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Part A

  1. The Conquering of the City and the New Order
  2. The Labor Camps Episode
  3. In the Ghetto
  4. The Slaughter
  5. The Craftsmen Genocide

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2. The Conquering of the City and the New Order

After the Germans conquered Baranowicze and its surroundings in June 1941, Kosów and its surroundings remained as a pocket in which the Russians were still present. In order to conquer Kosów Poleski, the Germans advanced from Niechaczewo and Iwacewicze. At first, two motorcyclists arrived from Niechaczewo and on their way passed the tar factory and took the hunting dogs with them. Russian soldiers who came from Skorce shot towards them and the Germans left. After that a small car with high ranked German officers came from Iwacewicze. When they passed through the town they heard about the previous incident and they continued traveling towards Różana. When they arrived at Kolonia Alba they came across the Russian soldiers who had destroyed the car and all of its passengers. Afterwards two more motorcyclists came and asked about the car. Two Russian officers who stood on Mordechaj Jabłoński's (the Zapoler[17]) terrace wanted to start the action, but the Germans beat them to it and killed the Russians. A commotion started in the town and somehow the Russians next to Białowieża were notified. A Russian backup arrived. In the meantime, the motorcyclists were able to get away and probably notified their headquarters. On the way to Białowieża there was probably a battle between the Russians and the Germans. The battle lasted a long while until the Russians, who were in “the pocket,” retreated.

The next morning the Germans started bombing the town, which as a result started burning. [[page 13]]

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Out of fear, the residents stayed at home, but when the houses started burning, they left their houses and fled, some to the “court,”[18] some to the cemetery and some to the meadow. The houses that remained after the fire are as follows: On Church Street[19] (Long Street): Starting at the Borowski's house and one house before Majrim Bron's house, and ending at the end of the street (the river) on one side; on the other side no houses remained. On Koœciuszko Street (Factory Street): Starting at Szlomo Kunica's house on one side and Szlomo-Nuta Hofman on the other side until the end of the street. On Słonim Street: From the Dylko's house that was opposite the Korniejewski house on one side, and opposite the “Tarbut”[20] school on the other side until the end of the street. There were hardly any remaining houses besides the above mentioned.

Afterwards, the Germans entered the town. For a week it was quiet. The Germans appointed Lejzer Lewkowicz in charge of the Jews. The following week, on Tuesday, he received an order from a German commander that all the Jews five years old and older have to wear a yellow badge, threatening a death penalty if the order was not followed. The Jews were not in a rush to wear the badge, and when asked about it by the Germans said that they did not have yellow fabric. On Sunday, many Germans arrived from Iwacewicze, and then took the Jews out of their houses and gathered them on the meadow opposite the town hall. Eliezer;[21] Lewkowicz was taken blindfolded. The people who were gathered asked if he was in charge and everyone affirmed. Immediately following that, the Germans shot

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Lewkowicz dead. The commander turned to the people who were gathered and told them that he told Lewkowicz about the badge three times and that he promised it would be okay. Starting now, any Jew caught without a badge will be killed [[page 14]] and as a warning, Lewkowicz was caught and executed; he was buried on the spot. In addition, the commander demanded that by 9 o'clock the following day the Jews ought to establish a Jewish council to which he could address his demands for the workers and food and the representative of the Jews will notify him about that. He did this while threatening that he would know what to do with the Jews if they would disobey him; he then ordered everyone to scatter, or else he would shoot the ones lagging behind. The crowd scattered instantly, while the German soldiers, pointing at them with their guns, stood behind.

The very same day, a Jewish council was chosen with the following composition: Pasmanik, Wołkomirski, Professor Diker, Werdomicki, Icchak Josef Rotfort, Mosze Gursztel (the blacksmith), Icchak Kozak, Mordechaj Chajkin and Chanie Chajkin. The following day, Icchak Chajkin, who was chosen as “the Jews' elder,” reported to the commander and immediately received a demand for food, beverages, boots etc. Demands of this sort were frequent and, of course, the Jews delivered all of the commodities. The Jewish council did this by visiting the residents and imposing on each person a contribution in money and commodities, each according to his or her means, and more.

The above-mentioned Germans were soldiers in the army. After a while they left Kosów and ten SS people replaced them, led by a Commissar. They ordered a renovation of Icchak Mudryk's house (that used to be the tax office) and set their headquarters in it. They ordered that beds, linen, pillows, blankets etc. be brought to them, threatening that they would execute the members of the Jewish council if they failed to follow their orders within twenty-four hours. The Germans' demands grew greater and greater. They decreed that all of the butter, eggs, wheat, flour, [[page 15]] fur, coats and other warm clothing and shoes, strollers, bicycles etc. be brought to them. Once it so happened that they “did not like” the butter that the Jews brought them and then they decreed that all the horses, cows, chickens, and all of the livestock to be brought to them.

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When the potato harvest season had arrived, the Jews were forced to bring a fair amount of their crops to Mereczowszczyzna.[22] All of the demands and the claims above mentioned were accompanied by death sentences to “the offenders.” [[Page 19]]


2. The Labor Camps Episode

During the winter (of 1941-42) the Germans were about to pave a road around Słonim. The Germans demanded the necessary workers from the Słonim community, but as a result of the intercession of the chairman of the Słonim community and a large sum of bribery they started taking Jews from the neighboring towns for this job; for example: Kosów Poleski, Byteń, Dereczyn, etc. and they left the people from Słonim for the time being. According to the distribution done by the Jewish Council, they took the young and strong people from Kosów and sent them to Słonim. The Jewish Council gave each person two kilograms of bread for the road. When they arrived in Słonim, they went to the Jewish engineer of the Jewish Council there, they registered and then went to the labor camp. The Słonim community provided two hundred grams of bread a day to each worker. For the soup (hot water in reality), each person had to pay out of pocket [[page 16]] and for the labor they received no payment at all. These workers were at the camp until just before the holiday of Passover 5702 (1942). They were notified that if anyone of them escaped from the camp, they would execute the Jewish Council in Kosów Poleski. Before the Passover holiday, the workers sent four people to Kosów with great discretion in order to replace them because they could no longer bear the hardship. They thought that there were additional people in Kosów that were released by payment. They threatened that they would escape from the labor camp and then the responsibility would fall on the head of the Jewish Council anyway. Following the Passover holiday the messengers returned to the labor camp and notified their friends and they need not wait to be replaced, because the Germans were taking all of the town's (Kosów Poleski's) people to work. In their visit to Kosów they were able to arrange that packages would be sent to them once a week. The interested families would send these packages and the community would organize the shipment to the camp. In addition, each person in the camp from Kosów would receive a loaf of bread. But not everyone received even this bread because Dawid Werdomicki claimed that the more affluent should buy the bread with their own money. Some of the people got angry and beat up Werdomicki and together with the messengers went to the camp. Mordechaj Chajkin and Dawid Werdomicki ordered to calm things down, because they heard that in Słonim three of the members of the council were already executed. (Kwint was then the Jewish manager of the Słonim ghetto, the fourth one, and he took care of the Kosów people who were in the camp.)

Afterwards, Meir Kuliszewski received a letter from his wife, in which she asked him to return to Kosów Poleski, because ghettos were about to be arranged in the town and because many Jews were fleeing to Różana and the area [[page 17]] that belonged to the “Third Reich.”[23] He, Meir, together with a few other people including Perec Morocznik, Israel Pakter, Eliahu Hofman, Welwil Borodowski, Icel Dawidowicz and Israel Iser Milikowski returned home by foot. Their return was immediately discovered by the Jewish Council, which sent the Jewish police to them to bring them to the community. (The community and the Jewish police were situated in the Tarbut school.) The community notified them that they had to go back to Słonim the following morning, or else they would pass them over to the authorities. The following morning, the community gave them carts and bread and they returned to the camp.

Shortly after they returned to the camp, the camp engineers (a German one and a Jewish one) gathered the workers and notified them that they would kill all of the Słonim Jews, because they were not providing them with laborers. If the laborers would like to live on, they would have to move to Kozłowszczyzna, and they promised them that each volunteer would get better food there. The German did it because he did not want to go to the front and the Jew did it because he knew that if there would not be any laborers, his job would not be

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necessary and the Germans would kill him. The following day, early in the morning, they woke everyone up and ordered them to gather opposite the cabins in the courtyard, without their belongings. When they gathered, they ordered them to get into the cars. The Jews got a fright because there were already rumors among the Słonim Jews about the slaughtering of the Jews, but it turned out that they were taken to Kozłowszczyzna.

Meir Kuliszewski and another three people stayed behind and hid under the beds (as a number of other people also did). They had found a hiding place and waited for what lay ahead. At the same time, the Germans circled [[page 18]] the entire town (Słonim), caught the men and sent them to the train station. The kidnapping lasted the entire day, and in the evening all of the cars were full and sealed. They were led to Mohylew. Later on there were rumors that most of them died or were killed and only a few of them survived. Meir Kuliszewski met with two of them – Lejzerowicz and Buszel (the tailor) – at the Modena camp. Around the same time, a demand arrived at Kosów to send 600 workers to the Słonim camp. The community replied that it could not supply so many workers and sent about 300 men.

Several days following the above-mentioned day, representatives of the community arrived at the camp (where Meir Kuliszewski and his friends were hiding) to pick up the belongings of the men who were sent to Kozłowszczyzna. The people in hiding arranged a number of packages for their acquaintances and they handed over the rest to the community representatives. Meir Kuliszewski and Awraham Goldin (the son of Szlomo the cobbler) returned to Kosów Poleski.

Two weeks later they heard that the Russian partisans (about ten horse riders and four on foot) went to the Kozłowszczyzna camp, killed the German engineer and scattered the camp, threatening that they would kill the workers if they caught them there again. They took cigarettes and watches from the men. It was in about the months of Sivan-Tamuz, 5702 [May-July 1942]. The Kosów men who were at the camp returned home and were afraid to go back to the camp. Mordechaj Chajkin (the Jewish elder) promised not to announce their arrival and to pretend he could not see them. He said that despite the fact that he did not and could not take responsibility for their

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departure from the camp, he was willing to give them bread and carts for them to return to the camp. [[page 18]]

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3. In the Ghetto

Before the laborers were moved from the Słonim camp to the Kozłowszczyzna camp the following incident occurred in Kosów Poleski: The landowner from Ruda who was angry at Mosze (Herszel's son) Czernichow, informed the authorities that he, the landowner, saw Mosze in the forest with the Partisans. The authorities immediately turned to the community and demanded that they hand all of the Partisans to them. Since there were none, the Germans took the following: Pasmanik, Szlomo Hofman, Wołkomirski, Mosze Czernichow and his mother Rywka, Icchak Kozak, Gerszon Kuliszewski, Mosze Gursztel, Judel Judelewski (Maszyjach), Szymon Białowiecki (Matot's son), Diker the teacher, Zajdel Krawczyk and one refugee. They were all arrested and led to Słonim. Immediately, people in Słonim engaged in trying to release them, a few of the families also came and with the aid of a large bribe were able to release everyone except for the following: Mosze Czernichow, Icchak Kozak, Gerszon Kuliszewski, Mosze Gursztel, Judelewski and Zajdel Krawczyk. The latter were led to Mohylew. There was talk in town that they were killed there, but at the time that was incorrect. After a while, Meir Kuliszewski found out from people from Mohylew that they were not killed immediately; a few of them lost their minds due to the great suffering and troubles, and the Germans killed the remainder later on.

About two weeks before the establishment of the ghetto in Kosów (see following), the following people decided to run away to Różana: Zelda, Peszka, Zajdel with his wife and daughter – from the Ryzykow family, the wife of Icze Biniamines, [[Page 20]] Herszel Kaliszer and two more refugee families. They hired a cart and traveled towards Różana, which was under control of the Third Reich.

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The border was at Kolonia Alba. Cwi[24] Kaliszer was about to take a cart, but because he was asked for a large sum of money, he took another one. When the first coachmen who was from Kolonia Alba found out, he notified the border police that at a certain time some Jews who want to cross the border will be passing by. The border police ambushed them and when they caught them, ordered them to go to “New Colony”[25] which was next to Różana. There they unloaded them and ordered them to dig their own graves, and ultimately killed them. The gentile's name from Kolonia Alba was Pawłowski, who resided outside the village on a homestead.

When the Jews returned from the Kozłowszczyzna camp, there were already two ghettos in town, one next to the Tarbut school and the other one was in Mereczowszczyzna, which will henceforth be called “The Castle” ghetto. The town's notables lived in the first one and mostly the workers lived in the other one. The ghettos were arranged at the end of the month of Sivan to the beginning of the month of Tamuz, 5702 [June 1942]. According to Meir Kuliszewski, it was supposed to be the other way around, but Mordechaj Chajkin arranged it with special efforts. Those returning from Kozłowszczyzna were enraged and demanded from Mordechaj Chajkin to transfer their wives to the city's ghetto, since things at “The Castle” were much worse, because the Ukrainian police would frequently perform searches. They would rob and torture people, unlike in “The City” ghetto, where the rampage was to a lesser degree. Mordechaj Chajkin tried doing this with the authorities, but what he achieved was the establishment of a new ghetto for the women. This additional ghetto was at the Biernacki house [[Page 21]]

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and the shacks next to the river behind which there was “The Court.” Some of “The Castle” ghetto dwellers were transferred there, but they were sent back to “The Castle” because they did not participate in the latest monetary contribution. The offices, the general kitchen of the community in addition to workshops for tailors and shoemakers and a room for sewing and weaving were all in the Tarbut school. There were Jewish policemen in each ghetto. In “The Castle” there were the following policemen: Eliahu-Chaim Sapożnik, Berel der Boj[26] and two refugees. Zelig Karelic, Iser Kosowski, Mordechaj Wajcel and two refugees were in “The City” ghetto.

“The City” ghetto was surrounded by a barbed wire fence in which there was only one gate. There was no fence surrounding the other ghettos, and the Ukrainian police and peasants from the area guarded there. Rabbi Icele's wife, the supervisor, was in the general kitchen, and Keile Chajkin, Henja (Szymszon[27] Jajszczyk's) and others were the cooks. Nysel Dąbrowski would receive the money for the bread and he would give a note to the distribution supervisor. At first it was Chanie Chajkin and Cegelnik's oldest son. Each Jew would receive 250 grams of bread from the community and one could purchase one liter of soup per day, and those who went out to work received an additional half-kilogram of bread per day. The ghettos were open from six in the morning until six in the evening. During this time, one could go from one ghetto to the other with the accompaniment of a Jewish policeman, only in groups of between twenty and one hundred people. At first everyone from “The Castle” ghetto had to come to “The City” ghetto to get bread and soup. Later on it was arranged that a policeman would bring the food in a cart from town to “The Castle,” and since then “The Castle” ghetto dwellers were not permitted to leave the ghetto. [[Page 22]] Because there was not enough food, the Jews would buy and trade their belongings, mostly for bread or flour. This exchange was done by peasants who were “permitted” to sneak up to the ghetto fence.

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Beginning around the fifth of Av, 5702 [July 19, 1942] the Germans stopped taking Jews to work and it was forbidden to leave the ghetto. The morning of that day, Lejba Borodowski tried to leave “The Castle” ghetto because he was starving. He jumped out of the window of “The Castle” and approached the road to Kolonia Alba. When he was noticed, a Ukrainian policeman hit him from the back with his rifle butt and Borodowski immediately fell to the ground. His wife, Tojbe, waited for him to return and started worrying about him, ultimately deciding to go and search for her husband. Since she did not know in which direction he went, she left through the main gate. There, a Ukrainian soldier met her, shot her and killed her. The community heard about this incident right away (from a Jewish policeman), and it buried them. At first there was no one who dared help in the burial because of the fear and danger involved. After pleas and explanations on behalf of Mordechaj Chajkin, a few people, and among them Meir Kuliszewski, agreed to do it. Next to these two dead people the body of Metele Ragotner (Iser's son) was found, who in the meantime had lost his mind. The following day, Chaim Wajsman tried to go out of “The City” ghetto, in order to go to the village with a pair of pants and exchange them for bread, but he was caught and killed on the spot. These incidents contributed to the decline of the Jews' spirits, if they still had any at all. The German commander permitted the burial of the dead in the new cemetery. After efforts and a personal commitment of Mordechaj [[Page 23]] Chajkin, he managed to get an exit permit for four people who would travel in a cart, from which they were forbidden to get off.

Tisha B'Av[28] 5702 [July 23, 1942] occurred on a Thursday. The Jews deluded themselves to believe that if they could get through the fasting day, all will end well. Indeed, the day went well, but in the afternoon they saw from the window of the Tarbut school some peasants approaching from Starazswszesyzne. One of the peasants stepped toward the school and called out to Josef-Chonie Jeziernicki

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(the shoe maker). The peasant demanded that he finish making his boots that very same day, or else return them to him unfinished, since Josef-Chonie would not have time to finish them: the peasants were going to dig graves for the Jews. At the same time, the German authorities notified the town's elders (Soltys) that each peasant who is owed something from the Kosów Jews should turn to the Labor Office in Kosów and get a permit. As a result, peasants from all over the area started swarming to “The City” ghetto on Thursday evening, demanding clothes, boots, money and more.

At the time, there was a Jewish hospital in Kosów Poleski, in the house of Jeszaja Dereczyński, which was repaired after the fire. One of the refugees worked there as a doctor and his sisters acted as “the nurses.” On Friday morning, the tenth day of Av, 5702 [July 24, 1942] it became known in town that the sick people in the hospital were about to be executed, and indeed, all of the sick people were executed that same day. Among them were Jeszyjahu Baum (Chana Fejgel's son-in-law), Fajwel Szkolnik (the shoe maker) and more. The same day, [[Page 24]] a few more people decided to flee to Różana, which was under the Third Reich's control. The escape was fraught with danger but they had nothing to lose. At the time it was considered that in the Third Reich zone the Jews would not be executed, probably because of public opinion in the world, which was not the case in White Russia, where the Germans could blame the Ukrainians and the White Russians. In addition, they “knew” that in nearby Różana it was relatively quiet. Each Jew had his own cows, one could be involved in commerce, and all in all, life was much like the times before the war, except for the fact that Różana was divided into two living areas. Supervision there was not as good nor as strict. Among those trying to escape to Różana that day were Fałek Iliwicki[29], Peszka Ryzykow's husband, Icchak Bron (Sara's son), Noach and his sister (the cantor's children), the son and the daughter of Icchak Kozak and more. Nothing was ever heard about them ever again, and there are rumors that they were led to Treblinka later.

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That same morning, after it was already quite clear that there would be a slaughter, a small group of youngsters sneaked out of “The Castle” ghetto to “The City” ghetto. The group included, among others, Perec Morocznik, Nuta Poloński (Meir the Pole's son), Welwil Borodowski, Reuwen (Mendel Garber's) and Szlomo Bortnik (Awraham-Alter's son). When the group arrived at the Tarbut school they began discussions about what to do. Szlomo Ragotner (Iser's son) suggested getting out of there and offered help since he had a hiding place at Kolada (his workplace), and from there they could escape to the forest. At the end they saw[[Page 25]] only Szlomo Ragotner and Perec Morocznik leaving through the fence, without being caught, and nothing has been heard of them since. Gerszon-Niame Rubinowicz reports that he met Szlomo Ragotner at the beginning of 1943 at the Auschwitz camp.

Several of the Jews were outside the ghetto, since they worked at the Germans' or others. Josef Bron (son of Majrim) and Josef Pakter (son of Chaim-Zelig) worked with the horses and Dow Jewszycki worked with the chickens and in the yard of the German Commissar. They had permission to move about anywhere. Szlomo Ragotner worked at Kolada's kitchen, in the community center; that is where the Ukranian's kitchen was; he too had permission to move about anywhere in town. Eliahu, Michael and Chaja Melcer (Majrim's children) worked for Kamieński the landowner as servants. Jakow Bron (the cheese maker) worked at the second Kamieński. The latter were ordered to return to the ghetto before the slaughter, but they disobeyed the order and fled to an unknown direction.

On the evening of that Friday, the German Commissar called upon Rysia Jewszycki, and she returned after a few minutes. Upon her return, she hinted to her father and immediately thereafter the family left with their packages. When her father Dawid Jewszycki was asked about it he replied that he could not explain it, but they realized what they had to do. It later turned out that the commissar, who wanted to help Jewszycki, informed her in due time that they have to flee to Różana but they could not tell anyone, or else they would be

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punished. Rysia Jewszycki, her parents and her old grandfather[30] Josef Jewszycki were those who left. [[Page 26]] On the Friday, after they had started with the Sabbath prayers, a group of the Ukrainian police appeared, headed by Jarmolowski. (Jarmolowski was a gentile from Byteń who worked at the time for Efraim Karelic, son of Szamaj. Efraim Karelic was a member of the Jewish Committee in Byteń and he would bring food to the residents of Byteń who worked in Kozłowszczyzna.) Jarmolowski entered and announced that no Jews were permitted to leave the room or look out the window. The offenders would be killed. It was also forbidden to leave for the bathroom, because everyone would be killed the following day anyway. That night, the Ukrainian policemen tortured the Jews and demanded all their money and belongings from them, claiming that they would let them escape through the ghetto gate. Obviously these murderers did not keep their word. The whole of that night, the Jews lay down on the ground scared to lift their heads to the height of the window, because they knew that at that moment they would be shot. The crying and the moaning were incredible. In “The Court” ghetto they heard shooting coming from the direction of “The City” ghetto in the middle of the night. At that moment they were overwhelmingly tense and they thought that the “slaughter” had started in “The City” ghetto.[[Page 27]]

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4.The Slaughter

The first and main slaughter of the Kosów Jews was on Saturday, the eleventh day of Av, 5702 [July 25, 1942].

On the morning of that day two Ukrainian policemen came to “The Court” ghetto. One of them pointed his gun at the Jews and threatened them and the other one went through the rooms and took everything he could lay his hands on. A third Ukrainian policeman remained outside by the crossroads next to the Christian statue, in order to assure that their commanders would not catch them by surprise in the middle of their activities. The Germans would not permit the Ukrainians to do this because they wanted all of the loot for themselves, but the Ukrainians and the peasants did this to satisfy their families who would come every day and take the loot and spoils that the policemen had collected. The policemen there went wild until nine o'clock in the morning. At about the same time, the policeman who was standing at the crossroads announced that a German was approaching on his horse. That was the Oberwachmeister[31] Pertz[32] and with him also arrived Jarmolowski, the head of the police. They both gave instructions to the policemen, most likely regarding the slaughter.

An hour later they saw through the window three small cars and seven trucks approaching the town on the road from Niechaczewo. Most likely, these trucks went directly to “The Castle” and only after they slaughtered all of “The Castle” ghetto (Mereczowszczyzna) Jews

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did they go to “The Court” ghetto. At ten o'clock in the morning, a small car arrived at “The Court” ghetto, in which was the Gebietskommissar[33] of Słonim, Hiek[34] (the notorious oppressor [[Page 28]] known in the whole of Poland) and four more people and seven trucks full of police from Byteń and Iwacewicze that was mostly composed of “Bałachowiczes.”[35] “The Court” ghetto was composed of a few sections. Some lived at the Biernacki's and the rest of that area, especially in barracks that the Soviets built. In that ghetto there were about six hundred people, in “The Castle” ghetto there were about 500 people, and the rest were in “The City” ghetto. These numbers include the refugees from Słonim, Warsaw, ŁódŸ, Brest and more.

The small car approached the Biernacki's house and two policemen entered and ordered that everyone get out. Everyone went out to the courtyard in front of the house crying. Then the regional commander said that all of the shoemakers and tailors must step out of the lines. Those stepping out of the line were: Meir Kuliszewski, Szimon Białowiecki, Aharon Chmelnicki and Moszel Białowiecki. The large cars went directly to the barracks and ordered the Jews to get out and lay down; in the meantime, the policemen and the Bałachowiczes tortured them. The latter tortured nonstop and smashed every head and body with their boots. They then ordered them to get into the car. Those of them that had a bit of strength left and out of fear jumped quickly and got into the car, lying down with their faces towards the floor. The rest were unconscious or already dead. The policemen threw them in three to four layers, one on top of the other. They loaded about fifty to sixty people in each car[36] up to the walls of the cars because the cars were uncovered. The main

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method of killing was the order to have all of the Jews lie down in the cars, facing down, and they would load three to four layers, so that the ones on the bottom would suffocate from the heavy weight [[Page 29]] on them and lack of air. In addition, the Bałachowiczes climbed onto the cars and, using their boots, smashed anyone who attempted to lift their head up.

When the regional commander had arrived from the Biernacki's to the barracks in order to ask about the artisans, they were near dead and nobody answered. Only one little girl, Judes, Israel Bortnik's daughter, came out to the Biernacki's group. After they loaded all seven cars[37] they went to Mereczowszczyzna and there they threw all the bodies into ditches that had previously served as potato storage. Once they had eliminated the barracks' inhabitants, they went to the Biernacki's and took the inhabitants in two cars. After all of the Jews were taken, the policemen continued to go wild and they destroyed the entire house, looking for loot. Afterwards, another car arrived for the five[38] artisans. The Ukrainian policemen told them to lie down facing the ground, but the regional commander ordered the policemen to leave them alone and allowed them to sit down, since they remained alive. These five were led to the Tarbut school. On the way they saw cars traveling towards Mereczowszczyzna. Once they arrived at the Tarbut school, they were told to get off and join the artisans there who were already standing in lines. When they went to the Tarbut school they saw that all of the Jews were taken out of the houses and put in the courtyard in front of the school. There were two boxes there, into which the Jews threw all of their gold and money before they were taken to the cars. After everyone was taken, there was silence. Here, the same cruelty that accompanied the actions in “The Court” ghetto was repeated. The Ukrainian policemen went wild and searched for loot, and in the search in the cellars and other places they found [[Page 30]] some Jews' hiding places, and the Jews were brought directly to the cars. Among those who were found and

[Page 32]

brought out in this manner were: Hinda Karelic (Meir Ben Szamaj's wife) and Kajle, the daughter of Chana-Fejgel Chajkin, with her son. Those two were ordered to walk towards the cars but they began running in the direction of the cemetery. The Ukrainians shot at them and hit them. They ordered them to go to the school. Hinda Karelic managed to reach the school, where she fell, because she was shot in her neck. Fejgel Chajkin got shot in her mouth and all the blood oozed onto her son who was holding her; they also took out Mosze Topol, who turned to the regional commander and told him that he once worked at a flour-mill and was an expert at that job. The commander responded “okay” and he led Topol to the garbage pile that was next to house of the bookbinder, ordered him to turn backwards and shot two gun shots at him that hit his head, and a third shot hit his son, whom he was holding. Majloch (Sara the butcher's son-in-law), Babel Garbarski the seamstress (with her daughter), Wołkomirski (his wife was already lying dead in the street for a few hours), Josel Pakter (son of Szalom), Mosze Gerszkowicz, Josef Hofman (son of Szlomo-Nuta), Ajzyk Telechański and more also came out. All of them were taken to the cars or were thrown out when there were some dead people among them.

A while later Jarmolowski, the head of the police, arrived in order to replace the policemen's shift. One of the policemen came over to him and told him that in the attic of the Tarbut school there were many more Jews hiding. Jarmolowski grinned with pleasure and replied that he knows about it and that they would be left for “dessert.” [[Page 31]] The group of artisans, the tailors and the shoemakers, remained standing in line and waiting, and then five young Jewish women were brought (Bluma, the coachman Szmaja Kwintman's daughter and four refugees) in front of the house of Piński, the Dubitever[39]. The regional commander sat with his German assistants around a table that was purposely put there and they got drunk. He ordered the young women to remove their jackets, and then their socks, their dresses and everything else that they were wearing and he left them standing naked. He turned to the artisan group and

[Page 33]

said: Here, look at your young women; they undress naked for their pleasure at such a tragic time. He drank another glass, took out his gun and he shot them all. Meir Kuliszewski tells that despite the fact that the tailors' and shoemakers' hearts were cold and apathetic as a result of all the horrific sights that they had seen and the torture that they had suffered, they could not help themselves when they saw this brutality, when they saw that the bodies of these young women were still shuddering in their young blood. The artisans burst out crying, even though they knew that the Germans might kill them because of the crying.

Because of the informing from some peasants, they brought Henie (Szymon Jajszczyk's), Frejdel Pakter (Haim Busel's wife) and Dwora, Pejsach Rubinowicz's (the shoemaker) wife, in addition. When they took Frejdel Pakter out, she called out to her husband who was standing in the artisan's line: Chaim, do you not need me anymore; have you had enough of me; am I no longer your wife? And looked at him in accusing eyes because he had remained alive. It was different with Dwora, Pejsach Rubinowicz's wife. She took off [[Page 32]] the top layers of her clothes and threw them on her husband, shouting: Take these, Pejsach, you will be cold; wear these and take care of yourself. (It later turned out that she hid money in these clothes.) Ultimately she burst out with hysterical cries and started pulling out her hair until even the Ukrainians were astonished. One of them approached her from behind and gave her a blow with his rifle butt, and she fell down right away. They put them all into the cars and took them to Mereczowszczyzna.

Later, a truck came and picked up the shoemakers and the tailors group (more about them below).

At the Bliżyn camp, Meir Kuliszewski met with Szmuel Lejb the milliner (Mulie Bauk's). Lejb told him that during the slaughter, 200 people hid in the attic of the Tarbut school and in other places. Among them were: Rabbi Meir Lejkin, Josef Kunik[40], the Karelic

[Page 34]

families, Werdomicki, Lejb himself and others. They remained in their places on the evening of the slaughter. The following day, the head of the police came to them and told them that they could come out and that nothing bad would happen to them, and indeed, they were permitted to leave and they formed a new ghetto that was “free,” meaning it was not guarded. And that is how they lived for two weeks. On one bright sunny day the partisans came into town and took all of the Jews with them. When they left town they realized that they had too many people. They told the old people to return to town and they only took the young ones with them. The German police ordered the ones who returned to the town to go to the new cemetery and dig themselves graves. After that they killed them all. Lejb also told him that after the Germans killed the old people who returned to town, [Page 33] the partisans came back and shot onto the Kirik's house (the labor office), the Mudryk's house (the headquarters) and others with cannons. They also killed Korniejewski who tortured the Jews especially during the first slaughter, and performed much destruction in town. Afterwards a German backup came from Słonim and fired for two days in the nearby forests. Part of the partisans then spread. The following remained with the partisans: Josel Pakter (son of Chaim-Zelig), Josel Bron (son of Majrim), Szmuel Lejb and both his sons, Icie Dawidowicz (son of Gecel), Abrasze Kobryński, Mosze Poloński, Icchak Josef Rotfort, Eliezer Telechański, Eliahu Chaim Sapożnik[41], Szymon Szkolnik (son of Mosze-Aba), Noach and Lejba (sons of Szmaja Kwintman) and Michael and Eliahu Melcer (sons of Mirel the saloonkeeper). Szlomo Słonimski heard from people from Prużana that Lejb Borodowski's son Icele (the youngest one in the family) was also a partisan and was found in ŁódŸ.

[Page 35]

5. The Artisan's Genocide

The artisan's group consisted of 31 people, and they were: Josef-Chonie Jeziernicki, with both his sons Welwil and Zawel, Icze-Mosze Wolański, Pejsach Rubinowicz, Meir Kuliszewski, Moszele Białowiecki, Welwil Borodowski, Jeszyjahu Jeziernicki (son of Mordechaj-Josel), Icchak Bortnik, Chaim Meir Karelic, Josel Bliacher with both his sons Herszel and Lejbel, Icchak Mudyrk, Henja's husband Szymon Jajszczyk, Eliahu SpuŸnik and his son Chenoch, Haim Busel, Lejbel Szkolnik (son of Fajwel), Lejbel Krawczyk, Aharon Chmelnicki (the janitor's grandson), Sara the butcher's son-in-law and a few other refugees.

The group was taken to Mereczowszczyzna to the large mass grave, and there they were made to stand (the grave was near the castle next to the road leading from Kosów to Różana at the intersection where there was a path leading to the castle). There, they saw how the peasants were collecting all of the clothes of those that were killed into a pile, and throwing the bodies into the grave. The regional commander addressed them and told them that they have nothing to fear about, because he would send them to the Smolensk camp, where they would work in their profession. One of the other commanders addressed them and asked about Josef Kunik, whom he heard was the best tailor. When they replied that he was not there, he said that he knew that Kunik was hiding, but that he will not live for much longer.

They were led to Różana, which was under the Third Reich, where the Jews wandered about the streets almost freely. When they passed by Różana [[Page 35]] the artisans managed to ask the Jews

[Page 36]

there to say Kaddish in memory of the martyrs of Kosów and warned them that they dare not go to Kosów because they would be killed there. They were led to Słonim where they were put in jail. The following morning everyone was told to undress. The Germans checked their clothing and took all of the money and papers that were hidden in them. They returned the clothes to the artisans. They stayed in Słonim for about a week and there they received half a kilogram of bread and one liter of water a day. At the end of the week, five Germans from the Security Service[42] came and took them all to Smolnik by train.

They were in Smolnik for about nine months. They worked there and got bread that was composed of flour powder, bricks, ground bones etc. A small piece of such bread that weighed one kilogram was barely enough for one meal. Icele Bortnik who was already sick before, started spitting blood and was buried alive. That was on the Tu BiShevat[43] 5703 [January 21, 1943]. Lejbel Szkolnik (son of Fajwel) once ate fresh string beans in the garden. He fell sick with dysentery and then he was beaten twenty-five lashings and killed. The following happened to Icchak Mudryk: the camp commander asked which one of them was an expert. Mudryk said he could sew the commander a fancy English suit. The commander became enraged and shouted at him: You, the Jew, will sew me an English suit? I will show you. After this he was taken to do hard and unskilled labor that exhausted him, and ultimately he was shot. Also Jeszyjahu Jeziernicki (son of Mordechaj Josel), who was the spiritual leader of the group, was killed in Smolnik. [[Page 36]]

After the Russians began bombing the Smolnik area they transferred them to Mohylew. In Mohylew Josef Bliacher swelled up from hunger and died. They buried him right away in a pile of garbage and they wrote “Zion” on the wall. One day they took everyone out and ordered them to take off their jackets and pants. At the time they wore French army clothes with a yellow badge, and they

[Page 37]

wore three numbers tied onto their body, one on the chest, the second one on their knee and the third one on their arm. The Germans chose the new clothes and returned the old ones to them, and ordered them to put them back on. Afterwards they loaded them in cars that already had Ukrainian policemen in them. As a result of their bitter experience, they thought that they were being led to be slaughtered, since they recalled the Ukrainians during the Kosów days. On their way they picked up some more Jews. They were led to the train station and from there directly to Minsk. During this entire trip that lasted two days and nights, they did not receive any food. In Minsk they let them eat “well,” which meant that they were given one hundred grams of bread in the morning, one hundred grams of bread in the evening and turnip soup at lunchtime. They stayed in Minsk for about two weeks, where they did not work.

Afterwards they were sent by train to Lublin. They did not receive any food during this trip either, which also lasted two days and two nights. They would throw their clothes through the windows and the cracks in the ceiling in hope of having someone give them some water, because they mainly suffered from thirst, and some people fainted from the lack of air and water and from the stench and sweat in the closed train car. There was only a small window in the car near which they had to bring those who fainted, over the heads of the people that were tightly packed together. [[Page 37]]

The people would urinate in their handkerchiefs and then put them on their heads. They would put their feces in their hats and then throw it out through the window. Two stops before Lublin they could no longer bear it and they started banging on the doors, even though they knew that each bang might kill all the people in the car. One of the Germans opened the door of the car and when he found out what the reason was he took a hose and sprayed a forceful stream on everyone. When he stopped, seven dead people were noticed and they were immediately taken out of the car. Zawel Jeziernicki and Szymon Białowiecki also fainted, but they came to. When they reached Lublin they could not get out of the car because their legs developed clots and their muscles contracted after standing for two days. (They also slept standing.) They could only fall off the car head first. No one helped them back up. When they got themselves up they saw some

[Page 38]

dead people among them who had probably died when they fell out of the car. They were put in some kind of a camp and were sorted out by their trades. The shoemakers returned to the train and were sent to the camp in Bliżyn, next to Skarżysko-Kamienna about one hundred kilometers from Kraków.

At the Bliżyn camp they were given clothes of the usual German camp. Typhus swept through this camp and about fifty to sixty people died per day. Among the Kosów citizens who died were: Josef-Chonie Jeziernicki and both his sons Welwil and Zawel, Icie-Mosze Wolański, Moszel Białowiecki, Szymon Białowiecki, Pejsach Rubinowicz, Welwil Borodowski and Chaim-Meir Karelic. Most of them died of hunger and the swelling of the intestines and stomach. They stayed for about a year at this camp. At the end of that year, it was after Passover of 5704 [April 1944]. [[Page 38]] The only one remaining citizen of Kosów Poleski was Meir Kuliszewski.

They sent Meir Kuliszewski together with all of the night workers (about four hundred people) to Płaszów[44], which is next to Kraków. It was really paradise there. There were many Jews from Kraków at this camp and they got much help. In addition, one could purchase many things within the camp itself. When the front got closer, they were sent to Mauthausen. Conditions at this camp were terrible and they worked at hard labor moving stones. After 24 days they were sent to Mielec where they built underground factories. The number of deceased people was between fifty to seventy people per day and every month new people were brought there. He stayed at this camp for a few months, and when the front approached this place too, they sent him to Ebensee by foot. He felt terrible there. He stayed there for about four weeks until the Americans came and freed him. He went to Italy from there. That was on about July 20, 1945.

[Page 39]

The beginning of Słonim Street
On the left is the row of shops that were built by the market square

[Page 40]

The Long Street beginning from the market side

[Page 41]

The beginning of Słonim Street looking from Factory Street

[Page 42]

Factory Street, Kosów

[Page 43]

Heszel Poloński's Cheder[45] in 1918
The teacher Heszel Poloński “May the Lord Avenge His Death” is sitting in the back row with his students. He was the first famous Hebrew teacher in Kosów Poleski, in the new age.

[Page 44]

A get-together of the Kosów Betar[46] , the Słonim “Masada” (youth movement) and the Baranowicze Betar in the Tarbut school in Kosów
In the photograph you can see Icchak Nowik congratulating the Słonim “Masada” representative on behalf of the Kosów Betar. The house and the porch – the Tarbut school in Kosów.

[Page 45]

A class of the elementary school in Kosów Poleski, 1920
1. Bresław the teacher (from out of town). 2. Sonia Rabinowicz the teacher. 3. Chaim Berel the teacher. 4. The principal Jakow Kunik. 5. Szmuel Wolański (Ben-Gershon) “May he be set apart for long life,” in Israel now. 6. A Polish teacher (Christian)

[Page 46]

A class of the elementary school in Kosów Poleski, 1920
On the right (downward): Standing: The principal Jakow Kunik. The teacher Bresław. Sitting: The Polish teacher.
On the left (downward): Standing: Reb Meir Kadyszewicz (Meir Joszka's). Sitting: Reb Szmuel Szkolnik.

[Page 47]

The members of the education committee of the school are sitting in the first row
From right to left: Standing, Josef Sołowicki. Sitting: Reb Baruch Meir Zilberblat, Abramowicz, Josef Morocznik, Eliezer Chari, Dawid Jewszycki, Icchak Josef Rotfort.
Besides Sołowicki, “May He be Set Apart for a Long Life,” everyone “Of Blessed Memory” has passed away.


  1. Meaning a person from Zapole. return
  2. The “court” that is referenced throughout the book is a Yiddish word that refers to a courtyard, not a tribunal nor a room in which one is held. return
  3. Some streets names are identified with Polish names, for example Kościelna, literally “Church Street” and an alternate Yiddish name. In this case the Yiddish name is “Lange Gas” meaning Long Street.return
  4. Tarbut movement was a network of secular, Hebrew-language schools. Wikipedia return
  5. That is, Lejzer, mentioned earlier.return
  6. A manor about 2 kilometers northwest of Kosów Poleski and the site of the Pusłowskich Palace. The palace was damaged in World War I and rebuilt by 1939. Wikipedia return
  7. At that point in time, the border between the German-Soviet front was between Kosów Poleski and neighboring Różana. return
  8. The Yiddish version of the name Herszel, mentioned earlier in this paragraph. return
  9. A Polish “Kolonie” is a settlement beyond the formal borders of a town or village, often named after the adjacent village, such as “Kolonia Alba” which appears elsewhere in this book. Repeated searching for a Kolonie of the name “New Colony” has been unsuccessful. It is possible it was a fictional name invented by the border police. return
  10. “der Boj” is presumably a Yiddish term whose meaning has eluded discovery. return
  11. This is probably a typographical error, intended to be “Szymon.” return
  12. An annual fast day in Judaism [occurring on the ninth day of the month of Av] which commemorates the anniversary of a number of disasters in Jewish history, primarily the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Wikipedia return
  13. Some records at Yad Vashem and in a 1930 business directory spell this surname “Ilewicki” or “Ilewiecki.” return
  14. The word translated as “old grandfather” is a grammatically incorrect term for “old father.” As Rysia's father was already identified as Dawid Jewszycki in this passage, it appears that Josef was her father's father. This is supported by documents at Yad Vashem. return
  15. A particular rank of sergeant, possibly a cavalry or police officer. return
  16. The translation of this name is speculative. It could be Fritz, Peretz or something similar. These spellings all use German phonetics, not Polish. return
  17. A regional commander. return
  18. Using German spelling rules return
  19. This is a group of locals who assisted the Germans. They were not affiliated with Belarusian general Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz, who died in 1940. They adopted his name to describe themselves. Yad Vashem Research Institute return
  20. The word “car” is used here, but the activities described would imply the use of a truck. return
  21. Literally “cars” but perhaps referring to the seven trucks mentioned earlier. return
  22. The text names four but later in the text the fifth is identified as Pejsach Rubinowicz. return
  23. Meaning a person from Dubitowo. return
  24. The ambiguity of Hebrew spelling makes it unclear whether this surname is Kunik or Konik. A 1930 Polish business directory lists a “J Kunik”, and it is therefore used throughout this translation. return
  25. The text further identifies him parenthetically as “מושערס דעמ” (dem Moshers) but attempts to interpret this have been unsuccessful. return
  26. The Siecherheitsdienst (German for “Security Service”) was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party. Wikipedia return
  27. A Jewish holiday occurring on the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month of Shevat. Wikipedia return
  28. The Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp. return
  29. A school for Jewish children in which Hebrew and religious knowledge are taught. return
  30. The Betar Movement (בית"ר) is a Revisionist Zionist youth movement. Wikipedia return

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