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[Page 230]

A Little Drop

by Yosef Friedman

Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan


Arka Alperovich, son of Reuben and Chiena nee Turov
with his grandmother and his great grandmother

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The Torov family, in laws of the author,
Yosef Friedman, before the war

Rivka (Turov) Alperovich, Rachel, Arka Alperovich, Chaia-Fruma, Chalvina Turov


The Red Army entered town and all the large homes were confiscated. The house of Nachama Risha (nee Gelman) Alperovich, and the house of Zalman Mendel (son of Cheikel Velvel) Alperovich, and also the home Shmuel (son of Yente) Spektor were among those confiscated, as well as the house of Ziskind (son of Shimon Alperovich), and the synagogue for the Mitnagdim.

A few of the town's residents were arrested by the Soviets and sent to Siberia. Dark shadows, but there was also some light during the rule of the Soviets. And we lived like this for more than a year and a half until the German invasion. This occurred on a Sunday. The Soviets immediately started conscripting the young people to serve, but they didn't have enough time to send them to join the battle. By Tuesday all of them were sent home. Since the main train station in Molodeczno had been bombed, from that day until Saturday there was no ruling authority in the area and some of the Christian villagers came to town to rob and loot. The most notorious were the villagers from Studyonka, and Starazi. This situation lasted for some days. The skies were filled with Soviet planes and German planes that chased them. I remember one Soviet plane that flew by, on fire, and then fell near the Baraseif, by Vileyka.

The Germans arrived and gathered all of us in the market. They made us stand in two lines, and they pointed their weapons at us. We thought our end would come here, and that we could not come out of this alive. Many of the non-Jewish residents of the town stood around and laughed, but then the German commander came out of the house of Rashka, (daughter of Yehudah Alperovich and widow of Chazkel, son of Binia) Alperovich, and ordered us to choose a Judenrat. He gave some other instructions, such as that from then on we should put on our clothes a white patch in the middle of which we would have a letter J for Jew. From then on, every day brought new punishments, humiliations and new rules to make our lives more miserable.

We had to perform forced labor and to pay a ransom every day for our survival, in the form of gold, money, and other goods. During one of the coldest days, the Germans arrived from Vileyka. They kidnapped many Jews and ordered them to take their clothes off. Wearing only their underwear, they put them on a truck and drove them back and forth through the streets of the town. In order to save their lives, we had to give large sums of money. Otherwise, we were told, everyone would be killed.

At another time, Agov and Shernagovich, may their names be erased, decided to play a bloody game which ended with the murder of 13 Jews. Seven of them I later brought to a Jewish burial. Shmuel, son of Pini Tsipilovich; Yitzhak (Esther Zimmerman's son or husband?); Yoshua Limon; Baruch Kremer;, son of Mendel son of Ashka , the youngest brother of Nathan Zalman Alperovich (son of Reuben); Mendel Levin; and the last to be killed was our genius rabbi, the pure soul and pious Rabbi Moshe Aron Feldman, who suffered a horrible torture. They broke his arms and legs, and his whole body was covered with wounds. [Others that were killed that day: Shimon Gelman, wife Gita and their daughter Chana, Avramil Alperovich, Zisha the daughter of Abba Alperovich, and one other.]

On the eve of Purim of 1942, the last massacre of the Jews of Vileyka [the town neighboring Kurenets] occurred. Schatz, the head of the Judenrat in Kurenitz was ordered to arrange a forced labor camp for professional people to be taken to Vileyka. They came to me and told me that I should go there so I could put some furnaces in the barracks of the camp. I didn't want to go, but Schatz promised me that after I had completed the job he would let me go home. He didn't fulfill his promise and I had a difficult time in leaving Vileyka. It took many months, and it was only sometime in August, two weeks before the massacre in Kurenets, when I finally was able to escape from Vileyka.

It was three days before Rosh Hashanah when the massacre of our beloved town's residents occurred. I was with my wife and child, and we hid inside a deep hole that we had made in the garden behind our house. Above it there were rows of vegetables growing and you would never recognize that we had dug a hole there. When night came, we gathered together with Lazar Rod's, Yakov Kiva (Katz) and his wife and four children, and two grandsons of Shalom the Blacksmith. We ran through the meadow in the direction of Poken and arrived at the house of a Christian man in Novi Kurenets. He gave us half a loaf of bread and some onions and we entered the forest near Skabbe.


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Moshe Alperovich


The next morning we encountered Yankel son of Orchik Alperovich, and Moshe son of Rashke Alperovich. We continued deeper into the forest and there we encountered the son-in-law of Mendel Dinnestein, Zadok Shevitz, his wife Rashka and their daughters Perla and Sarah. Late at night we arrived in the village Studyonka. We left the women and children in the forest and came to the first house and forced the residents to give us a basket filled with eggs, a little bit of cheese, and half a loaf of bread.

The next day we met Dania, the son of Chaim Avramil Alperovich, and together we entered the putzcha [a very thick forest] of Katlovtza. The men decided to return to Kurenets so we could bring some clothing for us and our children. Among the people who came with me were Lazar Rod', Yakov Kiva, Moshe Alperovich (son of Rashke Alperovich), and Dania the son of Chaim Avramil Alperovich. We left late at night. We arrived in Pokken, but there the Germans were guarding the lumber mill that used to belong to Chaim Zokovsy, (killed with the 54 on Simhat Torah of 1941). The guards became aware of our presence and started shooting rockets to light up the area. We kept walking and falling on the ground. None of the rockets hit us and nothing happened, but we had to retreat and go to Novi Kurenets, in the north, in the direction of Halinova. We had to go on a very long detour, going north, then west near the village Litvinki in the direction of the big rock, near the big slaughterhouse. Finally we arrived at our homes…

When we returned to our houses we found them all destroyed[1], but some of the belongings that we had hidden very cleverly were not found and we were able to take them and return to Novi Kurenets, where we all met up as planned from the beginning.

I knew that there was a Christian man by the name Ramanovsky who had a pistol. I entered his home and asked him to give me his pistol but he lied to me and said that he did not have it and only a Pugatz (not a real pistol, something just to scare a person?), and he gave me that. We left and arrived at the forest. On the way we met with Israelke and his sister, the children of Netta Itza son of Chanan. We went through the village Varomnya and from the water well we took a bucket that was on top of it. When we arrived at Patlovka we filled the bucket with water and carried it on a pole until we were deep in the forest.

That evening we transferred to a new location near the village Budka. One day we started building huts to settle in, when all of a sudden we heard someone yelling. "Ketta tem" We became very scared and started running, but immediately we came back because we said to ourselves, "If we are to be killed it is better that we are with our families."

When we returned we realized that it was the partisans. One of them was Ivan from the village Andreyka. The second was from the Soviet Union. He was a very good-hearted person and he started consoling us, telling us that soon they would take all the women and children to the Soviet Union, while the men would stay here to fight the Nazi animals.

Shortly after, the partisan brigade "Revenge" arrived in the forest. I helped in some of their combat missions and also in getting food to the forest. The partisans collected all the Jews in the forest and most of them were sent east, but our group stayed in the area. Most of the hundreds of Jews who were sent east were not able to continue, and they returned to the forest in our area.

Winter came and we started building underground places to live. The ground was already frozen, which made the job very difficult. Shortly after we built the underground shelters, my two brothers-in-law (the brothers of my wife) arrived. They were Halvina Torov and Moshe Lazar Torov. They had just escaped from the Vileyka Ghetto. One night, they left for the villages Halinova, Litvinki, and Kuzmit, and took from the villagers all the cows that used to belong to the Jews of Kurenets. They slaughtered the cows and brought the meat to the forest.

Meanwhile, Yankel Orchik Alperovich joined the partisans and became a scout. He was an excellent soldier, he would come around riding a horse and scaring all the Christians in the area. After some time his brigade transferred farther east.

The day of the first blockade arrived. The Germans surrounded the forest. They swept back and forth and killed many of the Jews of Kurenets who were hiding there. Two of the women were caught alive. They were my sister-in-law (my wife's sister), Shaina Liba nee Torov Cheres[2], and also the wife of Avraham the Butcher.


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Photograph taken in Natanya in 1957

From left to right: Efraim (son of Reuven Alperovich and Cheyna, daughter
of Yakov Leib and Chaia-Fruma Turov),
Pesya (Peshka) Friedman (daughter of Chaja-Fruma), and
Yehuda Cheres (son of Shalom and Sheina Liba)
 
Pesia nee Turov Friedman (the second wife of the author): She was the only offspring of the Turov family who survived. She married the author, who lost his first wife, her older sister, during the holocaust. She helped him bring up the kids of her older sister. Here she is with the sons of two of her other sisters.

Yehuda Cheres wrote a book about his memories "The town is burning"


On that day, Israelke the son of Netka, and Yakov the husband Feyga Leah the daughter of Cyril, Chaim (the son of Chana nee Gurevitz and Elchanan Alperovich the Butcher), his wife and their little daughter were all killed. But their little son Leyzerke, who was only five years old, survived in the forest[3]. Moshes' mother; Rashka, the daughter of Yehudah Alperovich, was found dead a few days later. She was sitting on a tree branch.

As the days of the blockade ended, a Christian villager came to the forest and pretended to be insane. Every question we asked him he said, "I don't know" and started making sounds of insanity. Eventually two partisans came to the area and started interrogating him. They found out he wasn't really insane and that he had been sent to the area by the Germans as a spy, so they executed him immediately.

After many days we transferred to the forest Zezaria. There were about 30 people with us. The forest was terribly cold and we had to build underground shelters once more. The location was next to a partisan brigade base, and amongst the partisans there was a guy from Glubokie named Yitzhak Blat. He had a heart of gold, but tragically he was killed during one of the missions.

The commander of this unit was a Russian by the name of Lonke Kozak. Lonke was a very dear man. He loved the Jewish people.

On one of the missions that took place near Kurenets, two of us joined them as scouts. Together with me was Shimon the son of Hilka, son of Netta Zimmerman [today Shimon is the head of the Kurenets Society in Israel]. When we returned from that mission, we heard the sound of gunfire. We entered Drucy and when the villagers saw us they looked at us very strangely. We went to the blacksmith so that he could adjust the horseshoes. He said that he had no materials to do it, and we felt again that there was something going on. The village Drucy was a long village, and when we arrived at the other side of the village, a Christian woman came out of one of the homes. She was the contact of the partisans. She told us that just a few minutes ago there had been German troops there and that they had left Sherematshitz. Immediately the partisans left and came to the forest to set up ambushes for the Germans. Shimon, a villager, and I went to the Hutarz (village homes) near the river Uzla to wait for them.

When evening came, some of the partisans returned. One of them had been killed. Shortly after the Germans established a police station in the village Talit, and this made us very worried. During that time, the commander of the partisans talked with one of the Christians from the village Startzi, and this Christian agreed to go to Vileyka and to bring information from the forced labor camp that still existed in Vileyka, where many from Kurenets were working. The Christian man kept going to Vileyka, where he'd get information and also bullets that Jews in the camp had stolen from the Germans and put inside a hollowed-out piece of wood.

One day, shortly before the Jews in Vileyka planned to escape, our Christian spy took the wood pieces with the bullet, and one of the Polish collaborator policemen came to him and told him to go with him. When the Jews saw that the Christian was walking with a policeman, they were sure that he had been discovered and that he was being led to jail. They panicked and everyone started to run away in the middle of the day. Only a few survived and were able to escape; most of the others were killed. Later on they found out that the policeman only wanted him to take his wife to the hospital.

These are just a few lines and a small drop from the ocean of blood and horrors that we experienced.

[Photograph – A naming ceremony for a street in Herzliya to be named for the Jewish community of Kurenets:
Arie Fishbein, the grandson of the author with his cousin, Yehuda Cheres]

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Translator's footnotes:
  1. I talked with Moshe Alperovich (first cousin of my grandfather, Meir Gurevitz) shortly before he passed away. Moshe told me about their escape and how his sister, Sara, left her two young boys sleeping in their beds. When he returned to Kurenets to check on them he found the beautiful boys dead. One was shots in his bed the other must have opened the door for the Germans, he was shot at the entrance to the house. When Moshe returned to the forest his mother made him promise that he should never tell about it to his sister, Sara. Moshe kept his promise and never told his sister. Moshe came to Israel in 1946 and his sister came to America about the same time. She lived near Los Angeles in an agricultural community (Chico or Chino) with other survivors from Kurenitz. She married and had one son. Sara and Moshe died a few years ago. Return
  2. Shaina Liba nee Torov Cheres was the mother of Yehuda. Her husband, Shalom and her four children survived. You could find their pictures at http://www.eilatgordinlevitan.com/kurenets/k_pages/cheres.html. Return
  3. The son of the brother of Chaim, Israel Alperovich, survived and served with the partisans and the Red Army. I called him in Israel to ask about his cousin Leyzerke . He told me that the child was put in an orphanage after the war. Before Israel left the Soviet Union he met with his cousin who was by then an adult. Return





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