This faded letter in Yiddish was dated 1921 and was possibly written by my grandmother’s father, Aaron Moishe Rapoport. It may be addressed to my grandmother’s aunt who had arrived in New York before her. It describes a pogrom in their little shtetl of Kholmich. People were killed, neighbors hid in their basement, and the family lost everything. This incident had been alluded to in the Russian letters, but the Yiddish letter provided the details we had been searching for.
Kislev December 4 and December 17.
How are you dear Chotel [We could not identify this person], and how is your dear wife and your dear children, and the dear and beloved grandchildren?
I and Hanna are at Michla's and we find ourselves in the best of health. Nissel is in Retzitze, Chaimand Hodel Yekl in Niezin, Michael in Yakutarsk. He got married and she's a very nice girl. She's a dentist and earns well. He is a bookkeeper in a drug store. They have a very nice girl called Shainke.
Esther went to Yakvos and we have had no letter from her. Things now are quiet here and we have great hope that it'll stay that way. It is with great joy that I can write you that it's been quiet from after Sukkos until now but we heard that there is a gang of robbers called Balachavtze who go around killing so we had to hide our possessions.
We hid all our possessions in a store and I ran away to Mamel. At first I went to Gomel and stood in Rudnia - 5 miles from Gomel and I was 9 miles from Choimetz [Kholmich].
Whenever this gang passed through, they killed all the Jews and they also killed all the Jews in the village of Vashilov. They robbed everyone of all their possessions. In Choliatch, over 100 men robbed the whole city, and in Retzitze [Reygitz], the army came and they also came to Choimetz with several units and they beat up the robbers.
In a short time, we came back to Choimetz because it quieted down there. We were afraid to stay in the store where our possessions were hidden. Everyone spread false rumors and we believed all of them. Chaim remained in Gomel. Little by little, we started taking out our possessions from the store. It was hard to live without earning anything.
On Saturday, the 22nd of January [?], we got up and were very frightened. We didn't know what was going on. We heard noises and people running. I went outside and saw people running and shooting, one after the other. I couldn't return home, so I ran away to the other side of the river and the whole time, people kept bumping into me and I kept asking them about my family. On that day, we ran about 10 miles on that road. We heard that many people were killed on the streets, but we didn't know who.
During that day, we sent a gentile who discovered that there were 15 people who were killed. Everyone in the city dispersed, but when they returned, they discovered that mostly everyone from the city was still alive. Most of the people hid in a ditch under the bridge from which they could look out.
When we came back to the house, we could see that everything in the house, including Hanna's machine and all the dishes and windows were broken. Thank God our souls remained alive although Elya's aunt was shot.
Hidden in our house were Khaya Eossel Goldansky, Hirshl Ruvitz's aunt, M. Guraniet, Shmerl Reve Yechial's 2 daughters, Beryl Fuf's aunt, Baruch Arke's son, Yankel Gila Visatski's daughter, Basel Fruma, Michal Spivak and her husband, Binden, Shlomo Makanovsky, Michael and his wife and 2 daughters, and 2 strangers.
Almost every week, they would bring the bodies of those killed in the village. Most of them were workers in the village and they included: Wolbe the shoemaker, Hanka and her 2 children. Others who were killed on the dirt road were Smuel Moshe Dvorgen, Perle Fayge, daughter of the deaf one and her husband.
Everyone who hid in our house remained alive although our windows were broken...
[Rest of letter cannot be found]