVO Bletter”, which mentions the martyrs of the area including the martyrs of Svisloch, and other testimonies.

All of the Jews 40 years old and older (according to the words of Mrs. Winkelstein), were concentrated in a narrow ghetto, consisting of the synagogue courtyard and the new alley. The younger people were expelled to a prison in Volkovisk. The number of deportees was at first shrunk by the murder of 10% of them. This was done by arbitrary selection or a “game” by the Germans. Dr. Noach Kaplinski relates in the booklet on Volkovisk, page 20: “The commissar made a game in Svisloch. From among the Jews who stood in queues to be deported, he removed 200, and arbitrarily shot every tenth one on the spot.”

When, and in what condition did the deportees arrive at the prison – we can read in the words of Hershel Rotman, page 20, on November 2, 1942: All of the Jews of Volkovisk had to gather by 10:00 next to the barracks. When all of the Volkovisk residents were gathered, camps of Jews began to arrive from the entire region. By Tuesday evening, all of the Jews of Zelva, Porozovo, Amstiwow, Pisk, Mosty, Svisloch, Ruzhany, Liskova, and Izabelin had already gathered. They came tattered, beaten, and weary. They all walked on foot. In exceptional circumstances, the children were brought on wagons.

 

The “Events” in the Bunkers

There were 20,000 people in the bunkers, consisting of two blocks (fifteen bunkers) of Volkovisk. A bunker was designated for about 500 people. Six bunkers were for Svisloch. In accordance with this calculation, there were 3,000 prisoners from Svisloch[1]. From where would there be such a large number of Jews below the age of 40 in Svisloch – for it is impossible to believe that they would have let the Jews of Svisloch live spaciously without filling up the bunkers. It is clear that what is written above regarding the transport of 200 was only one of the transports. Other places in the booklet also imply that the number of Svisloch Jews in this prison was large. The fact that the Jews of Svisloch, along with the Jews of Volkovisk and Ruzhany were left for the last implies that the deportation to the death camps was in inverse proportion to the number of Jews in each community. They started with the smaller communities and ended with the larger ones. The community of Svisloch was one of the last.

It would seem that in the most recent period, refugees came to Svisloch, which was a city of manufacturing and industry. Perhaps as well the small communities in the neighborhood of Svisloch were numbered along with Svisloch.

 

The Torture in the Bunkers

I will not tell about the torture of the Jews of Svisloch separately. Since the fate of all of them was the same, it is sufficient to discuss the fate of the martyrs in general before they were sent to the death camps. We will bring only two sections of what is stated there: “The hunger grew stronger. When it was heard that a transport of potatoes arrived at the camp, the starving Jews fell upon the wagons, for everyone wanted to assure himself of a few potatoes. Immediately, shots were heard. These were the shots of the German guard into the crowd due to the “disruption of order”. Several people died and were wounded. However, the hunger was greater than the fear of the gun. This scenario was repeated several times a day. The hunger dictated that people would risk their lives for a few frozen potatoes (page 43).

In another place, a delousing of a group of 70 people from bunker number 3 is described. “Late one evening, when the bunker prisoners were already sleeping except for those ones, plates of sulfur were ignited. The doors were closed with the 70 people inside. Only the unfortunate people knew what went on in the bunker that night. We got an idea of what went on the next day when we saw as the doors of the bunker were opened. The bunker was saturated with the odor of sulfur (sulfur dioxide). The vast majority of the victims lay dead in various states of contortion and convulsion. The horrible torture was etched upon their faces. Others were still snorting with their last energy. One girl was groaning almost inaudibly, “Water, water”. One young person with amputated legs lay with his face in the plate. His head was down and his legless body was stretched upward. Apparently, he wished to quench the burning sulfur with his body. Thus did 70 Jews die in terrible agony by a gas that would have barely been able to kill insects and lice through a duration of 12 hours.”

The rest were deported to the camps of Auschwitz and Treblinka. They were not deported all at once, but rather in transports. The Jews of Svisloch and Volkovisk were in the final transport, perhaps because these were the largest communities. By December 20, only 5,000 of the 20,000 Jews that were in the camp remained. These were mainly Jews of Volkovisk and Svisloch (page 21).

Here is not the place to review the spiritual and physical torture in the death camps, for much has already been written about this, and the fate of the Jews of Svisloch was certainly no different than the fate of their millions of companions. The annihilation was complete, with the exception of a few remnants, a portion of who were later killed. We will quote what was written there (page 34) about the survivors. Hershel Rotman writes: “From the Volkovisk transport, Yosef Kotlirski and Niame Lewin of Svisloch came with me to Dachau. They survived.”

Photo page 114: The daughters of Dina Drachinska–Eden of blessed memory.

“From the people of the Volkovisk camp, only a few girls remained, including Alta Szeweliwicz.” Her fate is described in the preceding article.


Translator's Footnote

  1. There appears to be an error here. If there were 20,000 gathered, and 500 people per bunker, there would be 40 bunkers rather than 15. Return


[Page 115]

The Testimony of Mrs. Winkelstein

I was already not in the town at the time of its annihilation. I fled to Minsk in 1941, and from there I wandered to various places in Russia.

I girded myself to return to Svisloch after the war. I arrived in the town via Baranovitch and Slonim.

The Jewish city was completely burnt, except for Savcza Olica (The Street of the Dogs) – the place of the tanneries. The remnants of the government were found in the rest of the houses. In the town, I found a lone Jew, Leibel Edelsztejn, who had also returned from wandering. My situation was extremely difficult. I was in constant fear, for the Jew hatred peered forth from the wrathful eyes of every gentile.

They looked at me as a madwoman. They were surprised that a Jewish soul had remained. I slept at the home of a gentile by the name of Distnik who in his day had been poor. Now, all good things were found in his home: furniture, blankets, dishes – all from the booty.

From the gentiles, I heard about the Holocaust that had passed through the town. At first (they did not know dates) they enumerated the Jews by age and sex. The young women were placed separately, and the men separately. According to the gentiles, they were sent to Malkin (Treblinka). The rest were concentrated together in the synagogue courtyard and its near environs (the ghetto). Three families were placed in each house. They were permitted to conduct business and to work. Apparently, the Svisloch hide manufacturing continued on. Their situation was relatively good, which misled them to believe that they would not be afflicted.

The gentiles told about the annihilation. All of the remaining people between the ages of 40–60 were gathered up. They were told to take suitcases. The entire camp, headed by Rabbi Miszkinski and the Shamash Melech, was brought to the Wyszbinik Forest. The gentiles (Poles and Russians) had prepared a large grave there beforehand. They stripped their clothes, sent them into the pit, and buried them alive. The grave – as was related – pulsated for some time (The person relating this sighed at this point.)

I saw a tablet with a Magen David upon the grave, upon which was inscribed “The Jews of Svisloch”. I do not know who erected this marker.


[Pages 116-117]

From the Letter of Yerachmiel,
a Svisloch Partisan

Germany, October 8, 1947.

Hello to you Moshe, and all who ask about me, many greetings!

Forgive me for my poor Hebrew. Of course, this is due to the seven years that I did not use the language at all. On the contrary I attempted to “uproot it”. This was the tendency in Russia. Are you interested in the matter of Naftali?

“I let Naftali in 1941, during the days of the Germans. In the Svisloch Ghetto, we were often together for many hours, and we always talked about you fortunate people. Naftali worked as the assistant to the secretary of the Judenrat, Pinia Kleinerman. This work exempted him from the backbreaking work of the accursed Nazis. I saw your father often. On numerous occasions, he even worked at the backbreaking work together with the rest of the Jews, but from the time he became the “honorable chairman of the Judenrat”, he was completely exempted from the forced labor of the Nazis. On the terrible day of the aktion, your mother and father were the first to fall in sanctification of the Jewish name. Afterward, all the rest of the elders and important people of the city were murdered. Naftali ended up in the young people's camp, and became part of the Volkovisk Concentration Camp. Your brother escaped from there along with Yaakov Golombowicz, Yerachmiel Wytnik, Tzvi Kapusta and several other youths from the Svisloch region. As Tzvi Kapusta told me, a disagreement broke out between the fleeing youths. Yaakov Golombowicz said that one of the farmers should be paid to guard their souls from the Nazis until the end of the war. Yaakov had enough money. I do not remember the opinion of Naftali. Yerachmiel Wytnik said that that proper route was to obtain weapons and join the partisans. As I was told, your brother and Yaakov did not support this idea, and therefore the members rose up against Yaakov and extorted his money. Downtrodden and beaten, your brother took him, and they returned to the Volkovisk camp. However, the Nazi guards murdered them before they arrived.

Favar Szlachter the director told me about their murder and deaths. He is also not alive. With regard to the story of the rest of the group, I examined the matter carefully, and found that Kapusta's story was correct.

I will tell you in brief about the events of my life. I lived in Svisloch until the outbreak of the war with the Nazis. I worked for sometime at forced labor. When I was still in Svisloch, I became convinced that only the partisans had found a proper means of revenge, so I joined them. Slowly at first, and later in the open, I went out against the Nazis. Despite the announcement that I issued and my calls to those that were prepared to do so to come out to the forest, the people of my town did not listen to me. Thus, the members of my family were also murdered, despite the fact that they knew that they had a forest, and that I was in the forest. I grieve and have no comfort over this. I found comfort in the Bialystok Ghetto. I entered it to publish an announcement. I found an echo to my voice. A strong partisan group, consisting mainly of Jews, was set up under my direction in the forests of Kryniki and Jalowka. Most of them are still alive. Many of those who excelled remained in Russia, but I with my “tokens” and five letters of thanks from Stalin that I received for my excellence in battle – I brought with me here. The main thing was faith. I did not weep about my fate; my eyes no longer shed tears. I went straight to life; I left the fortunes of Russia even though I was a devoted Communist in Russia. I became engaged to a woman, and now I have a wife and a son. I have one comfort, which is the knowledge that hundreds of Nazis and Germans fell at my hands. I exacted revenge for the book of my family, and I did not allow the honor of our nation to be desecrated.

Photo page 117: The Families of Moshe Rubin and Shmaryahu Margolis who perished in the war, and the Shay family.

I visited Svisloch last year, and I found letters from survivors. I got them in touch with their relatives through Ayin in America, and I also found comfort from that.

I saw Svisloch, the communal grave, the destroyed cemetery, and the gravestones that to this day are wallowing in the floors, streets and yards. I saw the bitter situation and fled from there straight into the future.

I wish you a year of your own liberty and freedom

Yerachmiel

 

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