[Pages 317 - 390 (cont'd)]
Shlomo Yosef Elgrod was a pleasant Jew with a patriarchial beard. The reason why he didn't move his family to Paris was because his wife, Miriam Feigel, was very religious and she objected to her daughters being influenced by the free lifestyle of the big city. Shlomo Yosef
[PHOTO: Shlomo Yosef Elgrod, of blessed memory]
himself settled nicely in Paris after he did not find a field of activity in Sokoly which suited his lively, energetic temperment and was forced to look for a source of income. His sons learned in yeshivot and succeeded in their studies. The oldest son Yisrael Leib Elgrod, learned in the Radun Yeshiva. He later went to learn in Breinsk when the brilliant Rabbi Shimon Shkop, of blessed memory, who had been the head of the Telshe Yeshiva, opened a new yeshiva in Breinsk together with Yisrael Leib. A number of young men from Sokoly moved to the Breinsk Yeshiva: Reuven Lev, Neta Zholty, Hodel Tzibeck's son, and others. After learning in Breinsk, the group moved on to the Reines Yeshiva in Lida.
Yisrael Leib was active among the community in London, especially in the more respected Orthodox circles. He was one of the few who established a private school with an initial 17 students, that over time expanded to 300 students and was recognized by the authorities.
Before the establishment of the State of Israel, he was the treasurer of the Mizrachi movement in London and afterwards of another organization [Y.Y.A.].
[PHOTO: Yisrael Aryeh Elgrod at the dedication ceremony of the new school,
under the auspices of the Chief Rabbi of England, Dr. Israel Broide]
Yisrael was also active in the Federation of Jewish Congregations. The Federation was established in 1889 by Lord Choitling, for the purpose of uniting the various communities in England into a single Jewish community.They established schools and charitable organizations and bought land for cemeteries. After the Balfour Declaration in 1917, they began to support the Zionist idea and the rebuilding of the Land of Israel. In 1949, Mr. Moshe
[PHOTO: Yisrael Elgrod and his family]
Lederman was chosen as President of the Federation, and he serves in this honored position to this very day. At his initiative, modern schools and community centers were built in England for educating Jewish youth. He has great influence and is active among the Jews for aliya and Zionism. In March of 1972, Mr. Lederman bought the Armon Hotel in Netanya and turned it into Federation House, where new immigrants from England can stay during their first days in the Land of Israel.
[PHOTOS: (left) Feivel Elgrod; (right) David Elgrod and his family]
Yisrael Elgrod's wife was from a distinguished family. The couple had talented children. His two daughters married boys from famous families. One of his sons-in-law is a doctor in London, the son of Rabbi Chaim David Feitlovitz, one of the chief shochtim in London, the brother of the well-known Dr. Yaakov Feitlovitz. The other son-in-law is a lawyer, the son of Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Fish, Shlita.
Yisrael's only son, Morris, is active with his father in the London diamond trade. To his great sorrow, his wife passed away a short time after their wedding.
Yisrael's brother, David, is a partner in the same business. David Elgrod's wife is the daughter of London Rabbi Yosef Lev, who was formerly a rabbi and rabbinical judge in the Warsaw community. David Elgrod is the father of two sons, Shlomo and Michael. The eldest son, Shlomo, is a graduate of a law school in London and does research in the field of criminology at Bar Ilan University. He manages a London law firm and is active in the Zionist movement. He was a representative at the 28th Zionist Congress in Jerusalem. The second son, Michael, is also a law school graduate, from England's Birmingham University. He holds the position of general secretary of the Bnei Akiva movement in Great Britain and Ireland.
Yisrael's youngest brother, Feivel Elgrod, learned in yeshivot. He was a brilliant student and had a talent for rhetoric. Everyone predicted a brilliant future for him. Unfortunately, he died of typhoid fever during the Russian Revolution, when he was learning in the Slobodka Yeshiva in Kremenczuk.
Shlomo Yosef Elgrod's oldest daughter, Sarah Mirka, married Chaim Velvel Olsha from Sokoly. They had three children: a son, Yona, and two daughters, Rachel and Sirka. Chaim Velvel was a businessman and earned a nice living. Tragically, when a typhoid epidemic broke out in Sokoly, it took Chaim Velvel's life.
Shlomo's son Yona grew up and emigrated to Canada. His daughter Rachel married Reuven Bidenovitz in Sokoly. They opened a small candy store. The daughter Sirka was educated at the gymnasia in Bialystok. She married Nissel Lapchinsky. During the Soviet period, Nissel held an important position. He was killed in a tragic manner during the second German invasion of Sokoly.
[PHOTO: Sarah Mirka and family]
Shlomo Yosef's second daughter, Dina, married Zeinbel Barkat, a boy from Bielsk. The couple had two sons and two daughters. All of them were murdered in the Holocaust.
Shlomo Yosef's youngest daughter, Liba, married a man from Mezeritch [Ukraine]. They both were murdered in the Holocaust.
[PHOTOS: (left) Shalom Barkat, a soldier in the Polish army
(right) Dina Barkat and her family]
A few years before the War broke out, Malka's husband arrived from America for the purpose of remaining permanently in Sokoly. Occasionally he travelled again to the States, since he was a citizen there, and immediately returned to his home in Sokoly. In the end, he became ill and died close to the time the War broke out.
On the Sabbath, after the fattening noon meal of cholent and kugel, the family would sing Sabbath songs in a unified chorus, and the echoes of their singing spread far and wide. On occasions such as weddings, circumcisions and the like, the family conducted celebrations that lasted until dawn.
A similar situation existed also among the rest of the wagon owners. Moshe Avigdor and Moshe Hirsh brought merchandise and supplied it to the traders in Sokoly. Tall covers were attached to their wagons, and one night they all travelled together in an orderly fashion to Bialystok where they spent an entire day, and the next night returned to Sokoly.
Traders and shop owners would frequently cross the thresholds of the wagonners' homes, so it is not surprising that the many additional requests of the general public made them feel important and superior. Nevertheless, the sons of the wagonners were drawn to other occupations and businesses. Of all Blaustein's sons, only one, Yechiel, remained faithful to his father's profession, even though he winked an eye at other jobs.
Yechiel's main income came from business with the Treasury Office and the archives in Wysokie Mazowieckie. He supplied commercial licences, professional certificates and the like, to individuals and to shops. From these matters he had such a significant income that his transport business became a sideline. Slowly, slowly, he became wealthy. He bought Lifnowitz' house, which he extended and remodeled.
The son Yossel Blaustein and his sons dealt in the chicken and egg business on a wide scale, and his son-in-law Mordechai Sorosky sold crops; for this purpose, he built two storehouses.
Yaakov Yitzchak Rachelsky, the son of the wagonner Moshe Avigdor, was an agent for smuggling people over the German border so that from there, they would be able to get to America. He also equipped his customers with tickets for travelling by ship. At a later date, he dealt in supplying yeast to the bakers and shops. Yaakov Yitzchak sent his sons to learn and get an education.
Over time, Moshe Avigdor's house was transferred to the ownership of his grand-daughter, Hinda Rachekovsky.
Shlomo Leibel Itzkovsky, the son of the waggoner Moshe Hirsh, emigrated to America. From there, he sent money to his wife Rivche. She built a two-story house for herself in Sokoly. The daughter Molly married Mendel Fleer, and the daughter Rachel married the teacher Avraham Wasserman, who had a higher education.
[PHOTO: Rachel Wasserman, nee Itskovsky, and her son Reuven]
All the children of Moshe Cypes emigrated to America. The son of Leibel Blumenthal married the tailor Shmuel Moshe's daughter. Leibel's brother Meir was a successful businessman. He had a good brain and taught gemara. Iche Meir praised him as his best student.
Felek Blumenkrantz, Shlomo's son, left the wagon business and became a supplier of goods to the shops. Felek and his father were not well established, but they both were talented and were good speakers. In Sokoly, they called Shlomo the Landowner because he wore heavy gold rings on his fingers after he returned from America.
Once, a few important homeowners in Sokoly gathered together, with Zalman Yachnes as chairman. Most of the members of this group had elderly parents whom they supported, and they were afraid that the burial society would eventually require enormous sums as payment for the burial of their parents. For that reason, they attracted a great number of people in the community and convinced them to start a revolution; they would request the establishment of a new burial society. The arguments of the initiators of the rebellion were that the old burial society was exploiting the public and was stripping the skin of the dead and alive alike by demanding enormous sums for burial and then spending this money not on important public matters, but for dinners and celebrations. The members of the above-mentioned meeting decided to establish a new, democratic burial society of the people, and its members would be chosen from the general public, and its management would consist of only two or three of the more educated people. Anyone would be free to join if he wished and become a member, without having to pay a registration fee. They also established new regulations: they would not collect any burial fees from the poor; the middle-class and more established families would pay only a minimal amount that would be donated by each person according to his wishes.
After these decisions were made, there was a great commotion in Sokoly.The old burial society did not want to easily part with the control it had exercised for decades. There were lawsuits and Torah judgments. They invited a few Rabbis to preside as judges, headed by the Rabbi of Siedliszcze. The rabbis mediated and made a compromise between the societies. The new and old burial societies established a single burial society, with certain changes and amendments to the rules, and the dispute faded away. The results of the first revolution in Sokoly were that it blew a new spirit of life into the broad levels of the public, who had begun to take all the public institutions out of the hands of the learned homeowners, or, as they were called, the streimelach. If they were unable to take the management of all the public institutions away from the streimelach, at least they would have the determining power to do as they wished.
The Bnei Yaakov Company became the determining power in all the important public issues in the city, except for religious matters. The Company was the one who dictated to the heads of the congregation, that its opinion must be considered. There were no completely ignorant people in Sokoly without the spirit of Torah. A large portion of the craftsmen belonged to the mishnayot club. They had a rabbi who read them a chapter of Mishna every day. Some of the craftsmen belonged to the Torah club. They had a rabbi to taught a chapter of Chumash with commentaries every day, as well as Chayei Adam. In the tailors' bet medrash, there was also a special rabbi. Many of the craftsmen were yeshiva students in their youth. There were dozens of craftsmen in Sokoly who took Torah scholars as bridegrooms for their daughters. Many of the craftsmen and ordinary, simple Jews, even though they did not have sons who were Torah scholars, did have sons who were talented, educated intellectuals and were skilled in business. Almost every family had one or more talented sons whose parents were proud of them. Thus, the simple Jews of Sokoly did not feel themselves to be of a lower stature. On the contrary, they felt themselves to be greatly distinguished. They were proud of their sons-in-law, their sons, their brothers and their sisters.
[PHOTO: Chaim Lev and his sister Henya]
Other flour millers were Hershke Feivel Levi and Chaim Lev. They owned windmills. Chaim Lev and his sister Henya now live in Israel.
Another miller known in Sokoly was Berel the Miller, who was called Der Bargever Milner.
Shlomke Olsha married the daughter of Benyamin Rabinowitz, from the rabbinical family. He opened a paint store in Sokoly and managed the business with the help of his sons.
The son Hershel actually managed his father's bakery. When he served in the army, he was wounded in the leg, and limped for the rest of his life. He married a woman named Esther Leah, from Wysokie Mazowieckie. The couple had two children. Their son Fishel completed medical school and emigrated to the Land of Israel. He died young and left a wife and two children. Hershel's daughter Rachel also emigrated to the Land of Israel. She married and is the mother of three children. Hershel Olsha died of a heart attack after the Jews were driven out of Sokoly by the Germans. His wife was murdered in the Holocaust.
[PHOTO: Avraham Yaakov Olsha and his wife Beila Rivka]
The son Chaim learned in the Grodno Yeshiva. He married Rachel, a girl from Lomza. The couple had three children. One of their sons, Moshe, was an electrician. The son Yoel was musically talented. Chaim Olsha spent a number of years in Russia during World War I. While he was there, he developed gangrene in one of his legs, and became disabled. He and his entire family emigrated to the Land of Israel.
Avraham Yankel's daughter Rachel was the mother of the famous Zionist Eliezer Shupakewitz who is in America. Another daughter, Toiba, married a boy from Zambrow named Yosef Solarz. They emigrated to the Land of Israel, where they opened a bakery. They later bought an orchard and house in Kfar Saba. Yosef Solarz recently became ill. He had a stroke, became paralyzed, and passed away.
[PHOTOS: (top left) Zvi Olsha, of blessed memory
(top right) Esther Leah Olsha, may G-d avenge her blood
(bottom left) Rachel Olsha-Shupakewitz may she rest in peace
(bottom right) Dr. Fishel Olsha, of blessed memory]
There was another baker in Sokoly, Alter Radzilowsky. He and his wife Chaya bought a house from Shlomo Yossel Shainkes, where they set up a bakery. They had many customers, among the Jews and the Christians. Their son Shmuelke was a known scholar. Their daughter Sarah married Meir Katzova.
Another baker was Yechielke Somovitz. His bakery was on Bathhouse Street. He bought a neighboring house from Shlomo Zalman the painter and joined the two houses into one large house.
In his youth, Yechielke transported beer to the taverns. He was a wise Jew, the father of three sons and three daughters. His oldest son Yankel was a professional wagon maker, and was nicely established financially. His son Chaim worked with his father in the bakery. In Sokoly, he was known as the philosopher because he was an excellent daydreamer and loved to quote proverbs and prose. Yechielke's son Hershel completed elementary school and wanted to learn languages and to read scientific books. He was an intellectual in every meaning of the word, and was an expert in social and state problems. Hershel was married during the Soviet occupation to a girl from Pultosk.
[PHOTO: Yosef Michel Solarz, of blessed memory]
Yechiel the baker's oldest daughter, Dvorah, married Leibel Blustein, who was a businessman. Yechiel's daughter Traintse married a meat supplier from Bialystok. The youngest daughter, Chaya Rivka, also was married in Bialystok, to a weaver. They had two children.
The fourth bakery in Sokoly belonged to Dina Burstein. Dina's husband, Avrahamke, was a lathe operator. In addition, every day he would bring containers of milk to town from the large farms in the neighboring villages. Aside from the bakery, Dina also sold milk from her house. She was an organized housewife. She received the bakery from her predecessor, Chaya Leah, who had emigrated to America. Her daughter Duba married Yankel, the son of Moshe Rachelsky; her daughter Rivka married a women's tailor, the shoemaker Chaim Yitzchak's grandson. The shoemaker Chaim Yitzchak had another grandson who was a women's tailor, who was known in Sokoly as Hershel Skok.
A fifth bakery belonged to the teacher Yisrael Hirshman. He was not personally involved in the job of baking. This, his wife Liba did with all her might, with the help of her son Nachum and her son-in-law, who was a professional baker. Yisrael Hirshman's oldest son, Meir, emigrated to the Land of Israel. He died a short time later at a young age. The rest of the Hirshman family was murdered in the Holocaust.
There was one more bakery in Sokoly, which belonged to Yankel the Bialystoker. He lived in the house of Moshe Koppel the shamash, and the bakery was there. He was an expert at baking cakes and cookies with onions and poppy seeds. Before the War broke out, he moved from Sokoly to Bialystok.
Henech the butcher led a nice, organized life. His sons were talented in everything. His son, Mendel Fleer, supplied meat to the Polish army. During the Soviet occupation, he was imprisoned and sent to Siberia, and was thereby saved from the Holocaust. He now lives in Israel. His wife Molly and his daughter were murdered in the Holocaust.
[PHOTO: Felix Baran]
Among the other butchers of Sokoly was the Nyenberg family. The butcher shops of Moshe and Benyamin Nyenberg were orderly and clean. Moshe Nyenberg's son, Yankel, emigrated a long time ago to America. He once came to Sokoly as a guest, and donated a nice amount to the bet medrashs and other public institutions. He also took care to provide a dowry to someone in his family. The Nyenberg butchers had a brother named Yudel, who was a horse trader. He was a strong, muscular man. Mordechai Samochesky (Kozul) was another horse trader like him. It is told about the two of them that more than once they revealed their strength when they overcame a mob of wild Poles who tried to rob and kill the Jews.
Other butchers were Alter Baran and his sons, Zussel and Tovia. One of Alter's daughters emigrated to America. Tovia's children were excellent students at school. Of all Alter's grandchildren, only Feivel Baran survived the death camp.
Among the other butchers, Berel Sheikes and his son Avraham, as well as his son-in-law Fishel Munkach, should be mentioned. Berel's second son-in-law was Chaim Tovia Litvak, the blacksmith. Chaim Tovia's wife died young, leaving him with four children. They survived the Holocaust and remained alive after the War, but fate overtook them and the three sons of Chaim Tovia Litvak were murdered by Poles seven months after Poland was liberated by the Soviets, as has been told in the chapter regarding the last battle in the destruction of Sokoly. Of Berel Sheikes' family, Chaim Tovia and his daughter Sheina, Leibel Munkach and Sheika Nurzycz survived the War.
It is worth adding David Shlomo the Chasid and his son Avraham Zolty to the list of butchers. David Shlomo's butcher shop was in the long yard of his house. For many years, there was a quorum for prayers in his house. He hosted important Jews, rabbis and lecturers. There, in his house, they passed out leftovers and conducted weddings. His house always had a happy, festive air. His son, Avrahamel, was a cattle trader and businessman. He established a two-story house in Sokoly. One of his sons emigrated to America. The second son, Yaakov Meir, opened a confectionery store. David Shlomo's two other sons emigrated to America with their families. His son-in-law, Yudel Goldgrad, owned a grocery store, and had many customers, both Jews and Poles. He died young. His widow, Tova, with her son and daughter, fled to the forests when the Germans invaded, and later moved to the Bialystok Ghetto. Before they left for the Ghetto, their possessions, gold and dollars, which they had succeeded in keeping when they were in the forests, were stolen. They were murdered in the Bialystok Ghetto.
A dressmaker in prior times in Sokoly was Velvel Bernstein. He was married to Hinda, the daughter of Fishel, the teacher from Lapy. After their wedding, they emigrated to America.
Another dressmaker in Sokoly was Avraham Sorasky, who was called Lealke der Shtaper. He had a baby face with red cheeks. In his movements and with his smile, he gave the impression of a coquettish boy.
Years ago, Shmuelke Blaustein (Rabinek) dealt in dressmaking. Later, he was a hide trader. In the period before the War, the dressmakers in Sokoly were Areche Kaplansky, Alter Digoltz, Hilka Sokolovitz, and Tzilka Kameler.
Areche Kaplansky the dressmaker was a religious man, with a long beard. He was familiar with the religious texts. His young son Zelig was regarded as a genius in his studies. Near the outbreak of the War, Areche and his family moved to Bialystok. He explained this by saying that he did it to obtain a good education for his children.
Beside dressmaking Alter Digoltz also sold boots. He married Tova Goldberg, the daughter of Yisrael the blacksmith. Alter Digoltz, his wife and their daughter, were murdered in the Holocaust.
Hilka Sokolovitz the barber, was a Gerrer Chasid. He was interested in politics and always was seen reading newspapers. He was a Chassidic scholar. He was not well-established, even though he owned a house. He had four sons and two daughters. His son Avrahamel married a woman from Wysokie Mazowieckie, where he bought a bakery. He was involved in community affairs and one of the opinion-makers there. Hilka's mother, Feiga, was the only woman in Sokoly who wore a talit katan.
Tzilka Kamiler was one of the best dressmakers in town. He married the daughter of Ephraim Heistus, a poor widower. Tzilka's wife helped him in his work and learned the profession very well. She even managed the business and since Tzilka was physically weak, she would travel to buy leather.
[PHOTO: (standing, right to left: Yosef Okune, Lapkovsky, Zalman Goldberg,
Zeev (Velvel) Malun; (sitting) Toiba Digholtz (Goldberg)]
[PHOTO: (sitting, left to right: Zvi Tikochinsky, Yehuda Shkok (husband of Liba Ettel),
Yosef Lapchinsky with his wife, Abba Lapchinsky
(standing, left to right: Moshe Charny, Liba Lapchinsky, Eliezer Gurkewitz)
(middle, left to right: Liba Ettel Lipchinsky, Sasha Lapchinsky-Cherno)]
Avraham Yitzchak and his son Chaim emigrated to the United States. Yaakov Hershel the tailor and his brother-in-law Shmuel remained in Sokoly the entire time. Yaakov Hershel's son Leizer Gurkewitz married the daughter of the tailor Zalman Leibel Beidnovitz, and they made aliya to the Land of Israel.
Other brothers who were tailors were Yudel and Berel Zeibak. Yudel owned a house on Mountain Street. He was the father of a Torah scholar, a yeshiva student, who later emigrated to America. Berel owned a brown house next to the tailor's bet medrash. His only son, Eliya, was a dental technician.
Apparently it was decreed that the tailors of Sokoly would be brothers. Another nice pair of tailors who were brothers were Shmuel Moshe and Yaakov Rudnik. Shmuel Moshe had a house on Gonsveska Street. He himself, and his son Zeidel, were Torah scholars. Yankel learned at one time in the Lomza Yeshiva.
Another tailor, who was of good character, was Itzel Kalina.
One of the superior tailors in Sokoly was Zusele Charney, who owned a house on Tiktiner Street. His two sons, Moshe and Meir, were recognized public speakers.
Among the other tailors were Shlomo Kravetzwitz (Maas), Zeidel Berliner and Nachum Bialystotzky. The very last of the tailors was Shmuelke Kaplan, a supporter of the Bund, enlightened in public affairs, and always ready to convince everyone that he was right. Shmuelke Kaplan gave his children a religious education, for the purpose of making them more acceptable to the people of Sokoly.
Other seamstresses in Sokoly were Bracha Zlatka and her daughter-in-law Chava; Mirche Bialodvorska, who later emigrated to America; Rachel, the daughter of the blacksmith Leib Goldberg. She was famous for her speed at her work. Her first husband was killed in World War I. Rachel was left a widow with three children. She emigrated to Australia, where she married a man named Marcus, and then sent for her children. She was a good-hearted woman and was ready to help others.
There was also a female hatter in Sokoly. Her name was Toiba Dvora Shveiznik. She managed her workshop with the help of her daughters. One of her sons, Hershel, was a butcher, and the other, David Yudel, was a carpenter. Toiva Dvora's father-in-law was a hatter. He was killed 50 years ago in a traffic accident, when a train collided with a wagon in which he was travelling. Yankel Sokolowitz and Shlomo Olsha, who were travelling with him, were injured in that accident and received compensation. The heirs of the man who was killed bought a two-story house with the compensation money they received from the train company.
[PHOTO: (standing, left to right): Zvi (Hershel), Feivel, Feige Rivka, David, Gershon
(sitting): Yitzchak and his wife Sara Rachel]
The dead man's eldest son, Moshe, married Toiva Dvora, the daughter of the butcher Moshe Tovia. Moshe died young, leaving his wife with four children. One of their sons, Hershel, was shot by the Germans on the first day when they entered Sokoly. The second son was a soldier in the Red Army, and was killed in battle. The rest of the members of the family were murdered in the Holocaust along with their Jewish brethren.
Another painter in Sokoly was Shlomo Zalman Dachovitz. In his middle age, Shlomo Zalman visited America. One of his sons was the famous American Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Dachovitz, of blessed memory. Shlomo Zalman Dachovitz' other two sons, Aharon and Sender, and his daughter, are also in America.
Years ago, there was also a painter in Sokoly named Shepsel, a cheerful, happy Jew. At every celebration or happy event in the bet medrash or synagogue, Shepsel would entertain the people. He had a regular custom of going up on the bima and calling out to the children in a loud voice: Holy Sheep! and the children would happily answer, Maaaaa!
Shlomo Vitriol and his son Eliya also worked as painters in recent years. Between the two World Wars, I remember a painter in Sokoly named Zeidke Kaplan, from a priestly family (Kohanim). He was the son of Berel Leibel. After his father passed away, Berel Leibel inherited his house. On the day the Jews were expelled from Sokoly by the Germans, Berel Leibel became ill. He and his family were the first victims of the expulsion.
I remember two other painters during the last period in Sokoly. They were Shmuelke Weinstein and Yerachmiel Weinkrantz, the son of the shochet Barish.
A third painter in Sokoly was Berele Seines. His two sons and two daughters emigrated to America. One son, Moshe Hershel Seines, remained in Sokoly with his family. Berele Seines' brother was the well-known Sokoly comedian Yankel Mordechai.
[PHOTO: Chaim and Chana Gornostiensky]
His son Yitzchak had a pleasant voice and sang with the praiseworthy Cantor Bodnovsky. Chaim's daughter Sarah was married in Israel to Avraham Goldrath, a known personality from the religious sector and a member of the first Knesset.
Another barber in Sokoly was Simcha Ushinsky, who married Raiske, the daughter of Tuvia Gonshevsky, the shoemaker. Simcha Ushinsky's brother was a well-known butcher in Bialystok. Over time, Simcha the barber and his family moved to Bialystok, where he opened a barbershop. Just before the War, another barber, whose name was Meir Gozbanda, came to Sokoly.
During the last years, Chaya Zelda and her brother David Shklarovitz, as well as Benyamin Ratzlav, worked as glaziers.
In his youth, Benyamin Ratzlav was active in the communist underground in Sokoly. He believed, like many others of his generation at that time, that redemption for the workers would come from Moscow and that the Jews would find their redemption only within the framework of the world communist revolution. This was the I believe of Ratzlav, and he dedicated all his energy and resources to the fulfillment of this idea.
In September of 1939, Ratzlav merited to see with his own eyes the fulfillment of his vision when the Red Army ruled over Eastern Poland. As the possessor of a past rich in underground activities, he joined the service of the new regime, doing his work with great dedication and enthusiasm. His period of brilliance did not last very long. On June 22, 1941, Hitler's armies invaded Russia, and they quickly conquered Sokoly.
Ratzlav succeeded in joining the partisans who operated in the forests around Bialystok. He fought in the group led by Dr. Dettner and Chaim Shimon Lapchinsky, of our town.
In 1944, Sokoly was freed from the Nazis, and a new job awaited Ratzlav. During this period, gangs of Polish nationalists were formed. One of their purposes was to eliminate the remainder of the Jews who had survived the camps and the forests. We then find Benjamin Ratzlav among the fighters of these gangs. But he was quickly forced to flee from Poland, because they regarded him as their enemy and threatened his life.
Meanwhile, drastic changes occurred in his political outlook. A letter from him was recently received by Moshe Maik, my son, and here are some passages from Benjamin's confession:
Already at the end of 1939, I began to have doubts regarding the Communist idea. I encountered reality and I saw the contradiction between the rule and the deed. During the period in the forest, my doubts grew. There, I met with young Russian partisans who were educated under Soviet rule. I was close to them and found out that they were filled with the spirit of their fathers, who rioted against the Jews. It clearly appears to me that 20 years of the Soviet regime have not succeeded in educating a new generation to be better than its predecessors.Today, Benyamin Ratzlav lives in the United States. He is married, the father of a son, Hillel, and has a grandson.
Now, toward the end of my life, as a person who has learned from hardships and experience, I wish my confession to be used as a moral lesson to the young people. Do not follow blindly after high ideals of equality and freedom, such as the Communist creed.
I am the man who dedicated the best years of my life to the Communist idea, and I encountered bitter disappointment. Because of all this, my sympathy for others was taken away from me, and I was persecuted by G-d and man.
Isser hid in a bunker in the forests. His first wife, the daughter of Shaike, and their children, were all killed. After the liberation, Isser remarried and emigrated to the Land of Israel. Today he is the father of three children.
Yankel was a soldier in the Soviet Army. On the basis of the repatriation, he returned to Poland, and from there he emigrated to the Land of Israel, where he married.
Esther Chana, the daughter of Aharon the barrel maker, survived the Bialystok ghetto. She was a very beautiful girl. In the first operation of the Germans in banishing the Jews from Bialystok, Esther Chana was among the 10,000 who were driven out. One of the Germans who accompanied the transport of the Jews was amazed at her beauty and asked her how old she was. She answered, I am 18 years old. What a pity, answered the German, for such beauty to go to waste I am sorry I cannot help you, because I am fulfilling the Feuhrer's orders.
Esther Chana was in a number of German concentration camps, and remained alive. After the liberation, she returned to Bialystok. She married and travelled to France.
Yisrael Aharon Sarnewitz remained in his parents' house and worked with his father. He had a large inventory of metal materials and bicycles. He married, and his economic situation was stable. A daughter was born to the couple.
Alter Sarnewitz worked independently as a locksmith. He lived in Argentina for a number of years, and returned from there. His economic situation was not good. He had two lovely daughters. The younger one, Tzipke, succeeded in escaping to the Soviet Union before the Germans invaded Sokoly, against her parents' wishes, who mourned for her for years, thinking that she was lost. Of the entire family, Tzipke was the only one who remained alive.
Tzipke Sarnewitz married a man in the Soviet Union. The couple had a daughter. After the War, the family made aliya to the Land of Israel.
[PHOTOS: (Left: Yisrael Chaim Roseman, of blessed memory)
(Right: Zvi and Mattel Roseman, who passed away in New York)]
to the United States. The son Zelig had a drugstore there. The son Yudel died in his youth in America. The son Hershel married a woman from Breinsk. His only son, Yoel Dov, is presently in New York and owns a drugstore there. The daughter, Rikel, died giving birth in Bialystok.
[PHOTO: Yoel Dov Roseman and his family]
The father Yisrael Kashevitz gave his eldest daughter an acceptable dowry. His son Mendel emigrated to America after World War I. The youngest son, Chena, worked steadily with his father.
Another wheelwright in Sokoly was Hershel Krawcewitz, the son of the waggoner Darneger. Darneger would travel a number of times a day to the train station in Raczibor. He built a house on Tiktiner Street. His son, Hershel the wheelwright, received a nice dowry and bought an inventory of materials for his workshop. Hershel showed a talent for dancing, and even opened a dancing school in Sokoly.
Hershel's sister Nechama, a pleasant girl, joined a local amateur theater choir, and appeared in a number of plays. During the War, Nechama married Avraham Fleer. After the Jews were expelled from Sokoly, the couple hid in one of the villages at the home of a Christian, and there their son was born. Tragically, their hiding place was revealed and they all were murdered.
A third wheelwright in Sokoly was Yankel Somowitz, the son of the baker Yechielke Somowitz.
The fourth in the line of wheelwrights in Sokoly was Naftali Plut. He actually had an additional profession: a blacksmith. He was the father of nine sons and a daughter. His son Berele was a locksmith; his son Zundel was a baker by profession; another son learned in a yeshiva, and two of his sons helped their father build wagons.
Of Naftali Plut's ten children, after the War only four sons survived: Zundel, Yisasschar, Yankel and Zelig. They were in German concentration camps. Yisasschar died two weeks after the liberation, in Austria. Zelig emigrated to the U.S. Zundel and Yankel reached Bialystok. After a short time, Zundel died, weak and sick after being in the camps. Yankel is in Israel. He married and is the father of a son and a daughter.
[PHOTOS: (Left): Rachel Plut and her daughter Sheina-Chinka
(Right): Chaim Plut, may G-d avenge his blood]
Regarding Naftali Plut, it is interesting to tell how he took good care of his elderly father, who lived in his house and was almost unable to move because of his advanced age. Every Friday, Naftali took his father in a wagon to the bathhouse, washed him and drove him back home. Naftali fulfilled the commandment of honoring his father.
Yankel knew how to learn, and he obtained a good, basic education for his children. Later, Yankel Burstein moved with his family to Bialystok.
The builder Moshe remained in Sokoly until the Jews were driven out by the Germans. He lived a house that belonged to his father, Meir Gedalia, who owned a number of houses. After their father passed away, his sons inherited the houses.
[PHOTO: Tuvia Goldberg and his wife Rachel
Standing, right to left: Malka, Elimelech, Rashka and Sarah]
The sons-in-law of Leibel the blacksmith were wise scholars. His first son-in-law, Berel from Jablonka was familiar with Gemara even though he was a blacksmith. Every day, he regularly learned a
[PHOTO: Shlomo Golberg, of blessed memory]
[PHOTO:& Smithy of the brothers Nissel and Aryeh Lapchinsky.
Next to the horse: Yaakov Sorasky]
page of Gemara and a chapter of Mishna. His second son-in-law, Zerach Hachanoni and the third son-in-law, Chaim, the Melamed's son, were also immersed in learning Torah.
[PHOTO: Aharon Eliyahu Seines with his family
Sitting: Aharon Eliyahu and his wife
Standing (right to left): Dov, Chana, Sara, Shlomo,
Naftali Pluf and his wife Rachel, Chana, Chaya and Moshe]
Hershel had an only son, Baruchke. When the Jews were driven out of Sokoly, Baruchke was shot to death by Konofka, the Polish guard, who saw him fleeing in the direction of the village Wypychy.
Itzke Braun (Zusters) built beds, tables, closets and chests, mostly for the people of the nearby villages, and he had additional income from his milk business. With all his business dealings, the lifestyle of his family was proletarian and modest in comparison to the other carpenters, such as Hershel Shadlinsky.
One of the best carpenters was Daniel Eyen. He built beautiful furniture and his work was wonderfully precise. He worked slowly, with the help of his three sons. One of his sons served in the Polish army until the War broke out, and was taken prisoner by the Germans.
Daniel's 14-year-old daughter was raped by the Germans when they entered Sokoly. Of his entire family, the only one who remained alive was his youngest son, Isserke, who was in a concentration camp and was saved by a miracle.
When they were building the courthouse in Sokoly, the construction manager, Manikowsky, hired Reuven to oversee the work and the team of workers, even though he was old and weak.
There were two other scaffold builders in Sokoly: Mordechai Kachova and Nathan, Mordechai Shlomo Blustein's son-in-law. They worked steadily and made a respectable living. In recent times, there are no longer scaffold builders in Sokoly.
In past years, a comedian and fine speaker who was famous in Sokoly was Eliezer Bialostotsky (Paltis). I remember one witticism from Eliezer Paltis. He had then just returned from the United States, where he had spent a short time. The members of the synagogue crowded around him, asking him to tell about his adventures in America. Eliezer opened his mouth and said:
I saw, and was convinced, that I have no success in Sokoly, and that I fail even before I begin to do anything. Simply, I was unfortunate. As Ibn Ezra said, 'If I had begun to trade in candles, certainly the sun would never set. If I would trade in shrouds, most certainly no one would ever die. I think and think, how can I overcome my misfortune?!...Our wise men, of blessed memory, specifically said, He who changes his location, changes his luck. So I listened to their advice. .. I said it, and I did it! In order to rid myself forever of my bad luck, I quietly snuck out of my house at night, without telling a soul or mentioning it to my wife, knowing that women have no secrets and Heaven forbid if the matter would become known to an enemy my bad luckEliezer Paltis was the father of two sons and a daughter. I learned in Rabbi Itze Meir Golda's cheder with his younger son, Henech. Henech was one of the best students. He was chosen by his friends as their king. All them listened to his orders and carefully followed his directions. The sons emigrated to the United States and brought over their parents and their lovely sister.
The night was cold and dark, and the holy ones of Sokoly turned over in their beds in the early hours of the morning when I left my house and fled to a new world to America. I had but arrived at the Statue of Liberty, and who do you think came to meet me with hugs?!.. .Yes, you guessed right! My previous bad luck got there before I did. He followed me like a shadow. There, in the land of gold.
I do not know whether his bad luck followed Eliezer Paltis to America this time as well. Here in Israel, I heard that many years ago Eliezer came to Jerusalem, and that he passed away at a ripe old age. May his soul be bound up in eternal life.
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