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[Page i]


Yekhezkiel Raban, Editor

This Memorial Book, which is presented by the committee of its creators to those who come from Dereczin, Kolonia Sinaiska and Halinka, who live in Israel, the USA and other countries where Jews have settled, has been conceived to serve as a memorial to the martyrs of the communities who were shot, slaughtered, asphyxiated, burned, and buried alive, in the fields of our town, and to those who fell in battle against the cruel and murderous oppressor in the forest around it, with their hands still holding the arms of vengeance, their hearts yearning for the deliverance of their people – and who themselves were never brought to rest in a proper place of Jewish burial.

From one perspective, the book is about the hallowed community of Dereczin and the residents of its environs – about its history, its conviviality, its deeds and accomplishments, from its very beginning to the time it was erased from the face of the earth. Hundreds of years of Jewish life, about all the happiness and suffering that are imbedded in the life of a Jewish shtetl, in the Pale of Settlement of Czarist Russia and the corners of anti-Semitic Poland, are reflected in the pages of this book. All this is told, in order that we shall know, we, our children and our children's children, about that which was, lived, and worked – and was then cut off.

* * *

Tens of people who came from Dereczin wrote this Memorial Book, simple people whose job is not writing, but the memory of their shining childhood and youth in their tranquil town, and the memory of their loved ones, who were annihilated in its streets, fields, and forests during the years of the War and Holocaust – all these things did not give their souls peace until they put down their memories on paper, their meditations, and the stories of their suffering and what they went through. It is they – they who brought the stones for the erection of this monument.

The Book presents the simple story of Dereczin, in the character that was put down in its pages and with its intent. The Book does not pretend to aggrandized historical sketches and synthesis of all the incidents that are described within – not with regard to the history of the town, not concerning the organizations of its community and their works, not with regard to the annihilation of the Jews during the years of the Holocaust, and not even in connection with the energetic, stubborn and audacious exploits of the sons of Dereczin against the Nazis. This is a collection of stories by many Derecziners, and every one of them wrote from memory that which he or she saw with their own eyes from their perspective, from his street and from his parents' home. This is the source of differences in how things were seen, and how they are described.

We were not concerned with alignment to related history in an objective fashion, in picking the subject matter and in approaching its reading, where even to this day, not everything is known in precise detail. We were guided by the desire to permit the words and the writing of all our townsfolk to convey that which they wanted to tell, and all the gaps in their memory.

We have published the words of all the writers in the language in which it was written. The volume of material forced the need upon us to abridge part of the writings, [but we did so] without doing violence to the essential facts and their spirit. And from this, there emerges from all the memories, stories, descriptions, personal and family portraits, a clear picture, and to our knowledge a picture

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full of shining light about the life of our town, full of the pain and tears over the demise of its community, and adorned with glory and pride for the heroism of its warrior-sons.

* * *

Dereczin was a Jewish town, within its walls and in its yards, in its houses of learning and worship, in the way of life of our forefathers, in the spirit that reigned in its youth movements and parties, in its schools, in its yearnings and dreams, during ordinary weekdays as if they too were Sabbath and festival.

Until the end of the nineteenth century, the traditional Jewish way of life based on Torah scholarship was dominant, filling its every nook and cranny. From the beginning of our turbulent century it was the spirit of nationalism that set the tone for the youth movements, the parties, and public organizations of Dereczin. Elements of ideology appeared, that catalyzed large parts of the Jewish community in Eastern and Central Europe.

We can freely take pride in raising a banner to the part played by Dereczin in the War of Vengeance of the partisans against the Nazi Murderer. Every historian of the guerilla war of the forests tells about it. There is no doubt that the aggressive spirit of the sons of our town was aided by the nationalist education they received, and by the fundamental spark of allegiance to their people and its aspirations for redemption.

* * *

Years have passed since the days of the Holocaust and the War. Several years have also passed since we first met to gather the materials for the Memorial Book, and to start the work. The task was not easy.

In conveying the Book to the hands of those from Dereczin, Halinka and Kolonia Sinaiska let us offer our thanks to the members of the publication committee for their considerable and fruitful effort – first and foremost to Malka Alper who worked without a surcease and involved herself in every detail that was related to the improvement of the Book and its publication; to Chaim Rabinovich who drew the history and the past of our town from the wellspring of his wondrous memory; to the committee members, Meir Bakalchuk, Aryeh Beckenstein, and the couple Masha & Abraham-Hirsch Kulakowski, who lent their hands to everything where they could help, in no small measure to setting up its format, its content and the appearance of this Book.

Words of thanks are in order to the members of the “Memorial Book Committee in the USA” for obtaining material and funding to enable it to be published. The gratitude of the publishers goes to the family of Jacob Mishkin in Venezuela, who gave generously to this community memorialization project.

To the fighting partisan, Shmuel Bernstein, from whose book, “The Dr. Atlas Brigade” excerpts are incorporated into this Book, to the beloved writer, a townsman Shlomo Yudson, from whose book, “Three Worlds,” several warmhearted stories about our way of life were taken – the thanks of those involved in the work on this Book is sent.

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Let us remember at the hour in which we unveil this memorial, Rabbi Chaim-Zvi Sinai-Miller ז”ל, who never let go of his dream of a Yizkor Book for his town, and to which he dedicated the better part of his will and energy, as an active and enabling teacher, and a Zionist; let us remember David Rabinovich ז”ל, who put an immense amount of effort into the preparation and organization of the work, in the gathering of the material, the collection of funds in Israel and outside The Land, to get the book published – these two beloved sons of Dereczin did not live to see the fruit of their labor and effort.

* * *

The reader of the pages in this Book should silently whisper the pure and poignant Kaddish prayer from the depths of his heart over the distant graves spread out across the fields and forests of our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, dearly beloved, and entire families of which there remains not even a trace.

LEt us therefore reverently take this Book in our hands, read it with the trembling that comes with the remembering of the pure souls of the departed, and when we finish reading, press our trembling lips to its pages and its lines, that perpetuate the memory of the martyrs and warriors.

[Page iv]

The Translator's Foreword

By Jacob Solomon Berger

The preparation of this English Dereczin Yizkor Book represents another step in my continuing effort to make histories of Eastern European Jewish shtetl life more accessible to interested readers who live in the English-speaking world. My interest in Dereczin can be attributed to my maternal family origins in the shtetl of Zelva, a scant 15 km from Dereczin.

The two towns both had Jewish communities that were centuries old, until they were cruelly eradicated in the Holocaust. Young people from families in both towns very likely married one another over long periods of time. Indeed, the complete understanding of how these bloodlines mixed is probably lost to us forever, but that the Jewish communities in both towns were related seems indisputable. The rosters of both communities are replete with the same names: Gelman, Lantzevitzky, Lev, Ogulnick, Salutsky, and so on. So for me, having already translated The Zelva Memorial Book into English, this step seemed to be a natural corollary to that earlier effort.

Translating Sefer Deretchin constituted a different experience for me. In the case of the Sefer Zikaron Zelva, the editor, Yerachmiel Moorstein ע”ה, accepted a burden of translating all of his inputs into Hebrew. His objective was to assure that the result would be accessible to the Hebrew-speaking progeny of Zelva in Israel. There were some interesting consequences to this decision:

Sefer Deretchin was published about two-thirds in Yiddish and one-third in Hebrew. Having been published nearly twenty years earlier than its Zelva counterpart, it benefitted from the oversight and participation of a still vigorous, though aging, American landsmanschaft, and an as-yet-emerging Israeli presence, which itself had strong Yiddish roots. Consequently, creating the Dereczin Yizkor has been a more personal experience for me, and one closer to the source material. Indeed, the Byelorussian Litvak Yiddish idiom, laced with its Russian words, struck a deep and emotional chord within me, because it represented the voice of those very grandparents that raised me as a child. It instilled a sense in me that the Derecziners too, were my kith and kin.

The two books parallel each other in many obvious ways. The structures of the books are nearly identical. It is noteworthy that Dereczin seemed to resemble Zelva a great deal in its physical layout,

[Page v]

to the point that the Synagogues and Batei Midrashim had many of the same names. The striking similarity in town layout raises the intriguing question of whether they were conceived from the same general plan at one time, early in the Middle Ages. Qualitatively the two books are equally rich, but because the Dereczin book is nearly three times larger, there is a greater body of anecdotal detail which enriches the record substantially, and deepens our insight into the daily lives of our collective forbears.

The tragic end of these communities came about somewhat differently, even though the grisly outcome was the same. Zelva was in that part of Byelorussia that was formally incorporated into the Third Reich. It also had a railroad station, which Dereczin did not (in fact, Derecziners would have to travel to Zelva by horse-drawn wagon to have access to rail transport). Consequently, Zelva never had a ghetto. Rather, the Jews were rounded up and transported first to Volkovysk, as a staging point that eventually led them to their final doom at Treblinka.

Just because Dereczin lay outside of the borders of the Third Reich was no basis on which its Jews would be spared. However, lacking the transportation infrastructure, the Nazis appear to have opted for creating a ghetto. After drafting available Jewish manpower into forced labor for digging massive grave pits, they and their local henchmen, summarily butchered the entire Jewish population on the 10th Day of Ab 1942, burying them in these very same mass graves. Of the more than two thousand Jewish souls in Dereczin, all were killed, save approximately 200 who fled to the nearby forests where they fought the Nazi German aggression as partisans. Ultimately, only 60 would emerge from the forests, as survivors of the rigors and dangers of partisan existence, to begin reclaiming what was left of their shattered lives. It is this aspect of the history of the Dereczin community that sets it apart, and makes it different and complementary to the Zelva story.

And yet even here, the overlaps continue to manifest themselves. If scores of Derecziners fought in the Partisan Pobeda Battalion, there were also the two brothers, Moshe & Katriel Salutsky from Zelva who were there, as were all the members of the family of Ephraim (Foyka) Gelman and his wife Alta, herself a daughter of the Dereczin Osherovich family. So who is to say we are not one...?

In preparing this manuscript, I have followed the same disciplines that I outlined in the foreword to the Zelva Memorial Book, so I will not repeat them here. Suffice it to say, I have tried to leave as much flavor of the original writing as is possible.

I also wish to extend thanks to a number of people for helping to make this work possible. First, my thanks go to Sol Phillips of Rochester, NY, a scion of the Becker family of both Dereczin and Zelva. It was Sol who engaged me on this subject and eventually made a copy of Sefer Deretchin available to me. A word of thanks is in order to Miriam Kreiter, who translated several dozen pages at the behest of various interested parties. The quality of her work lightened my own load somewhat, for which I am grateful. Finally, I want to thank my 'backup Yiddishists,' Faygel Garber York of Monsey, NY and Mildred Shapiro Ragosin of Edmonton, Alberta in Canada. Both ladies, born in Zelva, gave generously of their knowledge to keep dem Amerikaner Yoongotch from linguistic pitfalls. And when all else failed, our gratitude goes to Professor Mordkhe Schaechter of Columbia University for his peerless expertise in clarifying the handful of esoterica that was beyond us all.

Spring, 2000

[Page vi]

A Silent Kaddish for Our Dearest

By Abraham-Kadish Feder
Chairman, U.S. Yizkor Book Committee
(Original Language: Yiddish)

When I undertook the work of becoming the Chairman of the Committee for the Dereczin Yizkor Book, I was fully cognizant how great the effort would be, and even greater the responsibility.

We began working on the Yizkor Book in 1964. We had our first general meeting of residents of Dereczin, concerning the Yizkor Book, on Hol HaMoed Sukkot, with the participation of Malka Alper, during her visit to the U.S.

The idea of producing a Yizkor Book had already gestated for some time in the thoughts of several Derecziner landsleit. We saw, that in such a book, we had the only possibility of preserving the memory of our small town, where we were born, raised, and where we spent the sweet years of our youth.

This, indeed, is the lesson of our Yizkor Book. In it, are preserved for all eternity, the happiness and the sadness, the lives and daily occurrences, the tribulations and good things of all our closest ones, until they were led to their demise in a locked ghetto, dragged to their slaughter, and bit by bit, revealed themselves after having escaped to the forests, by doing battle with the enemy, and by-andlarge condemned to their deaths in The Sanctification of the Name.

Let this Book be a memorial to those who were murdered in the pits, and those who fell in battle, and those who were denied the decency of a Jewish burial. Let it be a memorial marker for those who did battle heroically against the greatest enemy ever to arise against our people in the course of its long and distinguished history. For us, and for our children, they will stand as heroes, who defended their honor as human beings and as Jews.

We are indebted to all of those who participated in this undertaking, and who helped in producing this Book, whether with content, or whether with financial support. A special thanks is due to the Derecziner Society, and the members of the Yizkor Book Committee. Our dear townsfolk, Jonah Silkowitz, Tzirel Kamenetsky, Fanny Berman, Ida Sarnotsky, Judith Yankelewick, Guta Boyarsky. The President of the Society, S. Bernicker, Rachel Efros, Chaya Pilcer, David Yanofsky, and finally --the most dear of all-- our secretary, Rose Siskind and Treasurer, Sarah Slotnick, who worked extremely hard and were dedicated to the completion of the Book.

With the Dereczin Yizkor Book, we place an eternal monument dedicated to the sacred memory of all the Jews of Dereczin who were killed and tortured. The book is a tear that we shed, on the scattered and far-flung family graves of our collective brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, friends and comrades, from the Dereczin Jewish settlement, who are no longer with us.

With respect for the Almighty, we will take this Book in our hands and we will read it, as if it were a silent Kaddish, in memory of our nearest and dearest.

Kislev, 5727 (November 1966)

[Page vii]

Transcription of the English Letter
to the Dereczin landsleit


Deretchiner Yizkor Book Committee

365 W. 28th Street I. SARNOTSKY SH. PILCER


Worthy Landsleit,

As you know, the Deretchiner Landsleit in America, together with our Landsleit in Israel are publishing a YIZKOR (MEMORIAL) BOOK for our hometown DERETCHIN.

Deretchin was a small town, but it was rich in culture, Rabbinical personalities and fine people. This will be the only monument for our town, for our dear beloved martyrs who were so brutally murdered during the last war. In this YIZKOR BOOK they will be commemorated.

If you have a picture from streets or houses of certain people of interest in our hometown, which will shed a light on the way of life in Deretchin, please send it to the Committee. Also if you could send us articles describing your life there in school, organizations, World War I and especially from the World War II. Please send it to us as soon as possible and all the material and pictures will be reviewed by the Editorial Board and whatever they will find of interest, will be printed.

Naturally, worthy Landsleit, a book like this costs about 4 to 5 thousand dollars. Our Landsleit in Israel do more financially for this cause than they can afford, therefore we appeal to you, please do your share, send us your generous contribution for this sacred cause. We thank heartily for those of you who already sent in their contribution.

If you know some Deretchiner who doesn't know yet about this project, please talk to them, also to your children, and see that they should contribute to the Yizkor Book.

We hope that your name will be among the contributors to this everlasting Memorial. Write to your out-of-town Deretchiner friends, tell them about the Yizkor Book. Or send to us their addresses and we will write them.

Please do not delay – We expect to hear from you in a few days.

Fraternally yours


Please make checks or money orders payable to:


and send to:

ROSE SISKIND, 345 West 28th Street, New York 1, N.Y.

[Page viii]

To Our Dereczin Brothers & Sisters
in The U.S. Greetings & Blessings!

By Malka Alper

(Original Language: Yiddish)

The years are flying by, and already it is 28 years since the destruction of our dear ones in the ghetto and in the forest, from cold and hunger, or on the battlefield, at the bloody hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.

Our Sages of Blessed Memory would say, that with every life that is extinguished, or cut off, it is as if an entire world was destroyed. And here, in Dereczin, so many such worlds were destroyed, as a result of courageous confrontation with the enemy, often barehanded, or with minimal forms of weaponry -- fathers and mothers, little children, grandfathers and grandmothers, young people, sons and daughters, and on and on.

All of us, who trod Dereczin's soil either barefoot or shod, who in their childhood years on summer Sabbath days, would roll down the Puster Barg (there, opposite the barracks-palaces), who strolled in the park-like fields on the Zhetl road, or in the Ager-Sod[1]-- summertime, in the shade of chestnut trees, and in autumn, when the trees began to shed their yellow-golden leaves, together with the chestnuts, and they crunched underfoot – – –

All of us, who today see this through the lens of [spilled] blood and extermination, remember every minute, and there, in that ground, lie -- not in a cemetery, old or new -- more dead Jews that ever lived during the entire existence of Dereczin as a Jewish community.

In the hearts of each one of us, there is a gravestone, the final memorialization, but according to Jewish tradition we must place such a symbol, a stone, on the grave [itself]. But go -- put such a gravestone on the resting places of our kinfolk, which are spread out over fields and forests, in places that we cannot even access. These places are under the control of those who would hold themselves out to the world as defenders of righteousness and the equality of men --- Except, of course, the Jews!

Each of us must keep this [virtual] gravestone before our eyes in the form of a Book, a Yizkor Book, in which, with sanctity and love, memories, writings, expressions, stories, and songs, have been brought together, about everything we have lost in our town of origin. In this process, we wish to inscribe forever, the names of those that were killed in Sanctification of the Name in the ghetto, and those who died in battle against the greatest enemy of the Jewish people.

Let future generations learn from the pages of our Yizkor Book that they are descended from industrious, productive people, who in creating a life for themselves, also contributed to building the land in which they were considered to be secondclass citizens; from people who struggled for a better tomorrow for themselves and those around them; for the Jewish people, and for people of other nationalities. Coming generations may read this book. Upon us lies the burden --nay the obligation-as the Torah says --and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children -- show them the pictures, tell them the stories, and do everything feasible to bring them close to the experience and way of life of their forbears.

May your hand be strengthened. Do what you can to make this Book richer in content, more attractive in appearance, and affordable in cost for every single member of the Dereczin community.

With regards in the name of all of us [in Israel]

  1. Informal name of the Agreste Sod, the formal park in Dereczin (see Shlomo Yudson's memoir later on). Return

[Page ix]

On the Occasion of the Publication of the Book

By David Rabinovich ז”ל

(Original Language: Yiddish)

Reception for Jacob Mishkin & his wife


No trace of the Jews remains in all the cities and towns of Poland and Lithuania. There was no one left even to place gravestones on the burial places. The one way in which it is possible to preserve the memory of our relatives, and dearly-beloved who were sacrificed, of the beloved and unforgettable home cities and towns, is to gather the memories and writings of those who survived, and to present them in the form of Memorial Books, which portray the history of the annihilated communities and the Jews who were systematically murdered; and also to pass on to the coming generations the story of Jewish resistance in the ghettoes and in the forests -a story of indescribable heroism, which reflected, after the long bimillenial diaspora, like a bright shining ray off of the heroic national rebirth in our own Homeland.

Large cities and small towns have already published their Memorial Books. It has been some time since the circles of the Dereczin community planned and worked for the publication of its Pinkas-Dereczin.

A committee was appointed which assumed responsibility to gather all materials-- memories, writings, photographs, historical material, etc.

A separate difficult, but important task, was to raise the necessary funds to publish the Book. Expert assistance was provided by our fellow townsman, Jacob Mishkin from Venezuela. In the early fifties, he made his first trip to the Land of Israel.

Jacob Mishkin joined me and Chaim Rabinovitch, and immediately asked in what way he could be of assistance to the Dereczin survivors, who came to the Land after the [Second World] War, and the destruction of the Eastern-European [Jewish] community. We had not, at that time, yet thought about publishing our Memorial Book, and [instead] proposed to him that he establish a credit union that would provide interest-free loans to those from our town who were needy. He immediately allocated two thousand pounds, and we raised another one thousand between us. The credit union continues to function until this day.

A few years later, during the second visit by the Mishkin family to Israel, the concept of a Memorial Book had come to fruition in the minds of the Dereczin circle, in memory of our annihilated community. We approached them for assistance in the publication of Pinkas-Dereczin. Jacob Mishkin immediately provided three thousand pounds for the undertaking, and his wife, Sofia, in a subsequent trip, added her own support in the form of yet another thousand pounds. Jacob's two sisters, when they visited Israel, contributed six hundred pounds.

In the ensuing years, we have received donations from Derecziners in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, South Africa, and other lands where Dereczin survivors may be found. In Israel itself, a sum of money was also raised for this purpose.

[Page x]

Deretchiner Yizkor Book Committee in the U.S. 1965

Left to Right (Standing): Sam Bernicker, David Yanofsky,
[1] Ida Sarnotsky-Feder, Mrs. Bernicker, Shimon Bernicker (ז”ל), [Abraham] Kadish Feder, Chairman
(Sitting): Guta Boyarsky, Rachel Efros-Feldman, Rukhamah Siskind-Abelovitch (Secretary), Sarah-Beilkeh Slotnick-Yanofsky (ז”ל) (Treasurer), Tsirel Kamenetsy-Freedman, Judith Yankelevich-Lantzevitzky

  1. This is the chosen English spelling in the text. The original Yiddish suggests a spelling of Yanovsky. Return


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