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[Page 12]

From Darkness to Light

by Rabbi Reb Abraham Shmuel Samuels,
Rabbi of the Jewish Community School Beit Abraham
530 East 146th Street, Bronx

“Mourn as for an only son, most bitter lamentation.”
Lamentations for Tisha Bov, from Jeremiah 6:26
The tragedy that struck the Jewish people in our time is so immense that it is almost impossible to comprehend the size of the destruction. The saying goes, “One cannot see the trees because of the forest.”

When one utters “six million victims,” the words have no impact on our being. What is missing in the unfortunate context of the amount, are the words “bitter lamentation.” Therefore to fully understand this tragedy, we must do as Lamentations advises us: 'Mourn as for an only son, most bitter lamentation.”

In our descriptions in the journal of our fraternal society, we dwell on individual characters, episodes, pictures of life in our little towns. We depict the Jews and the Jewish life of our friends and relatives in Visoke and Volchin, who lived and are no longer there. We are doing important and praiseworthy national labor, because this helps make the entire impact of the Jewish tragedy more vivid and more meaningful for our future.

For two thousand years we have recited lamentations on destructions. True, it did not please the cynics who laughed on Tisha Bov at the lamentations over age-old troubles. These same cynics, if they have even the slightest intelligence, will have to admit that if the United Nations finally decided that we should be given a small state in Eretz Israel, it is only because of the lamentations we have been reciting for the past two thousand years. Our bonds to Zion, and our consistent lament over these destructions, strengthened our position as a nation and finally led to world recognition.

The present destruction of the Jewish people, if it is to be properly understood and lamented by those of us who have survived, as the Prophet Zachariah says: [?] “And the land should lament individual families separately… for all the families that have survived.” Only in this way, as we have mentioned, can we properly express the meaning of this tragedy, can we expect and hope that the evil, the malice which made possible this present destruction, could disappear entirely from the world.

[Page 13]

I remember a jesting remark made to my aunt Etel (the Volchiner Rabbi's daughter) on my last visit to Volchin in the winter of 1915.

One evening at the end of the month, my aunt Etel and I went for a walk. As you recall, there were no streetlights in Volchin at that time. An ordinary event occurred: we walked into deep mud covering our shoes. We took this good-naturedly and I remember saying in jest: “Well Etel, I am leaving and will not return until there will be lighting on the streets of Volchin.”

I do not know why this innocent remark has remained so deeply engraved in my memory that when I speak about Volchin this incident immediately comes to my mind.

Maybe because that joking promise became a reality. Now I will never be able to return to Volchin. Maybe because in the Volchin of my childhood, that Volchin of beautiful Jews, her holy synagogue, her house of worship, home of the Rabbi, Hassidic shtiblech [prayer houses], it is now dark even in the daytime.... Maybe?

Will the darkness never disappear? One of our holy prophets, who also predicted this present tragedy (Zechariah 14:7) assured us, “At evening time there shall be light.”

We can and we must help this prophecy become a reality: the memory of these holy, bright souls, annihilated by dark, evil forces, should and must motivate us and give us the strength to bring light to our people and to the whole world: “In evening time, there will be light.”

vys013.jpg School in Volchin before the Holocaust [45 KB]
School in Volchin before the Holocaust,
maintained by our local [U.S.] relief organization


[Page 14]

vys014.jpg Journal Committee [45 KB]
Journal Committee

From Left to Right: Morris Gevirtz, Mrs. Fannie Yudin, Hyman Gevirtz
Standing: Samuel Levine, Louis Weiner
Camera Shy: Mrs. Rose Kravitz


[Page 15]

God Is Crying...

by Morris Gevirtz

Translated by Ite Doktorski

Dedicated to the holy memory of our martyrs of Visoke-Litovsk and Volchin who perished so gruesomely at the hands of the Nazi murderers in the month of Elul 1942. Jewish Volchin found its end in a common grave in the outskirts of town and Jewish Visoke-Litovsk found its end in the lime kilns of Treblinka.


When the author heard the terrible news about “the other side” [the yener zayt, the hometowns on the other side of the ocean], he aged a hundred years. He felt he had lost his inner balance and found no way to restore it.

He falls asleep and hears God's voice saying He saw him searching in the mountains of ashes and that is why He asks him to transmit His message to his brothers and sisters.

The author is glad to meet God face-to-face so he can air his reproaches and blame Him for all He has done in these recent years to the Jewish people. The author knows what punishment awaits him for this blasphemous talk: torture in hell, all eternity in purgatory; but it does not frighten him at all. How much does this matter when weighed against the fear our families felt inside the gas chambers? With what measure can the frightful depth and pain of that moment be measured? He addresses God: “Can You, God, affirm with a clear conscience, that You had no part in bringing about the death of six million innocent victims?”

At this precise moment, he hears the Divine Presence crying for the terrible fate of His Chosen People ....

God replies that He had warned us before in history; Rabbi Akiva urging the people to defend themselves, not to go like sheep to the slaughter and be crushed like worms crawling on the ground. He showed the way to America, to Israel, to other places....

And then the author saw his mission carved in letters of fire on the wall:

Don't repeat your ancestors' mistakes; don't build only for today but build also for tomorrow; don't allow somebody else to decide your fate; keep united. Only in those circumstances will the House of Jacob be rebuilt.


[Pages 16 -18]


[Transcriber's note: The text of pages 16-18 continues on very repetitively and has been summarized here, above]

[Page 19]

Visoke-Litovsk Survivors

Translated by Ite Doktorski

Shama Gilman, Moshe Petlux's grandson
Abraham Melamed, Arashe's son
Pesach Winagrad, Yuskiel, the porridge maker's grandson
David Wolf, Itke Solomon's son
Berl Dubnevsky, Yona, the baker's son
Motel Kolner, Borech Talitse, the blacksmith's son
Simcha Zayantz, Talye's son
Azriel Kaplan, Itke Leye's grandson
Shlomo Kantorwich, Velvel Preis's grandson
Yankel Pintchuk, Ares's son
Laybel Goldfarb, Itshe Motel's grandson
The Rabbi's grandson
Enya Vodanas, Kalman Laybe's daughter
Chaim Vodanas, Zavi's son
Alexander Dirdak
Aaron Kostitsky
Ester Rosental, from the nearby shtetl of Rasne
Yankev Dubitsky
Malka Dvora Sokhalitsky
Velvel Epstein
Yoel Gotshal, the locksmith's grandson
Henrik Holtz

Volchin Survivors

Yolke Abe's grandchild
Idl Schuster's son
Meir Schneider's son
Pulke's son
Moishe Miller's grandson
Khaye Tevye's son
Borekh Melamed's grandson
Shye Note's son
Shloime Milshtein
Elye Mordkhe's son

[Page 20]

Hymie Gevirtz, Our President

Some of His Features

by Samuel Levine

Translated by Ite Doktorski

vys020.jpg Hymie Gevirtz, Our President [8 KB]


Everybody in the landsmanshaft knows him. Most of them know him through the Wysokie Society where he holds a record-breaking term as President. Others know him through his activities as Chairman of the former Woltchiner Relief and as the actual Chairman of the United Wisoko and Woltchiner Relief. Some others, through other community work.

But actually, only a small number of people know him as he truly deserves to be known. And that is the reason why he has supporters and detractors, as is usually the case with those who stand at the helm. To some others, he is like an unanswered question, and this undecided opinion about him doesn't help them either in their relentless search for an answer. He is honest and straightforward, so they ask themselves: Does he really mean it? Or does he just do it to show off so that he can earn more honors?

In the following few lines I'll try to answer some of these questions, with the hope that the future will bring the opportunity to say all that deserves to be said about him.

He is temperamental by nature; he gets easily upset and gets angry quickly. But, if you get to know him, you won't feel scared. On the contrary, you will even find justification for his bursts of anger. Getting angry is really his shout of protest against passivity, against remaining aloof. Especially now, when in every area there is so much work to be done. One cannot say about him that good luck or fate put him where he now is, at the helm, without deserving it, like it happens to some around here.... He climbed up the ladder step by step, with heavy efforts, until he reached the place that he now occupies.

This fact is known to everyone: The path to community work is not strewn with roses. In many instances, people are not grateful no matter what you do. On the contrary, you will be accused of acting out of self-interest.

The case of Hyman Gevirtz is no exception. We know of instances when others bitterly opposed him, making false and ridiculous accusations without any justification whatsoever. And how did he react? There are moments in a person's life when you can see him in all his glory. In an instant he can rise to the stature of a giant or, on the contrary, sink to the lowest depths....

[Page 21]

And here is how fate played a trick on them: This same person who had aggravated him suddenly needed help. Hyman Gevirtz knew that help could reach this person only through him. What would you say? Should he be angry? Rest assured. His anger disintegrated like a soap bubble. Everything was done as quickly as possible to help this person.

If somebody, God forbid, dared to say to him: “That one was not such a big friend of yours! Why do you try so hard to help him?” Well, well! You didn't need much more in order to get this answer: “This is my motto: When somebody reaches out for help, all is forgotten.” If this is not the nicest and brightest thing in a man, tell me then what is....

Truthfully, doing many times more than what his circumstances and even his health would allow was certainly not for the purpose of being honored. There are always people who appreciate his work and reward him with small banquets and, sometimes, with very big banquets. (And I assure you that he does not seek them.) His satisfaction from helping his fellow human being is his biggest reward. It inspires him and provides him with the necessary driving force for the tasks that lie ahead.

I wish him good health and lots of energy to continue the good work for many, many years to come.

vys021.jpg Dora Gold and Sarah Feinberg [21 KB]
Dora Gold and Sarah Feinberg
Active members in the last Wisoko Relief


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