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My Little Town of Stolpce

by Ben Yerucham

Translated by Esther Libby Raichman

In my mind's eye, I see the small town of my birth - the streets, the houses with straw roofs, the market, the synagogue courtyard, the schools, the houses of prayer, the beautiful clear Niemen River, the large surrounding forests, the fragrant flowering fields, and above all, the genuine Jews, relatives, friends, the youth, and the children.


Our House

Ours was a wooden house, with a roof covered with shingles. Opposite our house was a well, with refreshing cold water, and behind the house, a large garden planted with potatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, carrots, and other vegetables.

For the winter, potatoes, barrels of pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut etc., were stored in the cellar.

In the winter, when there was a snowstorm, the snow would cover the doors and it was difficult to go outside. It was cold, dark, and gloomy. On those days we walked home from cheder at night with lanterns in our hands.

I remember Stolpce as a four-year old boy. My father Yerucham Charchurim, like many Stolpce Jews, emigrated to America. He was a presser (ironed clothes), saved a few dollars, returned to Stolpce and began to trade. In 1911, my father returned from America for the last time and rebuilt our house. The foundations were laid with large stones, and Jewish carpenters worked with large boards and built a house that was almost new, with flax stuffed between the cracks. In the winter, windows with double glazing were installed.

When the tiled oven was heated on a winter's day, it warmed the house. The Sabbath was enjoyable. On Friday night, the frost creaked, the snowstorm whirled, the windows were frozen, but the house was warm. The candlesticks stood on the table and the candles were lit. One could smell the strong aromas of cholent (a Sabbath stew), tzimmes (a sweet carrot stew), and gefilte fish. The family sat around the table and sang Sabbath hymns.

When the sanctity of Shabbat came to an end, potatoes were cooked with their peels, herring was fried with onion, the samovar stood on the table, and relatives and neighbors sat around the table and told stories. There was a knock at the door and the old Shlayme'tzke (Bruchansky) entered, covered in snow, frozen, with a shawl on his head. He shook off the snow and we invited him to sit at the table and warm himself with a glass of hot tea.

Shlayme'tzke was a Jew of over 100 years old. He was one of the Chappers[1] (snatchers), who kidnapped Jewish children as soldiers for the army of Tsar Nikolai where they served for 25 years. He would arrive the day before he intended to kidnap the children and announce that he was coming the next morning to take them. He was a simple Jew but full of life. When he sat at the table, he would begin to tell stories about a dying man, one who could have lived in the time of Napoleon. When Shlayme'tzke died, the whole town came to his funeral, and he was eulogized by the Rabbis.

Our little street, the so-called Galach'she street, later called Miskevitsh street, was beautiful in the springtime. Our Christian neighbors had orchards with cherry, apple, and pear trees. The train line ran close to our house, and the surrounding pastures were covered in green grass and flowers of various colors. Herds of cows and horses grazed, frogs croaked, beautiful butterflies flew, bees buzzed, and young horses neighed; the air was clean and pure, and the beauty of nature lifted one's spirits. The tall windmill stood at the entrance from the train station into the town. When I went with my father to grind corn in the windmill, I watched with great interest as the large stones turned and ground the dry corn. The

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Pekker family who owned the mill would drag the large sacks; just like the men, even their daughters, tall and healthy, dragged the heavy sacks. The tall windmill stood on a hill and when one went to the top of the hill, one could see the town of Stolpce. Looking towards Zadvorye, one would see fields filled with rye, oats, barley, and the golden stalks of wheat swaying like waves. Among them, rows of silver-colored fields, the snow-white flowering stalks, and everything blooming with a variety of colored flowers. In the distance, the clear Niemen River flowed, with the green water grasses and aromatic hay on its banks. Peasant farmers, men and women, could be seen cutting the grass and singing their folksongs.

To the east one could see the vast Artshechyer forests, and in front of them, Dovid Leib's (Sirkin) watermill.

We lived in peace with our White-Russian neighbors, and I loved to go fishing with Petra Bartashevitz. We would go behind the iron bridge to Swerznie, across beautiful grassy fields with a variety of colored flowers. The Niemen was beautiful, a flowing stream of clear water.

We would sit at the Niemen, surrounded by the scent of nature. We would attach a worm to the fishing line, throw it into the water, it would throb, and we often pulled out a sprat or a pike.



The Stolpce area was blessed with forests – on one side was the periphery of the large Naliboki virgin forest, and on the other side, the Artshechyer, up and other forests. Dense forests of pine, fir, and birch trees stretched for tens of kilometers. The pine and fir trees reached a height of 30 meters. The trees were cut down, bound with ropes into rafts, lowered into the Niemen River, and sent to Prussia. Many Jewish families made their living from the forests.

In the summer, as small children, we all went into the forests to gather berries, mushrooms, and raspberries. We left at dawn with the rising of the sun, with large baskets and pitchers in our hands, passed through the village of Artzshechi, and entered the large forest that stretched as far as Sverenovo. We walked barefoot on the moss, in the fresh air, and gathered blueberries and raspberries. When the pitchers were full, we lay on the moss to rest and looked up at the tall pine trees, the way they shook, and it seemed that they would fall at any moment. A nut tree grew on the side, and a small reddish-brown squirrel sprang from tree to tree gathering nuts for the winter. On the way back, after gathering the berries, we went through the Akintzitzer forests to gather mushrooms, gelinke lisitzes, Jewish mushrooms. A more pleasant pastime was gathering boletus, a good, meaty mushroom that was brown on top and white underneath, suitable for drying, and very tasty to eat. We filled our pockets and went back through the fields that were full of tall stalks of rye and wheat. We would come home late when it was already very dark.


The Windmill


The Stolpce surrounds created a love of nature and agriculture. My grandmother Malka worked in our garden. She sowed, planted, and weeded and loved to work with the soil. She was a quiet woman, and at 80 still worked in the garden. No curse ever passed her lips. She became blind at 90 and my mother Feigl, cared for her for many years and she lived to be close to 100.



The first Stolpce Jew to pinch my cheek was Arre (Arontshik) the wagon-driver. In his later years he would sit on an earthen bench at the home of his son Sholem and warm himself. When my father and I passed by, he stopped us, and told us stories about the past, how the Stolpce wagons used to travel all the way to Smolensk. He remembered how the rails were laid for the Warsaw-Moscow train line. At the time, the wagon-drivers

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protested as this would affect their income. There were Jews who were against building the train station near the town, as this would bring in lawlessness, and that the Russians would come … Many Jews were actually happy with this, as they felt that it would bring income into the town, and Arre said that once the train-line was operating, the wagon-drivers had even more work, and the town began to develop.

The second happy Jew was Sholem Pepke the hat-maker, who lived in our street. He was full of humor, a singer, and a joker, who lived in the house of Shaul the wagon-driver. He made hats from old materials – a wash, a press, and there was a new hat. It was interesting to see how Sholem Pepke measured a hat for a Gentile: “Vanka, you are handsome!” he would say, and when Vanka shouted that the hat was too big, Sholem pushed paper into the hat and the hat fitted. He wanted two Rubel for the hat and when the Gentile offered 60 Kopek, Sholem shouted to his wife: Congratulations, Vanka has a hat.

In the winter, in the time of the great frosts, people went to pray in the minyan[2] of Yenkl, son of Peishe (Bruchansky). The worshippers were mostly workers, artisans, tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths, and wagon-drivers.

I stood for many hours at Binyomin Tzertzes the blacksmith's forge, and watched how he pounded the hot, red iron. This was a difficult job, as were the lives of the artisans.

I remember the small, low houses of the two shoemakers, the brothers Avrom Meir and Shaul Izik Altman. Although they hammered one small nail after another, there was no bread in their house.

My aunt Devorah, wife of Yisroel Charchurim, lived on the corner of the small street. She was an energetic woman, small and thin, but full of life. Her husband was in America, and she raised her two children on her own and provided for them during the war. She was a glazier and would stand with a cigarette in her mouth, cut the glass with a diamond, then carried the pane of glass to the villages, and installed them there.

She worked in the villages of Zadvorye, Slabede, and Zasulye and when she delivered the panes of glass, she received flour and potatoes in exchange. This short, thin little Devorah dragged whole poods[3] of potatoes, rye and wheat. During the war, food was an important commodity and Devorah earned even more than capable men.

In the autumn rain, in the winter frost, in snow and blizzards, one would see Devorah with a large sack on her shoulder. Devorah was a working type, a folk person, and when she spoke, she used specific expressions and words.

A Stolpce Jew from New York brought me greetings – sometimes, he traveled in his car to a corner of New York. There he saw a lady from Stolpce, and to his great surprise, it was Devorah. She greeted him and dragged him into her apartment for latkes[4] and cream. She worked in agriculture around New York, until she was very old.

Chaim Lusterman who lived in Minsker Street was a fine Jew, intelligent in the full sense of the word, and a great scholar. He always sat in the large old synagogue, attending a Talmud lesson or studying a page of Gemara[5]. He would often subtly argue with the Rabbi and with the scholars. Besides giving a lesson at the societies “Ein Ya'akov” and “Midrash”, he was also a generous donor and donated an entire bookcase of the books Ein Ya'akov[6], Midrashim[7], and Yalkutim[8], to the large synagogue.

He had a large library in his home, the six books of the Mishnah, books of homiletic interpretations of the scriptures, and books in Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian. His wife Chanah was descended from a very distinguished family and was the opposite of her husband. She ran their business and was opposed to his scholarly pursuits. She would constantly shout: “Again with the books. For what purpose do I need your culture? Money and earning a living are more important!” – yet they never lacked an income. He never answered her and continued reading and studying. I studied together with his son and was a frequent visitor in their ancestral Jewish home – a samovar on the table, it is quiet, and the family is sitting and reading. The beautiful Chanah sat in a corner. She was a brunette, with beautiful dark, deep, cherry eyes, a head of dark hair with a stripe of white hair that she had from birth. This suited her and when she walked in the street, people stopped to look at her and envied her.

Chaim Lusterman was a Zionist and took part in various social activities. I remember the tragic end to the life of Lusterman's son - Yoel, who worked as secretary of the Stolpce community. When the Nazis took him for forced labor to the Baranowicz camp, it was told that he became swollen from hunger. There was not even a piece of linen in the camp to make a shroud in which to bury him. He was wrapped in paper cement sacks and brought to his eternal rest. Sonye and Yakov Lusterman were also extremely

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intelligent people, and both perished at the hands of the Germans.

Sorke Gershonovitshes' house was another warm Zionist home. The first Zionist meetings after the First World War, took place in Sorke's house, and the first Hebrew songs were also sung there. If one wants to describe a fine middle-class house of old Stolpce, there is none other than the Gershonovitsh'es house. By the light of the large lamp on the Sabbath table, people enjoyed themselves and discussed politics. Hertzl Gershonovitsh was an intelligent man who operated a business in forestry. He often visited Prague and brought something of Western culture into his home.

There were two extended, linked families: the Gershonovitshes and the Rozovskys. They were blessed with educated children – the intelligentsia of the youth during the First World War – speakers, artists, bearers of culture. The family was divided in their views: the Gershonovitshes were Zionists, and the Rozovskys supported world revolution. The sons of the Rozovskys were great leaders, speakers, and fighters in the Russian army. The Gershonovitshes all left for the Land of Israel. Their eldest daughter, Shoshanah, was the first Brigadier of Cheil Ha'chen[9]. The rest of their children were all active in the Haganah[10]. It is pleasing to remember and take pride in the fact that during difficult times for the Jewish community, Shoshanah carried weapons into the old city of Jerusalem. I remember the day when the people were expecting a pogrom by the Arabs. I spent the night with the family. The old mother Sorke woke her sons to go quickly to the old city. Sorke was widowed when she was young and had a difficult life, yet she raised her children to be educated and independent. This was the only complete Stolpce family to reach the Land of Israel.

Chaim Itshe Borsuk the teacher, with whom Zalman Shazar also studied, lived on Minsker street. The children from well-to-do homes studied with him as he was very knowledgeable and an expert on Talmud and Bible. Although he was from the old generation (born 1842), he brought enlightenment into our town. He was a fervent “Lover of Zion”, read Ha'tzefirah[11] and Ha'magid[12] and spread the idea of love of Zion. Chaim Itshe had many skills and was a man of many talents.

He came from an extensive family of Rabbis, artists and bearers of culture – a chain of generations that extended all the way to Italy for about a thousand years. His great-grandfathers were descended from Rabbi Noach Mendes of Slutzk, may the memory of this righteous man be a blessing, the author of “Sefer Nifla'ot Chadashot U'parpar'ot V'chochmah[13] and Rabbi Gershon the Chassid[14] from Shklov. His grandfather Reb Itshele, who carved the cherubs, the animals, and artistic letters that drew everyone's attention, in the old Stolpce Kalter synagogue, also planned to carve a model of the Temple out of wood and he worked on it for many years.

Chaim Itshe was one of the first founders of the library[15]. At that time, it was considered impious, and he had disputes with the Rabbis about it. He was active in various institutions, such as “Gemillut Chasadim[16], “Ozer Dalim[17] etc. His entire family gathered together for the Passover seder[18] and solemnly celebrated it. He would say to his grandchildren: “You will live to see the land for which I strove and hoped, but I am a little late for that”. When a communal worker representing Keren Ha'y?esod[19], came to the town to collect money for “Keren Ha'zahav[20], many gave their jewelry, and Reb Chaim Itshe removed his watch, an old antique that was very precious to him, and donated it in support of the fund.

When the Stolpce Rabbi, Rabbi Lieberman, commented on the fact that he was giving money to the heretics, Reb Itshe replied that he believed in the Messiah, and that we must assist in the coming of the Messiah, and by settling the land, we bring his arrival closer.



Every town has a place for which it is known. Yurzdikke was later the site of the ghetto. From here our precious 3000 Jews were taken to their grave.

For many generations, Yurzdikke represented the Stolpce toilers, the common people, the Jews who were boat-builders, blacksmiths, carpenters, wheelwrights, and bricklayers.

The Yurzdikke children were friends – the little Shlaymelech and Yenkelech, all were dressed in pants with a split, with a small tail trailing behind, and the boys were not very hygienic. Even the Gentile boys were afraid of the Yurzdikke boys.

The barns of the peasant farmers stretched on the mountain behind Yurzdikke, There were beautiful fields around the brickyard, and on Sabbath afternoons, people went there for a walk. Couples in love always spent time there.

If a prank was played, it was assumed to be someone from Yurzdikke.

Here are a few of the types of ordinary people from Yurzdikke:

Ruvele the wagon-driver – once, when he became angry with a prominent member of the Stolpce community, Ruvele took his he-goat and

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Shmererl Esterkin boards up the house for the winter


put a white sheet on it, and on the night of the Passover seder, took the goat to the door of the man. When the words “pour out your wrath” were read, and the homeowner opened the door, Ruvele twisted the goat's tail and it jumped wildly onto the table, broke the four cups, and frightened and confused the guests. Ruvele stood outside and laughed.

On market days when peasants would attack Jews, Ruvele would put a knife in his boot, and a revolver in his pocket, and woe to the peasants who dared to do something bad to a Jew.

Shoshe Inzelbuch, a learned young woman, was descended from an extended family of Rabbis. When she was young, she fell in love with a worker and married him against her parents' wishes. Her husband died at a young age and as a poor widow, she raised her children.

One would see Shoshe standing at dawn and kneading her dough. Her goat ran in and licked the dough with great pleasure. Shoshe chased her out and said: she came to take challah[21].

When a mosquito once flew into my eye, I went to Shoshe the baker. She was a specialist. With her large red tongue, she licked the mosquito out, and Shoshe became an “eye doctor”.

Yurzdikke typified the working masses, the hard-working people. The town was close to the Niemen, with large forests around it. Here beams of wood were lowered and taken to Konigsberg. Boats were built in Stolpce, the type of boat that would go as far as Prussia. Jewish carpenters and repairmen worked on the banks of the Niemen, near Velvl Tunik's house. On one's way to swim in the Niemen, one would hear the banging of hammers and axes and often, also an argument, a fight: Getzl Zlotnik (Boruch's son) the caulker[22], arguing about the location and translation of a verse in the Bible. I recall that before the First World War, Berel Chashe, Bryne's son, one of the most important caulkers, was killed when a boat fell on him. He was a hero, young, handsome, and tall.

The Bund[23] was active in spreading its doctrine among the working masses. On the 1st of May, the artisans gathered at the premises of Yisroel Rozovsky's the carpenter, where they drank a toast with vodka, and Chaim Dvoretzky the pharmacist, delivered a speech about socialism.

The speeches about socialism were presented by the Bund leaders, the intelligentsia of the town, nevertheless they were children of middle-class families and were involved in trade.

No leaders were manifest among the workers, but their children read a great deal and preached socialism. I will focus on two of them: Zecharye Rozshansky and Mulye Kaplan.

Zecharye was the son of a wagon-driver, from a poor home. I remember his small house near Binyomin the

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Leaders of the Bund
From right: Mulye Kaplan, Zecharye Rozshansky, Gershon Tzertzes


blacksmith's forge. When you entered the house that was two meters high, it was as if you were holding up the ceiling. Zecharye sat in a corner reading a Yiddish book. When Zecharye spoke at a meeting, he spoke from the depths of his heart, demanding justice and action in establishing a new society. Mulye Kaplan was different. He was a carpenter, hardworking since childhood, but he learned a great deal, not in a secondary school or a university, but from his experience and his practical way of life. Mulye Kaplan sat day and night and read and studied – he read almost all the books in the Stolpce library and knew all the Yiddish classics by heart. He was not a speaker as he had a speech defect. He had studied Marx and Lenin and took part in debates where he explained socialism scientifically. He was a member of the Bund from birth, devoted to his party and actively participated in all cultural institutions: in schools, in the library and in cultural work.

In the summer of 1935, I visited my town of Stolpce for the last time. Once while walking alone over the bridge one evening, Mulye Kaplan followed me for a long time but did not dare to approach me. I stopped him. His first question was whether the land of Israel would solve the Jewish question. He added, that even if the answer was ‘yes’, and the Land of Israel took in a million Jews, what would happen to the remaining 14 million? That was in the year 1935 when Hitler had already begun to persecute the Jews, and it already reeked of war. I said to Mulye: if we, in our generation, could even bring two million Jews to the Land of Israel and make them productive – that too, is worthwhile. We had an extensive discussion about the Arab question, Hebrew, Yiddish, imperialism, and independence. The man was well-versed in all topics.


The Market Day

The greater part of the Jewish population of Stolpce, as well as those in the surrounding small towns, were involved in trade.

I can still recall the scene in Stolpce on a market day; wagons arrive, rye is brought uphill and downhill. The best products were brought from all corners of the town: wheat, cows, horses, sheep, calves, vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, and precious stones; some items were brought by wagon, some carried on shoulders. People are walking, some barefoot and before entering the town, some put on their boots and others, their bast shoes.[24]

The wheels of the watermill turn the clear water in the lake, and the stone grinds the wheat.

At a distance, among the tall trees, stands the old Dovid Leib Sirkin with his white beard – the head of the large synagogue. The peasants greet him in Polish with “good day”. Wagons are moving quickly in from Minsker Street as everyone wants to secure a spot at the market.

The market is crowded, a commotion, a noise, a tumult: horses are neighing, cows are mooing, beggars are singing, the organ releases its sounds, the shops are full of customers, all buying and selling. The taverns are full of peasants sitting in groups, drinking together with the women, kissing, and fighting.

Abba, Yedidya's son, is sitting and selling clay pots. His children around him may do no harm come to them, are waiting for their father to earn something, then he will buy a loaf of bread and they will pinch pieces off, bit by bit.

Russak the policeman, who speaks Yiddish, walks around the wagons, organizes the traders, and indicates where each needs to stand. Shoshe, daughter of Meishke (Aginsky), argues with him, half in Russian and half in Polish “My Moshe placed it here”, but Russak is not interested and tells her to move the wagon further away.

In the great din at the market, something new is taking place in the town: Minde is fighting with Chantze's daughter Chaya, over a customer. Yonah Shapiro is not concerned about the whole matter and calmly measures a piece of calico for a blouse for a non-Jewish girl.

Fighting was a regular phenomenon on a market day. Even relatives fought over a sale that would earn them an income: Minde with Chaya, Yokl with his brothers, Yerucham with Devorke. The peasants sell all their merchandise and then buy from the shops. In the evening, when everyone is worn out, they begin to disperse, and the Stolpce garbage men come to collect buckets of refuse. Shmuel Tunik is standing and talking to Tevele on the porch of Tanchum, son of Eli Shaul (Shulkin). Shmuel Tunik, a strong, tall, handsome man, is chief of the firemen. When he was dressed in his uniform, one might think that he is a Jewish General.

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A Market Day


Tevele the watercarrier, a small man, a thin little Jew, who could not hear and did not speak well, complained to Shmuel Tunik that he had not earned anything on that market day. Shmuel shouted into his ear that a wedding was taking place that week and he would be able to earn something.

On the second porch, belonging to Elyakim Milcenzon, women are talking about Lippe Danzig's bargain: he bought a chicken for five zlottes but being afraid of his wife Chanah, he told her that the chicken had only cost three zlottes. When a woman offered Chanah four zlottes, she sold the chicken – ‘a penny saved is a penny earned’.

Bryna and Freida, spinsters in their seventies, are standing with brooms and sweeping their spot. They did not marry because they were of aristocratic lineage, descendants of Tzion-Ber, and as a result, they were unable to choose a suitable groom. One of their sisters married the Dukorer Rabbi whose children were the Tsharni brothers – one of whom was the famous writer and critic Sh. Niger, and the other Vladek, the famous leader of the Bund.

Jews are standing, calculating, dividing their income, continuing their rivalry and their partnerships. One of the respected Stolpce Jews, Yitzchak Shmuel, a peacemaker, would intervene in every dispute and put out the fires of conflict. He was truly one of the 36 righteous ones[25]. If he heard that someone did not have food to eat, he would immediately, quietly take them food. If a wedding had to be prepared for a poor bride,


Feigl Charchurim   Yerucham Charchurim

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Eliyahu and Roshke Machtey with their children:
Berel, Chaim-Yitzchak, Rivkah, Penina, Chaya, Rochel, Shirke


Yitzchak Shmuel raised the money. If he needed to take a pood[26] of flour to a poor widow, and his son offered to take it, Yitzchak said ‘no’ – only he must deliver it – one needs to know how to give to someone, not embarrass them, G-d forbid. If someone approached him for an interest-free loan and he did not have the money, he would borrow from a neighbor to give the person the loan.

He would always bring food to Jewish people in prison. Once, when he brought food to the prison, the policeman said: “Mister Rabbi, there are no Jews here today”. He answered: “I brought food for people; if there are people here, I want to leave the food for them”, and he left the food for the Christians.


The Great Stolpce Fire in 1915

Fires often occurred in Stolpce. Every few years there was a fire. People's ages and calendar dates of events were calculated according to the dates of the fires. When older Jews told of events, they said: it happened before the great fire or after the small fire.

Reb Betzalel (Tzalke) the teacher, was a thin man, a devoted Jew. When he was old, my father still studied with him. Poverty reigned in his small prayer house. Shirke his daughter, tended the goats and Sorre Chanah sold bagels.

Reb Betzalal the teacher educated his students to do good deeds, and frequently raised the concepts of heaven and hell.

We studied until late at night in the winter and went home with lanterns in our hands. When the teacher fell asleep at the table, we would sneak out and go to Zshave's hill where we rode our sleds. We dragged them up the hill and they flew down hill on their own. If the sleds turned over, we would be happy. If we had the opportunity to sneak out of the cheder[27] in the summer, we ran to swim in the Niemen River. Swimming in the Niemen was a delight. When one of us was drowning, Kastzye, who spoke Yiddish like a Jew, would always come to their rescue.

As mentioned, we sat at a table and studied. The students that I remember were: Pinne Tunik (Zshave's), Leibl Garmizze, Shmerel Rozovsky (Tzippe's). Once, when we were studying the weekly Torah portion “B'ha'alotcha et ha'nerot[28], we suddenly heard a noise, the bells were ringing – Stolpce was burning. We saw the fire from the west side, from Eli-Yonah Kitayevitshe's sawmill. I ran there, the sky was red, and thousands of beams and boards were burning.

The firemen were standing at the fire, spraying water with their hoses, but it was like a drop in the ocean. Shmuel Tunik, the chief fire officer, gave the order to try and extinguish the fire on one side, but it was burning on the other side – the fire was uncontrollable.

The wind that was blowing from the Zayamne side, cast the flames over the center of the town that was inhabited mostly by Jews.

I ran home quickly. The town was already burning in several places. The Christians all had horses and transported their belongings outside of the town. Jews carried their belongings in their hands, dragging items like pillows, blankets and furniture. Feathers were flying, screams were heard, crying, a mother has lost her child, she faints, convulses.

We lived outside the town, so we ran to save the possessions of our relatives. Even small children helped.

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Sorre Chanah his wife   Tzalke the teacher


The Bund Football Team

First row from right: A. Mirrer, Aharon Bruchansky, Yirmiyahu Rozovsky
Second row from right: Tzvi Zuchovitzky, Yehuda Borsuk, Chaim Kaplan
Third row standing: Iddel Kukish, Meir Rabinovitz, Yakov Neifeld, Yosef Tzertzes, Avrom Altman

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In the center of the town, the market was burning. Jewish possessions went up in smoke. Women stood and screamed and wrung their hands, and older Jews ran to the synagogue to save the Torah scrolls. With devotion and pride, they carried the Torah scrolls that they had saved, as well as daily prayer books, prayer books for the High Holy days, books of the Talmud etc.

In the evening, firemen from the entire district arrived, from Koydanov, Horodzei, and Mir. The wind subsided and the fire was brought under control. In the morning I went to see the devastation. More than half the town had been consumed by the fire and smoke still rose from the extinguished embers. Women and men sat and lamented their misfortune. Jewish toil, blood and sweat, went up in smoke. Older people and children remained sleeping outdoors. Seven to eight families were taken into each of the remaining houses. The destruction was extensive.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. Chapper – a man paid to kidnap young Jewish boys as recruits for the Tsar's army. (in Russia 1825-1855). Return
  2. A minyan – a quorum of 10 men required for communal prayer. Return
  3. A pood – an old Russian measurement of weight. Each pood weighed 36 pounds or 16 kilos. Return
  4. Latkes – potato pancakes. Return
  5. Gemara – meaning ‘completion.’ It is the second part of the Talmud, providing a commentary on the first part, the Mishnah. Return
  6. Ein Ya'akov – a collection of legends and homilies from the Talmud by Rabbi Ya'akov, son of Shlomo Ibn Haviv 16th-17th centuries. Return
  7. Midrashim – Biblical commentaries. Return
  8. Yalkutim – books of legends. Return
  9. Cheil Haçhen – the women's corps of the army in the Land of Israel. Return
  10. Haganah – voluntary Jewish self-defense organization established in Palestine against Arab attacks during the British Mandate. Return
  11. Ha'tzefirah – Hebrew daily newspaper. Return
  12. Ha'magid – Hebrew daily newspaper. Return
  13. Sefer Nifla'ot Xhadashot U'parpar'ot V'chochmah – the book of new wonders and intellectual discoveries. Return
  14. Chassid – a very pious Jew, a follower of Chassidism. Return
  15. The library housed books of a general nature, not only religious books. Return
  16. Gemillut Chasadim – a charity organization assisting the needy. Return
  17. Ozer Dalim – assisting the poor. Return
  18. The seder – the festive meal eaten on the first two nights of Passover. Return
  19. Keren Ha'yesod – Jewish Foundation Fund. Return
  20. Keren Ha'zahav – the Golden Fund. Return
  21. Taking challah – a ritual assigned to women who baked bread. It consisted of saying a blessing before removing and burning a symbolic piece of dough. Return
  22. A caulker – a person who sealed the wooden beams that were used to build the boats. Return
  23. The Bund – Jewish socialist party founded in 1897, influential in Russia and particularly in Pland until the Second World War. Return
  24. Bast shoes – shoes woven from coarse hemp. Return
  25. Lamed Vav tzaddikim - 36 righteous people. According to legend, there are always 36 righteous people believed to exist secretly in the world. Return
  26. A pood – a Russian measure of weight. Return
  27. Cheder – religious elementary school for boys. Return
  28. Be'ha'alotcha et ha'nerot – quotation from Numbers, the 4th book of the Torah, meaning “when you light the candles”. Return


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