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[Page 208]

The Holocaust

 

[Page 216]

The Last Days of the Ghetto in Stolin

by Shammai Tokel

Translated by Aaron Housman

…The fear got stronger with each day and with every passing hour. The air was suffocating. News of the annihilation of surrounding Jewish villages kept pouring in. Our knees buckled, legs gave out from under us. Many begged for death, that it come and redeem them, save them; “let them kill us already, who needs a life such as this??” – Such talk was heard at times in the ghetto. But many were steadfast in their Emunah (trust in G–d) throughout, even when hopelessness prevailed.

One day it happened. 75 S.S. men arrived in town with their commander leading them. Death hung in the air. Their facial expressions, uniforms and demeanor all testified to their intent: these are the murderers of the Jewish People. Bergner, head of the Judenrat, did not rest. He ran to the Komissar and tried to get details; “Why are these men here?” The Komissar assures him that nothing bad will happen to Stolin. He presents Bergner to the commander; Bergner tries to ply him with gifts, as well as gifts for the Komissar. All three meet to try and save the Jews of Stolin. The commander and his troops left to another town, the Komissar goes to Lutzk to speak to General Rosenberg – the regional commanding officer of the occupied areas. He describes the situation to him, that most of the Jews of Stolin are laborers who work for the German war effort and pose no threat to the Nazis. But his efforts were in vain. The general ordered that all Jews, no matter whom, anyone who is a member of the Jewish Nation, is to be put to death. The Komissar still tried to promise that no evil will befall Stolin, but nobody believed him anymore. In the Shtetl everyone is afraid, total chaos reigns. People run around at loss of what to do. They ask each other; what can still be done?? But there is no solution, no way out. This is how those last few days passed for us, trembling in fear and awaiting the final blow.

On Sept. 10th, 1942, we received the terrible news of the slaughter that took place in Wisock. All the Jews were brutally murdered in cold blood. And on that same day the S.S. men returned to Stolin.

On that day the Komissar summoned the Judenrat and immediately arrested them all. According to reports that I got after the war, they were all killed that night.

We did not know at the time what happened to the Judenrat. Some optimists tried to console us that they will return, but most Jews felt it. We felt the ground burning under our feet, and we knew that this is the last day on Earth for the Jewish community of Stolin.

The sun set, the ghetto is surrounded by the Nazi troops and the local militia. Anybody trying to escape now was shot on the spot.

The terrible scenes that played out in the ghetto that night is not possible to describe in paper, with a human pen. Many davened the prayer of Z'chor Bris [the prayer that is said on Erev Rosh Hashana]; others mumbled words of Viduy. From every side one could hear cries and lamentation, heartrending screams and bitter sobbing. Every once in a while gunshots pierced the air. Here and there one could see folks saying good–by to their loved ones, hugging and kissing for the last time……

It is morning, dawn breaks. It is Erev Rosh Hashana, Sept 11, 1942, 29th of Elul, 5692. The Germans barge in to the ghetto with a vengeance and chase everyone into the square, men, women and children. The weak and infirm were shot in their beds. Those who tried to hide were also shot on the spot. Everyone assembled in the square and were ordered to disrobe. Naked like the day they were born, they all sat in their place. Anybody who stood up was shot. From the square they were marched out in groups, groups of 500 people, and were marched to the forest between Dolin and Zatishya. There, there was a large pit/clearing that the Russians had prepared for an airfield; the Jews of Stolin were murdered. They were shot at the edge of the large pit.

Lucky were those who were struck instantly and directly by the bullets; for most of the victims were buried alive or semi–alive. After the first group was murdered they marched the second group out, and systematically murdered them too, and so on. The verse came true for us, as it says “Like sheep to the slaughter, to be murdered, annihilated, beaten and shamed.” Until the late hours of the night the killings went on.

And so our loved ones fell, to sanctify G–d's name, in a collective grave, at the hands of the present–day Amalekites, may their names and memory be blotted out.

This is how the Stolin Kehillah was wiped out……

Author's note:

All that is written here is not even 0.1% of all that the people of Stolin endured in the short time since the town was occupied by German forces. It is not humanly possible to describe all the suffering from those days. I felt it was my duty, as one of the few survivors, to tell the story in short, of how the Jews of Stolin were taken from us, their bitter end, so that future generations will always remember.


[Page 223]

A Good–By Letter
(Translated in the Yizkor book from Yiddish to Hebrew, and now to English)

Written by Shlomo Blahousky and given to his son Moshe in 1945.

Translated by Aaron Housman

Liba'leh, Masha'leh, Moshe'leh and Hershe'leh my dears,

Yesterday I wrote to two letters to you and I left them by reliable people. I hope that if, with Hashem's help, you will remain alive, the letters will get to you.

And now, my dears, I find it necessary to bid you all farewell forever, and I wish you everything good in life. That your luck should shine better than it did for me and the rest of Stolin's Jews. The human pen cannot adequately describe the suffering and experiences of each of us, and what we feel every moment as we wait for the inevitable death. For that is what was decreed for us; it cannot be changed.

My dearest beloved, see to it that you live together in harmony. To you, Liba'leh, I turn and I ask of you that you try and assist the young ones until they mature and can go off on their own. Moshe'leh, you have the responsibility to fill my role in the family. You are live peacefully with Masha'leh, Hershe'leh and Mother. And if there is any chance, try to reach Betzalel and Pinye in Eretz Yisroel.

Everything that I have hidden, the artifacts and the clothes, is listed by Avershe, and if you find it, use it for your benefit. There is enough of a fortune left that should not fall to the enemy, but that is not important right now.

I cannot elaborate now, for my heart bleeds. I leave my photo for you, and if I can, I will leave you all my photographs.

You should all be well and live a happy life, our fate is sealed and we cannot be helped. Masha'leh, be a loyal daughter. I am hope and believe that you will live well with Mother and that you will always accept her advice. You should know that there aren't many mothers like yours. You are a responsible person, be good and not stubborn, for this that will ensure your happiness.

In closing, I turn to you; Hershe'leh my son, you were always loyal and caring to everyone with all your heart and soul. Please be that way in the future.

I kiss you all from afar on this last day of my life, be happy and live well.

Yours, Shlomo.

Thursday, 3 O'clock, Sept. 10th, 1942.


[Page 227]

At the Mass Grave

by Moshe Blahousky

Translated by Aaron Housman

The year: 1944. With a Red Army uniform I traversed wide swaths of territory in Eastern Europe which had just been liberated from the talons of the Nazi beast. I travelled through villages and town in which once lived tens of thousands of Jews, communities blossomed, tradition prevailed, and now was reduced to piles of rubble. Gomel, Bobruisk, Minsk, Baranovitz and more – the entire land is like an empty gallows. Here they were slaughtered, here they were burned, and there they were buried alive, and each community a tragedy of its own, and bitter, bitter end.

With the advancement of the Red Army the pitiful few survivors, some who hid in forests, some in caves and some by non–Jewish friends, started returning to their hometowns to search, perhaps someone else has survived, or at least to find out the details of their loved one's last moments. I knew the terrible fate that befell my family, my father, my relatives, friends, the entire community of Stolin. And at the first opportunity I had, I plodded on to Stolin; in September 1945. I knew that other than heartbreak and despair, but nevertheless I went.

Slow as a turtle, the train traveled toward the destroyed Horyn station. The bridge over the Prypet had been destroyed and in it's stead they built a temporary wooden bridge, the station itself was in an underground structure (zamliyanka), and there I found a lone female worker. Night had fallen and the girl suggested that I do not walk to Stolin alone, for the roads were fraught with danger and there was no transportation. With no other choice, I stayed there until morning and before dawn I went on my way to Stolin. As I entered the town I met a group of men talking amongst themselves. Some of them looked in my direction as if to say “who is this soldier who looks Jewish? Are there even any Jews left?!”

One of them asked me my name, and then went on to tell me the fate of the Jews of Stolin. After that I went on my way, I saw the old Jewish cemetery. The gate had disappeared but most of the headstones and the huts remained, surrounded by wild thorns, with nobody left to visit their parent's graves… Further on, nothing remains; remnants of destruction. Only a few original houses still stand on Dombrovitzer street and behind them Meir Velvel Turkenich's house, Kolodny's pharmacy, also Bentzion Goldberg and Osher Kantorovitz's houses. In the market square still stand the houses of Rosenberg and Krupnik and some floors of the Tanczman–Tuchman home. Near Pinsker street the big house of the Rebbe and the great Synagogue still stand. The building of the Beis Medrash is destroyed. On Kosciusko street the houses are destroyed and burned until Zarchovitz's house, including Sklar's courtyard. Such a pile of devastation that it is difficult to discern the location of the roads.

From there along Kosciusko street the houses of the new section of town (Di Pletzer) were almost not touched, and are all inhabited now by non–Jews; those who murdered and plundered…. I was told that most of the houses were destroyed during the fighting with the partisans in the last six months.

I passed the Tarbut school, the very school that educated a generation of Hebrew culture and Zionism, and my heart aches. On the door there still hangs a Star of David, but inside the children of the impure sit, children of the murderers, and are no doubt learning about peace on earth… Tears of shame and pain choke my throat and I continue on to that direction, to where I was told parents and children were carted off to – to the mass grave…

I reach Dolin, Radzivil's estate, and I turn right. Hundreds of meters away from the large pit I already see human bones strewn across the field (surely the animals have eaten them), and I am led to the huge pit, in which over 8000 people from Stolin and surrounding areas met their tragic end. The pit is not well covered with sand, here and there bones are exposed.

I went down from the south side to the pit. Children's clothing with bloodstains on them, I pick up a page of a Siddur, from which some of the martyrs must have prayed their last prayers as they were being led to their slaughter! In front of me the skull of a woman with black hair…. Woe unto the eyes that behold such a sight! I could not continue. I burst into tears…. Turned to exit the pit overwhelmed, destroyed and burning with a fire for revenge. I knew I had been to the mass grave, “Kever Achim”; the “Grave of my Brothers” ….

Before I left the Pit of Murder, I turned to the caretaker who had been posted there by the Soviets, and I begged him to construct a fence around the mass grave. At first he was surprised at my request, but later he promised to fulfill it. Did he? Who knows… What connection does a gentile have with a Jewish mass grave?…


[Page 229]

My Uncle, Reb Ahre'le

by S. Shalom

Translated by Aaron Housman

[A poem about Rabbi Aaron Perlov; one of the 10 children of Rabbi Yisroel Perlov of Stolin. Rabbi Aaron lived in Warsaw, distancing himself from all honor and fame, and instead devoted himself, along with his righteous wife, to help other Jews. The story of how he was brutally murdered in the Warsaw Ghetto is well known. May their blood be avenged.]

Good evening, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
Scion of Stolin, of Karlin,
I enter here, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
To the Warsaw Ghetto, to feast my eyes,
And my Aunt? my uncle Reb Ahrele,
No need to speak, I understand,
I only thought, maybe she was forgotten,
Like all her days, she sat alone… (The Perlovs were childless)

Lead me, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
To those who I have loved and are now gone,
Show them to me, with the glow of your face,
Before the graves are sealed forever.
For if they sleep and your shadow will disappear,
We will no longer be able to disturb their eternal rest.
Who will remember our departed ever,
Martyrs of every generation, the tears, the blood?

What is all this silence, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
Is there not one soul left?
Why, fifty thousand, more, who could count,
Numbered this holy community, besides
Immigrants and migrants
All those hath the butcher slaughtered??
You are silent, hence we shall move on,
The trembling of your lips suffices for me.

I'm afraid, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
To mention names, who were so dear to my heart,
The pure and the modest,
Who kept their greatness locked away,
Masters of Torah and those sanctifying G–d's name,
Purest laborers who braved all pain,
Count them all, do not hide
I am aware of the Death, my heart is unkind.

Count, count, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
All the casualties, to no end.
Show me, show me, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
Where is buried every young and great.
Every sanctifier, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
Of the eternal name of Israel, like Chernikov.
(Woe, generation after generation goes on to doom
And the Way to Zion has yet to be found).

And the children! my uncle Reb Ahrele,
The Holy, purest Sheep, where? Do tell!
Have they been murdered on the beds of their dreams,
And there are no shrouds for their corpses…
Those who were snuffed out before the light of day,
Burned alive by the hands of sadists.
Where are the children? And their mothers??
Assaulted, violated, and in shame, they have died.

Is this the street, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
Where the “Ninety Three” lived?
Who chose, the most beautiful of girls
At their own hands, to die a holy death,
When the oppressor came, Satan on earth,
With his soldiers, to demand their bodies.
Pigeons, flying high, white against the night sky
G–d himself, pines for their souls.

Is this where he sat, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
Our holy relative, learning his volume of Talmud,
When the decree was read, on a clear, bright day
The nation of the Living G–d, is to be destroyed,
And he paused from his study, face ashen
And stood on his feet, suddenly, declared,
“If Jews are dying, how can we live on?”
And so, his soul left him, at that very moment.

And where is the tree, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
On which our friend was hung?
While in captivity, by bayonets,
Was stabbed until blood ran – and he sang of the Redemption,
He who danced, while in searing pain,
Celebrating that he was a Jew,
And during his dance, he was hanged for all to see
But, even then, his feet continued to dance!

And the tracks, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
The shiny railroad tracks.
Fresh blood still spurts,
Is it here that the cattle cars passed? Here our brothers went to their deaths?
Wait! I stumbled on a corpse,
Not for me, my uncle, not for me are the tears…

And tell me more, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
Have you seen many, with your eyes?
Those human scum, I will not name them,
Coldblooded murderers, lewdness in their hearts.
Have human mothers born them? Their faces,
Like humans, the elite of the universe?
And how did you breathe the air,
If they infected it so?

I will believe you, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
If you will tell me there will yet be a day of revenge.
Although it is so foreign and so fantastic
To hear it from your perfect mouth.
For kindness and grace, light and compassion
You have carried in your heat for every man.
But how will you raise your eyes now,
If even they, will be covered by blood?

And what is from today on, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
Will you keep your compassion for the dead too?
Even now, in the valley of ghosts,
To save them you will risk your life?
Like you have done, when they were still alive,
In their last days, when the noose was so tight.
In wondrous ways – a survivor told me,
That you alone, Death did not kill you.

From then, woe, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
Much blood has flowed to the Vistula.
Near the “Kloiz”, the fortress of your love
You have prayed with heart and soul,
The roof caved in, and buried your followers,
The Holy Ark, completely burned.
If you have brought me all the way here,
Will you now bid me farewell forever?

Stand, stand, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
Your testimony I will not shame, I will declare,
That we will still believe, even with hardship
In the dawn of a new day, and the rebuilding of the Nation,
For it will still rise from amongst the blood and the tears
A new world on this wasteland.
Your testimony I will not shame, but for them…
Advocate for them in Heaven.

Come closer, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
In our name on every grave and monument,
Tell them, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
That we will still redeem their memories, their legacies
Talk, my uncle Reb Ahrele,
For suddenly I am mute, in my heart, a void,
And you shall see with your eyes, soon,
When our Nation will rise from it's grave, forever.

Rabbi Aaron Perlov's death, as told by Yehuda Feingold in the Yizkor Book of Stolin.

[Abridged]

During an “Aktion”, while hiding in an attice, the occupants, among them Reb Areleh and his wife, saw a horrific scene. A pregnant Jewish woman, while running through the street, trying to hide, fell down. Due to her fall, she miscarried on the spot and lost her child. A Nazi beast chanced upon her and started to draw his pistol.

Reb Areleh, seeing this, sprang to his feet and started to run out to the street. Despite the pleas of the other occupants, he ran out to help the poor woman.

He ran over to her, bent over and then stood up to his full height, in front of the Nazi. MURDERER!!! BEAST!!! Was your father a stone?? Has not a human mother given birth to you??

The Nazi froze, shocked as he was by the audacity of the Jew and by the impact of his words. He looked from the woman to the Rabbi, she in her pangs of post labor, he with his face full of fire. The Nazi turned to leave… But suddenly turned, lifted his gun and fired… He fired at the woman, fired at the Rebbe, kept firing as he ran… running from his victims who were wallowing in their own blood.

The street was empty and those in the attic ran out to the Rebbe. Reb Areleh lay there dying… “bring me my violin” he asked…

And so the story goes, that while playing a famous, haunting, Stoliner tune [or while it was being played], Reb Areleh returned his Soul to it's Maker, having died trying to save a fellow Jew.

 

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