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[Page 103]

Yed0103.jpg
A group of women activists welcoming refugees of the violence in Ukraine who arrived in town in 1920-21

The second from the right in the middle row in the white shirt is Mrs. Dora Gurfinkel. Most of those in the photo are refugees and their children.
[Yiddish:] The photo was sent by Dr. Meir (Mirontshik) Gurfinkel (Rio, Brazil)

 

[Page 105 - Yiddish] [Page 49 - Hebrew]

Jews and Christians – The Relationship between Neighbors

by Mordechai Reicher

Translated from the Yiddish by Pamela Russ

In the edge of the town, particularly in the southern and eastern parts, lived the Christian population, totaling about five or six thousand souls. These people were comprised of several ethnic groups. Among them were the Katzapkes [translator's note: “goatees”, Ukrainian slur against Russians and their beards], who lived mainly on Katzapka Street; they were Russian Orthodox but belonged to a special section. Nearby lived the gypsies on their street, and more to the east lived the Moldavians.

When you crossed over the Jewish settlement and went into the Christian quarter you had the feeling that you were in a typical Christian village settlement because of its exterior appearance and because of the general atmosphere that prevailed there. The small houses were mainly short, built from bricks of clay, with small windows, and straw roofs. In the length, the front walls of the houses were wide, with limestone pathways and blue and pink stripes, and over them, under the roof, dried watermelon seeds were hanging tied onto threads.

The streets were very quiet, soaked in the village atmosphere. There were courtyards around the streets (they were called “Abores”) and gardens, flowers, and all kinds of fruit trees; in each yard, there was a barn with a cow or two, a chicken coop, a pigeon coop, and on special wooden scaffolds hung all kinds of milk pots and urns.

Understandably, there were no highway roads there, just as there were none in the Jewish neighborhoods. But because of that, there were many ditches and holes because of the frequent wagon stops, and there was a lot of mud in winter and spring which during the summer changed into hard lumps of earth or thin dust.

The proximity of the two sections of the population was not only geographical: between the two sections, there was a business relationship and a certain social connection.

[Page 106]

Truthfully, when a Jew, whether a young boy or an adult wandered into the Christian quarter, he did not feel at ease. On the other hand, the Christians felt quite fine among the Jews.

The Christian church, literally, held itself above the heart of the Jewish section of the city and its gilded crosses shone brilliantly against the sun's rays. Most of the stalls of fruits and vegetables in both markets, those at the church and those in the western part of town (the “upper Tarhowice”), belonged to the Christians. In particular, the most noticeable stalls were those that sold pork meat, and their owners were the so-called “chazernikes” (“pig people”). The city Christians were also those who brought in wagonloads of watermelons, apples, plums, and grapes (red wine grapes) or with beets and melons for the animals.

If this was a daily activity, then for sure, this was the same at the fairs and on market days. What did they not bring to sell at the market! Chickens, eggs, produce, potatoes, etc. were available at the market. The area was too small to accommodate all the merchants and the customers. One rubbed against the other. They bought and they sold. Among the tumult, the cries of the “merchandise” and its price, deafened the ears.

Certainly, the local Christians let us remember that the farmers from the surrounding areas played an important role on a basic level of the economy of the city. A large part of the Jews earned their income from their Christian customers. To acquire clothing, shoes, haberdashery, baked goods, tobacco, and alcoholic drinks, the Christians had to come to the Jews. However, the construction work right up to the painting was completely in the hands of the Christians. No Jew could build anything without them.

The Christians also conducted service jobs on the side for the Jews. They provided musicians for weddings: those who were familiar with specific, pleasant melodies for a Jewish wedding when the bride was taken to and from her canopy.

[Page 107]

The morning after the wedding, the Christian musicians also escorted all the family members to their homes. The moving music from the gypsy fiddlers Ivanitza and Vanya “Pudelyak” while the badchan (translator's note: “entertainer”) Sholom Parikmakher “seated” the bride [on her special wedding chair] before going to the wedding canopy touched the hearts of all those present and brought them to tears.

To provide historical accuracy, we cannot forget that when we speak of performers and musicians, we also must mention Mottel the “klezmer”, who whistled on a flute, and his son Zalman, who already had gone to the big city to study music and who completed the conservatory and returned to town as a total fiddler playing wonders with his fiddle.

Also, the “Purim players” were comprised of Christian musicians. They used to pass through the Jewish homes during the Purim feast and the next day, following the night of Purim. They played at the time of bringing in a new Torah scroll into a Chassidic court, or into a Beis Medrash (Study Hall). They also accompanied with music the showing of a film (before the talking films appeared in town) in the two movie halls in town (they were called “Lizian” – from “illusions”). First, they would play outside at the entrance of the hall to draw a crowd to the performance. They also did not miss any other shows, balls, and other social presentations.

And there were also a few services side jobs which the Christian neighbors carried out in the town's activities. We want to mention some of them: He was the postman; he was the one who heated the oven in the winter Sabbath early mornings in the Jewish homes; he was the cowherd for the herd of cows, and every morning you could see him leading them out to the pasture outside the town; he was the guard of the Jewish cemetery; other than the payment that he received from the chevra kadisha [“burial society”], he would go to the Jewish homes every Shabbat and collect a full sack of bread, Shabbat challah, and other leftovers from the Shabbat tables. The guard also had the sole right to buy off the chametz (leavened food forbidden on Passover) on the eve of Passover; he would guard the memorial candles lit in the courtyards on Shabbat and the Jewish holidays so that G-d forbid, there should be no fires.

Even though the relationship between both neighbors was so close, truthfully, the Jew did not feel very secure in the exclusive company of his Christian neighbors and would guard himself to not go alone in their streets. The Christian troublemakers would tease him and curse him. The name “Zhid” [“Jew”] was strongly used by them.

[Page 108]

They would also throw stones or set the dogs on those who fell into their space.

There is more. Although their church stood proudly practically in the heart of the Jewish section of town and proudly looked down upon the Jewish people in the close and distant surroundings, Christians would come there often, crossing through the Jewish streets of the town, and the Jews held themselves back strongly from entering the church and were even afraid to have a look inside to see what was going on. Forget about the times of the Christian holidays. When a procession of theirs would go through the streets, with the priests at the head dressed completely in their service clothing, holding the holy crosses in their hands, the Jews stood at the edge of the streets watching from afar and did not dare to get closer to them. On the night of Rodzhestva (Russian Christmas) or Kreczun (Romanian Christmas) when the Christians would go through the streets of the city carrying with them the holy water (for converting the Jews) and when the church bells rang and announced the “resurrection of god,” the Jews sat in their houses with real fear in their hearts. The Jews themselves, other than those who lived in the nearby streets and close areas to the Christian neighborhood, rarely came into their company. Only once a year, during their Easter, the town Jews, young and old, streamed to the gypsy street to watch and enjoy their festivities. In those days, they would put up the large swing. There were all kinds of shows there. They would eat the colored eggs, the watermelons, and the orchestra would play; and the youth would go out for some folk-dancing.

The Christian girls, the shiksas (young girls), and particularly the Katzaps, used to wear flowery clothing. Colored, satin ribbons decorated their braids which hung down their moving bodies.

Truthfully, the Jewish youth was drawn there during their free time. And let it remain between us: There waited another type of “show” for the young men: a “natural” celebration.

The material situation, the houses, the wealth, and the lifestyle of the Jews, if not for all, evoked a lot of jealousy from the Christian neighbors and many of them harbored evil plans in their hearts and waited for the day when they would be able to have a pogrom and steal all the Jewish possessions: “Come with the sacks and then rob them” was their line.

[Page 109]

During each political or social upheaval that came to Russia and Bessarabia: why would our neighbors not use this “opportunity” to make things more “exciting”? This is how it was in the years 1887 and 1904-1905: there were pogroms and Jewish stores, and homes were robbed.

The pogrom of 1917 is still fresh in the collective memory. It was during the time of a government change, before the Russians left, and before the Romanians arrived: the year of robbery, destruction, and murder in 1941.

A special nest for the poisoners against the Jews was the theological seminary of the priests (the “Seminaria”).

[Page 110]

The hundreds of students and their teachers, their fiery meetings, and their parades in the colorful Romanian clothing planted seeds of hate within the young Christian generation, and even among the older ones, and planted in them the hope that the day would come when they would be able to see the elimination of the Jews, the murderers of Jesus Christ.

And their “great” day did come, and to their great surprise, in such a forum that they could not imagine.

July 1941. The government changed again, and the bitter, bloody, tragic days came. The Jews' possessions were all stolen, and their lives were chaotic. Many Jews were cold bloodily murdered, and the others, those who survived, were forced out of their town where they were born, grew up, worked, and loved. Behind them, were emptied, abandoned, destroyed homes, their possessions were stolen, the murdered relatives and dear ones, and they were given looks of derision and open, malicious hatred by their Christian neighbors; and ahead of them, stretched the road of pain, hunger, anguish, and orphanhood.

[Page 111]

Yed0111.gif
“This is what my grandfather's (Avraham Hirsh Kaufman) house looked like”
Drawn by Y. Lande

 

[Page 109]

On the Brink of Events

By Yosy Lande

Translated from the Yiddish by Pamela Russ

[ ] translator's remarks

It is very difficult to determine the beginnings of the Jewish settlement in Yedinitz and to analyze its social and cultural structure, without becoming familiar with the general surroundings and effects that it exercised over the lives of the Jewish settlement in the town.

We cannot separate the historical development of the Jews in the town from the general historical conditions of northern Bessarabia. Nowadays, it certainly is difficult to undertake such research work, for understandable reasons: the dearth of document materials, the impossibility to make contact with the facilities and archives in that place, and the few survivors who could have acted as an authentic witness of the former settlement; other than that, the seeds are scattered and spread across the world.

[Page 110]

To base yourself only on suppositions, hypotheses, and undocumented memories would not be completely accurate.

I will nonetheless take on the right to use interpretations, symbols, and clues, to say something about the subject of “Yedinitz” while stressing that which is said does not have any intention of acting as historical research. Maybe this will serve as raw material for a historian if there will be any such people.

In terms of etymology, the name Yedinitz has a Slavic or Russian source from the word “Yedinitza” (unity) or “Yedinichna” (“individual” or “selected ones”); others find the suffix “itz” as “utz” and “tzi” a Wallachian [southeastern Europe] Romanian etymological root.

As it seems, the town does not have a distant historical past. The town lies between two small mountains in a valley, where in the distant geological history, there would have been found a flowing rivulet, from which the static river remains, and which the people in town used to call “the seminary river” because of the proximity to the buildings of the local priests' seminary.

[Page 111]

The plan of the town resembled a region divided in just about regular quadrants and right-side corners, through streets that crossed over. This reflects a so-called urban plan. They used to say in town that Yedinitz is built according to the “Odessa plan.” In any case, Yedinitz is the only city settlement in northern Bessarabia that was built according to a plan, and this alone indicates that the settlement is not an old one. The settlement contains a certain type of center with all the characteristics of a Jewish settlement, neighboring a residential area of various ethnic groups, such as the Katzapes (the old Russians, “old roots,” an orthodox sect), Moldovans, and Russians – orthodox, who lived in the so-called “mahala” [neighborhood]. And finally, the gypsies from the so-called “Gypsy Street.”

The Jewish settlement, according to my observation, began on the south side of the city where you find some of the oldest shuls, Chassidic courts, and in contrast to that, the bathhouse and the old Kowalska Street. In later years, the Jewish settlement began to concentrate around the old marketplace. Later on, the new marketplace evolved, the so-called “Tarhowice,” where the church stood. On the edge of the dirt road, on the south side, there were the first locations of grain trade, and years later, the “magazones” [barns, stalls], where Jews would later buy agricultural products that the farmers would bring in from the villages.

[Page 112]

But the Jews in town were not only merchants and shopkeepers. There were all kinds of artisans living and working in town: tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths, carpenters, turners [who turns a lathe], wheelwrights [craftsman who repairs wooden wheels], harness makers, tobacco pickers, coopers, wagon drivers, cattle traders, butchers, fruit merchants, porters, water carriers, workers with their own workshops who were paid daily, weekly, or by “periods of time,” employers, leasers, commissioners, brokers, doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, teachers, hired merchants, and small industrial businesses such as oil plants, soap plants, mills, wool shearers, bricklayers, and so on.

On the Jewish street, there were all kinds of political orientations at the time. It began with the youth organizations from all sides: from the Chovevei Tziyon [forerunner of modern Zionism] to all the later Zionist nuanced groups; revolutionary and socialist groups which in those times were like the Bund [Jewish socialist, political group], after that, were the communist groups, which expressed themselves through Yiddishist circles, and so on. Among these youth groups, there were “conflicts,” presentations of passionate discussions and lively debates that crystallized an enthusiastic, thinking, and active generation.

From which sources did they draw Torah teachings, wisdom, education, and knowledge? What were the roots upon which the upbringings were built? This chapter is one of the most interesting, most important in terms of upholding and building the details of Jewish life.

[Page 113]

In the small city, just as in the larger Jewish centers, it was first a result of Jewish traditional and religious life, as it expressed itself in many forms through the mouth of the nation, while praying and while saying Grace after Meals, during work and rest periods, in pain and joy, in anguish and hope.

It is interesting to mention certain local episodes and puzzling experiences. For example, at the side of the new educational measures [institutions] such as the gymnasium, professional courses, libraries, and cinemas, and in Garfinkel's Hall, the old-fashioned style still ran.

When they began to use extensive surgical interventions in the Jewish hospital, and the same for the doctors, pharmacists, and the smaller or bigger laboratories, in various circles there was still the belief that the “denial from a good eye” [rebuttal of the “evil eye”] could bring a total cure for all kinds of sicknesses.

In the more refined and wealthier homes, the gramophone began to appear and after that, the radio. Monye Garber was the first resident of Yedinitz to own a radio. I heard a gramophone for the first time in my grandfather's home, Avrohom Hersh Koifman (the redhead). Later I found out that he got the radio after its first exposition, as a gift from the Jewish prince (pomieszczik) Yakov Shimon Koifman. Even though both had the name Koifman, they were not related. My grandfather, Avrohom Hersh, was a broker for the Jewish and non-Jewish princes.

Although the “high-class” had already appeared in town, there were still “town criers” (sadly, I forgot their names) whose voices carried across the streets, and small roads to announce that “the new spectacle of this or that troupe will be performing at this place or that place…” or that “the sauna in the bathhouse is ready,” or they would call the people to selichos prayers [before the High Holidays].

Unusual and characteristic: Despite the technology and the civilization that entered life with tooth and nail, the town remained clasped in the past and the dead.

[Page 114]

The first appearance of the Jewish theater evoked not only interest in the masses as an audience but also raised a creative desire to perform in the theater.

I remember, when I was still a young child, my mother, may she rest in peace (she died at the hands of the murderers on the way to Transnistria), put me to sleep with songs from the Yiddish theater such as: “Shabbath, Yom Tov, un Rosh Chodesh” and “Ot Do bei dem Brunem, Ot Do” [Here by the Well, Over Here], “Rozhinkes mit Mandelen” [Raisins and Almonds], and other Goldfaden pieces.

She was one of the first Yedinitz theater amateurs. She performed together with Chana Solter, Ritia Rabinovitch, who sang beautifully and played the role of Shulamis, and others.

I remember, when I was already an adult, that I asked my mother who taught her Yiddish. She told me that her first teacher was the writer Yehuda Steinberg, but he was her teacher for a very short time.

Is it no wonder that people who studied in the old-fashioned conditions found time and energy for creative, cultural activities, something that for other people, happens only in normal conditions? Very likely, the nation's urge for light, knowledge, and culture was very great.

I will be understood incorrectly if people will accredit me with the will to apologize for the former Jewish lifestyle. I merely tried to describe authentic facts and episodes that give a sketched playback to the town's daily life. These episodes can serve as material for the eventual historian when he will try to compile the history of a Jewish settlement and paint its rise, existence, and tragically, also its death.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

[Page 121]

Three Coffins
The Bloody Events of the Seventh day of Passover 1918
[a]

by Moshe Kofit

Translated from the Yiddish by Asher Szmulewicz

In northern Bessarabia, almost in the middle between the rivers Dniester and Prut, is located the small shtetl of Yedinitz. The population was about a few thousand inhabitants, most of them were grain traders, lambskin merchants, craftsmen, etc.

The origin of the name Yedinitz is difficult to prove. We used to say that in the entire world there is not such a name. Some claimed that the name came from the Russian word “Yedinitza”, for a “unit” or “unique”.

If this is true, it can't be proven why this shtetl won to be known as the only one, the “unique” of all Russia, because this village did not stand out for something special; there were no world famous people or writers native of this shtetl. The majority of the Jews were toilers and industrious. They rather smelled like wheat and corn, with oil from the Premislav olive trees or flour from the Shpayer Mill, than philosophizing and argumenting.

There was one thing special about Yedinitz: its mud, especially before Pesach. Young and old people used to really wade, up to the gartel (prayer belt). People used boots or galoshes; the rich ones used high ankle boots. We used to “swim” in the streets. During the night, the mud used to radiate with a special charm like a smooth mirror against the moon.

The mud was stubborn and shameless. It used to crawl up to the head. We could find, for instance, on our neighbor's Avraham Yankel Bekers coat, about eighty years old, some of the mud still from the time of his marriage. He was a vigorous Jew and a good eater. His coat had two large, side pockets. When he used to come back home from the market, his pockets were never empty:

[Page 122]

either he used to carry a piece of whey cheese or “kash” (note: a traditional Romanian cheese made from raw sheep milk) bought from “Manalies” or a fresh lung and liver purchased from Moshe Meir, the affordable butcher.

Our village was chosen by the Romanians to make their brutal experiments. This happened in 1918, around Purim. We, the boys, sat in our cheder with our teacher Mates (Matityahu) and were studying the “Pishtegan haktav” (the Purim megillah scroll). Suddenly all the shtetl inhabitants were running. We snuck out slowly one by one from the cheder and hurried up to join the crowd, looking at what was going on. When the Rabbi realized that the pupils were gone, he told his wife the Rebbetzin: “Rachel, I can wash for blessing the bread. The bastards already escaped”.

On the Patshtave Street (note: this is the “Patchova” Street or Post Office Street, which is the main street in Yedinitz) the first Romanian soldiers could be seen. Poorly dressed, with hats with two spikes, they rode small, skinny horses. They looked at everybody suspiciously and precariously. The first thing they asked for was pâine (bread).

A few days after the “Romanization” began, groups of 12 to 18 peasants were lined up to the firing squad next to the Beltzer Bridge and shot because the Romanian soldiers “thought” they were “Bolsheviks”.

Once a soldier came to our neighbor Fishel Yases to have a drink and told him:

“Mr. Fishel, today I was almost dead. I was leading a convict to the firing squad when by chance he managed to untie his hands and started to strangle me. Luckily, I shot him. Then I took his pair of good boots. He happened to be a rich “gaspadar” balebus (landlord)”.

Somebody from the Jewish population was always arrested and a ransom of a hundred or a thousand was demanded.

In the shtetl a “Commandant” was sent, a captain named Dimitriu. He had only one eye: the second one was made of glass. He was cruel. Unexpectedly, he issued an order that the streets should be cleaned up.

[Page 123]

There were no paved streets. “Go and clean the Yedinitz mud”, is what they ordered, moreover on Pesach eve! The soldiers used to go around the streets and where they did not find women digging the mud, they arrested anyone. The arrested people were punished with up to 25 whips on the bare rear body. Young and old people were also whipped, women, men, and children. When we passed in front of the soldiers' headquarters, we could hear from far away the crying of the people being whipped. After a few weeks, the “Commandant” issued another order. Everybody who saw him in the street must salute him.

If the salute was not fast enough, the punishment was 25 whips. It appeared that this was not enough, because the “Commandant” was not often strolling in the streets and not seen by many people. Thus, he had a new idea: the soldiers carried his hat on top of a stick around the streets. Everybody had to salute the hat. He sent the soldiers especially on Mondays and Thursdays on the “Tarawitze”, where the market was taking place. People were caught by group of ten to get whipped. Almost in every house there was somebody who has been whipped.

On Pesach eve, in order to further retaliate against the Jews, the “Commandant” arrested all the butchers. There was a feeling of unrest in the shtetl. Who knows what will be their fate? People went to Shmuel Drotzer's house, a rich Jew, where the “Commandant” was living. But this fact did not help. The butchers were kept in jail during Pesach and Chol Hamoed. Suddenly and unexpectedly, on the last day of Chol Hamoed all the butchers were released. There was a feeling of relief in the shtetl and everybody rejoiced.

What happened? We learned that a Major came for an “inspection”. It was said that he was a good person. With the initiative of a few people, there was a call in all the Beit Hamidrash (house of study) to choose two or three people from each house of study who were fluent in Wallachian (language spoken in south Romania close to Moldova) to be sent as a delegation to the Major to ask him to prevent conflicts in the village.

The delegation was supposed to gather the next day in front of the Commandant's headquarters. The commandant learned about the delegation and this angered him. During the night, he managed to get the Major drunk. This ended the “inspection” and the Major was sent away from the shtetl.

The last day of Pesach began as a nice Bessarabian morning. The yard of Mr. Shmuel Drotzer was wrapped with budding trees which already started to bring out new leaves.

[Page 124]

In front of the yard, a few hundred people gathered there, including the delegation. Here and there we could see Jews with their prayer shawls in their hands on the way to the morning prayers. From a few houses came the pleasant smell of the delicious Pesach food. Soldiers on horses stood not far away from the “Osadbe” ready to act.

The atmosphere was very tense. The “Commandant” left his apartment and asked the people what they wanted. “We want to see the Major” was their answer.

He became furious, ready to kill. In his only good eye, a “criminal fire” was burning. He took a rifle from a near by soldier and shot into the crowd. People scattered in all directions. Immediately, the soldiers riding the horses came and beat the people in the streets.

There was a turmoil in the shtetl. All the streets were emptied. Nobody was seen in the streets. The soldiers caught thirty Jews. Some of them with the prayer shawls on their shoulders. One had wet payes (sidelocks) from the mikveh. Observant Jews used to go to the mikveh to immerse before the prayers. They were all dragged to the Seminar Creek to be shot. Their crying and their family crying went up to the sky.

The “Commandant”, it turns out, got scared. From each group of ten Jews he chose one out and gave the order to shoot them. The rest were beaten with murderous blows, getting up to 60 lashes and then were released. The three Jews who were shot, martyrs of the seventh day of Pesach Tav Resh Ayin Chet (1918) were: Berel Saroliovitch Rabinovitch, a merchant who never got involved in trouble, an old Jew called Moshe Itsiklis Weinstein who came out from the mikveh going to shul (synagogue), and another one, a student who came home for Pesach from the Kishinev Yeshiva. The same day, the three martyrs were laid to rest. The “Commandant” forbade anybody to attend the burial. If people would not obey his order, they would be shot.

Three coffins, black covered, went through the Yedinitz streets.

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The sexton Shmuel Warnetshke was on the coffins' side. He usually called people: “go with the met mitzvah” (a met mitzvah is a lonely dead person who has no family to bury him). This time, he wept and shouted: “don't go to the burial”. Everybody in the shtetl was mourning them in their homes. The next day, the “Commandant” sent a report in which was written that thanks to his sharp alertness he succeeded to quell a revolt of the “opponent to the reunification of Bessarabia with the Romanian Motherland”.

New York


Original footnote:

  1. The remembrance of the martyrs' names is slightly different in the article “Riots and More Riots” by David Vinitsky. Return

 

The Execution of the Forty[a]

by Golda Gutman-Krimmer

Translated from the Yiddish by Asher Szmulewicz

The peasants were already standing with a handkerchief on their eyes around the pit. The voices, the peasants, and the children's lamentations quieted the noise and the shouting of the soldiers, and the noise of the revolvers' bullets shot above everyone's head. The commandant again looked at his wristwatch, added two fingers on his mouth and with clinched lips, as if he were giving a kiss, he shouted pak! (fire).

In a stir of an eyelid, the forty peasants tottered. Like cut down trees, the peasants fell in various directions beside and around the pit. Their last calls for help and moaning were lessened by the lamentations of their wives and children.

The soldiers and the elders led the way to the execution and forced the people to watch the executions as an example. The soldiers ordered: “Everybody back home!”

They started to punch the crowd, who became mad from pain and crying and ran back to the village. The soldiers, with endeavor, started to work. With their feet and iron bars they pushed down the executed peasants into the wide pit, in the common grave, and shuffled the ground on the top with their feet, as if they were burying a dog or a cat.

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During the shuffling we could hear moaning: “Oy, my wife and child…”

The dirty snow on the fresh, small mound was already covered with dark, red garish blood stains which leaked from the murdered people. Five twisted fingers poked up from the edge of the mass grave as if they were looking for something or wanted to call somebody.

The warm vapor from the blood, which was coming out of the mound, the living fingers of a little healthy peasant, who was not killed by the bullet, brought a dark fright upon the soldiers.

They became scared, looking around, as if they only now felt on their conscience the multiple fratricidal murders. Then came a person, as if from under the earth, threw himself towards the mound and shouted to the soldiers: “Shoot in the grave. The peasants are still living.”

The soldiers took their rifles and shot inside the grave. The mound collapsed. The bloodied snow became even more wet and red.

Above the town there was a strange beauty, like when there is an eclipse of the sun. From the nearby orchards a large flock of black ravens flew towards the new peasants' grave, landed there, scraping the bloodied snow with their sharp claws and thrust their beaks lower and lower inside the grave. In the town everything became gloomy and silent and so calm that we could only hear the large Romanian flag flapping in the wind on top of the commandant's house.


Original footnote:

  1. Excerpted from the book, Yedinitz, My Home, Buenos Aires, 1945 Return

 

[Page 127]

Martyrdom (Sanctification of G-d's Name) at the River[a]

by Golda Gutman-Krimmer

Translated from the Yiddish by Asher Szmulewicz

A horse-riding platoon of soldiers with loaded rifles and drawn swords came out from a backyard and attacked people, sprung in the middle of them like in between grass, struck them with whips, and trample with the horse feet as if it were on slippery ground. A tangle of people with prayer shawls and yarmulkes, with black and grey beards, old festival prayer books (machzorim), and silver embroidered prayer shawls struggled under a hail of whiplash and heavy horse's feet. Sharp and wavy voices resounded over the streets and reached all the houses and all hearts:

“Jews, save yourself, a pogrom, pogrom.”

Agile young people under a hail of bullets jumped over high, sharp-cutting fences inside unknown courtyards to escape.

“Blood on the Dniester (river in Moldova), Bolsheviks”, said the soldiers assaulting the Jews with more fury. They lined up the remaining Jews in two rows and led them to the river from a side street.

Victorious and proud, Dimitriu, riding alone, came to the river.

“Blindfold them,” he commanded, “shoot them like dogs, the Bolsheviks.”

“My commandant, we cannot shoot so many Jidones (derogatory for Jews) at one time. Their brothers, the Jidones in the whole wide world will not remain silent, we will be scorned at. It can put a shadow on the kingdom, and on you too, Sir.”

“But we must give them a lesson, to the Bessarabians, we must dominate them.”

“Shoot only the witnesses.”

The arrested Jews, scared to death, whining, spoke to themselves, saying viduy (prayer before passing away), asking G-d to pardon their past sins.

Reb Moshe, almost dead, whispered with half-closed eyes:

“Take me first.”

The soldier who came to blindfold Reb Moshe remained close to him, still like a clumsy stone. The white face of Reb Moshe, who stood out from the black with his large festive hat, white absent-minded beard, and the mild, pious, blue-eyed who gazed at the sky, troubled the soldier.

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“Is that not the Jewish G-d, that we torment and burn as they did to our Christian G-d, tormented and murdered, and he will fly to the sky and send his wrath, his appropriate punishment on the Romanian soldiers and their commandant, the murderer?”

The soldier looked at the commandant with shivering hands and feet.

“Do what you were told to do if you do not want to die.”

The soldier then took out his revolver from its leather case, pointing to Reb Moshe's breast.

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lo...”

And Reb Moshe fell from the hummock, light like a dove, with a pierced breast, between the stones where the women used to wash the laundry the whole week.

The commandant took Berele by the lapel of his festive sortok (black coat down to the knees).

“You Russian Jew, Bolshevik.”

Two revolver shots resounded and scattered around. A young pale man with a black Chasidic coat got out of the row.

“I am the third one…”

And he glanced happily at one of the older Jews who were behind Berele and lamented.

“What will become of my six orphans without a mother and a father?”

Dimitriu took the young man from the row, even forgetting that with open eyes it is forbidden to shoot people according to the law and shot him with a bullet.

“So.”

“Hear, O Israel, the Lo….”

And like a shot down a bird, the young man fell between Berele and Reb Moshe, and the sides of his large coat spread out like two black flying wings, kind of protecting the victims of the Romanian criminal, to fly far away in the Jewish sky.


Original footnote:

  1. Excerpted from the book Yedinitz, My Home, Buenos Aires, 1945 Return

[Page 133]

In Our Shtetl We Had…

by Gedalye Gruzman

Translated from Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Yedinitz, compared to the settlements in which we live today, was a small shtetl. Yet for us, Yedinitz was a city. It had a bathhouse, a poorhouse, a large synagogue, and the main street going in front of and behind the marketplace. Gates. A tailor street and a Gypsy Street.

Yedinitz had prestigious Jews, merchants, shopkeepers, artisans, and menial laborers. On Shabbat, the shopkeepers sold out the best pikes to them, just to spite the rich. Jewish merchants and Jews were sitting in the marketplace who would sell cheese, whey cheese, and honey at the fairs where they made a living on market days. There were grain merchants, moneylenders, business owners, and numerous poor people and beggars. There were doctors and feldshers[1] in the shtetl.

[Page 134]

There were Jews and Christians, and there was a hospital at the end of the town. There was a nobleman, the owner of the entire city, a follower of Tolstoy who, it is said, paid for poor children to be educated. There was a boulevard and there was a Yiddish-Hebrew library.

There were poets and writers, like Yisroel Zemura and Leybl Gruzman, may they rest in peace. And there also were teachers.

There were synagogues and chapels and Shaare-Zion, where people talked more than they prayed. A couple of rich men and atheists would come there; they sat shiva and mourned for Tolstoy when he passed away in 1910.

In 1917, young people turned away from the large Russian cities[2]. They repeated phrases they had picked up at mass meetings, like the following, which was attributed to Trotsky: “The Russian people were not made with a finger.”

There were all the Zionist parties and there were Marxist groups founded by a certain “Bonaparte,” with Yekhiel-Avraham Snitkovsky, may he rest in peace, as secretary. There were sad days of oppression and murder on the part of the Romanian occupiers.

Let us remember Hershl Ostropolyer[3] whom we called “Menakhem Smitya.”

[Pages 135-136]

He used to deal with non-kosher tobacco (3). One time a law officer ran after him, thinking that he was carrying a sack of tobacco on his shoulders. When the officer caught him, he found horse manure in Hershl's sack. That is the trick Hershl played on the government representative. From then on, he had the nickname “smitya,” manure.

One time Menakhem put a kid on the market. So, a rich man teased him: “You paid probably a gildn[4] for the kid.” Menakhem Smitya answered, “May we both own way more than the two gildn, the cost of the goat.”

Menakhem's intelligent son Ben-Tsiyon Snitkovsky, may he rest in peace, was a known community leader in Rio, Brazil, together with Tulye Lerner, Pinye Gershteyn, and other sons of our landslayt.

Yedinitz possessed a nice group of intelligentsia. Jewish workers, sons of well-to-do parents, also attained a high cultural and intelligent level.

Rio de Janeiro

Editor's footnotes:

  1. A feldsher was a medical practitioner who did bloodletting (with or without leeches), cupping, minor surgeries like boil removals, dental work (meaning pulling teeth), giving enemas, etc. He also was a barber. (He had the razor blades). –HBF Return
  2. In the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, seized power. Jews generally celebrated the end of tsarist oppression. --HBF Return
  3. Titin was an inferior tobacco--HBF Return
  4. A gilden is worth 15 kopecks: a zloty--HBF Return

 

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