Translated from Yiddish to English by Martin Jacobs One frosty Sunday the skin which covered her protruding bones collapsed, never again to rise up. The horse died at the hole in the ice just when its owner, Itshe Shtumak, (Itshe the Stammerer) was filling a barrel with water to bring to his customers, the good people of the town.
He stood for a while holding the empty bucket and thought: A foolish animal! She went a whole night without tasting the bit of straw that I gave her. If you had eaten, you would not have come to such a bad end. And if you did pass away, you could have died in your own stall and not come here to the ice hole pulling the sled and the barrel. Now who will drag them up the mountain to town?
Itshe took off the wet frozen bag which he wore over his torn trousers, threw it over the hole of the half filled barrel, and stared at the beast. I no longer have to worry about you. You're done with your world, but what am I to do now? You've left me five orphans, and I, Itshe Shtumak, am a sixth. It's good that my Chaye-Leye didn't live to see this.
Seeing that the collar was still on the horse's neck, it occurred to him that it might be choking him. He went over, bent down, and tried to take the collar off. Rest in peace, he thought to himself. For four years you dragged the water with me; if only you waited a couple of years, little Henekh would be earning money working for Shmuel-Ber the tailor. He's been learning the work altogether now for two years.
"Henekh is a dear child. A warmth went through Itshe's whole body. And Yisekher, such a smart child. He can already say his prayers by heart. If I hadn't been a water-carrier I would have been enough! I'm not a water-carrier any longer. Without a horse, with just a sled what will I carry? What will I carry? He went over to the carcass and gave it a kick. Carry water! On your neck, with a couple of straps, up the mountain. He lifted his eyes to the mountain top, lost in thought, big tears moistening his frozen silent face.
I have to notify the knacker, the buyer of carcasses, Yashek Kozhol. You can't leave a carcass lying at the ice hole. Itshe thought. He tightened the cord on his trousers, looked at the sled and barrel, and began his climb up the hill. At the top Chatskl the water-carrier's sled appeared. His big, blind horse shook his head, as though he was trying to feel his way in the dark. He knew the way down the mountain very well. Many a time had he fallen there and injured his old bones. These days Chatskl the water-carrier no longer held the reins; he relied completely on his blind horse. Coming to a ditch, the horse swerved to the right on its own. It would have occurred to no one that the horse was blind. For equine intelligence this was nothing. This is why Chatskl loved his horse.
Chatskl very much hated it when someone said to him, Your blind horse rides well. Even if it was his best customer, the finest citizen, he became angry and answered with anger. What does it have to do with you that the horse is blind? Aren't you getting your water?
Chatskl saw from the mountain top that Itshe Shtumak's horse and sled were parked at the ice hole. But what happened? Why was the horse lying down? He asked himself that question, and, looking at the river, he gave himself the answer: It's dead. What will Itshe Shumak do now, when he has five orphan children? A feeling of pity enveloped him. He pushed back his astrakhan hat, revealing his wrinkled brow. He stroked his beard: The Master of the Universe didn't have anyone's horse to kill, so he chose Itshe Shtumak's.
How is Itshe Shtumak to blame? As far as I'm concerned his horse could have lived a hundred and twenty years. The townspeople are to blame! Bring them water in the coldest frost, in a blizzard, in rain, lie on the ice and open the ice hole, all for three groshen a trip.
Itshe Shtumak came up opposite Chatskl's sled. He turned his head away so as not to see him. He was embarrassed and heavy in his heart. He stood there out of breath. Chatskl looked at him and said, Good morning. Itshe shook his head and pointed to the river. Finished, he stammered to Chatskl (you could understand him, although since his tongue and palate were fused together it was hard for him to talk). Dead! I'll go tell the knacker.
Chatskl the water-carrier got up from his seat. Where are you going? To the knacker? On foot? Get on the sled. I'll drive you.
No, Chatskl. You've got to deliver water for my customers too.The sad news that Itshe Shtumak's horse had died spread through the town. The housewives began to look into how their water was holding out. Itshe Shtumak's customers were very much afraid and started thinking about what they would do. Chatskl the water-carrier's customers remained calm and confidant. He will take care of his customers. . . no problem!, they thought.
Let them get it themselves. To deliver water for three groshen a trip! Let them get it themselves! Get on! Chatskl called out. Five groshen. Otherwise no water.
You're right, Reb Chatskl. Five groshen a trip, otherwise no water. Now you can do it; you're the only carrier.
Now and later! Don't be a fool, you'll deliver water too. But for five groshen a trip, do you hear? Otherwise we don't deliver.
Itshe, Chatskl called out. Tomorrow is Monday, market day. Tomorrow you'll buy a horse. But buy a good one. I have twenty rubles, I'll lend them to you; you'll pay me back a bit at a time. At five groshen a trip there will even be enough for you to do good deeds.
When Chaye-Tsirl, the baker, heard of the misfortune, she wrung her hands and ran out from behind her counter onto the narrow wooden bridge Perhaps she might see Chatskl and talk to him, get him to see you can't run a bakery without water. Well, we'll have to give a two gulden contribution to buy Shtumak a horse. It won't be the first time. she thought to herself.
Chatskl went out very early to the old market place. Itshe was already there, looking around at the horses tied to the railing.
Good morning, Reb Chatskl.Chatskl touched the pocket where his twenty rubles were. Agree on a price, Itshe, and come, let's go inform the customers that from now on they'll be paying five groshen a trip. Good luck! Take its reins, Chatskl yelled. This is an animal you must be able to lead.
Itshe, come here a moment. Do you see this animal? This is a horse for a water-carrier. Look at his legs. Look at his chest. This is the one for you. Do you have to have eyes? What does it matter to you that he's blind? A horse doesn't need eyes; it needs legs! It needs strength! Itshe, listen to me.
If you say so, Reb Chatskl, there's nothing to think about. Who knows better than you what a water-carrier needs.
The great chestnut horse shook its head, as though it was looking into the darkness, trying to find out who its new master was. There was something strange about his speech. When Itshe Shtumak pulled on the rope and stammered out: Doh! it followed him.
Come, Reb Chatskl Let's doh drink lekhayim. I have a dulden; it's like simchi-teyre (Simchas Torah) for us today.Chaye-Tsirl, the baker, went out onto the little wooden bridge; seeing Itshe Shtumak leading a big horse, her face lit up. We'll soon have water, thank God. But how did Shtumak come up with the money to buy such a stallion? And he complains that the little Shtumaks have nothing to eat! He'll give me buckets full to the brim if he wants to deliver for me.
Good morning. The three of them drew near the bridge with a heavy step. Itshe walked in front pulling the beast by the rope which hung from the bridle. At his side, between Itshe and the horse, came Chatskl the water-carrier.Itshe gave a pull on the bridle. Come, he said to the horse. Chatskl followed them.
We've come to tell you that from now on the price is five groshen a trip and you. . . .
Did you ever hear such a thing? Suddenly, out of nowhere, five groshen a trip! When he got three he had with what to buy a stallion like this, but he wants five! She pointed at Itshe. I'll stuff him full of five groshen a trip! Never in all my life have I heard such a thing! I won't bake! We hardly pay that for a sack of flour, so I should give them five groshen a trip for water? Her breath failed her from talking so loud and she remained silent.
Thieves! Chaye-Tsirl shouted after them. You're leaving me without water right in the middle of a Monday. Come back! I'll give you four groshen, alright?Itshe and the horse stopped; he turned to Chatskl and looked at him, waiting to see what he would tell him to do.
Five groshen, the same for everyone! For the bakerman Dyadye, for Peshe the bakerwoman, for everyone the same. One price for the whole town. Chatskl stated clearly.
So when will you start delivering? An end to this! Just don't leave me without water, Chaye-Tsirl yielded.
If necessary we'll deliver all night. You won't be without water, Chatskl answered.
Chatskl! Itshe Shtumak stammering cried out. Chatskl, I have a dilden, come, let's drink lekhayim. Today is our simchi-teyri. It's like moshiach arrived. If Chaye-Tsirl is divving five droshen a trip, everyone will div.
Simchi -teyri Chatskl ! Simchi- teyri!
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund The picture of our shtetl, before the destruction, where we were born and spent the best years of our lives stands before my eyes as if alive. Every street, every house, garden, orchard, forest and the entire environs stands before me. I see the shul on the shul hill and the river beneath the hill. I remember the yomim-tovim, joyous days and also the sad moments through which I lived in Goniadz.
Goniadz was a shtetl like other shtetlekh in exile Poland, with communal activities and institutions, in which the whole of Jewish life in Poland was reflected. It was soaked in Torah and tradition, idealism and the love of Israel, like all the shtetlekh.
Goniadz was a pioneer shtetl in one respect modern Hebrew education. The Hebrew full day school where all general and Jewish subjects were taught in Hebrew, was the first of its kind in Poland. Those who stood by its cradle put their entire youthful fervor and idealism into it. The entire pioneer and Zionist work of the shtetl grew from the school.
The Tarbut library stands before me with its wide circle of readers. The communal activities in connection with elections to the Sejm, to the Zionist Congress and so on, were centered around it.
I am reminded of Hahalutz and Halutz-Hatzeir, which prepared a great number of pioneers for Eretz-Yisroel; the Jewish school that was supported by the so-called proletariat element; the stormy gatherings and meetings where the various ideologies that reigned in the Jewish neighborhood were discussed.
I also remember the two benches at the gemiles-khesid which supported the shop owners and artisans during difficult times, when the taxes were high and oppressive. I also cannot forget the community institutions, lines hatzedek and bikur-holim, which often kept the needy alive.
There were Jews here with warm hearts, compassion, community workers, scholars, simple people and also paupers.
All, all, without exception or discrimination, perished in the great devastation of Polish Jewry. It is difficult to find expression for this great pain and calamity. We can only say that they will live in our memory for eternity.
May this yizkor book be a living matzevah and an eternal memorial for them and for the beloved and cherished shtetl of our birth.
1. town; plural: shtetlekh Return
2. synagogue Return
3. religious holidays Return
4. Tarbut was a Zionist network of educational institutions, such as schools and libraries. Return
5. the lower house of the Polish parliament Return
6. organization training agricultural workers before emigration to Eretz-Yisroel Return
7. Zionist Youth Movement Return
8. interest free loan society Return
9. poorhouse Return
10. organization for visiting the sick Return
11. memorial Return
12. headstone Return
Translated from Yiddish to English by Martin Jacobs
For the souls of the six million slain of our people (may the Lord avenge their blood)
I light six candles --
Six candles which burn darkly
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
To the eternal memory of my dear parents, Note and Dwoshe Altshuld
The Germans occupied Goniadz on the first of September, 1939. Immediately upon their arrival in the shtetl, the German vandals looted Jewish possessions and made a ruin of our beautiful, historic synagogue which had adorned our shtetl with its particularly local architectural style and also its distinct solitary position on the highest point in the entire area.
The Germans withdrew from Goniadz after several weeks as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and Goniadz was occupied by the Russians in the month of September 1939. At first, the life of the Goniadz Jewish population, which numbered more than 1,000 souls, was difficult. They could not accustom themselves to the new way of life that the Bolsheviks brought to the shtetl.
But a short time later, life became a little easier. A special office was founded whose purpose was to provide the population with the necessary products for living. The office began to bake bread for the population. Several government store cooperatives were opened at which Jews were employed in most cases. Jews were also employed in various institutions and institutes that were founded in the shtetl. The Jews also took a major role in the city council.
The Jewish artisans tailors, shoemakers, capmakers, and the like proceeded with their work from which they fed their families, but with relative quiet and stillness. Thus, the life of the Goniadz Jewish population proceeded for nearly a year and 10 months until Sunday, the 22nd of June, 1941.
On Sunday night the Russian military regime issued an order that all citizens, former military members, must appear for military service immediately. A large number of young men obeyed this order; only a small number hid.
Arriving at the headquarters, I reported to the commander on duty, whose appearance expressed disquiet and anger. I immediately received an order to take an auto from the N.Z. (that is, the autos that were used only in extraordinary cases such as, for example, war or other special occurrences). I had already gone through military exercises twice with the battalion (so that I already knew everything from earlier). The autos stood in Berl Rudski's courtyard. Upon arrival there I tried to start the autos, one after the other, but, alas, without success. Each vehicle was missing another part. It appeared that the earlier drivers had taken out the parts for other automobiles and these were left standing Then the door opened in Grodjenski's house and the woman, Chinke, came out. She looked at me in amazement that I was working here in the middle of the night. But she did not ask me anything because I was guarded by a Red Army member with a gun. Seeing that I could not do anything, I announced to the commander that the vehicles could in no case be readied for departure because they were missing necessary parts. The commander became very excited and cursed: Eto sabotazh, svolochi. Rasstrelyat vas. (This is sabotage; we need to shoot you, outsiders, scoundrels!). In spite of the cursing by the commander, the vehicles would not move from the spot After long labor and searching, we were successful in borrowing a part from another military formation. The commander praised my initiative and ordered me to go to the observation points and take the soldiers stationed there away. The points were in various nearby villages around Goniadz. Leaving I saw a group of Jews in discussion standing at the market; they accompanied me with astonished looks, not asking what had happened. Perhaps they still only believed that these were exercises, as many of the members of the Red Army also believed. The roads were bombed and were full of holes several meters long and wide. I had to drive through the fields because it was impossible to travel on the highway. There were broken pieces of machine guns, dead horses, cows and also members of the Red Army, who asked for help. But no one was concerned about them; everyone ran farther My vehicle rocked as a ship on a turbulent sea, making my way through fields and forests, arriving at various points and giving them the orders from the headquarters Retreat! The Red Army quickly left their positions leaving all of their military equipment abandoned.
In the evening I came back to Gonaidz. A dead silence reigned in the shtetl. The streets were dead. No lights were seen in the houses. Darkness around and around. I was controlled by anxiety; I wanted very much to be among friends and acquaintances. I asked my commander for permission to go see my acquaintance, but after 10 minutes I, alas, received an order to remain in the vehicle because conditions were unusual and moving from the spot would result in shooting. Despite this I was successful in dropping in for several minutes to my good friends, to the family of Moshe Leizer Grajenski while my vehicle stood in Berl Rudski's courtyard. Knocking quietly, Moshe Leizer's wife opened the door to me. Her facial expression expressed fear and despair. The same was also noticeable on the faces of the remaining people in the house. Quietly she told me that her son, Gdalke, had also been mobilized by the Russian military and several others with him: Asher Szirtes [the teacher], Zeidl Khazan [Chenye Peshe's son], Ahrele Reznicka (Beilke the baker's son], Leibl Brumer (Yehoshua the tinsmith's son]. I spent about 10 minutes with the Grajenski family and I left them with a grieving heart, feeling that I would never see them again. Upon leaving, I heard a sad, heartbreaking, quiet cry I stopped near my vehicle. A dead silence reigned in the entire shtetl. From afar was heard something exploding, which became louder and louder apparently the danger was getting closer A great compassion awoke in my heart for the desolate Goniadz Jews who were now apparently sleeping calmly, not having any idea about the great misfortune that would appear in the morning A strong desire awoke in me to be with friends and acquaintances, who were so close to me and so far It began to get light. My commander gave me 15 minutes. My first visit was with my friend, Ida Rudski, in her residence on Kaszcalne Street in Ruwin the shoemaker's house. The shutters were closed. A soft rap and Ida opened the door for me with fear and dispiritedness. After speaking several words, she asked: What will be? And what will happen to Zeidl? I cannot give an answer to your questions, Ida, I answered. But I would advise you to go to Suchowola, to your friend, Kohn, because you have no one here in Goniadz and you feel lonely. Her answer to my advice was a sharp sigh and a quiet, bitter cry Wanting to encourage her a little, I said at taking my leave that during a bad time one must not lose their courage. And it could be possible that when I quickly visit her a second time, we will speak with joy of the past suffering. She smiled and said: Halevay.
Going out into the street, I encountered the butcher, Leibl Tikocki, asking: What will be, Zeidl? Immediately, Zeidl Sidanski, Chava Furman, Moshe Feiwl Bialosukenski and several other Jews also approached and we began to speak politics. I crept away and went to my friend, Yankl Mankowski, who was full of worry and grief. We parted with the blessing, See you again in our homeland, and I went to visit the wife of my dear friend, Zelig Newodowski, who had to leave Goniadz during the time of Soviet rule because of his Zionist activity. His son, Leizer, a talented student in the Hebrew gymnazie in Bialystok, was also not at home at that time. Only the wife, Fanya Newodowski, and their small daughters were at home. Mrs. Newodowski greeted me with a cry, asking what should she do? She was alone. She did not know where Zelig was and she also had no news from her son Her crying tore my heart in pieces. I tried to calm her, but it was impossible. With a broken heart, I said goodbye to her and her small daughters and I quickly ran to headquarters. Entering headquarters, I received an order to drive in the direction of Bialystok. I left my shtetl, Goniadz, on Monday, the 23rd of June 1941 at 10 o'clock in the morning.
I stopped at the market for a while where many very sincere friends and acquaintances were gathered to take leave of me. One, an old Jew, called after me aloud: The Lord bless and preserve thee on the path on which you go. Peace! In that time of danger, it seemed to me that I heard the words of the old Jew clear and distinct. My vehicle started to move slowly. A cry was heard Tears also poured from my eyes without stop. Even the commander was moved by what was happening around us We drove past the cemetery in the direction of the Monki railroad station. The gates of the cemetery were half open. A strong desire was awoken in me to enter the cemetery and say goodbye to my parents. But the commander said that when life is in danger, one should not take one step in that direction. But in the depth of my heart, I parted from my parents and from all of my friends and acquaintances
Thus I left my birthplace, Goniadz, and with her, also the friends of my youth with whom I spent my past years. With a broken heart and with great sorrow and pain I parted with you, my dear ones, knowing that great, very great, was the danger that stood before you. And who knew if we would again see each other. But your memory will be engraved in my heart for eternity
Munich, 8 Sivan 5716 (18.5.56)
- Dwoshke is the diminutive of Dwoshe. Return
- town Return
- abbreviation for unknown words Return
- God grant it Return
- secondary school Return
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