The Destruction of Motele



21. The Discovery Of Water

I climbed back to the attic, lay down and looked through the crack to where the policemen were now going. my teeth were chattering so loudly that I feared they would be heard by the policemen and I could not stop myself. I was thirsty and my throat was parched. If I only had some water to wet my lips. The police stood for another few moments and looked all around, afterward they go on their bicycles and road away. I began to look around the attic. Maybe I would find a Bible to look through, because I no longer had patience to "grind" out Psalms, for or five times a day. Maybe I would find some clean bottle to fill with water, because if I left this place tonight, a bottle will be the most essential thing. I suddenly opened my eyes and saw from the side a corked bottle containing some water and near it a piece of paper rolling about. I picked up the paper which was a letter sent about two years ago to Moshe Nun. These are the contents of the letter. Moshe Nun, a resident of our town was a bureaucrat for the Poles. When the Russians came in, he was afraid that his enemies would inform on him. He fled and hid himself in the synagogue’s attic until he could see how the wind would blow. After a few days passed by and no Russians came to investigate him, his wife sent him a letter and also a bottle of water and wrote him, "I am sending you this water and telling you that nobody is concerned about you and you can come down and return tonight and once again live among people." After finishing reading the letter, my eyes lit up, because I concluded that the water in this bottle was clean and definitely safe and I immediately brought the bottle to my lips and sipped from it all the water I wanted. Meanwhile I noticed another two bottles that were almost clean except for the odor of oil wafting from them. Nevertheless, I took with me the three bottles and crawled back to my old place. While crawling back, I noticed that the attic door was pierced in a few places from the stabbing go of one of the policemen’s bayonet.

I lay there and considered my situation and what to do next. I remembered Leibel and Avigdor. I was sure that they were in the vicinity of the synagogue and hiding on some garden and certainly knew what had happened to me and would definitely return at night to see how I was. Another strong reason for their returning was they left their clothes here and without them it would be cold at night. So I felt it was my obligation to wait here and not move from this spot tonight. That night there was heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning, but they did not return. Meanwhile, I made some holes in the roof and I stood the bottles up in them in order to fill them with rain water because the thirst still bothered me.
 
 

22. To The Hiding Place

The light dawned on the Sabbath day of the seventh of Elul. I lay there. I debated with myself to wait for my friend tonight also or try another plan that was forming in my mind. The plan was to reach the Gentile woman who my cousin Pinchas Karolinski told me about on the last Sabbath before we parted and with whom he could be found. I impatiently waited for daybreak. The day dragged on like a whole year, because this was the first day since the beginning of the Holocaust that I was totally alone, wretched and solitary. Finally the anticipated night came. I packed my belongings which included two rotten cucumbers, an empty bottle, a book of Psalms and went on my way. I came down from the attic to the synagogue and my eyes darkened from the destruction that I saw. Pages from the Torah scrolls rolled on the floor, pages of "Etz Chaim" were scattered her and there, the benches were stolen, the Holy Ark22 stood empty, frightening in the night’s darkness. I gathered up what I could of the torn Torah scrolls and with eyes filled with blood and tears, I placed them in the Holy Ark, kissed them fervently and clung to the naked walls of the Holy Ark and silently recited a prayer close to my hear, the last Jew, a remnant of the hundred of precious Jews of the town.

With a heavy heart, I went outside and was about to cross the street. One of the Gentiles approached the synagogue from the other side of the street. I was not able to hide. I stood behind the synagogue’s door that was open and the blood froze in my veins. I held my breath until he entered the synagogue, lingered there for a few minutes, left with a package in hand, passed my by without noticing me and then went on his way. I left immediately after him, crossed the street and by way of some gardens, I arrived at the "Old Cemetery" and from there went to the river. Then I crossed over the river and reached the path that led to the "Pilnah" - Shalom the doctor’s street on which afterwards lived Gorodishich. I stayed for a few moments to see if anyone was going by and then crossed the river again toward the town. I filled the water bottles and walked along the shore of the Pilnah to the Gentile woman who had hid there Pinchas Karolinski.

The name of the Gentile who hid Pinchas was Alexi Popil. His hose was on the same street as that of Gorodishich except on the other side of the of the main street as that continued towards Nishtut. The courtyard and garden continued until the Pilnah to the east of the town, and at the west side of the Pilnah were Jewish gardens and a bridge connecting both sides of the street. While walking, I took care not to touch a plant or a branch in order to avoid making a sound; harmonica sounds reached me, but I continued. As I approached the bridge, there were some youngsters from the Black Gang making music including harmonica sounds. Obviously, it was impossible to cross the bridge. I thought there was no choice but to wait until they dispersed. With great effort, I climbed the fence of Chanan the shopkeeper (where later Mordechai Kot lived) and lay down in the garden waiting in anticipation for the thugs to leave. I was laying there and an hour passed by and the sounds of singing and dancing continually grew louder and it seemed that they had no intention of leaving before morning, while the earth was burning under my feet and in a few hours I would be exposed to the light of day - and then... I decided that I must continue no matter what. If it was impossible to over the bridge, then I must try to under the bridge. I began to crawl on all fours towards the bridge and when I reached it I entered the water and passed beneath it. Above the thugs wildly danced and showed their joy over the end of the Jews, not imagining that under their feet was a crawling Jew, struggling with every fiber of his being to remain alive. My foot was wounded by glass and blood began to flow, But the struggle for land and the hope that perhaps I would find my cousin urged me on so that I did not pay attention to the bleeding. I passed the area of the bridge and some distance away I once again walked on dry land, jumped at once into a garden and slowly continued on my way. Suddenly I ran into a man walking by me. The two of us stood without the power of speech and we could not open our mouths. I recovered first and recognized him as the Christian Stephen Lazarus in whose house was staying Yisrael Eizenberg (Hatishkavitchait). He then told me how they killed my handicapped cousin in the house during the second slaughter and then loaded her on David Gorodishich’s back to carry her to the killing place with the rest of the martyrs. I asked him in a whisper if maybe he knew which of the Jews had survived until now, but he could not answer. This he told me that he was going around carrying out the task of looking for hidden Jews. I was very frightened and thought who knows if will turn me in right away, but I gathered courage and asked him, "if that’s so why do you say that you don’t know if any Jews remain alive?" He answered, "It’s true, I don’t know but they say the Yashpah brothers and also Pinchas Karolinski and the Sharashavski brothers, Lazer and Yakov, are still alive, and so they ordered me to stand guard and maybe they will pass by to their houses in order to take something or remove a hidden treasure." I asked him, "What are you supposed to do when you see them?" His answer was that it was up to him to spy on them until they revealed their hiding places and hand them over to the police.

Upon hearing these explicit words emanating from the Gentile’s mouth, waves of cold and heat came over me and my whole body shook, but I gathered strength and with a calm voice as if I was not personally involved I asked, "And what are you going to do with me?" I heard this tranquil answer, "If you were one of the other Jews, I would do my duty, but I know you as a good Jew, so I’ll pretend that I never met you or saw you." I was relieved to hear his answer, but I knew not to place my trust in predators. So I gathered my cunning and with an imploring voice I turned to him and said, "listen Stephen, ‘mountains never meet, but men do’. If this is so then be kind to a Jew who knows you and whose mouth has not tasted a drop of fresh water for a week (and at that moment I slowly pulled the cork from the water bottle and filled it from the river). Here’s my bottle, bring me a bottle of fresh water and a lice of bread, I will give you my watch. I’ll wait for you by the cow shed in the garden in the hay." He agreed and took the bottle from me and went to bring me water. All the time that he was in my field of vision , walked as if in the direction of the cow shed, but as soon as he was out of sight, I jumped the fence and went to a Christian, Alexi Popil, and went to his shed without being sure if my cousin was there or not. I slowly opened the shed door and whispered, "Piniah, Piniah", entertained by the thought that I would find him alive. After all the Gentile mentioned him as still being among the living. Silence. I repeated my call and it seemed to me that I heard a choked whisper, Nu...Nu, who’s there? A wave of joy came over me and I whispered again, "Piniah, where? This Aharon-Leb calling you." And I heard a voice full of surprise and wonder as if I had said something improbable, "Who? Aharon-Leb?". "Yes, yes", I answered him, "This is no dream. Come out and show me how to reach you." His head suddenly sprung up and he whispered to me to get on the wagon standing here and extend my hand. I did what he asked and he pulled me up to the roof of the cow shed. The weeping began. I cried from joy on finding my cousin and once again not being alone. And he also cried and continually sighed and called out, "Oh, God! Why were the Jews of Motol punished more than those in other towns." (We did not know yet that the mass murder that began in our town would spread to all of the Jewish centers.)
 
 

23. Description Of The Second Extermination

When he began to calm down, he told me who was killed and who remained alive. The conclusion was dismal. Only seventeen people remained and he know the place of six of them and I was among them. The six survivors were those mentioned by the Gentile and they were the Sharashavski brothers, two Yashpah brothers, Pinchas and myself. He was in constant contact with all of these survivors. I continue to say that among the living must also be counted Avigdor Chernomortz and Leibel Rozenkrantz. I asked him if he know if I was among the living. He answered me,

Listen to all what I am now telling you. I know fully well who was among the fallen during the second [slaughter]. You should know that when they began to again concentrate the remainder of our refugees, leading them to the slaughter, the Germans mobilized some local Gentiles to prepare a large pit next to the cemetery. Even the Gentile who I hid by was mobilized for this work. According to what he told me it was worth this for him to see with his own eyes who is being killed so he could inform me. When he returned, the Gentile told me who of the Black Gang were policemen who watched over the work and with which tortures they killed them. From him, I learned that the second slaughter was perpetrated only by members of the Black Gang and local Gentiles. A well known Pole by the of Kocharski who lived all the time in the town of Talchan organized a gang of sixty Gentiles from his town and from the town of Svintah-Walyah and they took it upon themselves to burn out the remnants left from the official killing. Kocharski promised them that all the property belonging to the murdered Jews would go to them, especially the clothes stripped from the dead and the animals left in the villages and homes. The villagers themselves were dressed in worn clothes with sandals on their feet. They possessed rifles since the escape of the Russian soldiers at the beginning of the war, who from panic and in order to ease their escape tossed their weapons aside, allowing the Black Gang to gather and hide them until they were needed. Now they used the weapons to pillage and rob. On that Saturday night, the first of Elul, the gang arrived in town to negotiate with Motol’s police over the killing of Jews in return for sharing the loot. Unfortunately, Kocharski met two Nazis who really came only to pick up butter and milk for the military hospital in Pinsk; they right away encouraged him to burn out the remnants not only from Motol, but from the remaining villages in the area. In an order given to Kocharski, it was written that the Motol police were ordered to provide a sufficient number of policemen to help him find the hiding Jews and exterminate them under the authority of D. In the village of Molodovo no Jews were found because the surviving Jews were clever enough not to sleep in their houses and changed their sleeping places nightly so as not to be found. But in Tishkavitch they were able to capture my cousins and my aunt (of the author of these lines) and Itka’s son-in-law and brought them by cart to Motol. They also gathered survivors from the village of Dadvitch and only Shalom Mishkin and his cousin Reuven Mishkin managed to escape from the cow shed in which they slept. They told me when I met them, that they woke up in the middle of the night on hearing noise in the street and sensing from what they heard that they were being surrounded in shifts, they climbed onto the shed’s roof and reached outside through a hole they had previously prepared just as those outside started banging on the shed’s doors. In the house were two brothers who arrived on Saturday and when one heard the cry of "Police!" he burst through the window and jumped outside. But a deadly bullet struck him and killed him on the spot. Reuven and Shalom Mishkin began to run while the bullet whisked by them, but they managed to jump into a garden and from there to a field and so were saved from the second slaughter. Also in the village of Fashischbah they caught all the Jewish families living there and brought them to Motol for elimination. In the village of Zamushah they caught only one family of the two living there. The members of the second family - Shmuel Griber and his wife were saved like this. When the gang arrived at the village, the villages told them that there was a man who still had all the property well hidden and for all this time they were unable to take a thing from him because he had a gun which he used to kill any members of the Black Gang if they dared touch his wife or property. So the gang members gathered some Gentiles from the village, gave them heavy clubs and ordered them to beat anyone trying to flee. They did not wish to kill them outright in the hope that if they captured some of them alive they would reveal the hidden treasure of jewels and other valuables under torture. When the police began to bang on his door, he also grabbed a heavy club that was ready and jumped through the window, and when one of the policemen ran to catch him. They began to shoot at him but he was uninjured (Shmuel told this to me himself afterward). The murderers managed to capture his wife and bring her to Motol. They first tried to drag out of her if she knew to whom he fled and where their property was hidden. After that, they defiled her and brought her to Motol.

Pinchas continued to describe how the martyrs were stripped of their clothes in the middle of the street where they were placed together, in front of their eyes, the gang members divided up their clothes. From there, all of them were brought to the other side of the new cemetery. All the way, they were whipped in their heads and by rifle buts to their sides. When they arrived at the abyss, they were stood in two rows at the edge of the pit; they were shot and fell directly into the pit. Pinchas continued to tell in the name of the Gentile Alexi how Shalom Mishkin’s daughter, who was four years old, fell into the pit with the other martyrs who were shot, without being hit by a bullet; and she began to run on the dying bodies of the martyrs struggling with bitter death. All the barefoot policemen aimed at her with their rifles and shot about twenty bullets, and the girl ran to and fro as if the bullets had no effect on her. Until one of the policemen approached her kicked her in the head with his foot and knocked her to the ground. Then he put his rifle to her head and put an end to her child like life.

After they finished killing all of them , the truck arrived and with it the two Germans that came to take butter and milk. They came up to the pit to see if the work was properly done, photographed the full pit and ordered the pit to be closed and went on their way to Pinsk.

Before they finished closing the pit, the policeman bringing Shmuel Griber’s wife from the village of Zamushah arrived. The blood thirsty beasts received her with wild cries. Each of them tried to force out of her where her husband escaped to. But the courageous woman went directly to the still open pit and looked at the martyrs and said to the Gentiles in their language, "Too bad that you brought me here so late and I can’t join the rest of them." The ragged policemen immediately brought down two of their companions who busied themselves in covering the first pit and had them dig a pit for the courageous woman. They tried all sorts of inducements to tempt her into revealing where her husband hit and where they buried their property. But she rejected them with contempt and said that they were wasting their breath because she was not going to answer them. Their patience expired and one of the policemen jumped up with a shout ordering her to take off her clothes. The poor woman cold not remove her dress quickly enough so some of the lowly beasts ripped her dress from her and with a shout threatened to kill her on the spot if she would not tell where their property was. But she stood up to them and defiantly said the following words, "Thieves! You already stole all our property and there was nothing left for us to hide." The first blow of the rifle but fell on her back and they shouted at her, "Tell or don’t tell, you die Jew." They brought her to the pit which had been dug. The pit was not deep because they were in a hurry to finish the game of death. They ordered her to stand facing the pit so as not to see who was shooting her, but she also refused this and said, "You’re shooting me; I’ll look into your foul faces. I want to see who is my murderer." The blood thirsty policemen did not hold back and two shots rang out from their guns simultaneously and put and end to the life of the brave woman. They closed the pit and happily returned to the town. They were happy that they ran into two Nazis who gave them the instructions to carry out this dark work and clean the town of Motol of Jews. They made a party in the middle of the street and divided with the police of Motol the property and clothes looted from Jewish homes in the villages.

The town’s Gentiles, calling themselves policemen, took advantage of this gang’s presence and incited them to search the houses of Gentiles who were known to have stolen valuables from the Jews and grabbed some of the loot by way of confiscation. They were too uncomfortable doing this themselves and did not want to make enemies out of the locals, so they requested help from the gang members who were more than willing to help and heavily laden with clothes and objects they dispersed to their villages.

So all night, Pinchas and I lay there relating to each other the story of how each had remained alive. I told him all that had happened to me since the first slaughter. He told me that had sent some Gentiles to the villages searching for me and to set up a connection between us. When we saw that the night was nearing its end, Pinchas rose from his place and arranged for me a pit and told me that in his opinion I could stay here with him for several weeks and regain my strength; the Gentile Alexi would not tell that I was here and would even ask people to continue their search for me. Meanwhile, maybe we would learn what was going on in the surrounding towns because Alexi told us that Jews were no longer being disturbed in Jonava and Drogichin and that Jewish women moved though the streets almost freely and only the men were interfered with, although the authorities announced several times that men were permitted to leave their hiding places and would no longer be attacked. If it turns out that there are Jews in Jonava, we will try to reach there. I agreed to Pinchas’ plan from lack of choice and entered the hole he prepared for me. The first rays of morning began to penetrate from outside.
 
 

24. The Sound Of A Broken Leaf

After a half an hour had passed, I heard foot steps approaching the shed. Pinchas made a light knock with his foot on the roof of my den that was beneath his as a sign calling for watchfulness. The shed’s door opened wide and someone knocked twice on the door and also added a dry cough. Right away, I heard someone climbing on the straw in the shed’s attic.

Pinchas stuck his head out of his lair and consulted with someone. And once again silence reigned. I felt a light knock above my head that was different from the earlier ones and a hand coming towards me from below. It was the hand of Pinchas. He touched me with his hand as a sign for me to rise. When I stuck my head out, Pinchas whispered into my ear to try to stay as seated as much as possible and I could eat from the food served to me. In a small jug there was some cooked potatoes and a bottle of milk. He served me a piece of bread that he saved from last night and he told me., "This time you’ll eat lone. I’ll manage with a single potato and a slice of bread and we have to try to leave some aside so that the Gentile will not think that there is still someone here with me." I quickly swallowed the food and returned to my lair. Time crawled by and I thought, "Outside, the morning Sun is intermingling with the dawn, its rays spreading on the wall downward, kissing each flower and bud longing during the entire night. The dog left its lair shaking off the clinging shackles of sleep, arched its back and barked as if to say, "so what." The morning birds chirp in unison, jump from place to place and chatter to each other. The time has come for the morning prayer...but here my train of thought is interrupted. The barn door opened again and the wife of the Gentile Alexi brought food for the pigs and sat to milk the cows. The cows stood upright after the night’s rest with thick mucous flowing from their mouths and emanating warmth and vapors. The cows were free to walk in the street unmolested and we who were made in the image of the Creator were worse off then them. She finished milking them and left and after a few moments the shepherd took them out to graze. Now came the time to stretch our limbs and Pinchas estimated that not a person would pass by for up to half a day, but after a short time children from the Black Gang gathered in the yard near the cow shed and began to nosily play and raise a ruckus. They innocently played. But every word they spoke chilled our blood. They also opened the barn and began to hide in the straw. All that we needed was fro them to climb up to the attic and discover us at once. We laid down in anticipation. Their games was "Jews and Germans" and they ran around calling out to each other, "See, here’s a Jew." They divided themselves up into two groups. Some of them played the German and the remainder fled from them and hid and whoever was caught was led to a wall, and they would make a shooting noise and would finish by saying, "So there was one less Jew." They played like this for about two hours as our flesh crawled. Pinchas was no longer able to control himself, burst into choked tears and sobbing said, "those little bastards had a big part in exposing Jews during the time of the first slaughter. Many Jews revealed their hiding places in the gardens and fields and handed them over with their shouts to be killed." I gathered all my strength to comfort him because tears were also flowing from my eyes and my heart ached.

Alexi went up to Pinchas several times a day and told him what was going on and what were the Gentile saying. He told him also which of the Gentiles were parading around in clothes belonging to the Jews and they began to mock those that refrained at first from looting and were not able to steal any valuables. They would say, there will be no more Jews in the town..they’ll never return... and even if they unfortunately return everyone who joined in will be accusing each other.
 
 

25. A Polite Request: Get Out

Once Alexi showed up in the middle of the day. He was shaken and frightened and fearfully told us that about fifty arrived in town and ordered all the men to gather in the town square. He promised that he would inform us of the purpose of the gathering once he returned. He returned after two hours and told us that they were ordered to follow all the instructions of the local authority, and they must all bring more milk to the dairy for the army, and anyone possessing a weapon must immediately bring it to the police. They were required to bring herds of sheep, especially those stolen from the Jews and to carefully observe the blackout regulations. Anyone violating the rules would be punished by...death. If the instructions were not carried out within a few days a house check would be made. Alexi began to plead to Pinchas and said to him, "Look here, if you could leave tonight to Jonava, lots of Jews wander the streets freely there." Pinchas told him, "Look Alexi, you’ve been good to me all the time, after all that, don’t betray me now. How could you send me this evening when tomorrow is Sunday and many people will be coming from the towns and countryside. Gather up some courage for another day and verify if the rumors from Jonava are true and what is the situation of the Jews there, and once I know that for sure, I’ll be on my way." Alexi said to him, "Look, I agree with you but my wife is very frightened and won’t leave me alone. She says that she is willing to supply you with as much food as you want every week as long as you hide in another place. So I’m requesting that for a few days at least you hide somewhere else until the Nazis leave town. When Pinchas did not reply he said, "In any case I’ll talk to my wife again", and left. After a short time he brought food and did not say a word. We did not close our eyes all night and made various plans for hiding for a few days. We wanted to investigate and discern more clearly the conditions of Jonovah’s Jews. The day before, we received news form a Gentile who was sent to us by the Yashpah brothers with Alexi knowing about it . They sent him to Jonava to ask their friends about the situation and they answered it would be better to say in their hiding places for a few weeks and only if there was no other choice other than to endanger themselves and they would be welcomed with open arms.

The morning had not yet brightened and Alexi showed up. He entered and with a choked voice said, "Pinchas, have pity on me and go and hide in another place today already." When Pinchas asked for the reason of his change of heart and why he did not tell him while it was still night, Alexi began to pour out the bitter conversation and told him of the fear that passed over his wife at the beginning of the evening and how she argued and cried the whole night to get rid of the Jew and let him go. And this is the fright that passed over her. "A group of soldier passed by to inspect the blackout while a ray of light poked out of our house. I wasn’t home. The soldier began to knock on the shutters to darken the windows. My wife was terrified at the thought that they came to search her for hiding a Jew. When I came, I found her crying and she said that if I continue to harbor the Jews she would take the children and go to her father’s house. I don’t want to die, she said. So I’m pleading before you Pinchas, before the light of day, please go by the garden to your shed or that of Shmuel Kaplan’s, or go into the ice shack, because you’ll find straw and lay there for the day and in the evening you can come to the me again."

Pinchas could not resist his pleading. He came down from the attic and said to me, "Wait here for a few moments and then come to our shed." After a few moments, Alexi already wanted to close the shed door and I lowered down my feet. But when Alexi saw my feet being lowered down he almost fainted with fear. When I quietly approached, thinking he was Pinchas, I saw Alexi laid out almost without the power of speech. I asked him where was Pinchas and he pointed with his fingers in the direction that he went and his lips whispered, "I thought the Dev..." and I almost would have burst into laughter if the situation was no so tragic.

When I entered into Pinchas’ shed, I saw him standing on a woodpile and arranging for us a hiding place. I also helped him by bringing down straw and hay from the roof and making a bed for us; we lay down and covered ourselves with hay. The light of morning began to pierce through. I took out the prayer book that I kept with me and we began to pray..."my soul thanks Thee...Praise Thee for not making me a Gentile".23 I contemplate, "the Jews are a strange people." Here are two blocks of wood laying with no future and no present, without a crust of bread and without hope. The slightest tremor can hand us over to our murderers. And still, "My soul thanks Thee." Even though you hide your face from my by handing us over to the beasts . Every Gentile, even the lowest and most despised has the right to live, not to be pursued, or pointed at, can walk freely down the street or roll around drunkenly in the mud. While we are despised and oppressed, a target for every bullet, lower than a dog wandering the streets. And nevertheless, "Thank you for not making me a Gentile! Because a Gentile is a flesh eating beast, a bloodthirsty creature! Gentile means boundless cruelty, to steal and murder for the pleasure of killing itself. I concentrated on every word coming out of my mouth; I count every syllable. Time lays heavy on my hands, the day is endless and I have nothing to do and I continue, "Praise Thee for providing all my needs." I suddenly wonder. Is this a blessing in vain? Am I really receiving "all my needs?" I do not have a crumb of bread or a drop of water and even if I had these, would they make up "all my needs?" But before I managed to look around carefully the sounds of running steps reached me and after that the sound of rifle shot and a shout of "Halt!" We sharpened our ears and by listening to the words from Shmuel Kaplan’s (Ganzalah) yard we understood the reason. One of the two Gentile women wanted to drag away some wood from Kaplan’s shed. A policeman passed by, saw her mischief and fired in the air to frighten her. She threw off the wood to the side at once and returned to her place because if she was caught thieving a second time, she would be shot. Silence once again reigned. We continued to pray, but I could not concentrate and only my lips formed the words with my thoughts elsewhere. Once again we heard foot steps and a conversation between the two of the, "We have to look at what’s in the shed." Another voice replied "Why go to the shed, you have what you want right here." These two Gentiles had come to steal building materials that Pinchas had prepared before the Holocaust. They left. But after a short time, one returned and went right into the shed in which we were hiding behind a wood pile. He began to pick through the wood and while moving the wood around almost discovered us. Our hearts stopped beating. We stood at death’s door and silently parted from each other. But as the Rabbis said, "Even when the sword’s edge is place on your neck, do not despair of receiving mercy." Now the Gentile once more picked through the wood and the entire pile began to collapse with a large noise. He was startled by the noise and afraid that it would be heard from outside and immediately left the shed leaving us buried under the pile, wounded and stunned. We regained our breath. We managed somehow to rearrange the pile and decided to mark the day as a memorial and if we manage to survive, make it a holiday.
 
 

26. Over The Grave Of Our Loved Ones

With a terrible impatience we waited for the Sun to dissappear and when it darkened we returned to Alexi’s shed so that Pinchas could talk to him and verify the situation in Jonava and prepare food for the way. After a short wait, Alexi appeared with a package of food in hand. He turned to Pinchas and said, "I’m angry with you for not telling me he’s here with you", pointing a finger at me and adding, "if you had told me I would have brought more food and you wouldn’t have to go hungry." He told us that the Germans conducted searches in many houses and confiscated flocks of sheep and boots and evening time they made their way to Molodovo taking with them policemen from the town. He continued to say that he had reliable knowledge of the situation in Jonava according to which that there were many Jewish men in the streets and some were already working in the saw-mill. He encouraged us and showed us a back way out of town and promised us to come from time to time to Jonava and bring us flour to bake into bread. We warmly parted from him and thanked him for all his kindness and we went on our way without tarry. In a roundabout manner we made our way out of the city. When we reached the road to Joanava, Pinchas said to me, "Let’s go a little out of the way and visit the grave of our loved ones. Who knows if this will be our last chance to visit here?" We arrived at the place and reclined weeping and lamenting our beloved family members who were cruelly cut down and a bitter question was in our thoughts, "Why God, did you bring us to this? Are we more guilty than any other people? more decadent than any generation?"

I was the first to recover a bit and turned to calm Pinchas. With great difficulty I managed to pull him up from the fresh, loose soil, which with all the attempts to cover up traces of the grave, it was easy to distinguish here the final resting place of our parents, brothers and sisters, our elders and all our loved ones. We very slowly raised to our feet and lamented, "My wife!, my mother! My sisters and children!" You sweet loved ones who did not part in life or death, why did you leave me to sigh? Why am I condemned to a life without you? And we once again fell down onto the loose earth crying bitterly.

I gathered my remaining strength and began to speak heart to heart, saying that his tears will not bring the dead back to life and will not do a thing. We have remained alive through divine intervention and the great task before us was to tell the World what the Germans did to us - that "enlightened" people who turned into a wild and blood thirsty animal! And a greater task awaited us and that is to seek an opportunity for revenge. Yes, to avenge the blood of our brethren and loved ones, so Pinchas, please pull yourself together; there is a long road before us and the night is passing. Maybe we will gather together and recite "Kaddish" for the sake of these holy martyrs. I continued to speak like that on end with my eyes continuously weeping. But when I mentioned the word "Kaddish", Pinchas told me with a choked voice, who knows when we will all be together again, meanwhile let us recite "Kaddish" now. In the dark of the night we echoed to each other eternally holy words, testifying to the eternity of the Jewish people, "Yitgadal vyitkadash, shmay rabah." And it was like the their Universe froze on hearing those holy words after witnessing the despicable murder that took place here. The echo was heard and spread to become an uproar and thousands of sounds.

Yitgadal vyitkadash, shmay rabah.
 
 

27. The Way To Jonava

We bypassed the two villages of Zamushah and Drojilovitch and arrived at the forest. My knees gave out and I was overcome by a terrible weakness and I asked Pinchas to arrange a short rest to allow myself to recover, because during the last few weeks I have been weakening and it was as if my legs had turned to stone. We took out some bread and sliced a thin slice, ate and continued on our way. But a feeling rose within me that I could not go on. I spoke, heart to heart, with Pinchas about entering the thick of the forest and laying down to rest for a few hours until we regain our strength. If in the beginning, against my will he said, "It will soon be light and there is a long way before us," but I pleaded and he acquiesced because he was also exhausted. We agreed to have a good rest in the thick of the forest and continued on our way as the evening darkened. With the remainder of our strength we arrived to the thick wood and went to sleep at once.

I do not remember how long we slept there, but voices woke me and it was still dark in the forest. It was the voices of the locals who had come to pick mushrooms and were shouting to each other so as not to lose one another. I said to Pinchas, "Let’s go to that old Gentile who’s walking towards us and ask him about rumors from Jonava." I was thinking that this old man will do anything for us, but what have we got to lose? In any case he will discover us right away because he was heading right in our direction. We approached the old man and wished him "Good morning" and he answered in turn. We asked him, "How are things in Jonava?" He told us that his son was there yesterday who said that he saw Jews walking in the streets and some were already working. Among them he mentioned Itsik, the blacksmith, whose smithy and house stood at the city’s edge near the way leading to Motol and from whose attic several refugees from Motol came down after the first slaughter and died there. They were Yosef Polick, Hershel and David Schuchman. Itsik was the son-in-law of one of Motol’s inhabitants Shmuel-Libkah, the shoemaker. The old Gentile mentioned names of some of other Jews who we did not know. We thanked the old man and went on our way. We almost had left the forest and a car’s clanking reached our ears. We quickly left our path and hid behind some bushes. A car loaded with German soldiers passed by. We waited until the car was out of sight and continued to walk.

We arrived in Jonava after eight in the morning. We went right to the smithy and appearing suddenly before us was Chayah Shuchman, the daughter of the above mentioned Shumuel-Libkah. She had survived the first massacre in Motol.

Bitterly weeping we fell on each other and no human power could describe the joy of this meeting once again seeing with our eyes someone from our town. She showed us the place from which they took down her husband Yosef Polick and her brother and cousin Hershel and David Shuchman, and brought them from there to the killing place.

We asked her to stop weeping and tell us what is going on here. She told us that the Sharashavski brothers arrived yesterday and informed us that Pinchas Karolinski was still alive. She turned to me and said, "We also knew that you survived. We heard that from Avigdor Chernomortz and Libel Rozenkrantz. Afterwards she listed the names of the survivors and who remained in Jonava. Among them were: Shalom and Reuven Mishkin, Abba Kot (Moshe Fridels’’ son), Yishayahu Kroyitz, Valul Chimerinski, Meir Gotanski (Berel Minx’s sons), Yisrael Chimerinski (Mordechai Natan’s son), Moshe Cheej (Rivkah Tabolker’s son), Berel Chimerinski known as Galiup, and another three that had arrived at Motol from the town of Kondaniah next to Brisk. She also told us that the Yishpah brothers were expected to arrive here, because the day before they sent a messenger to inform them of the situation and she announced to them that they will come.

We entered Itski’s house. The same emotional scene repeated itself with even more force. Here Itsik was able to tightly control his feelings. He was the first to calm himself and took out a pair of scissors to cut our hair and beards because they were growing wild, and meanwhile they prepared us a light meal. While we were still eating, he sent one of his children to request of my aunts to come and also the Sharashavski brothers. They came at once with the good news that another person from Motol is still among the living who we did not know of until now and his is Menashe Benner who hid in a village during the time of the first slaughter. My aunt also came and invited us to her place as she had an available spare room. By a roundabout way we reached her house where we washed and within a short time all the remnants of Motol gathered to tell of the story and miracles that passed over them.

After another day, the Yishpah brothers came and said that they managed to contact their cousins Banyah Stravitch and Chinkah with her husband. From the first slaughter they managed to hide by a Christian acquaintance and we did not know of their survival and here they were in Jonava.
 
 

28. Life In Jonava

Life was very difficult for Motol refugees because most of us were in Jonava illegally and we did not have the ration card to receive the ten grams of bread and we had not other acquaintances. In addition to this, we were afraid to wander freely in the streets and so more than once we felt the hunger pangs. The continual fear that surrounded us was like the third plague from Egypt and it was hard to remove it from our flesh.

After about another two weeks we heard that an elder form Motol who was appointed by the Germans to run the city (in their language he was called a "Wit") arrived in Jonava. At this point he was approached by the head of Janovah’s Jewish community who was appointed by the Germans to be responsible for the Jews here. His name was Alther Diuinski and he requested from the "Wit" that he act to obtain permits for the Motol refugees that were here to remain here legally and receive ration cards. But to obtain ration cards we would have to register for work. The various kinds of work were: ditch digging, manual labor on the railroad tracks or work in the saw mill.

After a while it became known to us what was going on in Pinsk. The first contact with the Jews of Pinsk was by Pinchas Karolinski who contacted his sister there. From her, it became known that David Kroyitski was in Pinsk. Afterward David informed us that the Zaditovski brother managed to survive and they were in Drogichin by their brothers who lived there. Letters were not exchanged by the Post because Jews were forbidden from using it; it was done through Christians who dealt with them - for a high price of curse.

After we had stayed a few months in Jonava, suddenly Shmuel Kaplan showed up. He told us how he had survived.

"Back in 1939 while the Russians invaded Poland, I was forced to hide because one of the town’s residents with whom I had dealings with had threatened to turn me into the Soviet authorities, so I moved to Pinsk. The hated peasant was appointed a Soviet official and so I could not return there. From there I traveled to Vilnah and decided to travel from there to America or the Land Of Israel, but I wasn’t able to. The war broke out between the Germans and the Russians and the Nazis invasion of Vilnah started a pogrom in cooperation with the Lithuanians in which 15,000 Jews were killed. The hand of fate that guides man saved me from the pogrom and I somehow returned to Pinsk. When I heard that the remaining refugees were here, I came and I want to know the details of the destruction."

They told him the chronicle of the destruction and one of the refugees told him the name of his Gentile to whom his wife gave a lot of their possessions for safe keeping. Then he had an urge to travel to Motol to see the destruction with his own eyes, especially to see if he could get back some of his property or a least some clothes and underwear.

He succeeded in receiving a travel permit in order to travel there, sleep and return. But that night it became known to members of the "Black Gang" that Shmuel Kaplan had returned; they gathered and set fire to some house near the barn in which they imagined that he stayed and they set up as a false witness the old Gentile sinner known as "Tsiduchah" - Shahik Tamya to claim that Shmuel Kaplan deliberately set fire to the house. He was arrested immediately by the police of Motol and brought to Jonava in handcuffs and from there brought afterward to Pinsk and handed over to the Nazi headquarters. He was of course quickly dealt with and killed at once by shooting. From that moment on we walked in fear of Gentiles from Motol putting stories in our mouths because they saw us in the street sometimes when they came to sell stolen Jewish property.
 
 

29. Transports

A few quite months passed by. Some Nazi leaders arrived at Jonava and turned to the Jewish community, requesting from them one hundred and sixty workers to send to the Russian areas under German occupation. With great difficulty it was agreed to take only one hundred and twenty and among them Shalom Mishkin met his fate as did another who escaped to Motol from the town of Kondaniah. As it became later known from two people who escaped from there and returned to Jonava, also one hundred and twenty people were transported to the Jitomir area. On their arrival, they found another sixty Jews gathered from other cities and all of them were brought to the forest together; there they were busy making some sort of mysterious weapon and only after they finished the work they were brought to a pit that was previously dug and they were all killed, and only they miraculously escaped.

On the same night that one hundred and twenty people were removed from Jonava, five of the remaining refugees from Motol left for Pinsk because they saw that they too would be sent with this group to Russia.

Those who left were Pinchas Karolinski, Reuven Mishkin, Meir Gotanski, Yishayahu Kroyitz and another two whose names I have forgotten. They perished there with all the other Jews of Pinsk when the ghetto was destroyed.

Those that remained got by doing work such as cutting trees, manual labor on the railroad, carrying logs at the saw mill and so forth. I managed by working in a hospital for contagious diseases.
 
 

30. Ghetto

The year 1942. A bright red sun is rising. The beams of light fall on the ground. But it did not brighten and warm us Jews, instead it burns us and sucks out with its heat the remaining moisture from our exhausted bodies. Suddenly automobiles appear and in them German soldiers and Gestapo men - all of them armed - and with German military precision they began to surround the courtyard containing the Jews. What are they planning? Is it a new cleansing - in another words a pogrom or forced labor? They suck us out from the cracks seized by fear and trembling, without knowing what to do - to hide in the cellars and other secret places that we prepared or to try to flee and escape.

The time was two in the afternoon. The sound of confusion reached us from the street. The street was full of thousands of Jewish men women and infants. All of them bent under their great burdens. Everyone dragging what he could take with him, because from now on that is all that he owned, the rest abandoned. The bundles are wrapped with white sheets and colorful blankets. Children running in panic, looking for their parents, running into people, being yelled at breaking into better and loud crying. The German soldier maintain order from time to time with their whips. Going to the ghetto.

I went outside and stood among the Jews. A whistle pierced the air and the crowd began to move. I was swept away by the whirlpool of the people and the bundles. I looked around me and I noticed some of our remaining refugees near me. I told them that we would try to stay together and to gather all those left so we could be one large family. The Christians gathered in the streets and on the doorsteps and looked at us. Most of them were shouting and enjoying themselves, "You deserve it, you yearned for Bolshevism in Palestine, Good for you!" The young whistled from the amount of pleasure to express - there derision of those walking by. The Sun was very hot. Most of the people wore more than one suit and several pairs of underwear in order to save what they could The bundles were a burden; here and there some were thrown aside, trembled, scattered to the cheers of the Black Gang.

The area of the ghetto was very small; there was about 1.020 square meters for every living soul to live. The crowding was terrible. In one room, that in normal times would contain one person or at most three people, now lived up to ten people. The houses soon would be filled with filth and the people sunk in despair and hopelessness. Because after a day of back breaking labor there was almost no energy for cleanliness and order. It was also necessary after work to search for extra food in addition to the ten grams of rationed bread, and to worry about clothes, shoes washing underwear and drying them. So it was not surprising that everything was neglected. The pipes were broken, the water did not flow, the toilets were backed up. Piles of trash, potato peals, moisture and mold, bugs and lice - that was our lot in the ghetto in which we thought of how to keep up our courage and pass the short time until evil Germany would fall apart; this we believe with all our heart.

It was forbidden to leave the ghetto without a special permit. Only those who worked outside the ghetto’s borders received these permits. Every morning we would arrange ourselves next to the ghetto gate and the police would examine and check and count how many people exited. And the same on our return. While this was going on there was no lack of blows and whips and particularly during the return when the workers were found to be smuggling food into the ghetto. I was one of those who held an exit and entry permit because of my work in the hospital for contagious diseases that was outside the ghetto. While I was outside of the ghetto , I made contacts with partisans and helped them with medical supplies that I "lifted" from the hospital.
 
 

31. The First Memorial Day For Our Martyrs

The night of Tishe B’av 24 came. The night designated for us Jews from earliest times for remembering our tribulations, and the first memorial day for our martyrs and loved ones. A full year since they were murdered and buried alive. It was a year of suffering and hard labor for those who survived. Some survived the year, many were killed during the second slaughter and some found their deaths on the paths and in hiding places.

We all gathered together, "the surviving few" in a seminary to observe the first, gloomy memorial day. We were all observing the fast despite the expected hard day of work. After reciting the elegies, we read Psalms accompanied by the sound of sobbing. During this heart breaking scene we broke out into "Kaddish." The recitation of Kaddish was interrupted from time to time by bitter, piercing weeping and a long time passed before we could regain our composure and continue until the awful crying resumed. We sat for a long time and told each other for the hundredth time the story of the destruction. Everyone remembered and added details gathered from the locals and the horrors passed before our eyes as if the event were still fresh. We especially remember the children and infants, those pure souls that have not yet experienced life, untouched souls innocent of any sin who were murdered with such cruelty. And how jealous we were of the Jews of Jonava, who mostly still had their children. Even though the children in the ghetto were a very difficult problem because not only were they difficult to provide for and went around hungry and parched, infested by vermin, with no one to care for them, but they were also a difficult problem when running for a hiding place, since a child that did not grasp the serious of the situation would start crying and put all those hiding at risk. But nevertheless, the yearning for a child or a baby continued to grow, to hug him to press to your hear and to impart all the warmth still residing in a hardened heart.

At midnight we got up to disperse and promised each other to at least raise tombstones for our martyrs and loved ones. We also decided that if we survived to try to take revenge for the blood that was spilt. Spontaneously a curse emanated from our mouths cursing any person who decided ever to return to Motol and live their life there, and cursed by the earth that opened its mouth, swallowed our brothers’ blood and covered this horrible crime.
 
 

32. The Destruction Of The Ghetto

Elul 1942.25 A German newspaper fell into our hands, containing a speech that Gobbels and Goering addressed to the German command structure in the occupied territories which were to be cleaned of Jews by the end of the year. We understood the meaning of this speech and from then on we arranged guards in the ghetto all night so we would not suddenly be surrounded without means of escape. People from Motol, full of sad experience, were especially on guard. Many of them would sneak out in the night to sleep in the fields or instead of returning to their work in the ghetto would go to hiding places. Only the Jews from Jonava took no precautions and said that there was nothing to fear; they already drained out most of our blood, no more will be killed. They need us for our labor and who would suddenly wipe out their own workers.

Two days before Yom Kippur news arrived of deep pits behind the town near the village of Rodisk. But they did not pay attention. I realize that anyone could have dismissed the threat saying a pit only good for killing Jews? A pit can be used for other things. Never the less, fear crept into the hearts of many Jews of Jonava and some of them began to prepare to flee to the forest. Some of them went around in despair saying, "whatever happens will happen! If a man is destined to die, there is no escape in any case." We knew that we would not be late for death, but as long as our hearts beat we had to escape to any place to where we could.

Yom Kippur passed by. The atmosphere began to calm down a bit after nothing occurred during the previous two days. We began to prepare for the upcoming Sukkot holiday and some took the trouble to even build a Sukkah. On the Monday after Yom Kippur, towards the evening the ghetto was surrounded by strong components of guards and a mass expulsion to the pits that been dug began. Anyone who refused was shot on the spot The extermination lasted three days because most of the Jews hid in secret places that had been prepared underground or between double walls. The Germans knew the exact number of Jews in the Ghetto and did not want to pass up a single one, and so they went form house to house, sniffing in every crook and cranny and discovering many of the hiding places, removing the hidden Jews and joining them with the rest. But some were still missing, because most of the hiding places were craftily made and not easily revealed. Even with the assistance of the local police and many of the local Christians who volunteered for this despised work with their long time knowledge of the place, were not able to reveal the hiding places. Then they began to blow up each house with dynamite and burn them. Who knows how many Jews perished horribly under the wreckage - who by strangulation, who by crushing debris, who by fire and who lay there in hunger without possibility of escape. Only from the German newspaper did we know of the destruction of 4,000 Jews, among them the remnants of Motol’s refugees. I hid during the time of the destruction of the ghetto in the attic of the hospital in which I worked. Seven people from Motol similarly survived: Abba Yishpah, Eliezer Sharashavski, Banyah (Benyamin) Stravitch, Menashe Benner, Yisrael Chimerinski, his brother Daniel (who was in one the Russian legions during the outbreak of the was and was captured by the Germans with the rest of his regiment. He his Jewish origin in captivity by claiming to be Ukrainian, was set free and reached the ghetto), and another refuge from Kondaniah.

But death pursued this group and overcame it one by one. Abba Yishpah and Eliezer Sharashavski with tremendous effort reached a group of partisans from Motol that were considered to be admirers of the Russian regime. Actually they were provocateurs who laid wait in the forest for Jews. They cunningly deceived Abba Yishpah and brought him to a secret place that no one know until this day by saying they planned to ambush a group of Germans, but they returned without him, wearing his clothes and boots. I later learned that his killing was arranged by Mikitah Kaliltz (Yunger), but he managed to escape from my hands after the liberation when I kept track of some our brothers’ murderers. Banyah Stravitch fell victim to German policemen while traveling to Motol next to the village of Drojilovitch. The policemen were hiding in fields by the side of the road in wait for partisans that had to pass by in order to receive food from the village. His bad luck brought him to the same place where the Germans were preparing an ambush and he fell into their profane hands from which there is no return.

Menashe Benner fell while hiding by the Gentile Mitivo in the village of Zakliah on the way form Motol to Drogichin. He was captured in a strange manner. Mitivo the Gentile’s son served the Germans as a volunteer policeman. A group of partisans had taken over the Gentile’s house. They went over the entire house looking for anything to take and in the attic of the shed they found Menashe Benner and killed him on the spot. Yisrael and Daniel Chimerinski (Malyosh) escaped to Drogichin and perished there in the ghetto that was liquidated two weeks after the liquidation of the Jonava ghetto. The refugee of Kondaniah who passed through all the rings of Hell and who mourned the loss of his entire family from Motol escaped to the forest and survived. And I - after I lay three whole days on the roof of the hospital, came down from it and hid by a Christian acquaintance in a shed full of straw during the entire Winter. The living conditions under which I suffered can not be described by paper and pen, and I prayed more than once to drink once to satiation and then to die. On the thirty first of April 26 of the year 1943, I left the shed and reached a group of partisans.

There still remains for me to mention the Zaditovski brothers who escaped from Motol on the day of the second slaughter, reaching Drogichin and perished there during the ghetto’s liquidation. Eliezer Sharashavski reached a genuine group of partisans and passed through all the baptisms of fire until the Red Army liberated the area. I made a great effort to contact him and help him avoid being caught up in the military draft that the Russians instituted when they entered but to no avail. Eliezer was part of a group of partisan volunteers that took it upon itself to seek vengeance against the German murderers of our brothers which went to the front. I was very frightened that I could not make contact with him. I would have prevented him for sure from going again to the front and I could have arranged for him a job in Pinsk. There was also personal reasons for wanting to keep him near me. I was isolated and lonely without being close to another living soul. I also wanted to help him in seeking revenge against the people of Motol who participated in the murder of our brothers. But fate was otherwise. So he was not fated to seek the vengeance that I took with my own hands on some of the murderers. I later learned that Eliezer fell in battle in 1945.

Before I left the area, never to return, I visited the cemetery. That was in 1945. Most of the tombstones were overturned and is could be easily seen the signs of looting and destruction that did not even pass over the final resting place of our elders and ancestors. The fence surrounding the area was destroyed by the local inhabitants who used its boards for their own needs. Paths ran through many graves and sometimes tombstones were taken to build their houses. I was there with a group of Soviet officials whose job was to investigate the crimes of the Germans the escapades of the locals. On my request, they ordered the local officials to immediately fence in the cemetery and the communal grave of our martyrs. But if they carried out the command or not, I do not know, because I had to continue on my way. But spurred on by my pleading, they issued orders in my presence to the local official in the harshest language to carry them out within the week. After about a week, I left Pinsk in which I found myself after the liberation, and through various ways I arrived in defiled Germany. I stayed there for seven months in a camp with other displaced Jews like myself. I succeeded over time to meet up with two friends from Motol and they were: Yosef Widman and Chaim Yishpah who miraculously survived like myself and were waiting to immigrate to the Land Of Israel. I contacted relatives in American and they immediately sent the necessary legal papers needed for immigration. I departed from the defiled and cursed land of Germany with the hope that I would be privileged to reach the Holy Land Of Israel to which I sore the tradition oath, "If I forget you Jerusalem, let me forget my right arm..." 27

* *
*

This was the scroll of torture and suffering of the people of our city - poor Motol. This was the end of our holy martyrs. I fulfilled my goal of telling the World about the murderous killing machine, about the destruction of humanity, the negation of all that is holy in man. I am sure that someone who has not seen with this with his own eyes and did not feel this on his own flesh can not grasp it and perhaps will not believe and think that this is only a nightmare of blood and death. I carried out my mission to perpetuate the memory of the depths that humanity reached in the image of the German monster, so that the thirst for vengeance against the lowly murders will be quenched.

I will always carry in my heart this awful and bloody vision. I know that thanks to the martyrs, I remained the single witness to tell of the destruction of Motol...
 

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Footnotes

  1. Used to store the Torah scrolls Return
  2. Excerpts from the morning service Return
  3. Commerated the destruction of both the First and Second Temples, and other tragedies in Jewish history Return
  4. Summer 1942 Return
  5. The month of April has only 30 days so this must been an error in either the original manuscript or the earlier translation. Return
  6. Psalms 137 Return

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