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[Page 215]

A Grayeve Partisan Recounts

Mendel Kayman

Translated by Yael Chaver, Ph.D

I was one of a small group of Jews who escaped from Grayeve and shtetls in the vicinity, such as Goniondzh [Goniądz], Trestiny [Trzcianne] etc.

We were lucky to be arrested by a large group of Russian partisans near Leńce [?] (Masuria region). We were jailed for only a few days, but after a series of investigations and checks, they became convinced that we had come to the forest to save ourselves from death. They let us go free and recruited us as equal fighters in their partisan groups. That day we swore an oath that our goal was to fight and take revenge for our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters.

Even in the forest our lives were far from secure. Death lurked on all sides. But at least we knew we wouldn't be killed without resisting—we wouldn't let ourselves be led like sheep to the slaughter. The Germans often mounted raids and we had to be careful not to fall into their murderous hands. Sometimes we hid in bunkers, sometimes retreated further into the forest, but our goal was always to attack the enemy at the slightest chance and make him pay the heaviest possible price for his murders.

One rainy day, we set out, 106 partisans, to “give a lesson” to the Nazi enemy. The “lesson” was given, but only 22 members of our group remained alive. The others were killed in a battle near the village of Kopisk [?]. But our losses did not scare away or restrain the other partisan groups from continuing to fight.

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Now I want to recount how a group of partisans led by several guys from Grayeve, went back there to carry out a death sentence against a so-called Volksdeutsche,[1] who had murdered a large number of Jews.

It was May 3, 1942. We were supposed to start out of the forest at 7 p.m. The young folks from Grayeve impatiently waited for evening and constantly checked their watches. But the hands mocked us and moved slowly and lazily… The watch's ticking was dull and phlegmatic, as if it sensed that our lives were in danger of death.

The evening finally arrived. Our commander ordered everyone to prepare and carry all our weapons, ammunition, grenades and explosives. There were 43 of us. Darkness had fallen. We left the forest and avoided going through villages and on main roads. After much difficulty, we came to the first houses of Grayeve.

The first house we came to was where Brzoza had lived. The small flame of a night-light gleamed through the window. Looking at the light, a flow of memories began, reminding me of a large part of my life that had been cut off suddenly… We quietly walked behind the Jewish houses, in which there were no more Jews… The large buildings of Jewish schools stood with doors flung open, but no one went in or out… Hearts aching, we strode through the gardens behind the houses.

We carried out the death sentence against the Volksdeutsche murderer. We breathed more easily when we saw the murderer had been shot… It was dark. There were no people around. In the distance we saw the rays of a projector the Germans used to illuminate their patrols. We started to leave the house of the executed murderer and heard the heavy steps of German patrols. Now we began to hear calls in German. Bullets started flying in our direction. We slowly re-entered the forest. Forty-three Jewish partisans participated in the mission and succeeded in returning safely. But in the coming missions we were not able to return unharmed.

[Page 217]

Only a few lived to see May 9, 1945, when the Red Army and the Polish Folk Army finally drove Hitler's murderers out of Poland. These few saved themselves with the weapons they held and by being aware that they had taken at least some revenge against the enemy, in return for the dearest and most beloved of our home town, Grayeve. But all hearts were still full of grief, pain, and the desire to take revenge on our enemies many times over.

Yiskor[2] Am Yisroel,let the people of Israel remember the martyrs killed by the German and Polish Fascist murderers.

Yiskor Am Yisroel, let the people of Israel remember the partisans who fell in battle against the accursed Nazi Germans.

Yiskor Am Yisroel, let the people of Israel remember the heroic partisans who survived themselves and also saved many Jewish families from death.

Henekh Mishkovsky, Khaye-Gitl's son, killed in Oswiecim.
Wrote a diary in the Grayeve ghetto.

 

Footnotes
  1. Volksdeutsche: An historical term coined in the early 20th century that was used to describe ethnic Germans living outside of the Reich. Return
  2. Yiskor: Jewish prayer commemorating the deceased. Return


[Page 218]

Shtutzin – Grayeve to the Last Breath

Khaye Golding-Kayman

Translated by Yael Chaver, Ph.D

As a child, I often heard a legend that was linked with the name of Grayeve [Grajewo]. Each time I heard the legend I liked it anew and in my imagination Grayeve grew into a tantalizing, romantic town. The legend is as follows:

In the town of Raigrod (Paradise in Polish), lived Adam and Eve. After they sinned, God drove them out. They sorrowfully walked through the fields and along the roads, not speaking a word to each other. On their way they encountered a tree: a white vyerbe [willow] with long, green branches like Eve's braids. They rested, and Adam fashioned a willow flute for himself. The village later built on that spot was therefore known as Vyerbove. After resting briefly, Adam and Eve continued walking. Enchanted by the beauty of their new surroundings, Adam called to Eve, “Play, Eve,” (Grayeve in Polish). This is how the future town built on this spot came to be known as Grayeve.

Fourteen kilometers separated my shtetl, Shtutzin [Szczuczyn], from Grayeve. The shtetlakh [Plural of shtetl-small town, village] were closely connected to each other. Grayeve had a train station, which made it dominant. By district decree, other commercial and political and entities were set up in the shtetl, such as the Sick Fund and “Social Security,” the district's agricultural-economic office, the PPS (Polish Socialist Party),

[Page 219]

the Veterans' Office, the examination committee for artisans' guilds, and the like. The two important economic factors – the train and the district offices – forced residents and merchants of Shtutzin to come to Grayeve. If you wanted to travel to Varshe [Warsaw], Byalistok [Białystok] or some other large city, you had to get the train in Grayeve. Anyone who wanted to smuggle themselves into the U.S. illegally through Germany by way of the border town of Prostken [Prostki], first had to come to Grayeve. Buses, carriages and wagons therefore went back and forth all day.

Jews from Grayeve would come to fairs in Shtutzin and vice versa. Merchants and craftsmen from Shtutzin would come to pay their taxes and young men would report for the draft. Every year during Chol Ha-Moed Peysakh and Sukes [the days between the first and last days of the holidays] prospective brides and grooms would come to Shtutzin and Grayeve to view each other… The Jewish youths who were members of the Grayeve sports club would come for summer meets in Shtutzin. Those warm blue twilights sparkled with joy, laughter and life. Avrom and Itche Gershtonsky, Leyble Remigolsky, Simche Sarn, Izze Epstein, Gortshitsky, Gershuny Eisenstat, Chaim Friedman, Isaac Kolko, Lifshitz were all frequent guests in our shtetl.

Some young folks from Shtutzin studied in Goldlust's gimnazyes [secondary schools] in Lomzhe [£omza]. Grayeve became the source of culture for the region. Zalmen Sutker the theater director was the first to set up a movie theater in Shtutzin and would present films twice a week. The shtetl was very grateful to him. Tsila Kolko from Grayeve would give concerts. Every winter we would arrange marvelous dances. Merry young folks from Grayeve would arrive in packed sleighs, bells ringing. The literary evenings of the professional organization in the “Perets Library,” would be attended by working youths of Grayeve, who took an active part in the events up to about two weeks before their tragic death. In the summer of 1941, shortly before the outbreak of the war between Germany and Russia, the capable young teacher Miss Kolko (Shimon Kolko's daughter) and Miss Barkovska came to Shtutzin from Grayeve with their pupils and successfully presented the play “Bar-Kochba.”[1]

[Page 220]

The poor people of both shtetlakh had an agreement to switch shtetlakh once a week: the beggars of Shtutzin would come to Grayeve and those of Grayeve would come to Shtutzin. This worked well. They would do this during the first half of the week, so that at the end of the week each group could visit its local wealthy people and they could spend Shabes [Sabbath] at home. In this way the social groups of both shtetlakh were closely connected.

The Jews of Grayeve and Shtutzin had lived like this for generations. They shared a lively, vital life – up to June 22, 1941.

Just as happened to the Jewish people in all of Poland, a chain of death and destruction began to spread over our shtetlakh. Every tie between our shtetlakh was interrupted. It was very dangerous for Jews to travel, either on the main road or on side roads. At that time, we were more afraid of the Poles than of the Germans. We in Shtutzin didn't know what was happening to our friends in Grayeve.

During the second week of the German occupation, the Poles of Shtutzin went from house to house at midnight and slaughtered Jewish men, women and children. As many as 300 on the first Friday night… In Grayeve as well as in Shtutzin, they first murdered the Jewish intellectuals and householders, so as to immediately get their hands on their property. They quietly organized and used the same methods in Grayeve as in Shtutzin. All classes of Polish society took part in the slaughter: the town employees, the postmaster, the school director, the notary, lower-ranking officials and peasants. The priest sneaked away… Fifty percent of the Jews of Shtutzin were killed not by the Germans, but by the Poles, their former neighbors, supposedly good friends, customers, and acquaintances. In Rodzilova [Radziłów], literally the entire Jewish population was burned alive all at once by the Poles in the largest barn in the shtetl.

Several weeks later, as the thirst for Jewish blood and property slowly decreased, news and rumors began coming from Grayeve. The word “ghetto” started hovering. Many people did not understand the significance.

[Page 221]

People struggled with it. At the time it was thought that this was only a local phenomenon of persecution and people tried to buy their way out with money and property. This went on until the Jews were suddenly driven into the marketplace without warning. After eleven hours of standing in the street without a drink of water, deathly afraid, witnessing the beating of Rov Afran (of blessed memory) and other householders; seeing shot youths being dragged around and violent assaults on Jews; we were finally driven into the Shtutzin ghetto, late on Friday night.

We lived in despair, hungry, cold and in pain. The only men in the Shtutzin ghetto were about 20 craftsmen and ten youths. All the men met with different forms of violent deaths at the hands of Poles. Here, I'm just describing in brief, the tragedy of the Jews in my hometown of Shtutzin. Like everyone, I endured that terrifying period and every horrible event etched itself deep into my consciousness; every date, every neighbor, every friend – those dear, warm, beloved people. These lines will engrave themselves into the mind of each reader. Their hearts will agonize, but they will not grasp the true concept of the profound suffering, the sorrow and pain, that overtook us.

The first rays of the sun witnessed the women of Shtutzin sneaking alongside roads into Grayeve. Some wanted to unburden themselves to family and friends; some hoped to breathe a bit more freely; some needed the services of the ritual slaughterer (the ritual slaughterers of Shtutzin had already been killed) to slaughter a chicken for a child who was seriously ill. After a few days of toothache, I made the pilgrimage to Grayeve, to the woman dentist, Barkovka.

The Grayeve ghetto was larger than that of Shtutzin. Not just one small street as we had, but several streets and not only small dilapidated house, but two or three well-constructed buildings. For a while, breathing was easier. Soon a Polish policeman who was in the ghetto stopped me: “You are a stranger,” he said, and took me to the commander of the Jewish ghetto police, Karbavskin.

Abkevitch, the policeman, vouched for me, and took me to the dentist.

I took a route through yards rather than through streets to see Zalmen Sutker, the head of the Judenrat [Jewish Council]. All Jews did this. Jews did not dare take the main streets for fear of showing themselves to Polish or German eyes.

[Page 222]

The yards were just like those of Shtutzin and like those I later saw in the Byalistok ghetto: “the back streets.” There were no more fences – all the wood had been burned for cooking. An outhouse was rare. Noisy, dark and tumultuous, like a beehive; a thick steam came from the low-lying windows. From one window prayers were heard, bearing all the acuteness of Jewish pain, sorrow, and supplication for salvation and compassion. This soared from the lowest houses to the highest of heights, believers in “God will answer you in time of trouble.”

I talked with Zalmen Sutker, Julian Glatt, Leyzer Grossman, Vovek Zilbershteyn and others I met in the Judenrat. I visited several families. Everyone and everything was sunk in grief, but believed they would live through the bitter times and awaited redemption. Everyone could see what responsibility the Judenrat bore for the ghetto as a whole, and the importance of cooperating with the leaders. Individuals overcame their particular interests and became interwoven with the flame of the community. Never before and never afterwards did I see collective character so clearly, the care and struggle for each other. I wondered at the unity, loyalty and love of one Jew for another, one person for another.

Bogushe [Bogusze], the next-to-last stop for the Jews of Shtutzin, Grayeve, Ogustove [Augustów] and Raigrod [Rajgród], was united in their own troubles, common suffering and pain. Just as the two towns were strongly linked in life, so were they linked in tragic death, until the last shudder of violent death, until the last breath was drawn…

 

Footnote
  1. Bar Kochba 132-135 C.E. This was marked by a period of hope that turned into violent anguish. The Jews believing a homeland and Holy Temple were in their site, were eventually persecuted and sold into slavery. Return


[Page 223]

The Violent Death of the Jews of Shtutzin

Translated by Yael Chaver, Ph.D

Document of the Jewish Voivodeship[1] Historical Commission, Byalistok, August 11, 1946. L. B. 46/152.
Delivered by Bashe Katsper, born in Shtutzin [Szczuczyn] in 1920, lived in the Shtutzin ghetto during the occupation and after the liquidation hid in surrounding villages; now living in Byalistok [Białystok].

The shtetl of Shtutzin (home to 3000 Jews before the war) felt the bestial hand of the Nazis beginning in 1939, when they stayed there for three weeks. At that time the shtetl lost 300 men, only a few of whom returned.

On June 24, 1941, the Germans took Shtutzin once again. The local German authorities were not established in the first few days and young Polish rowdies and hooligans taunted the Jews. Among those were Jakobcak, Dombrovski the tanner, Sviaslavski, the postmaster Jankeitis, the school principal and the town watchmen.

On June 25, 1941, at midnight on Friday, when everyone was sleeping, the Poles carried out three massacres: in the new town, at the marketplace, and on Lomzhe Street.

Among those murdered in the new town were Kaplan the photographer, with his son-in-law; Esther Kriger with her daughter and grandchild; Romorovsky the tailor, Peske Yashinsky, Meisel the head of the Yeshiva, and others.

[Page 224]

Among those murdered at the marketplace were Khane Rozental's children; Grisha Radushkonsky and his wife and infant; Beyle-Rokhl Guzavska; Zeydke Bernshteyn with Rokhke and their grandchild; Tuvia Shaynberg's children; Rov [Rabbi] Slutsky with his family. On Pavelke Street, outside town, they murdered Gavriel Farberovitch. Bernshteyn and Leyzer Sosnovski were shot in the slaughterhouse. The total of those murdered was 300. The Poles carried them outside on carts and did not leave them lying around, but threw them into ditches.

The Jewish women ran to the Polish intellectuals to intervene and stop the pogroms, but they didn't help. So they bribed the German soldiers at the court, and the next night the Jewish area was patrolled.

The same happened in Grayeve, Rodzilova [Radziłów], Vonsosh [Wąsosz] and Stavisk. In Rodzilova all the Jews were burned in a barn. A week before they issued the order about the ghetto, the Polish watchmen drove all the Jewish men out of their homes on the pretext of doing weeding. They drove them to the cemetery. Only women and a few men were left at home. The next day they found 100 men in a mass grave. Among those murdered were Yoyne Levinovitch's son, Panish with his son Meir, Yeshaya Kokoshko, Malkiel Lifshitz, and others. The Rabbi was beaten murderously and the bes-medresh [House of Study] was burned.

On July 20, 1941, the ghetto was decreed. It extended from Lapian's yard to Vilimovsky's yard. The same day, the entire Jewish population was driven out onto the streets, young and old separated, and placed in an enclosed area from which people were taken every night to be killed: Zovl Zemel, Moyshe Guzovsky, Khayim Kulinsky, Yankl Denmark, Khayim Kokoshko, Mikey Farber, Dovid Rabinovitch, Moyshe Leyzerman, the Rabbi, the ritual slaughterers, the religious judge, Kayman's father-in-law, Berman the teacher, Itche Tutelman, Skubelsky, and others were killed. Only women and children were let into the ghetto, ten tailors, Ruzshe the watchmaker, Sholem-Motl the bricklayer, three blacksmiths and others who sneaked in. Altogether there were 300 Jews there.

A Judenrat was set up in the ghetto, consisting of 15 Jews and four policemen as a Jewish security force.

[Page 225]

The president was Levinovitch, and the council members were: Notke Rabinovitch, Yisroelke Goldfarb, Mikhoel Krushbiansky, Savitsky and Friedman. In the hospital there were only Lubetsky, Leybl Dorf and two doctors. The persons mentioned above together with Dr. Vartman and Gertz, remained in Szczuczyn until the liquidation.

On November 2, 1942, the Shtutzin ghetto was liquidated and the residents were taken to Bogushe [Bogusze] (a camp outside of Grayeve). Several people tried to escape from the camp into the forests, without success. Among those murdered were Gordenberg, Lichtenshteyn, and two brothers.

Before the ghetto was liquidated, this witness worked in Grabow, in the village. After the liquidation she hid in the forests and in the house of a Christian woman in Grabow, until the liberation on January 26, 1945.

Witness--
Protocol taken by--
Chairman of the Jewish Voivodeship Historical Commission.

Mgr. M. Turek

 

Footnote
  1. Voivodeship: (Polish: województwo) Province. Return


[Page 226]

The Violent Death of the Jews of Kolna

Translated by Yael Chaver, Ph.D

Document of the Jewish Voivodeship[1] Historical Commission, Byalistok [Białystok], June 27, 1946.
Given by Feygl Golombek (born Rozenshteyn, later Milners), born 1915 in Stavisk [Stawiski]; hid in the villages around Stawisk during the occupation.

The shtetl of Kolna [Kolno], with two thousand Jews is not far from the German border, so that many of the residents, including Jews, suffered from the time the war broke out on June 22, 1941. Many were killed; among them the Shklonyevitch family and many were wounded.

A few days later the villagers from Chervin [Czerwin] and Zabiele who had been released from Soviet prisons, came and killed 30 Jews. Among the victims were the Dalavitch family and Yankev Dudovitch with his wife and child.

Jews had to pull weeds in the streets for a week, where many of them were shot. Young women were raped and ordered to run around the streets naked. Among these victims was Dr. Kosovitch's sister.

On Saturday, July 5, the entire Jewish population, including women with infants, was ordered to gather near Lenin's statue, in their tales [prayer shawls] and with wagons, but no horses. The blacksmiths sang Hatikvah [“The Hope” and now the National Anthem of Israel] and were beaten. They hacked the statue to bits. They placed the pieces of the statue on the wagons that were harnessed to Jews wearing their taleysim.

[Page 227]

The wagon train traveled two kilometers from the town to the Jewish cemetery, where they buried Lenin while singing and praying. As they left the cemetery, Poles stood at the gate holding sticks and beating them over their heads.

On July 15, 1941 the Germans ordered all the young people of Kolna to assemble and bring packets of food, supposedly for work. They loaded them onto vehicles and took them to Kolimagi. There was no trace of them afterwards.

On the third day after the young people were deported, the older people were ordered to bring their valuables so they could be taken to their children. Each Jew with his package reported to the court, where vehicles with Gestapo were waiting. The packages were supposedly put in the trunks of the cars and the people entered the vehicles. Some were taken to Kolimagi and others were taken to Mściwuje and all were shot. The elderly were driven on foot to Kolimagi.

The entire process lasted three days. Only about fifty people, out of Kolna's entire Jewish population, managed to escape.

The Nitzevitch family fled from Kolna and came to Stavisk the day of the liquidation, and was then killed. The Lev family, mother and daughter (they had a printing press) were alive after the liquidation in a colony at Smirnitz, but the police caught them and took them to the Bogushe camp. The richest man in Kolna, Botchke Ayzenberg, along with Brokhe Alekh, hid in the surrounding villages. When they were in Pachuczyn (near Kolna), hiding in the house of the village headman, Lipinski, a peasant from Kolna recognized them. The headman became afraid and handed them over to the police. They were arrested and taken to Lachowo. On the way, Ayzenberg stabbed the policeman, took his weapon and fled. They lived in the forests of Grabówek until 1944, at Korwazken's. They were killed there by chance.

The only survivor was Dina Khludnievitch, who fled from Kolna to the Lomzhe [Łomża] ghetto and from there got to Germany, where she lived as a Christian woman.

Witness—
Protocol taken by –
Chairman of the Jewish Voivodeship Historical Commission.

Mgr. M. Turek

 

Footnote
  1. Voivodeship: (Polish: województwo) Province. Return

 

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