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[Page 443]

2. Destruction and Bravery

 

[Page 447]

How I Remember You, Divenishok…

As related by Shoel ben Natl Kaplan

Translation by Tina Lunson

From the book Khurbn Vilne [The Destruction of Vilne],
Edited by Szmerke Kaczerginski, New York, 1947
Published by the United Vilne Relief Committee in New York
TSYKO Book Printing

According to an order from Hanveg, the Area Commissariat in Lida, Jews were driven into Voronova from the surrounding towns of Divenishok, Benakani, Great Soletchnik, Yashny, Kalelishok[1]. Altogether there were 3,000 Jews in the town.

On the 9th of May 1942, the town was encircled by a three-part chain of SS, police, and local residents. We were encircled for three days. Jews were not even forbidden from going outdoors, because there was constant shooting [ed. note: no official curfew was declared].

For the Jews it was already clear what was meant. Some had tried to run away, but many were shot along the way. There were cases where the guards took money from Jews to let them through, but then as soon as the guards took the money they would shot the payers anyway.

On the 10th of May, in the evening, some Jews organized themselves to run away. But that evening Staff Officer Vintsus, from the Lida Area Commissariat, came specifically to announce to the Judenrat that in the morning there would be a document check for all Jews, who would have to go orderly out to the market square, because in Radin there had been misunderstandings this same day with the Jews there who had not behaved [ed. note (Kaczerginski): they had made a rebellion].

In the morning, at five o'clock, before dawn, a troop of drunken Lithuanian SS arrived in Voronova and they drove all the Jews into the market square. In the square, the Jews had to lie down with their heads on the ground.

At the crossroads that led to Lida, by the railroad tracks and Herman Lane, Hanveg was stationed along with Vintsus and other high officers from the area commissariat as well as a representative of the SD (security detail). An order was given to the Jews to lie down according to family. After that they made individual groups stand up to be taken to a sorting place at the crossroads. Each family was led to Vintsus, who decided their fate. Vintsus simply asked the man of the family about his vocational ability and accordingly made the selection. He did not generally ask about larger families. He sorted people into three groups: “straight, left and right.”

“Straight” meant to the mass grave by the right highway to Lida, a kilometer and a half from town, near Balerovski's forest. There, were the prepared pits, four meters deep and fifty meters long, which some peasants had dug-up during the time the Jews had been encircled. Those who went there had to pass through two columns of peasants who beat them horribly with rakes and iron bars.

“Left” meant that if Jews who had been sentenced “straight” began to run away or mount a rebellion, Jews on the “left” would be shot, like hostages.

“Right” - the smallest number were sorted here. Small families and such specialists for whom the Germans might have had a strong need.

I said that I was a miller and was sent with my wife and child to the left, quickly separating me from my parents and my sister Sore.

After the sorting we heard a lot of shooting and, so that the voices of the unfortunate could not be heard in the town, the Germans started up the motor of a truck, the noise drowning out the cries.

The shooting happened like this: the victims were told to undress completely, to nakedness. Only the elderly could stay in their underwear (the Germans were disgusted to look at them). The naked had to go into the grave in groups, lie face down head-to-foot and foot-to-head and as so they were shot. On top of that group, another group was ordered to lie, and so on. This is how they shot 1,800 Jews - men, women and children.

Those who refused to go were rushed with pitch forks by town-dwellers who stabbed the victims through the body and slid them into the pit. They also stabbed children with the pitch forks and pitched them into the pit.

Those left on the right and left were counted. There were 840 Jews. We were taken to the market square, and set down on our knees. Town officials wrote the names of each of us on a list.

Eventually many wagons came from the mass grave with the clothing of those who had been murdered. Some of us even saw the clothing of our own relatives. I recognized my father's jacket.

Hanveg and Vintsus, with his retinue, arrived. Vintsus delivered a speech to us:
“You Jews are guilty for all the wars and so you must be exterminated. The Jewish people are like a snake that will poisoned by its own poison. The rest of you will live for a while and will be sent to work in Lida.”

In a few days those remaining were sent to the Lida ghetto, where they were killed during the liquidation of the ghetto in October 1943.

Related by Shoel ben Natl Kaplan (Voronova)
Vilne, August 31, 1944

 

Translator's Footnote
  1. As of this writing (09/14/2011), this town is unknown to the JewishGen Communities Database. The town name has been transliterated to English from the original text and thus may be an inaccurate translation of the original name. Return


[Page 454]

A Dream

Meir-Yosef Itskovitsh

Translated by Tina Lunson

I dreamed a dream
that peace finally came!
No more fear, no trembling,
Messiah's time – ve-gar ze'ev im keves[1]
as written in the holy Torah.
When human no longer treats human like animal.
Life full of joy and goodness, literally a mekhaye.[2]

I had the desire, as can happen to anyone,
to see my hometown Divenishok again:
Fathers, mothers, sister and brother –
to meet with them again.
I traveled through forests,
I raced over fields,
dragging on day and night by train,
and only saw faces of Stefan and Ivan.[3]

Arriving in Vilne, the Litvak Jerusalem,
leaping through streets, one, a second, a third,
seeking a Freydl, a Sheyndl, a Frume, an Ite,
a Khiene-Reyzl, a Khaye-Shite,
stuck in my state of longing and pleading –
For finding a Jew maybe is possible –
just once in a blue moon.

For nothing I looked in the Benakani station
for the gossipers Meyshe-Aron and Berele-Zalmen
but I could only find
… the mug of Mr. Pole.

On to Divenishok, my town,
where my crib and my little bed stood.
I visited the lock, full of water, not dry,
the frogs observing me with oversized eyes.
They sat in the muddy water,
croaked wearily and slow,
croak, croak, croak –
what are you doing here, Mr. Jew?!
An old frog gave a rumble
and everything grew quite still.
She said to her youngsters:
“Don't talk so much, hold your tongue!
Give this Jew respect and honor,
because his parents raised my parents,
here, in this lock…”

From the lock I walked to Vilne Street,
the houses old and new.
I looked askance to the right and trembled
my glance should not meet an exchange
while my heart was full with pain, and bitter.
Looking left, to the shul courtyard –
from the ruins I felt a dead shiver…

I began to go further – and at the sheykhet's<[4]br> wooden house I stood still.
Recalling memories of childhood years,
summer in the fields, after the rye had been cut,
we stole into his orchard, on the trees
grew little pears, small and fine,
juicy, delicious and sweet,
so eating them was never a shame.
After the sheykhet – Eltshik the tinsmith,
and Eli the maid, somewhat higher.
Across from the Polish food store,
where I am reminded – breaking my heart.
Who could manage to think of it all?
The terrible tumult of our dear brothers?
The misfortune in town, the great breach,
when a wire pierced the eye of Eltshik the tinsmith?

And I go on further, I run.
Here is Sore-Hinde's and Ben-Zion's yard.
In the front a shop with iron goods and linens,
then the big construction over the wall
which served the non-Jews as a restaurant.
Ach, overlooked, forgot to take a look,
as I went by Feygele and Yankl Druk's apartment.

On Subotniki Street I stand still
because I can go no further.
Unwillingly I am drawn there,
perhaps to find a token of “Vilbig” or the “Bees”.[5]
I search at Leybke Alkanitski's restaurant,
the locale of “Betar”.
I search and search – and stand still
like an idiot, a fool – totally alone.
No memories remain, no memory,
only an ache, a sickness, in my heart.

In the market square I stand mute
taking it in, round and round.
I search for the house of Meyshe the tinsmith,
I seek his shabes sanctifying silver goblet.
I want to see his sabbath table,
set with delicious gefilte fish,
lots of out-of-towners and local guests.
But they no more drink, no longer eat.
There's no more blessing…
just the singular surprise
that on Meyshe's chair
sits an Ivan full of joy.

I search further in the market
the short, narrow sidewalk,
and seek there my heart's desire,
my friends Sheynke the rabbi's, Bilke the beggar's.
I turn here and there,
craving just a glance of them.
I talk, I call out, but don't hear an answer.

* *
*
As I said, I dreamed a dream,
I saw a vision – that is how peace came.
I stood a long time there in one place,
awaiting a response – but never heard a word.

 

Footnotes
  1. “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb” (Isaiah: 11:6) [Ed.]Return
  2. A real joy, a pleasure, something to be greatly enjoyed. [Ed.]Return
  3. 'Stefan' and 'Ivan' are used here as generic names for Lithuanians and Russians. [Ed.]Return
  4. Jewish ritual slaughterer of comestible animals. [Tr.]Return
  5. Vilbig and Bees were both Yiddishist, socialist-leaning educational and scout groups for young people.  The Bees was for the younger children, the older youth belonged to the Vilbig [Vilner bildung gezelshaft (Vilna education society)]. Both the Vilbig and the Bees were founded by the Yiddishists, or as they were called in Vilne, the folkists, and both espoused the same political positions. [Ed.]Return

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