Table of Contents

[Page vii]

Preface to the Translation

I came to this project by way of an indirect path. Old photos were passed down from my grandmother to my parents and then to me. I had seen the photos as a child in the 1960s and often puzzled over them. I researched my family history and learned that my grandmother came from Kossovo, Russia. She left for America in 1907. The town became part of Poland in 1919 and its name changed to Kosów Poleski. In 2015 I learned that the some of the people in the photos I had been looking at for five decades were both my relatives and victims of the Holocaust. The circumstances of their deaths, probably known to my grandmother and parents, came as quite a shock to me. I had never known that any of my family members were murdered in the Shoah. My desire to learn more led me to this book and that, in turn, led me to produce this translation.

This book, originally written in Hebrew, was published by the Aid Association for Kosów Poleski in Israel at the end of 1945. Thankfully the book included a large number of photographs. The photos were screened in the printing process. I have attempted to reverse some of that effect to provide sharper images for modern publishing techniques. The results are not as good as I would have liked, but I believe they are better than the images in the original book.

[Page viii]

This photograph, passed down from my grandmother, started my quest. On the back is a handwritten note, in Yiddish: “[A photo] of Pejsach with his fiancée Dwora, who is sitting on the chair, full of contentment. The one in the middle is the fiancée's sister.” It bears no surnames and the place is not identified. After much research, the story came together. The man is Pejsach Rubinowicz. The ultimate fates of Pejsach and Dwora are described in this book.


Historical Background

Kosów Poleski was a village of 3,092 people in 1897 and 2,028 of them were Jews. By 1921, the total population dropped to 2,433 and Jews were only 1,473 of that number. Migration, pogroms and war were but some of the contributing factors to this decline.

On June 22, 1941 Nazi Germany terminated its pact with the Soviet Union and the border began to shift rapidly eastward as the Nazi forces advanced. Before the end of June, in little more than a week, the front had reached neighboring towns and Kosów Poleski was in a small outcropping of Soviet-controlled territory, almost completely surrounded by Nazi-controlled land. This advance caused the Jewish population of Kosów Poleski to swell as displaced people fled; these people are the “refugees” mentioned throughout this book. Yad Vashem estimates the total Jewish population by late 1941 to be 2,250.

The book describes the atrocities of the Nazi occupation. It never states nor tries to estimate the death toll. Multiple Russian language sources place the number murdered in the one-day massacre alone at over 3,500.

[Page ix]

Yad Vashem's description puts that number at a lower figure of 1,200. Of the Jewish population, only one witness to the Nazi occupation survived and his oral history is the basis of the narrative portion of this book.


Place Names

The text contains ambiguous place names that challenged the primary translator and me. In the original text the names of places were recorded in Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish transliterated into Hebrew or Polish written in the Latin alphabet. These names have been researched to the best of my ability. I am deeply indebted to the people who helped me resolve the ones I could not decipher on my own. Well-known cities and camps (such as Warsaw or Auschwitz) have been identified by names commonly used by English speakers. Most towns and villages in this area changed names at the end of World War II when it became part of the Soviet Union and later Belarus. Consequently, I chose to refer to these places by the Polish names that were in use at the time of the events described herein.

The Russians called this village Kossovo (Коссово in Cyrillic), with multiple spelling variations found in English. It was part of interwar Poland and was renamed Kosów Poleski (pronounced KOS-soov pol-LESS-kee). Belarus declared its independence of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the village is now Kosava (Косава in Cyrillic).

A few places were called Kosów in the interwar period and in my own writing about the village, I try to avoid using the shortened name Kosów to avoid confusion with Kosów, Poland in Łódź Voivodeship or Kosów Lacki, Poland in Masovian Voivodeship.


Personal Names

The names of people are particularly difficult in a translation such as this. The original text is in Hebrew, but through the course of their lifetimes these people wrote their own names in Russian, Polish, Yiddish and/or Hebrew. Some people were referenced in the original

[Page x]

text by their Hebrew name in one sentence and their Yiddish name in the next. In the case of my own family members, their names in the text are good approximations of their names as written in Polish, but are not completely accurate. The decision was made to use Polish spellings of names, as they would probably have the greatest value to anyone conducting further genealogical research. When the names of people are not written with Polish spelling (for example, new names taken upon arrival in Israel), footnotes indicate that is the case. Note that Polish surnames ending in -ski will end in -ska when referring to women; that convention is observed in this translation.

Researching the names and arriving at a consistent list was the most time-consuming portion of this project. In addition to the primary translator (who translated all the narrative and photo captions), I engaged two other translators to review the names in Parts B and C of the book as those translators had specific skills with Yiddish and Polish. This process also included referencing records from Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to victims of the Holocaust, and a 1930 Polish directory of businesses. If you observe any errors in the transcription of names, please accept my apologies.


Polish Pronunciation Guide

The following notes on pronouncing Polish should be sufficient to pronounce the names in this book. This is not a complete guide to Polish pronunciation.

The following consonants have different pronunciations from those expected by English speakers. These are approximations of the sounds these letters make.

c        “ts” as in bats
h        guttural “ch” as in the Scottish word loch
j        “y” as in youth
ł        “w” as in warm
l        “l” as in love (just as in English)
ń        “ny” as in canyon
v        “f” as in face
w        “v” as in verb

[Page xi]

ź        “s” as in measure
ż        “s” as in measure

Polish speakers can distinguish between the sound of the last two letters in the list above, but generally English speakers cannot.

These combinations of two consonants are digraphs: they represent a sound distinct from that of each letter by itself.

cz        “ch” as in chair
ch        guttural “ch” as in the Scottish word loch
sz        “sh” as in “shoe”

These are the relevant vowels rules:

a        “a” as in smart
aj        “i” as in pie
au        “ou” as in loud
e        “e” as in red
ej        “a” as in pay
i        “ee” as in reed
o        “o” as in port
ó        “oo” as in root
oj        “oy” as in “boy”
u        “oo” as in root
y        “i” as in pin

The combination “oi” is not a digraph: It does not sound like “oy” as in “boy.” It sounds like “o” as in “port” followed by “ee” as in “reed.”

The vowel “ą ” has several rules concerning its pronunciation. It appears only in the name “Dą browski” within this book. That name is pronounced “dum-brov-skee” when the rules are applied.

Putting all these rules together, most of the names are easily read, but a few are not entirely intuitive to English speakers. Some examples can help. “Cwi” is pronounced as “tsvee,” “Cijon” as “tsi-yon.” Because “ck” is not a digraph; each letter has a distinct sound: for example the name “Iliwicki” is pronounced as “eel-ee-veets-kee.”

[Page xii]

The name “Icchak” is pronounced “eets-chak” because the first “c” is a single letter (“ts” as in bats) and the second “c” is part of the digraph “ch” (pronounced as in loch).


Page Numbers

In the translated text, the original page numbers are indicated. These page numbers are included as an aid to readers who want to locate a particular phrase or name in the original text. The bracketed page markers indicate the point where the particular page begins in the original book. In fact, the majority of the pages in the original book are unnumbered: all pages with photos and several pages of introductory text were printed without page numbers.

The pages numbered in this translation with Roman numerals are supplementary material to the translation, as are all footnotes.



I want to thank several people. Bilha Zur (Zalman Morocznik's widow) and their son, Yossi Zur, kindly granted permission for the distribution of this translation. Yossi Zur also assisted with clarifying some points in the text. Lance Ackerfeld, the manager of JewishGen's Yizkor Book Project was instrumental in obtaining a copy of the original book and provided valuable support at many points during the project. The primary translator, Kim Yaffe, toiled for weeks on the translation. For several months after her work was done, I continued to consult with her in an attempt to answer fine points about the original text. I truly appreciate her patience. Witold Wrzosiński provided invaluable assistance with the transcription of names; his contributions were most impressive. Esther Chanie Dushinsky also assisted with the transcription of names. The JewishGen Communities Database, the JewishGen Gazetteer and several individuals from Tracing the Tribe, a Facebook community, were very helpful in identifying places. The latter, along with the Facebook community Genealogy Translations also helped to make sense of obscure abbreviations and idioms. The staff and online resources of Yad Vashem answered many questions about place names, historical points and names of Holocaust victims. I also want to thank

[Page xiii]

Marek Zielinski of the website for providing relevant maps. As the project neared completion, several people reviewed the book: my siblings, David Fitterman and Mindy Fitterman, my husband, Evan Schwartz, and Marion Werle. I thank you all for your valuable feedback. Carol Shufro helped with the cover production (for print editions). Heather Dubnick and Israel Pickholtz provided assistance locating Zalman Morocznik's family. A photographer identified only as Avner contributed photographs via Wikimedia Commons; they show two monuments that are the only indication in the modern town that something significant happened there. The obscurity of this history is nearly as great a tragedy as the events that befell the people of this village.

Bob Fitterman
New York City, December 2016

[Page xv]

Map of Kosów Poleski
and Mereczowszczyzna

This map[1] was created in 1932. A Jewish cemetery is shown by a small rectangular area to the left of the label KOSÓW,
filled with this symbol: ⊤. In 1958 it became the site of a school and schoolyard that covered the entirety of the cemetery.[2]

[Page xvii]

Geographic Index

The majority of locations referenced in this book are summarized here. The links provide access to online maps.


Concentration and Deportation Camps

In most cases, the web links pinpoint the location of the camp on a map.

Auschwitz (
Bliżyn ( 51.1069° N / 20.7580° E.
Ebensee (
Majdanek (
Mauthausen (
Mielec (, the town because the camp coordinates could not be located.
Modena, Italy, perhaps Campo di Fossoli or Finale Emilia, but either is speculative.
Płaszów (
Sobibór (
Treblinka (


Place Names in Interwar Poland

The following are the villages and towns of interwar Poland that are mentioned in the text. The links provide modern boundaries and are therefore, at best, approximations of where the events described took place. The current-day (2016) place names, when known, are given for places now outside the bounds of Poland. Some Polish place names that have more commonly recognized English-language names are omitted, such as Warsaw, Lublin and Vilnius.

[Page xviii]

Baranowicze ( Baranovichi, Belarus.
Bereza Kartuska ( Biaroza, Belarus.
Białowieża (
Brest ( Brest, Belarus.
Byteń ( Bycień, Belarus.
Chomsk ( Chomsk, Belarus.
Dereczyn ( Dziarečyn, Belarus.
Dubitowo ( Dubitava, Belarus.
Hoszczewo ( Hoščava, Belarus
Iwacewicze ( Ivatsevichy, Belarus.
Izabelin ( Izabielin, Belarus.
Kolonia Alba ( Around what is now Aĺba, Belarus.
Kosów Poleski ( Kosava, Belarus
Kozłowszczyzna ( Kazloŭščyna, Belarus.
Kraków (
Lida ( Lida, Belarus.
Łódź (
Łysków ( Lyskava, Belarus.
Mereczowszczyzna ( No longer an inhabited place. It is about 3 kilometers northwest of Kosava, Belarus.
Mohylew ( Mogilev, Belarus.
Motol ( Motaĺ, Belarus.

[Page xvix]

“New Colony” see footnote 16.
Niechaczewo ( Niachačava, Belarus.
Ruda ( Ruda, Belarus.
Różana ( Ružany, Belarus.
Skarżysko-Kamienna (
Skorce ( Skorcy, Belarus.
Słonim ( Slonim, Belarus.
Smolnik is an ambiguous name that could refer to several places in Poland as well as other adjacent countries.
Starazswszesyzne is a small settlement about 2 kilometers to the east of Kosów Poleski, straddling the river ( Staražoŭščyna, Belarus.
Telechany ( Cieliachany, Belarus.
Wołkowysk ( Vawkavysk, Belarus.
Zapole is a name given to many villages throughout Poland (because it refers to a fortified area). The nearest one to Kosów Poleski was about five kilometers north of Różana. ( Zapollie, Belarus.


  1. By the Polish Military Geographical Institute (Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny). The complete map image is at
  2. Source: return
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