|A. Soyfer — three months after liberation in camp clothes|
|The original city map|
The Krynki Relief and Compatriots Associations of Uruguay and Argentina dedicate this book to the memory of our dear and proud Jews of Krynki who were killed by the Nazi barbarians.
The Paving stones of Krynker streets remind us of the footsteps of our fathers and mothers, of
those who were closest to us. They remind us of our Jewish workers who walked for years with pride and security, with poems and songs, dreaming of a better, more beautiful tomorrow. Our Jewish Krynki was the first city to send its heroic youth into battle, they were the first partisans of Poland! Over forests, fields and over the whole country echoed the praises of the heroism of our martyrs.
May this book serve as an eternal memorial to our thousands of unknown martyrs.
The Committee of the Krinker Relief in Uruguay
The Committee of the Krinker Relief and Compatriots Association in Argentina
All the images of my shtetele Krynki are rising again before my inner eye. In a valley between very flat mountains, in the flint layer of Poland, near Bialystok, lies my hometown.
About ten thousand human lives are cocooned in its bosom, of which 80 percent were Jews.
The round market in the middle is the center of the shtetl. Two rows of stores the source of income for Jewish small traders are divided by the so-called brom [gate], which unites both sides of the market. Here, in the market, people bought and sold during the day and walked about during the evenings until night time. There were no limits for almost endless hakofes [circumambulations], until the couples used to get tired and march off through the Shishlevetser street [the street to Swisłocz]. Then, after passing the bolnitses [the hospital with its complex of buildings) remaining on the highway, some of them would often walk up to the Shyemanitse [Siemianówka]. Others use to make their rounds in the Kashtanen-Aleye [Chestnut avenue], passing Lublinke's yard, towards Yente's forest. This was only a small grove, but it still connected each resident with so many threads spun by his bygone days: they were no longer there, gone in infinity, leaving an empty echo in the soul.
In recent years, the grove had been cleared little by little, with the consequence that the Jews walked a little further to the the Shalker Forest, although the way was arduous. However, on their day of rest, the Sabbath, Jews would need the green pine forest, a clear sky overhead and the chirping of birds in the air. On the high, sandy mountain, groups of young people used to bath their limbs in sun rays, and there was joy, interwoven with hope.
In the summer evenings of the Sabbath, the young people and the parents with their children, would return home. People met for shaleshudes, shtshav-borshtsh [sorrel-beet-soup] and cold ladishkes [earthenware jugs with milk] covered on the top with cream. They were simple meals and yet so tasty
holy evenings, which we valued far too little at that time! In the evenings after work, the Krynkers would cluster around the verandas in the market.
Once, Mair Cheikels got very angry because people used to sit on the veranda and not inside, in his tavern. He took black pitch and spread it on the popular seat. But the gang wiped it off with their suits and continued to sit there.
If you go further, you would come to Yosele Mastovlonski's veranda, on the corner of Bialystok Street. This is the porch where large gatherings are held, especially the May Day celebrations. All May Day marches of all parties started from here. The veranda was used as a tribune for the speakers who talked to the people. After that, the shtetl used to really seethe, it discussed and commented on the speeches and for a long, long time this remained the number one topic of the day's conversation.
Winter Shabbat in the shtetl was different. Very early in the morning, shouting gentiles would come to heat the stoves. They boiled water for the bunkes [a kind of narrow-necked pitcher] so that they could be served with the first glass of tea, along with a piece of braided Sabbath chala (white bread] as a snack. It is getting warm in the parlor. The fathers have gone away to pray. Soon, the tsholent [slow-cooked Sabbath stew] will be brought from the bakery. The food of the Sabbath has a thousand flavors.The family gets together, they drink tea and talk about the daily worries of the week. And no type of problem was ever missing. Family ties were very strong. One endeavored to help the other, at least with advice. And there was never a lack of advice...
Sabbath nights in winter! Why, oh why have you left me forever? You, the glorious, shimmering evenings, when the sleds, manned by youngsters, chased quickly over the shiny snow. The tinkling of bells mingled with the girls' laughter, and how fast the horses galloped! Boys used to throw snowballs into the sledges, but nobody minded... no, things are even merrier, and laughter echoes even louder through the frosty air.
All this was on the Sabbath holiday. On weekdays, life tended to flow very slowly and was interwoven with sorrow and worry. In general, the population was very poor. Everyone toiled hard for a living. There was a great class difference among the Jews. Great factory owners lived in luxury and enjoyed all the good things. But the rest had to toil very hard in their daily lives. Especially the women had a hard time. The water was usually far from the house. And the wells used to be frozen in winter with a layer of ice one meter thick. The holy mothers of our people were exceedingly efficient when they had to draw dozens of buckets of water for washing or later for the preparations for Passover. One struggled, but without ever complaining about it to the Almighty. Everyone worked in his or her field and hoped for a better tomorrow.
Gabarske [tannery) street stretched from the market to Pohulanke [-street]; next was the great shul [Synagogue] with the shul's yard, where we played nyemtshik , tshizshik after learning, and the girls hopped around on one leg in between.
It often happened that rascals tried to throw a little stone to hit one of the countless windows of the shul.
Later, they used to get very frightened, when we exchanged those stories that in the night deceased people were haunting the shul, saying psalms and punishing every bad child.
Hundreds of legends entwined around the shul, and the brats actually balked at going into its polish [ante-chamber] to do some naughty things, because the tore-bret [table for washing corpses] was located there. The great Bes-Hamedresh  and (Yente's) Khaye-Odem Bes-Hamedresh surrounded the shul's yard. Once, when people stood on the shul's roof (of course, when it was built) they could see how it smoked from all over the city of Pohulanke! The same as in Lodz! Big, tall chimneys with a circumference of 30 meters smoked there all day, powering dozens of drums in the tanneries.
The main source of the shtetl's income was the tanning industry. Three thousand workers of the city supplied the grocers, the bakeries,
|David Gottlieb, the vice-mayor for several periods. Efficient activist for the Bund and the Tzisho schools.|
|Wolf Weiner, first Jewish mayor. Been active in the orphanage and Linas Hatzedek.|
the cobblers and tailors. Every young lad dreamed of becoming a tanner a responsible person, a bread-earner. Every visitor who comes to Krynki for the first time, will always have engraved in his memory how such a shtetl as this one has laid out the sidewalks and installed the municipal electric power: It was done by a Jewish engineer, Galinski, and a Jewish technician and collector, Mr. David Zak.
Jewish katsovim [Jewish butchers] were constantly at work in the Jewish slaughterhouse by the river. People used to say that if the kaiser of the katsovim, Leyzer Kugel, had to get things straight with his partner, it could be heard as far as the Jews on the other side of the market.
Jewish boys and girls used to spend a little time in the shvyentar, at the Orthodox church. Often, when there was a goyish wedding there, we would go inside the church to catch a glimpse of the bride and groom. In autumn, the Jewish fruit merchants used to transport their tasty apples and pears from Batyushke's orchard, which the market vendors of the shtetl would sell-and every fruit found its buyer.
Jokers of the shtetl, especially Shmuel Tenor, created popular jokes that spread to neighboring towns. Jewish automobile owners of Krynki founded the Spulke Express: 5 times a day they offered a
lift that included not only a ride within the streets of Krynki, but also connections from Krynki to Bialystok and Grodno. Every few hours, the whole shtetl used to go to one of the automobiles to hear news, to see who had arrived and to accept newspapers.
Later, all this was nationalized, and the Jewish automobiles were no longer allowed to carry passengers. However, the Jews switched to trucks, whereupon in the shtetl Jewish commerce was buzzing again. In the summer nights, people used to walk through Koshtshyol Street, past the magelnik [cemetery] to Virion's yard. The route led them past Sime's mill and then across the wooden bridge over the Ozyere.
Our pozsharnikes [firefighters] were a reflection of our municipal administration. Twenty pozsharnikes
all Jews, except the oldest, Vladko Anisimovich. The vice-commander was Chemya Meyerovich. The same was true for the magistrate: the largest part was made up of Jewish councilmen, with a Christian mayor, Pavel Tzarevich (who is now living in the Land of Israel!) and with a Jewish Vice mayor, David Gottlieb.
|City Council and Magistrate of Krynki
In the middle is standing Moshe Pruzhanski
The gentile mayor, Pavl Tsar, as he was called, was a very friendly person. He spoke a very good Yiddish and got along well with the Jews, that is, with the Jewish leather factory owners...
The Shomre-Shabesnikes, [the guardians of the Sabbath], practiced their special activity only on Friday evenings: Before the ceremony of the Likht-Bentshn, [the blessing over the Sabbath candles], they scattered through the shtetl's streets and caused a wave of commotion.
Jews! Shabbath is here, it's getting late, close the stores! And there was following a rattling and clattering of closing stores, doors and shutters-Sabbath is here!
Ben-Zion Dande used to shout all over the market, Jews, go to shul, all of you! And the boys echoed: Go to shul!
In the small Bod-Gesl [Bath-road], it begins to swarm considerably. Jews walk in and out of the bath. Each had their packages under their arms. On Friday evenings, the sinful Gang of Bale-Aveyres would go away
to get shaved, and the [law-abiding] Shomre-Shabesnikes had heated arguments with them. Very early on the Sabbath, the shtetl already looked festive. Jews, dressed in their taleysim [prayer shawls], used to go to their individual houses of prayer: To the Bes-Hamedresh, to the shul or to the Chasidim-shtibl.
The most interesting persons of the social life in Krynki were: Mr. Velvel Weiner (Velvel, The Carpenter), the former Jewish mayor, who devoted much of his life to social activity in the magistrate [City Council], the kheyder haKlaliand in the Orphan's Committee.
Mr. Yankel Levi, (Yankel, The Clear), a person full of energy in social activities, such as in the bank, in the Jewish secular school organization and in the Bund. Also, he was an advisor in the City Council and alderman in the Magistrate. He perished in the Nazi gas chambers in Auschwitz, on January 21, 1943.
Mr. Abraham-Shmuel Zuts (The Blind), or, as he is referred to in literature, Zishe, The Eternal Light. He went blind in the Tsarist prisons. However, he managed to maintain the most beautiful treasure: A brand new library, constantly updated with the latest Jewish editions.
He was continuously involved in secular activities within the school organization, in the Bund and worked constantly together with young people. His room was permanently crowded with people. Together with his two sisters, Itke and Mulinke, he perished at the hands of the Nazis.
Mr. Nachum Blacher secretary at the professional Tanners Union. There was no strike that could be settled without him. At all May Day celebrations he gave a speech in which every word was chosen with prudence although he actually had difficulty speaking. During the ghetto period, an illegal radio [receiver] was operating in the house of Nachum Blacher, which was used to listen to news from abroad.
Later, the news would spread throughout the ghetto. Nachum perished in Treblinka.
Mr. Lublinski, Baruch Mordechai Zditkowski, Baruch Stolarski (Chochem's), Alter Ayon, Motke Adinok and many others, whose names I do not remember, were very respected figures in the Jewish life of Krynki, both in the field of the Kehile, as well as in banking and generally, on the occasion of charitable actions.
And at this point, the various institutions and their services should be outlined. The mainstay of the Jewish economy was the Krinker Volks-Bank, whose funds went to the small shopkeepers, the local textile entrepreneurs and the craftsmen, who were experiencing immense existential worries.
The main figures in banking were Messrs. Jakob-Chaim Grishtzinski, Yankele Shafir and Kananovich, (The Passionate). The most popular of the bank was Chaikel, who delivered the financial notifications.
The hall of the [fondly called] Benkl [diminutive of bank] was used by all organizations and institutions to hold discourses and lectures with discussions, as well as theater and cinema performances.
The shtetl was blessed with a very beautiful institution: Linas Hatzedek! It served the entire Jewish population with a doctor and a pharmacy. Poor people received medical help there for nothing, thanks to a receipt stamped by the secretary, Mr. Mordechai Shimen Grodzki, who helped intensively in the institution for many years. Recently, moreover, a magnificent Ladovnye (ice cellar) was established, which was a real folk treasure. After all, to get a piece of ice cream in the summer is really a big deal for a sick person! The Linas (ha)Tzadek was strongly supported by both the Krinkers in Chicago and the New York Relief Committee. On every Purim, they organized the Purim (donation) campaign for ice. Later, the Moes-Khitn campaign began Matzah for the poor. Everything was adapted to the conditions of the time and its people.
A very nice activity was developed by the Jewish yesoymem-hoyz [Orphan's home], which maintained a daily boarding school with several dozen children. A few years earlier, before the war, the orphanage also had a tailoring school attached to it, whose director was Mrs. Blumke Zakheim. She managed that many dozens of children left the school with a recognized professional trade as a tailor.
The Gmiles-Khsodim Fund carried out its activities quietly and modestly, in a really good way. A Jew could obtain a loan with a bill of exchange without any municipal tax; the so-called Gmiles-Khsodim bills were completely exempt from stamp tax; no interest (and duty) was payable on the whole. The technical secretary was Mr. Moshe Ekshtein (called Moshe Pintl), a dear, cordial man.
There was also lively activity in cultural and educational matters. Already dozens of years back, the various student groups had formed. In general, we were dealing with a city full of Jewish scholars.
These scholars were great experts in [choosing] the Rov [Rabbi]. Not just anyone could take the place of the Rabbi and the last Krinker Rabbi, Rabbi I. Mishkovski, was indeed one of the most excellent persons in the Jewish-Polish Rabbinic world.
I still remember my earliest cheder years, how in the shul, on the right side of the Polish [ante-chamber] we were fed knowledge by Yisroel, the teacher (called The Little Goatee). Or, as others used to put it, they were dealt their deals, by usage of wet towels, by Tsherne [The Black One] and as punishment, you had to stand in koze (goat pen) for a day. Later, the Cheder haKlali became a highly modern cheder. Jewish children from the surrounding towns such as Amdur, Brestovitch, Jalovka and Horodok, used to come to the cheder to study. And later, at the holidays, they used to go home, dressed up in their uniforms and little hats with shiny dasheks [visors]. The streets and the market were full of joy and fun when the children at lunchtime came out of the cheder and the Jewish school. Hundreds of children with small satchels on their backs ran home. Yes, that was the life of a Cheder boy!
For each attitude, there was a corresponding facility. The Zionists were very involved in the Tarbut School, which was a mixed
|Tarbut-School in Krynki|
institution for boys and girls. The language of instruction was Hebrew. The Bund also had its niche: the Jewish-secular schools. For all Krinker Jews, it was a tradition to go to the magnificent children's performances on both Purim evenings, where children appeared in the respective roles of the [theater] plays: Mekhirat Yosef [The Sale of Yosef], Shlumperl [Cinderella], Der Sheydem-Tants [The Dance of the Demons] and others. In the social-cultural field, the Poale Zion stood out, but also the Bund and its youth organizations: the Hachalutz, Frayhayt [Freedom], Tsukunft [Future] and SKIF [Socialist Children's Union]. In the summer, young people and children from different organizations used to meet in the Shalker Forest and sing a popular song together as a warm welcome:
We are young, the world is wide,
oh beautiful world of youth,
thou world of light and freedom, we are young
and that is great...
|Tzisho-school in Krynki|
In their blue shirts and red ties, young people from all [political] directions sang this song while marching bravely with bright eyes and proud step. Each organization found its niche. Every ideological milieu found its own special youth. In particular, it should be remembered that the communist youth carried out their activities within a limited framework and were wary of provocations. For the most part, they supported the actions of the Bund.
Jewish lectures used to be arranged in the Benkl and each
lecture was a major event in Krynker life. After the lectures, we always saw the same: Dozens of the audience went around discussing what the speaker had said. And so it was the order of the day that on the Sabbath, during the Tsholent meal, the hottest discussions were held around the table because of political problems.
The communists often scattered leaflets. Each one represented his individual truths, and so brothers used to have fierce disputes at the table, owed solely to party politics.
Even in the Bote Medroshim, this was commonplace, especially on the Sabbath.
Ordinary Jews were tearing their heads apart over the problems of the world. In the Chassidic-shtibl, where the contrast was particularly significant, hot discussions were held. The Mizrekh-Vant [the wall facing east] was usually 'occupied' by the factory owners, and the poor stayed by the stove. But in the Chasidarnia all people are equal, after all, and Moshe-Velvl Pruzanski, the great leather manufacturer, gets an announcement from a tannery worker that capitalism will not last more than ten years!
On it, the other says that the Chasidic rabbi takes sides only with the poor! But a third one argues that the rabbi stands by the bourgeois.
And so the Jewish Chasids of the Slonimer shtibel used to quarrel about the Rabbi, just as they later quarreled about the loksh [noodles] at the Rabbi's table.
A Chazn [cantor] that was something for the Misnagdim. In the old shul with its carved deer on both sides of the Orn-Koydesh [Ark], with the high Bimah in the middle and with the knob with its many lights above one's head this was the place where Chazonim [cantors] sang their prayers on the Yomim-Neroim, the ten Days of Awe!
Once, gifted Chazonim used to perform a Mayrev [Maariv, evening prayer] against tickets.
it is also used as a synagogue (shul). Services there tend to be conducted with less decorum then in the larger shul, whose function is solely that of a House of prayer. In an Eastern European shtetl, the shul and its Rabbi had a certain official status whereas a Bes-(Ha)medresh was more informal, sometimes privately owned and operated, sometimes attached to a Yeshiva, and sometimes serving as the location for daily prayers, whereas Sabbath services took place in the larger shul. The shul might also have a Bes-(Ha)medresh where non-prayer functions would take place. A Chasidic Rebbe residing in a shtetl would have his Bes-(Ha)medresh, that is, a shtibl or kloyz, even though the shtetl also had a shul. The Bes-(Ha)medresh term therefore can describe a number of slightly different institutions. Return
Krinik in Khurbn
Let's dedicate a special place to our beloved region Kavkaz. The Kavkazer Bes-Medresh gathered his worshippers from this quarter of the shtetl.
A particularly poor part of the population lived in Kavkaz most of them hard-working toilers. My grandfather, R'Chaim Osher's, the old Shames [synagogue servant] of the Kavkazer
Bes-haMedresh, used to sit day and night studying a sheet of Gemore without glasses!
He would often be joined by Shmuel The Rebetsn's, who studied the Gemore, as well. In general, the Chevre-Kadishe [Jewish funeral society] was very active here and used to gather in the Kavkazer Bes-Medresh.
Very dedicated in the Chevre Kadishe were:
R'Abraheml Benjamin Itziks, Israel the Kirzhner (The Furrier), Abramke the Farbrenter (The Passionate), Abrahamke Brevde [The Truthteller?] and Leibe-Iser Brevde.On the evening of the Sabbath, during the t;Havdole I would never fail to go to the Bes-Medresh. Because my grandpa always used to give me more wine than the others and kept letting the contents of the cup flow into my mouth. And I sensed all the tastes of the world at once. To be precise it was the taste of paradise!
In the Khaye-Odem Bes-Hamedresh were sitting about 50 youngsters and studied with the greatest dedication the eternally beautiful Gemore-pages; and their [devout] songs, which arose directly from their souls, frightened more than once the passing by Christians, who had to go to the post office in Gertzke's Brick House.
Jewish young men with sidelocks wound around their ears, used to eat [esn teg) at the homes of dozens of Krynker families. At every turn it was apparent that the great and good yeshiva [Jewish academy] for young men was active in the shtetl. The main gabe [trustee], R' Naftali, was exceptionally busy recruiting yeshiva students from all over the area. However, one also heard dialects of many young people from Galicia and Poland who came to study at the Krynker yeshiva, because it was considered one of the best, and quite a few graduates left the school as rabbis.
However, many of the students also left the Krynker yeshiva, especially those who had come from the small, surrounding yeshivas, and became freemen.
All youth organizations conducted propaganda among the yeshiva students, and it often happened that anti-clerical leaflets lay between the Gemore pages.
These are memories from my youth from those dear times. Times when Krynki lived: a city of work, worries and struggle.
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