Arleen Shapiro Tievsky
Neighborhood of Svintsyan
Svintsyan, New-Svintsyan, Old and New-Dugelishok,
Ignaline, Lingmian, Kaltinian, Duksht, Podbrodz
Lintup, Kimelishok, Haydutsishok, Stoyotsishok,
Meligan, Jikevinesh, Palush, Gaviken, Vidz, Kozyan,
Koblinik, Niementshin, Postav, Yadi, Myori
Editor: Shimon Kantz
Cover and illustrations:
Yisroel Gurvitz, Esq.
Dr. Khanokh Drutz
Illustration Showing Menorah - Alexander Bogen
YIZKOR BOOK IN MEMORY OF
TWENTY-THREE JEWISH COMMUNITIES
Published by Irgun Yotz'e Aizor Svintsyan b'Israel, Tel Aviv, 1965
|My eye tears, doesn't stop, because there is no cessation . . .
Book of Lamentations [3.49]
In the book before us we commemorate the martyrs among the people of Svintsyan
who died such terrible and horrible deaths that there are no mortal words to
honestly describe their suffering.
There were twenty-three
communities, and they are no more.
In blood and fire they fell and
ascended to heaven, but their memories live on in our hearts and will live
forever in the hearts of future generations.
Don't be silent and don't
forget us [they demand]!
We, the few survivors, approach
with fear and trepidation the building of their eternal memorial.
We tried to write chapters on
the life of the town encompassing work and creativity, materialism and
spiritualityan exciting time in all its aspects and in all times.
Each succeeding generation
continued [to be a link] in the chain of the Jewish life in these shtetlach.
Multi-faceted Jewish life
developed roots and grew here.
The future generations will
find in this book, as in all memorial books dedicated to the victims of the
Holocaust, a witness to, and mirror of, what happened in the European Diaspora
before the great Holocaust and before every vestige of Jewish life was erased
We, the few who were privileged
to join the builders of our homeland in the land of Israel, felt that we had
the sacred obligation to establish an everlasting memorial to our communities.
We didn't rest and we were not silent until we finished this work, this
We carry in our hearts the
images of the fighters and the rebels who expressed the desire and the strong
will to exist of the entire nation; and we present line by line, document by
document, all the evidence of the heroism of the youth in the area of Svintsyan.
With great care we collected
materials confirming the Jewish resistance to the Nazi murderers in the area of
Svintsyanmaterials about the heroism of Jewish fighting units in various
battlefields, about their struggle to stay alive. Their struggle, their
relatives' struggle, their nation's struggle.
We will light an eternal light
of remembrance of the martyrs and innocent victims, their courage, their
devotion, and their dedication.
This book will be a memorial
monument so that they may be remembered forever.
|Photograph of Svintsyan Memorial Plaque
in Har Tsion in Jerusalem
GOD FULL OF MERCY
God full of mercy, judge of widows and father of orphans
Please don't be silent and restrain yourself from avenging the blood of Israel
Which was spilled like water. Grant peace under Your
wings for the martyrs and innocent ones
Who dwell in the shining heavens among the thousands of holy ones
from the area of Svintsyan
Men, women, boys, and girls, who were murdered
And slaughtered by fire, by drowning, by strangulation, by being buried alive
All of them holy and pure
Let not the earth cover up their blood!
The word is
, which usually refers to the feminine aspect of God.
by Mordechai Bartana
And father approaches me: Oh, my son! Oh, my son!
And I reply: Here I am. But who calls? Your voice is so distant.
And my father says: There's a scream in my heart,
But I don't know how to express it. We both are being led to the slaughter.
But who will be sacrificed I don't know.
And I reply: There is fire in my blood. I am ready to be sacrificed.
Who will be the scapegoat for the great sin?
For so many generations I have been walking and wandering,
And I don't hear G-d's voice, and I don't see [any sign].
My father, oh my father! My fear is too great to bear.
We will sacrifice the offering, but G-d's hand is not there to receive it.
And my father said: The depths of your questions sadden my soul.
The crescent moon over our heads will accept the offering.
But there is an ancient echo in me that shines like a great sun.
G-d will appear over the offering
And I replied: My father, oh my father, forgive my stupidity.
Because suddenly I don't know which one is the child.
Who here is me and who is you?
Both lights and profound darkness are inside of me
And mixed together in my eyes are horizons and borders,
Today in tomorrow, the future in ancient times.
Here we are. Both led under the crescent moon
Like sheep to the slaughter.
Why only us? Why does He always choose us?
And my father said: Nights and days I prayed over you,
That you would outgrow me and we would be able to walk together.
My son, only the offering of the best and the first.
G-d Himself will choose the sacrifice in the dark night.
And I replied: My father! Here I am, and I will go, but my soul is low,
Because I still don't understand why this is and what is the reason.
And my father bent down to me and his tears fell both on my hand and on his
And together we will go.
The binding of Isaac.
We Will Remember
the souls of millions of our brothers and our sisters, who were cut off from
of the living, the thousands who were murdered in the fields of
Poligon by the hands
of the filthy murderers, who are not even worthy to be
called human beings.
We will remember
the heroes who raised the symbol of uprising and consecrated
the name of Israel
when they fought among the partisan units in the Lithuanian
Brigades in the
forests and in the front lines all over Europe.
We will remember
the simple Jews and the scholars, the glory of humanity, from
the old to the
young, the righteous and the precious, those who gave charity and did
deeds, lovers of humanity , dedicated souls.
We will remember
the brilliant talents, the dreams, their hopes and their soul's
great ambitions, their love for the people of Israel and the land of
their faith and their heroism, their hatred and enmity toward those inhuman
We will remember
the synagogues and the study houses, the social institutions of
mercy, the publishing houses and the institutions which carried on the
work of the people and the land.
We will remember
the cemeteries and the graves of our fathers and the fruits of
We will remember
all of those who were destroyed and cut off at the roots by the
hands of all
kinds of bestial foes, some by fire, some by
drowning, some by
some by thirst, some by
the sword, and some by strangulation while
still alive, and some in the gas chambers. All of them were tortured and
tormented to death. They gave their lives for the sanctification of God.
We will remember -- and not forget!
If I wanted, as a historian, to
present the broad picture, a detailed depiction of the history of the people
according to the microcosm, and if I wanted, like a writer, to compose an epic
about the world that disappeared, to describe in different hues what is exposed
to view, that which is hidden, and that which is hinted at, I would without
hesitation, think of the area of Svintsyan as an appropriate example. The area
of Svintsyan contains all of the major components of the fate of the Jew in the
past generation; all the forms of their physical existence and spiritual life
found their expression in the communities of the areas of Svintsyan: the
struggle for complete civil rights, their fight to be recognized as an
independent nationality in all special fields of life. In the community, and
in the culture, in language, and in education, in work and in remuneration for
work. The disintegration of the community and the birth pangs of new worlds
were felt in a painful way. The Holocaust erased the area of Svintsyan
completely. In the same way that hundreds of other Jewish communities were
removed from the face of the earth.
There was definitely something
special about the communities of the area of Svintsyan as compared to the other
communities. In the past, the area of Svintsyan stood out on the map of the
Jewish Diaspora. It was unique, and its influence spread far beyond its
The Jews of the area of
Svintsyan were working-class people. They worked in all kinds of trades,
making everything that they needed to live at that time. They were millers and
bakers, tailors and shoemakers, blacksmiths, wagon drivers, etc. Jews there
also worked in jobs related to forests and irrigation. They earned their bread
by the sweat of their brow and praised God for his kindness.
Their modest and honest life
was a source of power and strength for the Jews in the area of Svintsyan.
Every Jewish settlement in the area of Svintsyan had its tough Jews, Jews who
stood up to the Gentiles of the area during market days.
But the spiritual level of the
Jews of Svintsyan and the surrounding area was based on emotional connections
that were characteristically Jewish. In this area of the country, the Jews
built for themselves an insular Jewish world. Indeed, from an emotional and
spiritual aspect, the Jews here felt that they were in a world of their own.
The style of life and the rhythm of life, both in the house and on the street,
were truly Jewish. In the synagogues, the Jewish spirit reached high levels;
but at the same time, the education of students was not limited to formal
education. They always kept on studying on their own.
Many were influenced by the
Khassidic Movement. They invented melodies, created dances, and wrote stories
of their wonderful rebbes. The majority concentrated on following the
righteous path and the duties of the heart as well as the duties of man in this
Out of their will to live and
the struggle to survive, political parties and political movements arose in
Vilna and Warsaw. Many different voices were heard in those days in the
communities of the area of Svintsyan: calls to return to Zion and calls for
victory for the proletariat inciting revolt by words and actions. The elderly
nodded in disbelief, but the young received these calls with enthusiasm. They
gathered around the various movements. They built schools in which the
language of instruction was Yiddish or Hebrew.
The young people were educated
in these schools and took part in the social life and in the efforts to build
and create all the areas of community life, cultural life, and national life.
During the era of the Nazi occupation, the youth rose to protect the honor of
their people and their people's spirit when they saw that the Nazis intended to
drown the soul of the Jews in the blood of those who were killed.
And if it will be that your son
will ask you, How did it happen that the entire nation went like sheep to
the slaughter? you will answer him, It wasn't so. Open this book
and read in it. Here are the people of the area of Svintsyan. They fought a
heroic fight in the areas around Svintsyan, Novo-Svintsyan, Kaltinian,
Ignaline, Haydutsishok, and they deserve to be recognized, glorified, and
admired for their heroism in the partisan forces, in the Lithuanian Brigade,
and in other Russian fighting units. You will read here descriptions of
battlefields, ambushes, bombing of transportation lines in strategic places, of
enemy sieges, and the capture of Germans, of revenge operations against people
who cooperated with the Nazis, the murderers of the Jews.
May it be God's will that this
book succeed in casting light on the history of the Jews in the area of
Svintsyan, on their economic life, religious life, community life, and national
life, all of which returned to us the thing most precious for every nation--our
own sense of self-worth.
The Path of the Righteous
The Duties of the Heart
are titles of books which emphasize the beliefs of the Musar Movement.
Remember What Amalek Has Done to You
In the course of hundreds of
years, the Jews built their home in Svintsyan and the surrounding cities, and
in time there developed a completely full Jewish life with all of the
institutions that existed in the largest Jewish settlements in Lithuania and
Unfortunately, they left no
archive which could provide historical material to preserve for eternity the
history of that flourishing existence until the time of its complete
destruction. Approaching this material, therefore, could have proved to be
too daunting. It could have proved to be too much to compile the histories of
those towns which had so few survivors. Here too, however, can be seen the
great virtues of the Jews of the Svintsyaner region. The extraordinary desire
to memorialize this era of destruction, together with the yearning for the
lost, destroyed world with its truly Jewish lifestyle, nourished and inspired
dozens of ordinary people who never aspired to become writers. They understood
that the job of researching and describing our not-too-distant past belonged
not only to historians, philosophers, and writers. The sacred goal of erecting
a monument to their former homes encouraged them to take up their pens and
themselves describe their vanished Jewish town. They wrote about the life of
dozens of generations, their habits and their customs, their faith in the
Torah, Khassidism and the Enlightenment, Socialism and Zionism.
The anguish and suffering, the
abyss of evil and violence, that their eyes must have seen; the pain of
millions of innocent, tortured martyrs--unnerved them and opened their silent
lips and made them talkative.
And a truly wonderful thing
happened, that the work of simple people created a picture of the
developmental process of each of the Jewish settlements in the region of
Svintsyan. Their familiarity with everything about which they speak helped
them. That they had once taken part in all of the problems that they treat,
cultural, social, and economic. After all, these idealists, who fought for
nice Jewish life were members of the synagogues, evening classes, libraries,
and drama groups, banks, cooperatives, and interest-free loan funds.
It is clear and understandable
that in most of the sketches and treatments in this book, one hears the cry of
the mourner. In the memoirs, everyone will hear the tone of the eulogy and
elegy, the wailing after the cruel destruction. Those who helped erect this
monument commemorating the twenty-three decimated Jewish towns, the Holocaust,
as well as the general tragedy of the Jews in Europe, are bound together by
their personal tragedy, by their yearning for their relatives and friends.
That is why perhaps, here and
there, one will find repetitions of description and reiterations of similar
ideas, events, and people. But one completes the other and creates a more
complete picture of the kind of life they led, with its disappointments and its
Everything together tells how
much we have lost, how great and, in fact, inconceivable the loss is.
The bearing witness of those
who, by a miracle, remained alive describes with suggestive clarity the whole
gamut of pain and death in the ghettos, in Poligon and Ponar, and one can see
that the Germans did not succeed in leading the Jews of the Svintsyaner region
to complete moral death. Except in occasional instances, the atmosphere was
not poisoned with thievery and robbery or scenes of Jewish cruelty or
indifference to the suffering of one's brothers.
In contrast, there is a rich
chapter of heroic resistance and struggle, describing the fight that the heroes
of the Svintsyan region put up against the German executioners. It is not
merely a coincidence that the dynamic Jewish life of the town produced so many
exalted figures as Moishe Shutan, Ishike Gertman, Berl Jochai, Yitzhak
Rudnitsky among others, who threw themselves into the partisan struggle against
the armed forces of Hitler's Reich with legendary strength, courage, endurance,
perseverance, and selflessness. The Shutans, Rudnitskys, Gertmans, and
hundreds of others engaged in open combat with the murderers, became heroes and
helped to drive the vandals off Svintsyaner soil.
The most heroic chapters of the
history of the Jews in Poland would describe the large part played by the young
people of the Svintsyaner region in the partisan army.
The benefit of a full-blooded
settlement with a rich cultural life, and the traditions of a Godly life,
formed the characters of the youth of the Svintsyan region. They were resolved
not to permit themselves to be led astray by the Nazi murderers and not to
permit themselves to be led to their deaths without resistance. They were
pervaded by a fiery desire to take revenge for the deaths of their brothers and
sisters. They were inspired by the great human desire for self-preservation
and the desire for a future, and so they were not alone in their stand against
the great, armed enemy. With tremendous selflessness and exemplary devotion to
the general good, they managed to get through to the Vilna Ghetto, from which
they led hundreds of young people into the woods, young people who then joined
the partisan armies.
The greatest qualities of the
Jews of the Svintsyan region were discovered in those days of great horror.
The stories of heroic struggle are told with such fervor that in some places it
takes one's breath away. They are pervaded with the spirit of holiness, of
the sanctity of God and the sanctity of our people.
A characteristic of everything
that is told in this book is the warmth with which it is conveyed. It is the
warmth of the Jews in the cities, the towns, and the villages of the Svintsyan
region, which those who remained alive preserve even in the farthest reaches.
Here one of its finest representatives must be mentioned, Heshl Gurvitz,
without whose help of all kinds and passionate will this book would not have
been created at all. In addition to his deep sense of responsibility, he is
also possessed of drive and boldness, zest and zeal. Everything that he wrote
exudes a love for the surrounding towns of the Svintsyan region, with which he
always remained in close contact in those times that it glowed with Jewish
culture, education, and economic aid, as well as after the war, when he sat in
Tel Aviv deeply worried about the refugees. He devoted time and energy to
organizing real help for them--in any way he could, even thinking up the great
idea of creating a memorial book, which he nurtured with great love and
devotion, with assuredness and tact, with warm determination and a feeling for
all the threads which bind him to those around him. The blessed
characteristics of the best ethnic Jewish person of the Svintsyan region were
revealed. From his earliest childhood, he tied his future to that of the
common Jewish people. And even later, in the writing of, asking for, and
gathering together their memoirs, he deeply felt the need to bring out the
special light of the simple Jewish person of the little towns so that the
future generations would have a good idea of the beauty that was killed
Directing the gathering of the
material and bringing it to press, Heshl dreamt of encompassing the whole Vilna
region to which he was so bound throughout the years of social activism. But
his strength failed him, and he concentrated all of his energies on the
Svintsyan region and in so doing earned our deepest gratitude.
We, who merited to be saved
from that great conflagration, have ever before us that age-old warning which
has remained etched for us with letters of fire and blood:
Remember what Amalek did to you
-- the Amalek of the twentieth century!
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