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[Page 179]

Memories and Impressions

 

The 17th of September 1939
(From a book in progress)

by B. Asher

Translated from Hebrew by Hadar Khazzam-Horovitz

A gentle knock on the window woke me up from my sleep. I turned on the light and lifted the curtain. From the window I saw a young woman's face.

“Please open the window” she asked in Polish. “I wandered all night. I am soaked wet from the rain. Could I get a cup of tea, and something to eat? I will pay anything. My house has been destroyed, and we can't find refuge anywhere. That damn Hitler can get to me anywhere. We are all ruined. Ruined. My God, my God!”

My mom interrupted her speech by inviting her into the house. I quickly got out of my bed and got dressed. I was very tired. We listened to the news on the radio about the latest events in the front until very late, after midnight. I stepped outside. The night's shadows began spreading, and from the black clouds you began to see the light of dawn. Light rain was coming down. This vexing autumn rain perfectly matched the general mood. Our yard was full of soldiers, horses with carriages, canons, and refugees. The soldiers and the refugees walked around all wet or sat down taking a nap on the carriages. Many hid under the house's roof and shed. I was walking through the town's streets, and saw the same scene: soldiers, war gear and numerous refugees. Talking with the refugees and soldiers made me realize once again how serious the situation was. One sergeant told me that even in Mizoch, my hometown and its surroundings, they planned to form the new and final defense line. Wasn't Mizoch only 17 kilometers from the Soviet border? So how are you going to defend against the Germans? He stated that the generals had the answers and left.

It was daylight. The rain had stopped. The town had woken up, and the typical daily routine had started. A few days prior to September 17th, several ministers came to town and set up their quarters at the palace of the Polish earl, Karvitzki. The town of Mizoch had never seen

 

Youth in Mizoch

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such esteemed men and elegant ladies. The high-ranking officials were strolling around the city, looking in vain for Christian stores. Despite openly expressing their contempt for the Jewish stores, these officials were buying their merchandise with the depreciated Polish currency.

That morning, along with the retreating army came the officers from the regions of Pozan and Shlonsk. Even though the streets were filled with people, starting early in morning there was no food shortage. This was because, before the war, Mizoch served as big storehouse for all of Poland. From Mizoch, daily trains full of produce, fruit, beef, poultry, sugar, wood, leather, and more were delivering supplies not only to Poland but to other countries as well.

At eight a.m., high-ranking army officers and ministry officials were in a frenzy. A rumor quickly spread claiming that the Russians had crossed the border marching toward the Polish army. Immediately, the stores were closed. The police were ready and banned any public gatherings. However, this ban was not followed. In every street, groups of people gathered, talking about the situation. It was unclear from Polish people's reaction,

 

Leadership of the National Guard in Mizoch

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whether the Red Army would help Poland or the Germans.

At nine thirty, as usual, we gathered in my house to listen to the radio news from Moscow. But before the broadcast had started, a young man from the nearby city, Hilcha, came in. He told us that he saw the Russian tanks approaching from Ostroh toward Rivne. He had spoken with a Jewish tank crewman who told him that, from now on, the Red Army had freed the Polish people from slavery, and in fact that the Poland of the corrupt landowners would not rise again.

Later we heard Mr. Molotov's presentation in which he declared that the Red Army had crossed the border to rescue and protect its brethren, Western Ukraine and Belarus, and so the situation was quite clear.

Nevertheless, the Polish government had not yet given up, and the chief of police – an irritable and stubborn man – was riding his bicycle, ordering people out of the streets. At the end, he courageously left the town to welcome the “rescuing” army. There he was told to surrender his weapon. He was instructed to return to the town and let the police and the Polish chief commander know that they ought to disarm and surrender their weapons to the Red Army. He was also instructed to have all the soldiers and the commanding officers assembled in the military base and stay put until further notice. With his orders in place and without his weapon, riding back to the city, the chief of police was no longer shouting orders. He rode the streets like a crazy person and was never seen again.

Those from among the army men who were aware of the dire situation changed out of their uniforms, mixed in with the refugees, and were ultimately saved. However, the vast majority assembled at the military base and awaited their destiny. Six hours later, a Soviet delegation appeared. They assembled the firearms and posted guards over the military base. At that time, many more were able to escape from the military base. The ones remaining were sent the following day to Siberia as war prisoners. One Polish officer with the rank of major made a big impression on the town when he committed suicide on Sormitch Street while shouting “Poland is not yet lost”. In the meantime, the tension was escalating. On one hand, everyone was happy that the war had ended, but at the same time, they were anxious about the unknown future. In our city there were no communists, the city was a hundred percent Zionist. Even within the Christian population, there were no communists. Hence, there was no one to initiate official receptions for the newcomers. At the same time, since almost all knew Russian, all the townspeople came out to the edge of Sormitch Street to see the tanks and their crewmen.

The initial interaction with the Russian army was very friendly. The soldiers were communicating, answered questions, let the people approach them, and even let them touch the tank. Tanks at the time were an exciting new thing

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for the provincial people of Mizoch. However, in this first brief contact we could feel how the crewmen were impressed with our clothes, our houses, and estates, and even with the thin paper used to roll cigarettes.

At six p.m., the infantry arrived from the north. As opposed to the tank crewmen, these soldiers made a poor impression. They had wretched clothes and their marching was sloppy. Many of them were limping, carrying their shoes on their shoulders. They were mostly unshaved, walking heavily. It was clear that the infantry soldiers were drafted at the last minute and were sent straight into battle without proper training or preparations. Two hours later, the Russian army swarmed the town. The soldiers did not ask for anything, refusing to accept anything from the people, including drinking water. The townspeople were overly courteous, to the point of exaggeration. Only a small group of six, members of the “Shetslitz” (a government military youth group), resisted the Russian army with one shotgun. They were defeated within a half an hour. Beside that incident, there was no other defiance against the army. As the evening approached, the army declared a curfew, posting armed guards in every corner, prohibiting walking in the street. However, this curfew was not strict. Individuals were able to walk the streets, and even to talk with the guards. The first night under the purview of the Red Army was sleepless among the people of the town. There were family discussions, party meetings, conversations, and deliberations, and many concluded that “the devil[1] isn't as bad as they say.”

 

A walk in the snowy streets of Mizoch

 

Translator's Footnote

  1. The Red Army Return


[Page 184]

A Family in Mizoch

by Sara Shoham-Fleisch

Translated from Hebrew by Hadar Khazzam-Horovitz

I left Mizoch at a very young age. I only have very limited memories and recollections from the old days in the city. Nonetheless, I do remember well some of my childhood's experiences at my grandfather's house.

My mother's side of the family consisted of three patriarchal homes in Mizoch and a similar number outside of the country. They were the family of Baroch Fleisch, the family of Avi Mordechai – known as Mottel Fleisch, and the family of Avraham Abrach from Ostroh who married their sister Kayla. Beside them, there was one more brother in Russia and two additional sisters in America. The whole family lived in a big house divided into separate apartments for each family. Grandfather R. Moshele Fleisch was the head of the family. He was a Jew of average height, with a white beard, strict, and very religious. When I think of him, he always appears rapt in prayer, alone with his Creator, or angry over some religious transgression or violation of traditional rules. I was always afraid of him, and I did not like him that much. I was angry when he would not let me attend the youth group club. I also did not like the times he was upset when I wore a short-sleeved dress, nor his serious, somber running of the household. However, now when I look back, I often miss these old days filled with grace and beauty.

I remember the nights of Yom Kippur[1], when grandfather entered our house dressed all in white with his tallit,[2] and prayer book under his arm. He blessed us with the words hatima tova[3], before leaving to the synagogue for Kol Nidre[4]. The house was filled with purity and holiness, and at the same time with a special dread binding us all. Or the Purim nights when grandfather gathered the women and grandchildren, read the Megillah[5] in a version passed down for generations. And later the special dinner, mishloach manot[6], the Purim show, etc. To the Passover seder nights planned weeks in advanced, when the holiday began, and the gloominess disappeared while the rooms were filled with light and joy. The seder table was set with shiny tableware. Everyone was wearing formal attire, the house was clean and decorated, and I was excited to read the four questions of Passover as the eldest grandchild.

During the days of Simchat Torah, the congregation from the kloyz[7] along with the Trisk Hassidim -- of whom grandfather was a crucial member – gathered at my grandfather's house. Along with divrei Torah[8] and joyful Hassidic songs, they drank a lot, ate a variety of pastries and cholent,[9] and rejoiced in the completion of the Torah's reading till their strength was spent.

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Today I see the patriarchal image of my grandfather differently. I understand his strictness and his determination to protect his ancestors' traditions, and it makes me like him more and more.

Of his two sons, my father was the most devoted to his religion. His eldest, Baruch, had spent years in America. There he shaved his beard and forgave simple breaches of religious rulings. My father – Mordechai – however, grew a long, black, thick beard, and followed all his father's rules. In their first marriages, the two brothers had lost their wives, and after a while remarried. My father was very quiet. He was a pious man and spent most of his time traveling to different villages for his trade. He had a special close relationship with the farmers of Derman village. For the Sabbath eve he would drop everything to bless the holiness of this day. Coming back from prayer in the kloyz, he almost always brought with him a guest for Shabbat. During Shabbat dinner, he used to sing soft and tender songs. My father did not like the fact that I joined the “Gordonia”[10], but at the same time he did not prevent me from going. And when I wanted to learn Hebrew, he hired the teacher Gornetsel, a well-known and expensive teacher, just to make me happy. He did object to my decision to make aliya to Eretz Yisrael. However, once he realized how determined I was about my decision, he came to terms with that, giving me his blessing. I was his only child from his first wife. With his second wife, he had two boys and one girl. I left the house when they were young. After leaving, I kept pleading with them to send me one of my siblings, but they always refused. Father was always withdrawn, worried and concerned, and thus naturally we hardly spoke with each other. Also, there was a strange alienation between us due to some previous circumstances. But now, his noble image, with his handsome face and his deep eyes, talks to me and tells me so much…

We were three cousins of the same age. Two boys and one girl. We all knew Hebrew and were involved in Gordonia. Aharon Abrach and I made aliya in 1936 to Ben Shemen, while Pessi Ben Baruch stayed in Mizoch. He was the talented one, with the promise of great achievements. But the war had begun, and he was killed before his time. My mom died when I was three years old, and I do not remember her at all. Up until the time my father had remarried, I was raised at my Aunt Chaya's. She was my mother's sister, a widow left with only one daughter. She was a good mother to me, and her daughter was like a devoted sister. From my mother's side, I also remember two of her brothers, Chone and Jacob, her sister Hannah Zisel and grandfather Velvel. I remember him vaguely with his tall figure, his white beard, and being constantly busy with his businesses. I clearly remember the day he died, as it was

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my tenth birthday. He left behind a fortune, causing frictions among his heirs. His talented son Chone inherited most of his fortune and moved to live in Rivne. In Rivne, he built a glorious house and ran significant businesses. His children received a national Hebrew education, and they all studied at the “Tarbut” gymnasium. His eldest son arrived in Israel after the Holocaust and adjusted nicely. Both my mother's sisters became widows. My Aunt Chaya's husband died a natural death, whereas Aunt Hannah Zisel's husband was murdered by rioters during the Petliura pogrom. My aunt, Zisel Langer, was a woman of valor. She raised her seven children with honor and with wealth. She had a big store for leather goods, and during the fairs I helped her, watching out for any potential thieves. I also loved my Aunt Zisel's house because there were always cheerful young people, meetings, and good parties. I never met her elder son, Hershel, as he died at a young age. But I really liked his daughter Marimka, who used to visit her grandmother and knew how to sing nice Czechoslovakian songs she learned in the village where she used to live. According to reliable sources, she now lives in Brazil.

I had a big and interesting family, and I find it very difficult to get used to the idea that it is all gone and never to be again.

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. The Day of Atonement Return
  2. Prayer Shawl Return
  3. May you be inscribed in the book of life Return
  4. the opening prayer of Yom Kippur Return
  5. The Book of Esther Return
  6. Exchange of food-gifts Return
  7. The Study House Return
  8. Discussions related to the weekly Torah portion Return
  9. Sabbath stew Return
  10. Zionist youth movement Return


Mizoch – the Place of My Happiness

by Soniya Polchik

Translated from Hebrew by Jonah Silverstein

When I think about Mizoch, I am reminded of the days of my youthful joys. I am submerged in memories of another world that was good and pure.

Experiences, impressions, and images from the dear days of my youth – standing lifelike before my eyes: here I see Hershka Rozsenblat's house engulfed in flames. There is not much running water in town. Thus, this precious liquid had to be pumped out of the deep wells by hand with much effort. Here is the living embodiment of a miracle of mutual aid. The whole town was aroused to extinguish the fire. They came with buckets, pails, and even bowls full of water to put it out. And so the house was saved with only minor damage.

Who from Mizoch does not remember the nights in which the Halutzim[1] songs were erupting from all the youth clubs and filling the city with joy? How is it possible to forget this? We were all like a big family – happy, joyful, and dedicated.

When a chapter of the “National Guardians”

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from Ostroh erected a tent in the Sosinski forest, youth flowed to it en masse. Beitarists, Gordonists, and Guardians spent time together in harmony. Like a long, unforgettable holiday also was the time the “Happy Town” circus stopped in our small town. In those days in Mizoch we didn't yet know about the cinema, and we would even chase a taxi with wonder. And such a thing sometimes came to us. The circus was situated on “Horses Square” behind the city council building, the “Gemeine.” Both adults and children had a good time for days and nights on the field going to see the company of acrobats. Surely, more than one of us remembers the skirmish with the Polish Scouts – who came from afar and put up their camp in the Sosinski forest – provoking the Jewish youth. These were the first outbreaks of antisemitism that reached us from afar. Our youth were entirely Zionist and proud, they proved then to the antisemites that we were not dirty Zhidikkim[2], the Polish Scouts ended up in need of help from the police. As of then, our youth organizations grew and young people rarely visited the lovely Sosinski forest.

And the times when I visited the forest, it seemed to me that the trees were bowing to me and were begging for us to return and fill the forest with Hebrew song, and to dance the Hora excitedly. How would it be possible to forget the beautiful parades of our youth outside the town? And still today the dear song “David melech yisrael chai chai v'kayam[3]” echoes in my ears. This song embodied our yearning for independence in a Hebrew nation.

However, no one in their worst nightmare ever dreamed that the freedom we yearned for would cost us the blood of six million of our brothers, and among them our fathers and mothers, relatives and friends, and the destruction of cities and towns, among them Mizoch – the town that was my most dear and beloved. We who survived were a tiny remnant, an ember saved, lonely, and bereft of family and parents. Let us together embroider a free homeland with the thread of brotherhood and friendship, joy and goodwill, dedication and camaraderie that are so characteristic of the martyrs of Mizoch– never to be forgotten.

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Zionist pioneer Return
  2. A derogatory term for Jews at the time Return
  3. “David, King of Israel, Lives Forever.” Return


Mizoch– A Town Where Guests Were Always Welcome

by Sarah Bieber-Golick

Translated from Hebrew by Jonah Silverstein

From the day my older sister, Etty Levit Bieber from Ostroh, married Levi Brizman from Mizoch, Mizoch became a second home for me. I would visit the town frequently and stay there for a long time. I liked its generous residents, its beautiful landscape, its way of life, and above all the familial atmosphere that surrounded the town.

The town of Mizoch was possibly the only town in Poland that did not know scarcity and poverty.

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Every Jew earned a living. To one Mizoch gave abundantly; to another, until satisfaction; scarcity was not known to anyone. Everyone worked and earned a living. One worked in trade, another in a factory, and another was a simple laborer in all types of work. In Mizoch they were not ashamed to do physical labor and the youth would work and toil, not sit around and do nothing. The reputation of the residents of the town reached far and wide as being hospitable and generous. In Mizoch they took care of the needy, fed the hungry, and supported everyone who turned to them for help.

To me, Mizoch looked like one big Zionist club. Everyone aspired to go to Zion, without exception. Some wanted to get there by way of the Left, others by way of the Right. However, for both the ultimate goal was Zion.

I especially remember among the businessmen and leaders the Gentzberg brothers, Joseph Kleinman, Shlomo Koppelman, Reuben Melamed, and Yehuda Broinshtein. My sister Rivka and I spent time in their company when we were in the town. I also have many remaining fond memories of gatherings with the elders of the town. I would always relish and enjoy the enlightening conversations of Mr. Shmuel Eizenegert, who lived in my brother-in-law's apartment. He was a smart and clever Jew that liked to speak to us in Hebrew. Joshua Dov Gentzberg, the father of the Gentzbergs, would often come to the house to play chess. During the game, they would sing Hasidic nigunim[1] and conduct interesting conversations about current affairs. And many others in the town were like them. Because of the special atmosphere of the town, the youth came from places near and far to stay with relatives and acquaintances.

Together with all those native to Mizoch, I mourn the destruction of the town and the murder of her people by the wicked and the impure. Their memories will forever remain in my heart.

 

Translator's Footnote

  1. Melodies Return


[Page 189]

Impressions, Memories and Evaluations

by Reuven Melamed

Translated from Hebrew by Nida Kiali

Nature had gifted Mizoch with unimaginable riches, evergreen forests, a most fertile land, rivers and lakes full of fish, and an astonishing good climate.

The Jews in town – like in all other places where Jews lived – engaged chiefly in commerce. A few earned a living from crafts and services and were an essential and substantial part of the economy.

The Jews had good neighborly relations with the Ukrainian, Polish, Russian and Czech residents. While their attitude towards the Ukrainians was rather dismissive because of their ignorance, their attitude towards the Czech was one of respect and sympathy. The Czechs' forefathers arrived in the vicinity of Mizoch about a hundred years ago, naked and impoverished, and were given barren soil from the government of the Russian czar, and neglected and forested land. They began uprooting the trees and preparing the land to be sown, and after years of intense labor, they turned their land into a luscious garden. The Czech villages excelled in their tidiness, beautiful houses, and blooming gardens, and they stood out due to their rich culture and high standard of living.

Almost all Czechs were rich and their villages stood in great contrast to the poverty-infested Ukrainian villages, where drunkenness prevailed and ignorance ruled. The Czech villages had model schools, drama troupes, bands, and various cultural and sports societies. They had given their youth education and knowledge and nurtured the values of their national culture and of the Czech language.

The Ukrainians were fiercely jealous of the Czechs but dared not lay a finger on them, for they knew the danger of provoking or harming a Czech person.

The Czechs were never patronizing toward their ignorant Ukrainian neighbors. On the contrary, they were always ready to share their experience and know-how about the farmland with their Ukrainian neighbors and teach them how to tend to the farming machines. They also knew how to raise sheep and cattle successfully and nurture fruit trees not indigenous to that location. They were never stagnant and were always interested in growing new species and plants. In this manner, they managed to pioneer and institute the growing of hops and clovers that were much needed for the developing industry, and these crops gave them great wealth. The bonds between the affluent Czechs and the Jews were tight and were beneficial to both sides.

The people of Mizoch were kind, caring, and always ready to lend a hand to those in need. With great generosity, they would give the needy help and aid – in a manner that would not cause disrespect.

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Sometimes it happened that an impoverished family refused a handout, and the experienced donors knew how to give their support in a way unknown to the receiver. Among those businessmen, I especially remember Rabbi Jonah Nemirover and among the women, Golda Chaim Yusis and Mirka, the rabbi's daughter. The number of those dealing with public affairs was great in Mizoch, but these were the ones that encouraged and urged those good deeds.

Many times, the Jews clashed with the law or the government and faced a heavy monetary penalty or incarceration. Here they were the beneficiary of the wisdom and prerogative of the experienced shtadlan[1] Rabbi Aaron Shnerick. He was like a member of the household of the pristav (the head of police) and knew how to bribe him and his officers and save Jews from all sorts of troubles and wrongdoings. Moreover, he managed to get the police to defend the Jews from all kinds of brutes and hooligans.

The danger was especially great for the Jews during times when local youth were recruited into the army; they would get inebriated, roam around the stores and take whatever they wanted without pay. They would also turn over shopping stands, and trample and beat Jews to their heart's desire. The police would turn a blind eye to these actions, and when the Jews complained, they would say that these boys were going to the front lines to die for their country and must be allowed to let off some steam. You Jews will lose some of your belongings, while they might lose their lives. Even if some kike gets beaten up, these follies should be ignored. Let the boys have their fun.

The new recruits always knew to pick on the weak Jews, and if they mistakenly came across young guys, they would get a beating and were thrown out of the store or tavern in disgrace.

Once a group of young recruits entered Flitter's kiosk, drank lemonade, and not only did they not pay, but they also started breaking the glasses and the furniture. Flitter had four young and strong sons, who subdued the hooligans and broke their bones. The hooligans called their friends for help, but they too were badly beaten and ran for their lives. A rumor spread among the recruits that the Jews were beating up the Pravoslavs. The police came and blamed the Jews for attacking the protectors of the Pravoslav homeland. All the evidence given was to no avail, and the whole thing could have ended in disaster, if it wasn't for Aaron Shnerick, who tipped the balance with the police in our favor with a decent bribe.

The police held the highest authority in the small towns, and the pristav who led it was an omnipotent ruler. Since Rabbi Aaron Shnerick could always bribe

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the pristav, the Jews in Mizoch were left to their own devices.

And then, in the year 1915, a new pristav came to our midst. He was a short man, with an imposing figure, wearing glasses and radiating pride. He invited the local dignitaries and told them he would not be prejudiced against any man and that it was his job to maintain law and order. All those who break the law will be punished to the full extent by him, and he is the last arbiter, for God resides in heaven, and the emperor lives afar in Moscow or Petrograd.

The Jews left in mourning, for they knew that even Rabbi Aaron could not help them this time, for this was a new pristav. A few brave ones tried to give the pristav expensive gifts the next day as a sign of goodwill, but they were expelled with disgrace and with a threat that if they ever attempted to bribe him again, they would stand trial.

The whole town was disheartened, and all were told of the bitter news that “Er nemt nisht[2[,meaning the new pristav does not accept bribes. How could they live when local youth were recruited into the army? They turned to Rabbi Aaron out of great desperation and begged him to save them and try to bribe the aggressor. Rabbi Aaron calmed them down and advised them to be extremely careful and try not to break any laws. He promised them that in due time he would crack that hard nut, but for now, they must have patience.

Rabbi Aaron began befriending the pristav and visited him using all sorts of reasons, and slowly became his friend and frequent visitor to his home. He would tell him about the pristavs who came to Mizoch penniless and left with great fortune. The pristav's wife would listen to these stories and utter a sigh. Once Rabbi Aaron took courage and asked the pristav why he didn't try to get rich and lived only on his small pay. The officer became angry with Rabbi Aaron and told him that he swore allegiance to the emperor to be loyal and do no foul. He wanted and would prefer to stay poor rather than break his solemn oath to the emperor and God. Rabbi Aaron explained himself and said bribing him didn't even come to mind, and he greatly appreciated his honesty and loyalty to the emperor. “But tell me, please,” added Rabbi Aaron, “did your wife also swear allegiance to the emperor?” The pristav understood the hint, and his face brightened: “That's it,” he said, “and I didn't even know there was a way out of this situation.”

Ever since then, the Jews of Mizoch were once again at peace. The pristav kept his word, and his wife received the bribe. Before any request to cancel a decree, Rabbi Aaron gave the pristav warm regards from his wife, and his appeal was promptly taken care of. Eventually, the Jews benefited from this pristav more than from the former. He even protected

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deserters, and for a monthly payment to him and his officers, they could walk about without fear.

One time, the Cossacks and the military police came to town searching for deserters. The peasants turned the Cossacks against the Jews and told them that the Jews hid their wares from the peasants and refused to sell, just hoarding money and evading the front lines. The peasants especially complained about the iron store owners, who sold plows, sickles, and other tools and now claimed they were out of stock. The Jews avoided selling their goods for several reasons. First, they feared robberies and riots. Second, inflation was at its peak at that time, the value of money plummeted, and new merchandise was hard to come by. As the day unfolded, the peasants mentioned Feigele Melamed-Nemirover's cellar, which was loaded with goods, and asked the Cossacks to break into it. They immediately started to do so. The basement was heavily fortified, had an iron door, and could not be easily breached. Feigele's son rushed to the pristav and asked for his help. The pristav ordered his officers to go and round up the Cossacks and bring them to him. The officers weren't keen on following that order, as they were ordered to retrieve the Cossacks by force if necessary. However, they feared disobeying their master's orders even more. The officers arrived at the scene on time before the assailants could breach the basement. They quickly dispersed the peasants and ordered the Cossacks to follow them to the pristav. The Cossacks cursed the officers and blamed them for protecting the Jewish profiteers exploiting the Pravoslav people. The officers stood their ground and held the Cossacks at gunpoint. Two of them mounted their horses and fled. Due to his arrogance or lack of choice, the third one confronted the pristav. The pristav and the Cossack had a bitter argument, as the Cossack bluntly told the pristav that while he was fighting on the front lines, the pristav sat at the rear and was in cahoots with the Jews and was getting fat. However, the pristav was not alarmed and ordered the Cossack to surrender his weapon. The Cossack refused, and the pristav proceeded to take his arms by force. At that point, the Cossack fell at the pristav's feet, begged for forgiveness and for his weapon to be returned. The pristav complied, and the Cossack rode away from Mizoch in disgrace.

The day of the revolution came. Rumors came to the town of the emperor's defeat and the rise of a new regime, but Mizoch still ran as usual. The pristav was the local lord with the police at his aid. Some tension filled the air, but it did not alter the regular course of life.

I remember a warm and nice Passover evening. The snow had thawed, the sun was shining,

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and the town was covered with mud. The pristav took a pleasant stroll on a sidewalk next to Rabbi Moses's house, and everyone tipped their hat at him as a sign of honor and cleared a path for him. Suddenly a young man of 17 came towards him, grabbed his suspenders, forcibly removed them, and shoved the pristav into a ditch. The young man left and the pristav was pulled from the ditch by Rabbi Moses and his wife. They took the pristav into their home, brought him water and soap, and cleaned the mud off him. The pristav was very depressed and kept mumbling about an upcoming holocaust. Since then, they all knew that the evil reign of the house of Romanoff was indeed defeated, and that the future was unclear and full of mystery.

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Yiddish for “intermediary” to “court Jew” Return
  2. Yiddish: ער נעמט נישט Return


Derman, the Village

by W. Sudgalter

Translated from Hebrew by Nida Kiali

Derman was a large and peaceful village. Bathed in green and residing between the woods of Bochtza on one side and the forests that stretched till Ostroh on the other. Its location – in the vicinity of the town of Mizoch.

Jews inhabited this village for many years. By the beginning of the last war, 15 families resided in the village, numbering 80 men, women and children. Administratively, the village was part of the Zdolbuniv district and the Jews were part of the Zdolbuniv community, but spiritually speaking, Derman was connected to Ostroh and Mizoch. The older children were sent to study at Ostroh and the younger were sent to Mizoch. As a result, these places had a substantial spiritual influence on the village.

The village's Jews were all kind and hospitable. They were also considered earnest and loyal in trading. They were alert and showed warmth in every matter of charity and were very generous in giving to various public support funds.

All Jews in Derman were in the business of leasing the many fruit gardens that were the village's main attraction and source of recognition, and trading in fruit. They were occupied with their commerce and worked most of the year to make an honest living.

The village was closely connected to Mizoch by rail and the fruit commerce was conducted at their train stations. Similarly, the youth found a place in Mizoch because the Zionist youth movements resided there: Beitar, Gordonia, Hashomer Haleumi, as well as strong parties from all Zionist factions. The youth from the village was drawn to the lively town and enamored by it. The children used to frequent the Polish public school, and a teacher from nearby Mizoch came to give them Hebrew and religion lessons. After graduation,

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most of them remained in the village and worked in the fruit trade business along with their parents and only a few were sent to study outside the village. Young people found satisfaction reading books and newspapers in Yiddish – the only bridge connecting the small village to the outside world. By reading the newspapers, they were informed of the Zionist initiative, development in the Land of Israel, and Aliyah.

Under the shroud of darkness that followed diaspora life, the burden of Polish regime taxes, and the hate of the Ukrainian neighbors – hidden and open – the Jews' lives in the village marched on. However, the few young people residing there were tired of this life and aspired to find a new one in the ancestral homeland.

When the war broke out, the Red Army marched into Volhynia. The adults kept to their fruit gardens and the new Russian regime gave the few young people jobs and positions. According to the letters received by the writer of these columns while the Soviets governed the village, it seemed that the Jews were well and were not threatened by the calamities that were the fate of other groups of Jews. But the good days were numbered and it didn't take long for the Germans to find the Jews, even in remote Derman. The Jews in the village did not follow the Red Army, as they continued to believe in the honesty and decency of the great enemies of that generation(?) and thus fell into the trap laid at their feet. The Ukrainians, who were almost unanimously gathered under the banner of Bandera (who fought for the independence of Ukraine), colluded with the Germans and were the very ones to annihilate the Jews under the protection and approval of the Nazis. At the beginning of October 1942, they gathered all the Jews in the village and sent them to Mizoch. They were then led in mid-October along with the Jews of Mizoch into the killing pits.

This date[1[ shall be written in blood – the day of the annihilation of the Jews in Mizoch, and its subsidiaries – along with the other dates of mass extermination of Jews by the Ukrainian and Nazi enemies. And my soul weeps over the innocent and naןve Jews of Derman who were slaughtered among millions of their Jewish brethren.

 

Translator's Footnote

  1. the third of Marheshvan Return

 

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