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[Page 44]

The Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) Holocaust

 

How the Jews of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) Struggled and Suffered

Chaye Soika-Golding

The following letter, written in Holland in July of 1945, describes in detail how the Germans tortured the Jews of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and destroyed the entire community. The author of this letter, Chaye Soika-Golding, survived through all the horrors of the German occupation so her accounts are therefore an authentic testimony.

Almelo, Holland, 22/7/1945.

Dear Yeshiah Skubelskil

I was overjoyed with your letter. I understand your wish and am answering you immediately, even though telling how the extermination of he Jews came about is not a pleasant mission.

In the very first days of the war in 1939, a chain of calamities had begun to unfold in Szczuczyn. That Sabbath morning all men were required to register. Not knowing what was happening, everyone presented themselves at the marketplace. The Germans registered 300 men and then forced them to the synagogue in the new section. Your brother Borukh Leyzer was amongst them, as well as my brother Isak, my brother-in-law Lipe Chaim, Rozental Zalmen, your cousin Galant and many many others. They were held at the synagogue for one day and on the second day they were brought to Frostken; from there further into the heart of Germany.

You can imagine what an impact this action had on the remaining families A few weeks later I arrived from Ostrolenka (Ostroleka), where the Jews had also been driven out. The shock was already familiar to us. it was believed that any day the men would return. We collected money, we looked for people with influence, we wrote pleas on their behalf. We made fools of ourselves but all our efforts were like a stone in water. One day we received two cards from the men; there was no news after that. The difficult winter of 1940 fell upon us – incredible freezing temperatures, just above minus 400C. There was talk that the Bolsheviks had brought the frost from Siberia. In this horrible freeze they [the Germans] had unexpectedly freed the above mentioned from the camps. The men traveled 5 days on the train. The bread they were rationed was eaten up immediately on the first day. It was a difficult journey. They were not given a single drink of water. They licked the panes from thirst. It was crowded and hot in the wagon My brother Isak died on the way home. There were many deaths during the trip. An those who survived, what happened to them? It is a horror story for me to recount.

When the men stepped out of the train the Germans opened fire on them. Turmoil, panic and flight broke out. The majority ran from the scene. Lipe Chaim, together with a large group, escaped and crossed the Russian border near Brisk (Brest-Litovsk). Many of them with frostbitten limbs were taken to hospital there by the Bolsheviks When they recovered they were sent into Russia, to Archangel. Others, including Borukh and Lavi Sheynberg who later married, went to the shtetl Vlodave (Bledowo) on the German side. Still others struggled through and managed to return to Szczuczyn.

Of the 300 taken, maybe 30 came back. My brother-in-law Lipe Chaim found himself near Brisk (Brest-Litovsk) and wanted to cross into the Soviet Union to be together with his wife and child. Along with others from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) he tried to swim across the river Bug at night. He did not succeed. The border guards did not let them pass – "spies" was their answer. They tried again the second night. The frost was terrible. Summer coats, tight shoes, deep snow, it was impossible to go any further. With each passing moment limbs grew weaker. Lipe Chaim remained sitting on the frozen river, remained sitting forever. He said vide[12], asked his companions to greet Dora on his behalf, and then froze. The details were told to us immediately following the catastrophe. We left with smugglers to search for the corpse but did not find it.

I do not know what happened to your brother. Your cousin died in Brisk (Brest-Litovsk). Your parents also did not know the kind of. death their son had met. Some of those who came back: Koyfman Segalovitch's nephew from the iron works; Kalman Shifrak (now residing in Israel); Binyomin Sosnovski a shoemaker; a great determined young man Zeydke Koshtsiol, the driver, and other strong ones. They told us of their life in the camps. Borukh Leyzer beared up all right unlike Lipe Chaim. Your sister-in-law with the girls left to join their family in Ugostov (Augustow).

These events affected our parents greatly. Your father as well. as mine grew silent, gray and weak. The beautiful synagogue and Bes Hamedresh were burned down. Everyone prayed in the new section, in the House of Study. Shabbos and High Holidays your sister would anxiously await your father, and we sisters – our father. We would meet and wait together. Their steps were slow as with all old folk, and Yehoshue Aryeh, your uncle the Dayan[13] akh! What and old man already, he could hardly make it to the house! So that he shouldn't have to go three times a day to the synagogue. which was too difficult for him – he practically would live at the House of Study. Out at dawn, the children would bring him back at night Repressing the grief, after his lost Isak and such a nephew as Lipe Chaim, my father died in his own bed in February, 1941. Two months later your uncle the Dayan, Reb Yehoshue Aryeh, died. Both passed away as Tsadikim. Both my mother and myself had at least the honor to have talked with him a few days before his death. We had gone to visit him. He had been very close to my mother.

On June 22, 1941, the Russo-German war broke out. The Germans entered Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) with lightening speed. They hung up their swastika flag and pushed on further. The city lay in chaos. Authority passed to the hands of the Poles. This lasted about two weeks. All kinds of rowdies were let out of prison: Dombrovski Yakubtshuk, the well known Polish arrestees under the Bosheviks – Shviatlovski, chief of the guard and Yankayitis, the director of the school, and others. They were full of rancor for the Bolsheviks and the Jews. Friday night when the entire city slept quietly, the slaughter began. They had organized it very well: one gang in the new section, a second in the marketplace, a third on Lomzher Street and a fourth on the Pavelkes. There in the new section they murdered Romorovske's family (the tailor), Ester Kriger (your neighbor with the youngest daughter), Soreh Beylkeh, Eynikl, Pishke, Yashinski, Mayzler (the head of the yeshivah) – all in their own houses. Your family saved themselves; on hearing the screams from Ester's house they ran off to the fields. Dan Kaplan the photographer, and Rive's man Tsirlak with child and mother, escaped through the window and. ran to the "Vales". At dawn they came to me.

I had been living in Dore's apartment in Reb Yosele's house. The murderers did not come there. They had killed Rozental's children in the marketplace. They had also killed Kheytshe with her six month old child at breast and her older boy Grishen, Beyle Rokhel Guzovski with her children, Bergshteyn, Slutske's family, Tevye Sheynberg's children and many more.

On the Pavelkes the mobs murdered Gabriel Farbarovitch with his family and the Bergshteyns. Leyzer Sosnovski was led to the slaughter house and there was told to put his head on the stump; with the machine with which animals are slaughtered they, killed him. My hair stands on end from the grimness of it all.

Later the squads divided up the possessions of their victims amongst themselves. On readied wagons they loaded the corpses and led them just outside the town. The goys immediately washed the bloodied floors including the stones on the street. A few hundred sacrifices had taken place in one night and still, the murderers informed us, the massacres would continue for two more nights.

Those remaining were stricken with fear. What do we do? How can we save ourselves? My mother ran to the priest to beg for the Jews. They offered no help. With Khane Libe Zeml and Salen, I ran to the Polish intelligentsia. There too we found no salvation. My mother with two other women ran after help in Grayeve (Grajewo), they were not let into the town – curfew. What do we do? Night was falling upon. us. Approximately 20 Germans entered the city – a field troop. We were afraid to show ourselves before them Then I had an idea: to try our luck with the soldiers, maybe they would help us. With great difficulty we chose a delegation and departed. The group of Germans consisted of soldiers and two officers. In the beginning they declined to help us, "This is not our business, we are fighting only on the front, not with civilians," they explained. However, when I offered them soap and coffee, they softened up. They guarded the city at night and all remained quiet. I with two other women began to work for them, and later we were placed to work in the German headquarters.

And so, in this manner, the pogroms in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) were stopped for awhile.

At the same time similar events were taking place in Grayeve (Grajewo), Vanses (Wasosz), Radzilove (Radzilow) and so on. In Radzilove (Radzilow) all the Jews had been driven into the largest barn which was then lit aflame from all sides. Polish school-children wanted to rescue their Jewish girlfriends from the burning building, but the girls repudiated them and ran back into the flames. The Poles did all this. Such ghastly scenes took place in other shtetlakh. Shlafak, Shtabinski in Radzilove (Radzilow), Matis Keyman with his wife and children in Vanses (Wasosz) – they all had an ugly death.

In our city we were forced to go everyday to the market and tear away the grass from between the stones. Every household had to supply two or three persons. Monday evening (I think it was the 24th of July) instead of leaving the exhausted Jews to rest in their homes, tired from work and sun, they hastened everyone to the new section. A mob of urchins appeared – -children, who pursued them with sticks. People were rounded up from their homes as well. All were forced in one direction. From the new section they were led further to the cemetery (I was not amongst them). It was understood what would take place. One hundred men were chosen; they remained there. The women, children and elderly were sent back home. These 100 men were one by one in the most bestial manner, with axes, sticks and shovels, murdered. Amongst them were Salmon Leyzerzon with his son Meyir, Yeshiah Kokoshka, Lifshteyn, Panush and many more.

Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) stood black in ruin, her Jewish inhabitants sad and desperate. The synagogue and the old House of study had already been destroyed by the Germans in 1939, and now even the new House of Study was ruined. The entire area beginning from Pinkhas Rozen's house as far as Penzukh's house., had been burned out by bombs. The Vanseser Street as well was partly destroyed.

This was the second act In our shtetl. All this was effected by the Poles. In the month of August, a Thursday evening, Merutshkovski the "parson" of City Hall, rung the bell and informed the Jews that the following day they should assemble in the square. A fresh panic arose. That night no one slept. Friday morning, 8:00 a.m., everyone gathered. Men, women and children, and young girls, were placed apart from each other. Officiating were two Gestapo men and some SS guards. The Polish police were very busy running all over, searching through the houses to make sure no one had hid themselves.

In the marketplace they beat the Rabbi Efron, Z.TS.L., and all those whom they had found hiding. The men and young girls were led to Krumer Street. They walked five in a row like soldiers. At the courtyard of Biblovits the guards stopped to shove the elderly men into the grainhouse. Your father was one of them, as well as Yeshiah the rabbi, the ritual slaughterers – Radziminski, Goldfarb and Tutlman – and many others. In the storehouse they gathered the younger people: Mashke Guzubskl, Zavl Zeml, Chaim Kokoshko, Moyshe Chaim Kulinski, Yankl Denemark, Muki Farber, Dovid Rubinovitch; Moyshe Leyzerzon and all the others. In the third storehouse, a type of stable, they confined the girls Amongst them were: Sorekeh Zeml, Mini Radushkanski, your two sisters, your two cousins and young girls from the sixth grade at school. We women and children remained standing in the marketplace the entire day without a drop of water, without bread, in pain and grief over the spectacle. Khane Libe Zeml received a slap from one of the Gestapo men; she had appeared too bold. "In a few years not a single Jew will remain in this world," he told her, "And don't look so fresh."

Meanwhile the goyim were transporting rolls of barbed wire. There was banging. They were preparing something on Krumer Street. it was already completely dark. Elsewhere in the world for Jews, it was long after the blessing of the Sabbath candles. Elsewhere Jews sat at beautiful tables in lit houses, everyone together – children, parents… and here was only darkness, blackness. Krumer Street was already closed in with barbed wire. The entrance to the ghetto was through the square, through Biblovits's yard. We saw the men as we passed by. Their hair and beards had been shaven off. A good number of them had been badly beaten – those who had been found hiding. Many had already been led out and shot. My brother-in-law, Yosl Radziminski, was one of them.

The women went immediately to seize apartments. Your mother, sister and Chaye Soreh Galant with some others, took one apartment together where Moyshe "Tatke" had lived. My family took the best room at Nyevzhidovskin's. In this manner we lived 15-20, even 25 persons in one apartment. Constant conflict, quarrels and fighting.

Those in the storehouses were guarded by the Polish police, simple urchins and German soldiers. Saturday evening some of the younger men were removed: Zavlen, Guzovskln. and Chaim Kukoshka. Almost all the artisans: the shoemakers, the tailors, two blacksmiths, Ruzo the watchmaker, Sholem :Motl the painter, two bakers as well as ten to fifteen others, established together a Jewish council and a Jewish police force in the ghetto. These were the men who had remained free. The council was conducted in a strict disciplinarian manner. They were: Yoyneh Levinovits, president; Notke Rubinovitch and Tuviah Granovich, members; Yisroelke Goldfarb, Mikhal Krushninski, Savitski and Freedman, both Frizers, Lubetski and Leybl Gandi Dorf, as police.

Monday evening the older people were taken away. With them went Berman the teacher, and Itshe Tutleman. During the day I came again to them in the storehouse (because of my work the guard let me in). I gave the Rabbi, Z.TS.L., and others some sugar, sour pickles and pieces of bread. The Rabbi gave me his hand. I kissed it making. it wet with my tears. The beautiful Rabbi Efron. In the end they were all taken to the cemetery. The Rabbi was shot. He held a short droshe[14] just before his death. The others were killed. It is difficult for me to write all this. I am reliving the horror. It hurts me, my heart is bleeding.

At the same time, when the men were taken away, the women were crowding themselves in a row before a window for bread. This took place at Biblovits's house, a central point. There was warm fresh bread…

The tradesmen and some of the youngsters were released. Both storehouses became empty. Four women however: Mini Radishkanski, Eni Slutski, Sheyne Mlavski and Yisroelke Alaran's wife, were killed in the yard by the guards.

That Friday, when they had driven the Jews into the ghetto, they had also removed the sick from the hospital to the cemetery and there had shot them. Bronervayn Bishberg and Esterzon had tried to hide themselves in the hospital. They had been discovered and were consequently shot in the yard. Young girls from the sixth grade: Penzukh and Lipshteyn's daughters, Rivtshe Sosnovski, Yedidiah's wife – they were all murdered. Yedidiah had been finished off even earlier.

Tuesday, some village farm owners requested girls to work in the fields cutting the harvest, to work in the gardens and so forth. The chief of police along with five or six gentile lads chose the girls. They chose more than 80 women (Gutki Rozental was amongst those, chosen) while others went willingly, hoping to bring back with them perhaps a basket of potatoes. They departed and never returned. They had been killed, some by scythes right in the rye fields, others by hoes, and others in the gardens. Your two sisters and your cousins had not been taken. Sorekeh Zeml returned to the ghetto. That day I was also arrested. At eleven o'clock that night I was to be led away, but as you can see I managed to escape.

I have no more strength to write. This letter has taken its toll on my health. I can see your tears and your grief on reading all this. I have no words with which to comfort you. Be strong my dear compatriot. I will tell you the rest the next time I write

Yeshiah: I implore you! Write me and tell me where they are now: Borukh Fishl Zeml, Shprintse, Leyeke. What do you know of Eshalon who returned to Russia? Write me everything, send me a Yiddish newspaper. We live here as if on an Island. We do not know what goes on in the rest of the world. There are no books, nothing. We do not understand the Dutch language. We live here in isolation, sadness and defeat.

Perhaps your son will take revenge for his grandfather, his grandmother and all of the people of Israel. I send regards to all those from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) who had the luck to run away from that cursed Polish land.

Chaye Soika

 

**********

Almelo, October 13, 1945.

Dearest Yeshiah!

Your letter brought us many pleasures. I thank you for everything and we ask you to help us in any way you can, in the future, so that we should be able to come sooner to the Land of Israel. We do not need any material help, therefore you need not send us anything. How enthusiastic you are in helping us; if only we could thank you soon.

I do not know unfortunately, the day or rather the date when your dear father, Z.L., perished. I remember more precisely that it was a Monday evening in the month of August. But which Monday? I believe that it was in the first half of the month. In his group there was also the Rabbi, Beynish Ponimunski, Z.TS.L.. The Rabbi was shot. All the others had a different sort of death. The goyim buried them immediately, all in one mass grave near to the gate. Shortly after, when I happened to visit the cemetery I saw the grave. It was a large circle covered with fresh white sand. About one year later the Jewish Council undertook to bring all the corpses for burial in Israel. The goyim disclosed the many places under the city where they had thrown the unfortunate ones. You can well imagine what the wives of all those murdered were re-experiencing at the time. Some of the dead were without heads, hands or feet. Many corpses lay on the Pavelkes. The family Bednarski had rampaged the area so that they could loot the homes.

Kosmovski an impudent man, a murderer, the former post master, was the commander of the Polish Police and forerunner in the massacres Shviatlovski, the chief of the postal service, and Pioter Savtsenka the shoemaker killed Zeydke Bergshteyn's family, after which they moved into their apartment. Donovskl, Bogushevskl from the new section, Kokhanovski from Barane (Barany), Gardatski Lutek Kshubski, Brilek, Olshevski and many others took part in the indiscriminate killing of the Jews.

You ask about the Polish intelligentsia. The pharmacist Dignarovits was not in Shtsuutin; before the war he had sold the pharmacy. Of the other Polish illuminati, no one helped; rather the contrary. The Secretary of Reyent Tishko, if you remember him, even took the Rabbi's clothes and had them refitted for him. Furman the tailor did the sewing and said that on the Rabbi's overcoat there were still drops of blood.

My parents ran a store for 40 years, had many customers from all spheres in society:. During the second massacre my mother, Z.L., left for Urnizan, wanting to hide herself in a cellar or a stable. The people there renounced her. Alone, she escaped through the fields to Khoinavi (Chojnowo). There she knew many of the peasants. They chased her immediately from the village. Another Jew had secretly hid himself in the stable of Radzikovski, the secretary of the judge.. On discovering the Jew there he informed everyone., whereupon the man was immediately slain with sticks on the doorstep.

This is. how it all looked. Zabielski, the secretary of the parish council, also killed Jews.

About the ghetto:

You asked: How large was the ghetto at Blblovits's courtyard? The ghetto took up the entire Krumer Street, starting from Lafian's house to Urniazhe's yard. Biblovits's yard housed the terrible camp – the storehouse and the stable. It lasted 5 days until the killers had finished with the death march. Every night it was another group. The rest: the shoemakers, the tailors, blacksmiths, a painter, a tinsmith, a baker and a few youngsters were led into the ghetto. Life in the ghetto was difficult. The Jewish Council did not help the poor people. They only solicited money from those who had. The numbers of the ill-fated. residents of Krumer Street were dwindled by one quarter due to cold, hunger and sickness.

Your mother, may she rest in peace, and sister took nothing out of their old home.. They were afraid to go there. Some helped them out with a few clothes and linen. Your mother died a natural death in the ghetto, also your sister Chaye-Soreh; shortly one after the other. My heart aches that I must write you all of this but you desired to know. Shall I comfort you? Shall I comfort in myself? Our fate could not have been any worse. These are wounds which can never be healed.

Your mother, dear Peshke, was also in the ghetto. She stayed together with Sheyne Aronzon at Ziskind's in the small house in the yard where Rakhki would smoke herring. Nothing pleased her. She would receive letters from your brother in Sokolki asking her to come stay with him, but your mother, may she rest in peace, a smart women, said that she did not want to burden her children. She therefore remained in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and when the few hundred Jews were led out of the ghetto, your dear mother, Z.L., and sister-in-laws – Feygl and Peshke – were also amongst them.

Everyone was removed to Bogushe (Bogusze) near Grayeve (Grajewo). This was a gathering point for all Jews from the entire region; to be exact: Szczuczyn, Grayeve (Grajewo), Raigrad, Ugostov (Augustow), Stavisk (Stawiski), Vanses (Wasosz) and so on. There I believe, your sisters met up with your sister-in-laws and children from Ugostov (Augustow) and possibly also with Chaye-Soreh's children. They were already big girls, students in the school in which I worked. At the meetings the teachers used to praise both "Furmanevkes". The older one recited superbly, always exact. She was in the sixth grade by then. My daughter was in the third grade. Our cherished ones, our loved ones, unforgettable children. Why? Why? I cannot control my anguish. I must take a break from writing.

**********

Dearest Yeshiah!

I send you my sincerest greetings and thanks. You are a truly good brother. We will remember what you have done for us in our difficult hour.

No one survived from Farber's. family; neither from the Katsperovskis. Sholem Bergshtayn and his family is also no longer with us. Hillel Ber Sheynberg died a natural death in Vlodave (Bledowo). The others in his family were taken to the camps. Regards to Pishke and the child.

Dora

You asked, Yeshiah, what I did at the headquarters:

Yes, I washed and cleaned the floors, I sewed and quilted. Often I would translate from Polish and Russian into German. More importantly I saved with determination and therefore brought home (not all the time) a small loaf of bread. Sometimes I would organize gatherings for the children in their homes at the command post, and for this I would receive, on the side, a box of saccharine, a bottle of vinegar,… This was in all the cities, as I learned later, the best position. The most beautiful daughters polished and scrubbed, cleaned for them, cooked for them – for our bloody enemies – and it was good fortune, because carrying stones and cement was a lot worse.

During those hot days, when I arrived at work once, the. commander said to me: "The Poles have sentenced you also to death. If you can, run away." It is easy to imagine what his message did to me,. I went out into the yard; there by a washtub stood Dora, Eni Kelson and the Bialystok melamed's[15] daughter Kohn. I gave them the message. I did not deliberate long but put on a shawl, took a basket, and through the promenade garden I escaped onto the Lomsa (Lomza) route and was off I did not say goodbye to my mother, may she rest in peace, or to my children. A desire had overtaken me – to run away, to run as quickly as possible. How strong then was my will to live! I had barely made it to the Christian cemetery when some smart alecks recognized me, and with stones chased me back to the city. On Lomzher Street I passed by the command post and there saw Dora. I shouted to her: "They've caught me, remember to be a mother to my children."

They brought me in in handcuffs and after a short interrogation. placed me in a small cell… I cried the entire day.. Kozshukh Olshevski the policeman said with "pity" that at eleven that night they were going to shoot me, but he would fire blanks and would give me the chance to escape; in return I should give him a letter to my mother asking her that she accommodate him… naturally, I did not believe him. Horrid thoughts plagued me throughout the entire day – the children, that they would no longer have their mother was certain, would they at least have their father? At the time Ihad no news at all of my husband and did not know if he was alive. I lay on the bare boards crying. From the neighboring cell I heard someone reciting vide. "'Through the walls they called to me. It was Eli Dovid Gutshteyn – the bath-house attendant, Berl Aronzon, Shturmlovske's nephew and a few others. During the night while another group was being taken away, they tried to escape but were caught.

It was already dark in the cell when a policeman summoned me to the office for questioning. "Why did you want to run away? What harm has anyone done to you?" To my great astonishment he ordered a policeman to bring me to the ghetto. It was completely desolate on Krumer Street. My sister Dora still stood by the wire fence. Her face was pale and troubled. She had been waiting for me. Apparently in the course of the day my mother, Z.L., and Dora overturned worlds for me: They had squeezed through the wire fence somehow, ran to the Polish command, to the German command, carried off my father's fur coat, which had been concealed in the hospital, along with other articles and money and bought me from my death. The goyim wanted to be rid of me for many reasons. Because of me, the command, it was considered, had been too soft on the Jews. In addition, I had been a teacher with the Soviets. I had raised my children in the communist spirit… I had been a secretary in the professional teacher's' union. I had been very active, attended meetings-these were later the main reasons for which I decided to leave Szczuczyn.

Dear Yeshiah, this is not the only example, even before the camps, when my life was in danger. Such instance's grew more and more frequent. Perhaps as you have written, we will see each other shortly and will be able to talk about everything, especially of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) our shtetl, once so beloved and dear to us; now we can only curse it. I greet all those from Szczuczyn. Regards from Dora and Soreh.

In the beginning of the war, Vayntsimer's family with our Sorehle had moved to Bialystok. Zalman ran away together with my husband. Avreml remained in Russia. Perhaps you could ask the other Shtutsiners (Szczuczyners), about him? All the others are no longer alive.

Chaye


[Page 62]

The Destruction of the Jews in Szczuczyn

Document from the "Jewish Voyivodisher Historical Committee"

Bialystok, August 11, 1946 – taken from pages 46-152.

Testimony given by Bashe Katsper, born in. the year 1920 in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and lived in the Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) ghetto during the occupation. After the ghetto's liquidation, she remained in hiding in the surrounding villages. She now lives in Bialystok.

The shtetl Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) (numbering 3000 Jews bef6re the war) had already in the beginning of 1939 felt the bestial. hand of the Nazis, who had by then been in the shtetl for two weeks. During this time Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) lost 300 Jews, of which only a few. returned.

June 24, 1941, the Germans took control of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) once again. In the very first days the local German authorities had not yet established themselves, so the Polish hooligans and rowdies were able to terrorize the Jews. Amongst the hooligans were: Yakubtshuk Dombrovski the "Garb", Shviatlovski the chief watchman, Yankeytis the director of the school and various nightmen (janitors). Friday June 25, 1941, in the middle of the night while everyone slept, the Poles carried out three pogroms: in the new section, in the marketplace, and on Lomzher Street. In the new section they; killed: Kaplan the photographer with his nephew, Ester Kriger with her daughter and grandchild, Romorovski the tailor, Peshki Yashinski, Meyzl the head of the yeshivah and others. In the marketplace they murdered: Khanah Rozental s children, Grishe Radushkanski and a woman with a small child at breast, Beyle Rokhl Guzovska, Zeydke Bergshteyn with Rakhken and their grandchild, Tuvya Sheynberg s children, Hersh Slutski with his family; on the Pavelkes (a street at the city s edge) they had killed: Gabriel Farbarovitsh, Bergshteyn and Leyzer Sosnovski were slaughtered in the slaughter house. The Poles led all those slain, about 300 persons, out of the city on wagons and threw them into uncovered. ditches.

The Jewish women ran to the Polish intelligentsia to intervene and stop the pogroms, but they would not help. Then the women bribed the German soldiers at City Hall, so the second night they patrolled the Jewish district.

The same scenario took place in Grayeve (Grajewo), Radzilove (Radzilow), Vanses (Wasosz) and Stavisk (Stawiski). In Radzilove (Radzilow) all the Jews were burned in a barn.

A week before setting up the ghetto the Polish guards (superintendents) rounded up all the Jews, leaving no one in their homes – -allegedly to tear grass. They were led to the cemetery. Only a few; men and the women were left behind. The second day one hundred men were found dead in a mass grave. Amongst them were: Yoyneh Levinovitsh's son, Panush with his son Meyir, Yeshiah Kokoshka, Malkial Lupshteyn and others. The Rabbi had been brutally beaten and the Bes Hamedresh had been burned down.

July 20, 1941, the ghetto was completed, stretching from Lafian's yard to Vilamovske's yard. The same day the entire Jewish population was chased into the streets. The young and old were grouped separately in a camp and each night they would remove people who would then be killed. There perished: Zavl Zeml, Moyshe Guzovski, Chaim Kalinski, Yankl Denemark, Chaim Kokoshka, Muki Farber, Dovid Rubinovjtsh, Moyshe Leyzerzon, the Rabbi , the ritual slaughterers, the Dayan, Keyman's brother-in-law, the teacher Berman, Itshe Tutlman, Skubelski and others. Only women and children, 10 tailors, Ruzhe the watchmaker, Sholem Motl the bricklayer, and 3 blacksmiths were allowed into the ghetto. Some snuck inside. Together there were 300 Jews.

In the ghetto a Jewish Council was chosen, composed of 15 Jews: and 4 policemen – Jewish guards. The president was Yoyneh Levinovitsh, the councilmen were: Notke Rubinovitsh, Yisroelke Goldfarb, Mikhal Krushnianski, Savitski and Fridman. In the hospital remained: Lubetski, Leybl Dorf and two doctors. The above mentioned people with Doctors Vortman and Gerts were in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) until the liquidation of the ghetto.

November 2, 1942, the Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) ghetto was dissolved and the residents were removed in wagons to Bogusho (a camp near Grayeve (Grajewo)) Some of the people tried to escape from the camp to the nearby villages, but they did not successfully remain hidden. Amongst those who languished there were: Gardenberg and Likhtenshteyn, two brothers.

Our witness had, up until the liquidation of the ghetto, worked in Grabove (Grajewo) in the village. After the liquidation, he stayed in hiding both at a Gentile's in Grabove (Grajewo) and in the woods, where he remained until the liberation, January 26, 1945.

From the minutes taken by the chairman of the "Jewish Voyevodisher Historical Committee" in Bialystok.

Mgr. M. Turek


[Page 66]

My Experiences During the Second World War

The German Invasion and the Polish Pogroms

Friday September 1, 1939, when Nazi-Germany invaded Poland I happened to be in Grayeve (Grajewo). The communication links – Grayeve (Grajewo)-Szczuczyn-Stavisk (Stawiski) – until Lomsa (Lomza) were controlled by the Polish bus company. The buses would leave exactly at seven in the morning from Grayeve (Grajewo) and would travel to the above mentioned cities. I and some other Jews traveled with this bus. Suddenly and unexpectedly, at 4 kilometers outside of the city near Popova , we came across a German road-block consisting of five armed horsemen. They gave a strict order that everyone must debark from the bus, hands held in the air. The passengers left the vehicle and the Germans searched for weapons in every corner. of the bus. No personal frisks were made and no concealed objects were found. They merely took away the money from the Polish driver, informing or warning us that Polish money will soon be worthless because "We will defeat the Poles", and let us further on our way.

The frightened driver drove on at 60 kilometers per hour. In utter panic we arrived in Szczuczyn, to pass on the dismal news. We related everything that had happened to us

A panic arose amongst the Jews. Everyone put in his two cents of what was awaiting us from the Germans and the anti-Semitic Poles. However, no one imagined that such a ruthless extermination was in preparation. The gray tidings, that the Germans were already near the city, spread with lightening speed over Szczuczyn. We began to board up the stores and the doors of the houses. We prepared to flee, abandoning everything to the Germans and the Polish anti-Semitic population, which had for years been waiting impatiently for their chance to attack and plunder the Jews. But the question remained: Where to run to? Some believed it was best to head in the direction of Bialystok; others held that we should go towards Lomsa (Lomza). An abject fear broke out.

My family also ran towards Radzilove (Radzilow) by foot. Everyone ran, some by horse and wagon, but most by foot. The entire stretch of the way was covered with refugees. I arrived in Radzilove (Radzilow) at six o clock in the evening. Already there was no spot to set oneself down even in the large marketplace. Aside from the Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) Jews and the Vanses (Wasosz) Jews who had sought refuge, there were also those. From the city Hall of Szczuczyn, the post office with all its clerks and the municipal treasury.

Evening fell upon us. I remembered that it was Friday, when Jews put aside daily worries and go to synagogue to welcome in the Sabbath; and suddenly here we had been estranged from our home, left our worldly possessions of so many years completely abandoned and now we were standing heavy and tired,. beneath the open sky in the Radzilove (Radzilow) marketplace, like a Gypsy band.

The Radzhilov Jews were meanwhile at home and as. always greeted the Sabbath.

The stream of homeless ones grew steadily. New arrivals forced from their homes came from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and Vanses (Wasosz) , informing us that the Germans had already taken over the city. Then the Radzhilov Jews began to comprehend the seriousness of the situation and together with us searched for a solution.

The clock struck midnight, but sleep came to no one. The tumult was great. Suddenly we heard tremendous explosions. By whom and what had blown up no one knew. As it became apparent later, the blasts had been a provocation by the Germans, and Polish citizens in the government and army. The goal of the explosions was to create a general panic in the entire area.

Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) lay very close to the border – on one side 5 kilometers from Shvidra (Swidry), and from the Skeyer side, 3 kilometers.

Shabes[16] September 2, very early, German airplanes flew over Radzhilov, nine in a row, and fired. with machine guns at. large groups, even civilian population.. We realized that Radzilove (Radzilow) no longer offered, any protection.

In a day and a night we walked 18 kilometers, to finally be refused entrance to Szczuczyn. Polish military engineers were building provisional bridges in place of those which the provokers had destroyed the day before.

Sunday September 3, around four in the afternoon, Polish regiments; entered, marching to Germany – from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) towards Bialogrady and from Grayeve (Grajewo) towards Protka (Wrotki). The main activity of the military units seemed to be looting and burning. The Polish soldiers pushed deeper into German territory, but the "great" Polish spark did not last long. Wednesday September 6, at midnight, the Germans led a strong counterattack. The Poles with a hurried momentum began to withdraw from German territory. Some of them fled in the direction of Asaviets (Osowiec), Bialystok; others ran through Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and Radzhilov towards Lomsa (Lomza). A large. number of- the Polish units had been destroyed. Some of them disguised themselves in civilian clothes and hid themselves amidst the Polish citizens.

Thursday early, meaning September 7, the Germans entered the city from various directions along the entire borderline. For more than 5 days they continued to march through Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and Grayeve (Grajewo). At each spot they would leave behind an. administrative municipal committee. Fear spread through everyone, particularly the Jewish population. The Polish anti-Semites realized immediately that the Germans were well disposed to them and full of hatred for the Jews; the Jew haters now had an appropriate opportunity. to get even with the "zhides". As in most Polish towns, Jews made up the majority. As well, most of the businesses and stores for commodities belonged to Jews. This reality was used by Polish Jew haters. They began to complain that Jews were: speculating with the prices, and in addition did not want to sell to Poles for Polish zlotes. The Polish got along easily with the Germans because most of the German army, which now had control over the city, knew the Polish language. They merely awaited for anti-Semitic outbreak.

As soon as German rule was strengthened, Polish women swamped the Jewish enterprises and demanded those products and merchandise which were not there. Not finding what they asked for, the customers ran to the German soldiers, informing them that Jews did not want to sell for Polish zlotes. The army together with the Poles, made the rounds of all the Jewish stores and began to preach morals: "How much longer will you continue to deny these poor Poles what they want. Your end awaits you Jews so you might as well forget the money and divide the merchandise amongst them. You will no longer need your gold and silver." So exclaimed the Germans. With their greedy preying counterparts.

The cruel handling of the Jews by the local authorities signaled a free-for-all to the Poles. The Jews, their lives and possessions were in great danger. A pogrom mood was brewing. The hooligan elements began to quarrel. A private conference with the local priest took place, at which it was decided that because the population in the city consisted mainly of Jews, who lived scattered amidst the Poles and so that "God forbid" the innocent Polish citizens should not suffer from the pogrom, a cross should be placed in the window of every Christian home.

Thursday evening, September 7, this was carried out. The Jews-trembled; they were certain that the same night there would be a pogrom.

The night from Thursday to Friday went by peacefully. Friday September 8 at eight o clock in the morning, they began to snatch Jews for forced labor. They caught everyone without exception: the weak, the young, the old, the sick and demanded that they should carry by themselves heavy wooden beams, in order to repair the blasted bricks around the city, which the German provokers had blown up the previous Friday evening The decree for. compulsory work called for the shooting of anyone who did not appear. During the hunt for Jews, the Germans had met a boy of 12 in the streets and immediately shot him. Thursday and Friday the Germans set up a local civilian municipal committee under German supervision. Two well known Polish anti-Semites got into City Hall: the gardener Gritsa and Breytsevski. Under coercion the Germans also named the old Jew – Avrom Chone Finklshteyn – to the committee. In the First World War he had served the German mayor. These three persons had to obey all orders of the German command.

Saturday morning, September 9, a stern order was given indicating that all Jews up until the age of 45, must present themselves immediately before eleven a.m.. With no other choice, the Jewish representative, Avrom Chone Finklshteyn, had to run around the entire city, to all the Houses of Study, and request that each and every one should in the said hour, assemble in the marketplace; if they refused they would be punished by. death. Naturally after such a terrible order, not having any choice, everyone gathered in the marketplace at the desired time, not knowing what kind of destiny awaited them there. The grief and worry of the unfortunate parents, women and children who said goodbye to their families, was exceptionally great. It was not know what fate would bring; still every person had the feeling that they would never again see each other alive.

Those that assembled were lined up four in a row and under heavy surveillance, led to the old synagogue in the new section.

 

Jews from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) are Transported to Germany

They stayed there over night until Sunday morning. Amongst them was also the Rabbi Reb Lipe Chaim, the son of the Tzadik[17] Rebe Yosele, Z.TS.L.. The city took great pains to intercede on his behalf, begging for his freedom. The Rabbi Reb Lipe Chaim Z.TS.L., categorically refused to be an exception from his Jewish brothers. He agreed that if they would free everyone he would also go home. That which happens to all of his unfortunate brethren, must also be his fate. Such a courageous stand by the Rabbi had understandably no effect on the Germans. Early Sunday, under close watch, everyone was driven to Germany by way of Shvidra (Swidry). As soon as they stepped onto German territory, they were assaulted by German women and children insulting and shouting that the "Damned Yuden" have led Germany to war, and so they must slaughter the entire group. In the wild crowd the Jews were bombarded with stones, to revenge the great destruction which the Polish army had done to them.

* * *

The removal of 300 men from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) left a devastating shock on everyone. From houses could be heard wailing cries – despair of the remaining parents, women and children. The blame for this expulsion was placed on the Jewish municipal representative, Finklshteyn, who had delivered so severely the commander's order with the threat of capital punishment for not attending. If not for the threat no one would have shown – they complained. The majority however, saw that this was another tactic of the Germans, so that they could kill off the Jews in various ways.

 

The Germans Burn Down the Synagogue and the Bes-Medresh

 A few days later,Tuesday at midnight, the Germans drenched in kerosene and gasoline the large synagogue and both Houses of Study – the old one; in the new section and the new House of Study on Lomzher Street, and burned them together with the Torah scrolls. Meanwhile the German bandits mockingly joked, like Titus in his time and asked: "Where is the Jewish protector?" The Christian houses nearby were guarded with special water pumps, God forbid the fire should spread to them. My pen is too weak to describe the agony and horror, which we lived through then, while we watched as they burned down the synagogues with the holy Torah scrolls. A tight German guard surveyed the burning Houses of Prayer to make sure that no one would try to save the scrolls – the greatest of self-sacrifice

A few days later we received the latest news: The Germans had closed an agreement with the Soviet Union and had divided up the Polish territory. According to the partition, the Bialystok voivode[18] now belonged to the Soviet Union and the Germans would shortly leave the occupied area It was already clear that the gangster Nazi-machine was departing and the Russians were coming – not a total consolation for us. It was known under what type of conditions people lived in the land of the Soviets, persecuted for no reason at all; but as it is said: "A drowning man will grab even for a burned piece of straw." Moreover us Jews, as an afflicted people, lived constantly with the hopes for better – but mediocre good was a respite nevertheless.

The Germans, knowing that according to the agreement, they must shortly take leave of the area, looted all that was left – everything that came in reach of their hands. For them everything was worth the investment. The Jewish wheat houses and the mills were emptied by the Germans.

 

Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) Under Soviet Authority

Exactly Yom Kippur[19] day, at three in the afternoon, we were rid of the Nazi bandits. From then until Succot[20] the city remained free without anyone ruling. The evening of the first day of Sukes, came a report from Grayeve (Grajewo) that the Russian army had already taken over the city and were marching with music towards Szczuczyn. Naturally we had to go and greet the important guests…

The Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) supporters of communism had after a short conference decided to greet the Red army with flowers and music. The soldiers entered Szczuczyn, immediately occupied the marketplace and began to take hold of affairs.

The civilian municipal committee had naturally adopted the right in-laws – members of the Communist party.

The following evening, one day after the Bolsheviks had seized power, they conducted arrests of Polish citizens. Arrested were: the former mayor Bilski, a few rich Poles from the intelligentsia, and all Polish landowners from around the city. They were sent to the Grayeve (Grajewo) and Lomsa (Lomza) prison, later to Siberia.

A few days later the Bolsheviks attended to the Jews, those from the so called bourgeois class. Some of them were sent to Siberia. A certain number, according to the directions of the newly created civilian (at the head of which stood Jewish communists), were forced to travel 10 kilometers from the city before being distributed passports from the N.K.V.D.[21]

The local communists had to approve which Jewish citizens could stay put and who must suffer exile 10 kilometers from the city. Later when giving out the passports, it was discovered that every holder with paragraph 11 must in the next 24hours leave Szczuczyn, if not, they would be immediately sent off to Siberia. It was permissible to live even in Vanses (Wasosz) as long as it was less than 10 kilometers from Szczuczyn. Everyone knew right away which paragraph would be accorded to him, and went off immediately to look for apartments in Vanses (Wasosz). The prices had risen, even those of the low-cost housing. Each one paid as much as they asked, and was happy with his fate that he would not be sent to Siberia. The names of those exiled to Vanses (Wasosz) and Radzilove (Radzilow) are the following: 1) Borukh Fishl Zeml, 2) Pinkhus Rozen, 3) Alter Levinovits, 4) Zalmen Leyzerzon, 5) Rafael Leyzerzon, 6) Alter Leyzerzon, 7) Tsamak Leyzerzon, 8) Itshe Leyzerzon, 9) Meyir Leyzerzon, 10) Leyzer Leyzerzon, 11) Leyb Farbarovitsh, 12) Moyshen Farbarovitsh, 13) Khankeh Rozental, 14) Chayeh Zelde vayngrovski, 15) Matis Keyman, 16) Itshe Demel's wife with the children, 17) Tuvyeh Sheynberg's children, 18) Notke Rubinovitsh, 19) Yakov Goldman, 20) Binyomin Shkap, 21) Litman Studnik. Some of them were banished to Radzilove (Radzilow). All those exiled, including the author of these memoirs, lived in these shtetlakh until June 20, 1941.

 

We are Exiled to Siberia

Suddenly, at one in the morning, the N.K.V.D. arrived with search warrants, according to an official list from the Communist Civilian Committee. They demanded that we open the doors of the cupboards, in order to check that there were no concealed weapons; any that would be found should be willingly handed in because the consequences would be worse for those who objected. All of a sudden no one knew what was happening. After a thorough search the N.K.V.D. men ordered us in a sharp tone: "We give you 15 minutes to get dressed and pack up your things. You will be sent out to Siberia. Cars are already waiting.

In 15 minutes what can one manage to pack? Each and every one grabbed what was near at hand, important or not, as in a blaze; the more vital and pressing, the more one would tend to forget it.

The neighbors had thrown 12 loaves of black bread into the car. The first few days no one paid any heed to the breads. But 15 days later we were the happiest people because the bread had saved all of us from a sure starvation death. Even though the loaves of bread were already green and moldy, we ate them with great appetite. It is difficult for me to describe all our sufferings during our arrest and sentence to Siberia. It was 2 days before Hitler had made his attack on Russia. June 20 was then a Friday. The route from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) to Grayeve (Grajewo) was filled with vehicles. From the entire area they were bringing people to the train station in order to send them to Siberia. People were stuffed into wagon cars like packed herring. There were many Polish people as well. Altogether there were 72 wagons for approximately 300 of us. Before placing us in the cars the N.K.V. D frisked everyone over again and surveyed the lists of names.

June 21, at one in the morning, the train from Grayeve (Grajewo) left and went through Bialystok. Sunday morning, June 22, we arrived in Minsk. There we saw troops by the hundreds from all of Poland. German airplanes had already bombarded Minsk. Many of the regiments had also been fired upon. The cars sped forward, as if flying through the air. In our convoy there were 72 wagons, in each wagon as many as 50 persons. The windows were barred. Five N.K.V.D. men stood guard over those arrested. A doctor also traveled with us.

For about 2l days we remained in the cars under the same conditions. The families from Shtstutsin were the "luckiest" because they had the 12 breads. In the beginning we were still of good humor. Later the bread became moldy, but we ate them ravenously anywise, because in the course of the 21 day journey, we had received only seven times 400 grams of bread and 18 times a small amount of thin broth; not God forbid such soups as we were accustomed to in our homes where one vegetable crowded the other. A few times they brought us a tin container of water. We softened the molded bread somewhat by dipping it in the water and with that our tastebuds were contented.

After 21 days the train pulled into Amsk (Omsk) (Siberia). N.K.V.D. guards ordered us sternly to debark quickly from the wagons. But alas, we could not go so fast. We were 37 people in the car – grubby, haggard and emaciated. Over the journey we had all been smitten with the third plague of Egypt (lice), but even so we felt fortunate that we could see the open sky although we ourselves. were not free. They treated us like the greatest criminals.

The buses hurried back and forth with groups of those arrested, bringing us to the city's circus which was enclosed by a high wire like at a large prison. There was not room for everyone. Some of us remained in the wagons. The situation at the time in Russia was very critical. The Germans were close to Moscow. In Amsk (Omsk) we learned that the prisoners-of-war had also been brought there. Many Poles and homeless Jews came to us, and told us that the Germans were near to Moscow and during the next few days a revolution would obviously break out in Russia, therefore they advised us: "If they want to ship you further, you should resist."

A few days later an N.K.V.D. man came, and from a list called out the names of those remaining in the wagons. They ordered us to board the buses. Everyone together raised a raucous, shouting that we would not go further. For the moment they did not force us into the buses, but the next day 300 N.K.V.D. men arrived and with coercive tactics drove us into the buses. We were sent in various directions. At our destinations we worked very hard, up until the treaty of General Sikorski with Stalin.. In the document there was a clause freeing all Polish citizens from the prisons and physical labor, giving them the possibility of unhindered movement in all of Russia. It seemed at last that good fortune had come our way, but once again we encountered obstacles because of our Jewish identity. During the release an N.K.V.D. man called to the Poles and gave them their documents which freed them from forced labor; but when we Jews – Polish citizens – demanded our release papers, the representatives of the authorities answered that Jews are not Polish citizens and will not be freed, unless each one could prove with papers that he is indeed a Polish citizen. The Jews became desperate. Many broke out sobbing.

It was lucky for us that my wife had hidden our Polish citizenship papers from 1939, in her shoes. With these papers we proved the necessary and then received our release documents. In this manner we escaped being sent away. Afterwards we lived for two and a half years in Svierdlovsker Oblast under very difficult conditions. The final one and a half years before the wars end we were transferred to Dnepropetrosk.

 

The Destruction of the Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) Kehilah

May 9, at 2:45 we heard on the Russian radio that the war was over. Our joy was great. At the same time however, our grief multiplied, learning what the Hitlerites had done to the Jews. Aside from the fact that the radio was constantly giving us news – how German hordes had brutally killed all Jews without exception shoving them into special gas chambers, burning the bodies in crematoriums – despite these horrifying details we did not want to let it sink into us – that all of the Jewish life as we had known it had already been erased. We decided to leave Russia and travel back to Poland. It was not so easy however, to leave the Soviet Union. As the saying goes "The door is wide open going in, but the exit is narrow."

Because I had been acquainted with an officer of the N.K.V.D., I managed to squeeze out of him permission to leave Russia. We decided to travel through Bialystok to Szczuczyn.

June 1, 1945, we sent our baggage to Grayeve (Grajewo). With great difficulty we arrived in Bialystok on the 20th of June. Along the way we found out more precisely about the Jewish holocaust in Poland. We did not resign ourselves however, from going to Szczuczyn; perhaps there would still be someone there who had remained alive.

At the train station in Bialystok we found out that our baggage which had been on route to Grayeve (Grajewo), would go no further. They explained to us that the bags could not continue on to Grayeve (Grajewo) because there were the "Okovtses", meaning the Polish "Armiya Krayova", who shoot Jews and communists if they showed themselves in the area. They also informed us that in the Grayeve (Grajewo)-Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) region, there were no Jews left practically. In spite of these warnings I decided to travel to Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) in any possible manner. Perhaps we would meet someone there, or at least find out what had happened to my friends, family and other Jews.

In Grayeve (Grajewo) I met two familiar Poles who informed me that there really were no Jews left. They als o showed me the places where the Jews of Grayeve (Grajewo) had been buried, where Abramsky's Yoysef was buried, and Shimon who lay beneath the Baguser path. As well they showed me the graves of those from the ghettos of Grayeve (Grajewo) and Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) who had been tortured. Communication links with Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) did not exist.

I had specially rented a car for the round trip. I had been warned that I should not linger there long because my life was in danger. There had been assaults and searches for Jews and communists.

I traveled to Szczuczyn. In the new section I met a woman, a meshumedes[22] who had converted before the War and married a Christian. She greeted me warmly and asked me to her home. Whatever I needed she would give. I thanked her politely for I did not want to benefit from her favors; although at the time even a small piece of black bread would have been cherished…

The meshumedes told me in great detail how the disastrous events had come about in Szczuczyn:

June 22, 1941, when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union, Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) had remained, from that day on, without control for an entire week – neither Germans, nor Russians. In that week the Poles had the opportunity to prepare a pogrom against the Jews, which began during the Sabbath night, Friday June 27, 1928.

This progrom had been organized by the Polish anti-Semitic intelligentsia who in turn gave the bloody work into hands of real murderers Gardatski the butcher with his sons led the pogrom. They organized the black masses, a hundred pogromists who armed themselves with axes, knives, hoes, shovels and various heavy irons.

That pitch black Friday, at one in the morning, the gruesome massacre started for the unfortunate Jews. The pogrom had begun on the Pavelkes and finished at Ester Kriger's According to the plans of the pogromists the night had been too short to finish off all the Jews. It was decided then to continue the following night, from Saturday to Sunday, and. kill off the rest of the remaining Jews.

Fortunately Saturday afternoon a German detachment arrived in Szczuczyn. A women's delegation turned to the head man and pleaded with him to save the city from the murderers who planned to butcher the rest of the Jews that night. The officer answered: "We are only military men and do not get mixed up in civilian affairs of the city."

A terrible fear struck the Jews. They felt death awaiting them in the blackness of the night. The men especially, did not dare to show themselves in the street. The women came up with another suggestion:

They would run to Grayeve (Grajewo) and seek help there. The women's group however was refused entrance into the city. The darkness of the night was closing in on them fast. Terror and despair reigned in all Jewish homes.

The delegation turned once again to the German military chief in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and begged him to guard the city. In return they offered to reward them with various commodities. The commander consented at this point. They immediately gathered from the Jewish houses the various articles. Each person had given away his last little bit: coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea and different drinks – everything was carried off to the commander. After receiving the presents he sent a patrol out over the city. And so that night the pogrom did not take place and we were for the meantime saved from death. There is a saying that temporary relief is a good thing, but these presents did not help for long.

When the Germans had control over the city they issued an order to construct a ghetto for the Jews. Poles were summoned to City Hall and delegated the work of enclosing the ghetto. It was to include Krumer Street which bordered the paint place of Zundl, the locksmith's nephew, and from the other side it was to reach the street near Penzukh's. A high fence of barbed wire was constructed around the ghetto. Once more the Poles were able to take revenge on the Jew.

When they finished the ghetto they received the right to pursue the Jews inside. The anti-Semitic Poles used sticks and beat their victims until they bled.

In the ghetto the Jews were divided according to categories: religious, merchants and idlers were led into the middle of the marketplace; workers, tailors, shoemakers and other types of artisans along with women and children, were left behind in the ghetto proper. The Rabbi, the dayan, the ritual slaughterers and the respectable establishment of the city were placed separately in the middle of the square. They were sent away to Bogushe (Bogusze). The poles escorted those sent away with blows. In Bogushe (Bogusze) they were kept for a longer period of time, until the Bogushe (Bogusze) ghetto was liquidated. Many were shot on the spot while others were sent on by train to Majdanek. There the souls were left to suffer In the gas chambers.

The Germans looked on with pleasure as the Poles pursued the Jews to the cemetery, beating them all the way. There they would be shot. At the location the beatings continued and they were forced to dig out for themselves a deep wide trench. When the ditch was finished the Germans let out a few volleys of machine gun fire.. The wretched Jews lives were ended.

The Poles soon had reason for new rejoicing. The Germans gave out the order to liquidate the ghettos in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and in Bogushe (Bogusze) near Grayeve (Grajewo). The Poles had to bring in wagons to transport the Jews. Of course this was all done and the ghettos in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and Bogushe (Bogusze) were indeed dissolved.

The tragic experiences of these martyrs – the Jews of Szczuczyn – were related to me by the woman, the meshumedes. Before my departure from Poland I visited Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) quite often. I can describe how the shtetl then appeared: The market had from all sides been ruined. From Pinkhus Rozen's house until Meyir Penzukh's house it was desolate. Potatoes are growing there over the entire area. The spot where the synagogue and both houses of Study stood were razed clean; nothing was recognizable. At the cemetery the tombstones had been taken down. The earth had been plowed and potatoes were growing there as well. Krumer Street was also not there.

The real pogromists such as the three Gardatskes, the butcher's son and 25 other murderers, received their judgment. Some of them were later shot by Germans and the rest by Russians. A few of the Polish Jew baiters were arrested by the Polish prosecutor. They searched for witnesses but converts from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and Radzhilov were afraid to step into court. I spoke with some of them who openly explained to me that they were afraid for their lives. Some Poles were challenged by the prosecutor to reveal the true criminals but they did not want to give any evidence. The murderers sat for a few months in prison until the trial and then were freed. Witnesses were lacking. The killer Biber, himself confessed to having killed scores Jews, and for this he was sentenced to 15 years of prison.


[Page 87]

My Experiences During the Second World War

Fishl Mikhalski

September 1, 1939, when the war broke out I was in Szczuczyn, my birthplace, where I had lived with my parents, brothers and sisters together. I could not leave my family and run off alone as many others had done.

Seven days passed quietly With us. Suddenly, the 8th day after the war had commenced, firing began. Right then, tanks with German soldiers started to march in. In the first hours the streets were emptied, everyone hid. In the end we got used to the idea, that the Germans were in the city, and we slowly appeared in the streets.

On the third day when the Germans had already taken control of the city, an order was issued that all men between the ages of 16 and 45 must assemble. That was Saturday morning. The people had no choice and presented themselves. We gathered in the street near Tevyeh Sheynberg's house and we arranged ourselves 5 in a row. Together were 250 Jews and 150 Poles. With guards they led us to the new section, to a place near the post office. There everyone was frisked. The search was accompanied by blows from the Germans.

They brought us into the synagogue and there kept us under strict surveillance. It was not permitted to go even out to the toilet. This was much worse than not eating the entire day.

The second day, Sunday, each person was permitted to receive some food from home.

We had no notion of what awaited us. After lunch they informed us that we were being sent to work in Germany.

We were lined up and driven and chased. Everyone was hurried without exception: the injured, the lame, the healthy and the sick. They drove us like a shepherd chases his animals.

We crossed the border into Germany. Germans, young and old with small children, threw stones at us because "the Jews were guilty in this war." We arrived at night; in the city of Biale (Biala). We spent the night on the street. The next day they moved us further, in closed cattle cars with no food or drink. When we had to pass to a second depot they led us through the nicest streets in the city, in order to show the German population the "Jew criminals." In the first row our escorts had stationed two crazies: Yudl the meshugener[23], and another lunatic from the city. Rosh Hashoneh[24] eve they brought us to an empty place. There we lay on the ground, hungry and cold, guarded by Germans with machine guns. By day they forced us to dig ditches. Everyone was certain that he was digging his own grave. A deathly fear infected us all.

At dusk they gave us something to eat. They set up canvas tents which served as our shelters for 5 months. We lay on the ground, the entire time never changing our clothes. Each day we worked and received 22 grams of bread along with one small serving of turnip soup. Many people died. The survivors were brought back to Poland.

For 5 days we travelled in hunger and cold. Finally they began to hurry us to disembark from the wagons. Those who stepped out were instantly killed by the firing of machine guns. Many people fell. A small portion survived – those who ran away and managed to drag therrselves towards Vlodave (Bledowo). The Jews who had been gunned down were buried. The survivors turned sick; their feet froze. They languished in Vlodave (Bledowo) for two months. I went off to Szczuczyn. The Russians arrived at that point. Later the Germans were to return so we crossed the border into the Soviet Union.

We went to the Russians in the year 1940. It was Purim The Red army did not force us back, but arrested and transported us to Brisk (Brest-Litovsk) and confined us to prison for 6 months. After that they led us into Russia to a camp.

With me were, from Szczuczyn: Moysheh Admask's' son – who died in the yearl942 – Yitskhak Vertman – residing today in Tel Aviv, and Sholem Keyman – living in America. In Russia we did not have it easy. We worked 12 hours a day in the woods and so passed the war. Today I am living in Israel.


Footnotes

12. A confession of sins recited on Yom Kippur or before death.
13. Assistant to a rabbi, charged with deciding questions of ritual cleanliness and settling minor disputes.
14. a Jewish sermon.
15. The teacher of children in the traditional kheder.
16. The Yiddish word for Sabbath.
17. A saintly man. Also official term used for the Hassidic Rabbi
18. The Polish word for regional divisions.
19. The day of Atonement in the Jewish calendar.
20. The Jewish Feast of Tabernacles
21. The Russian secret police from 1935-1943.
22. A Jew who had been baptized.
23. Someone who is crazy.
24. The Jewish new year which usually falls around September, October.

 

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