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Chapter 4

Personal Memories

[Pages 107-110]

Our Home

by Tzipora Brener

We lived in my grandfather's house, my mother's father, Meir Yosel Zalebsky. It was a typical town house, made of wood, unpainted. Had 5 rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom in the patio, a small deposit, and in the angle of the roof a part was open and covered with branches which was a place that we could use for Succot. The house had a basement, and under the tiled roof was an attic. In the patio was a pile of logs used to feed two ovens, one in the center of the house to heat all the rooms, and one in the kitchen to bake and cook. Behind the log pile was a vegetable orchard. I liked to help to plant radishes and onions, beets and cucumbers, all for our own consumption. In the last part of orchard we sowed potatoes, and there were fruit-bearing trees (cherry trees, plum trees), and flowers grew next to the fence that surrounded the orchard.

In the bathroom was a big barrel that contained water, and the water provider Michel tossed in two pails of water from the river. There was a stairway, which we climbed to go to the attic, where we hung our clothes to dry them off. In another corner were things that we no longer used. I liked to climb up to the attic and poke among the accumulation of things. I was happy when I found a treasure of books in Yiddish – most of them were theater plays; I read them with enthusiasm while seating next to the small window, laughing while reading comedies or spilling tears on tragedies or dramas. Why were these books in the attic? Certainly it was for lack of space in the house. There was no place to put a closet for books. In the basement there were barrels with pressed cabbage, cucumbers in brine, and flasks with marmalades of currants and plums.

In the big kitchen oven we baked challah (braided bread) for Saturday, and we cooked soup. As was common in this type of house, there was a pit under the oven, where we stored potatoes. It was for me the most thankless task to go into the pit with a candle in hand and fill a basket with potatoes, while from the surroundings I heard the creaking of crickets.

As I said at the beginning, the house was my grandfather's property. He and my grandmother occupied a room. My uncle Leizer, my mom's brother, returned from Argentina to his patent's house because of a serious illness, and he died when he was 28 years old. He did not have a good relation with his stepmother who was very greedy. She hid eggs and the bottle of oil under the bed.

Grandfather's daughter, Chaia, at the beginning of the 1920's escaped with her husband David Goldberg to Leningrad, after the defeat of the Bolsheviks in their fight against Poland. The Poles jailed her husband for communist activist crimes he commited when our town was under the Bolsheviks rule. He was condemned to death, and was imprisoned in a Brest jail. Then grandfather sold the cow, and with money he obtained he was able to bribe the jailers. David was freed, and he crossed the frontier toward Soviet Union with his wife .

Grandfather's older son, David, emigrated to the US, and there he became a dynamic activist of the Caps Makers Union in Philadelphia. Grandfather's second son, Moishe, died tragically in a work accident, at the flourmill of our town. Grandfather was left with his young daughter Vichne, who is my mother.

My grandfather was an old man. He had a partially gray beard , and good smiling eyes. His trade was to sew caps that he then sold in his small market stall. People nicknamed him "skins vendor of Shereshev", because he came from that town near Pruzhany. He died from a heart attack, in front of my eyes. Grandfather had come home one evening very tired, and sat down on the seat beside the big oven. He told with pride to his family that I went to his stall in the market, and asked him for five coins to buy chocolates, and if at that moment he didn't have it, I would return later and try again…. Suddenly, while he was speaking, I heard a strong snore and he fell off the seat – dead.

Obviously this caused a lot of turmoil in the household. They took me to the neighbors' house, the Reznik family, even though their children were sick with the measles. Mom said: "anyway all boys should get this illness". After grandfather's death, his second wife returned to Brest, her native city, and there she worked as teacher.

I was then alone with my family in grandfather's house: Vichne my mother, my father Eli Mote Bokshtein, me, Feigele, and my two siblings Berele and Leizerke. Mom inherited the house and the business, but this caused us many problems. Many of the clients worked in the local sawmill, and were formerly soldiers of the "white" army (loyal to czarist regime that fought against the Bolsheviks). They used to buy everything using credit notes, and suddenly they disappeared. The trade was without merchandise, and with a big pile of worthless credit notes. In vain, dad traveled by bicycle or by sled throughout the town looking for the debtors.

Our neighboring Sheime Kogan worked in our house sewing caps. While he worked he sang songs and Chasidic melodies. From then on, I like liturgical songs. I liked to sing. When I went for a hair cut Sapir the barber sat me down on a plank that he put on the seat, and asked me to sing him a song. Then I sang to him:

In front of my window in the garden
Beautiful flowers grew
But a young boy arrived
And my flowers he took…

When I recall my love for singing, I'm also reminded of the people who encouraged me and strengthened this love in me.

It seemed to me that my parents had financial problems, because they rented grandfather's room. First was to the teacher Shaftan and his wife, and later to the teacher Bayon, his wife and daughter. Bayon used to sing beautiful songs to his daughter that I listened to and repeated.

My head, my head hurts me
My head hurts me, around it rotates an apple!

Near my house lived the music teacher Leibl Kaplan. I sat down under his window, and listened for hour to the arias and beautiful opera melodies that sprang from his gramophone or from his violin.

Teacher Rochel Chamiel Shapira played the piano. Melodies floated from her house, while I listened to them with attention. Doctor Arian's wife gave violin lessons to most capable and sensitive children; she did it for free. This also attracted me. Especially, I liked to sit down in the small balcony of our neighbor, the shoemaker Kogan, and to listen to the beautiful songs, and guitar and mandolin melodies played by his children Sheime, Shilim and Hershel. Their sister Machlia, was my best friend and therefore their house was open to me, and I could listen to the melodies and songs of her siblings. Their father, the shoemaker, also joined in the songs while sitting on his small bench in front of his worktable repairing shoes. I still remember the popular song that he liked to sing

A heavy stone in my heart I will hang And to a deep lake I will hurtle…

And the firemen's wind orchestra! I liked to listen to the songs and marches they sang as they paraded, or when they rehearsed. I still remember their whole repertoire: "Jewish girl, Jewish girl who died virgin", and also "Sweeter than honey you are for me, Chana Beile of Paris"….

On Friday evening, there was a lot of activity in the home. It was not a common day, it was eve of Saturday. Nadia, the young girl that helped mom at home knew how to speak Yiddish. She cleaned the house, scrubbed the floors and then extended the small carpets. She helped with the cooking and baking. I liked to taste and to approve all that was taken out the oven. I still remember the flavor of those currant cakes and cinnamon cakes. I used to cut the cakes, and eat the middle part that was the most tasteful. I wasn't too lazy to step up on a chair and take from the closet the big bottle of home-made "vishniak" (liqueur), and have several sips as "custom demands it"…

On Friday at dusk, we were prepared to receive Saturday, had taken our baths, and were dressed with clean and festival clothes. On the white cloth were two chandeliers. Mom lights Saturday's candles and blesses them …On the table two covered challahs, the plates, forks, knives and tablespoons . We were going to eat gefilte fish, chicken soup with noodles, chicken with carrot stew, and a dessert. We all will be happy, and I will be full with satisfaction.

On Saturday afternoon, after drinking something hot and eating other delights, dad and mom rested lightly. We children left to go for a walk with them, if time permitted. In general we went to the left area, which is along the railroad tracks. Pines grew along both sides of the tracks, and we listened for the voices of youngsters who made mischief in the bushes. When returning to our town, we went by cereal fields whose blue flowers were dispersed among rye sowed fields. My friends used to imitate my parents who hugged as they walked. But I liked my parents' behavior, so I didn't get angry with my friends for joking about it and I laughed with them.

(Of the book of Fanny Brener "The first half of my life" Ed Y. L. Peretz, Tel Aviv, 1989)

[Page 110-111]

Memories Of The Town In Which I Never Was

by Sarah Gachelet

"Where is your father from?" I was sometimes asked, and I answered: "You certainly don't know the place. He comes from a small town whose name is Kartuz Bereza or Bereza Kartuzka." Only few ever head of this town, and most knew it because of the jail that was there, but my relatives knew that it was the town where my father was born. I know the life of Kartuz Bereza through my father's stories, about people, and especially its Jews which give it a special charm, and any relation with the jail doesn't have any meaning for me. My father Ytzchak Tuchman told so many stories about his town, all the details that happened there, and especially the whole stage of his childhood in Kartuz Bereza.

Ytshele my father, was the son of a family that was blessed with many children. He had cousins, nephews, and many, many neighbors. I met my father's siblings through the stories, and they appear in my memory, acquiring a special characteristic in my fantasy. The same thing happens with their parents, my grandfather and grandmother that I didn't have the privilege of knowing, uncles and aunts, and even neighbors. The images of all of them filled my fantasy. I knew that my grandmother worked from morning until night, and she was always busy doing something.

When children asked her for something unnecessary she refused them, but if a hungry person entered her kitchen, she always left him satisfied. My grandfather was a merchant, and was away from home most of the time because of his work. When he returned, the whole family surrounded him and listened with great attention and respect. My uncle, my father's brother competed to see who was more mischievous. Of all of them, the one that I knew personally was my aunt Henie. Another aunt, younger than my father, Leah, was murdered in the endless wars that impacted the town.

I liked to listen to the mischief of the small Ytshele, four years old. I delighted in hearing the story about his attempts to climb the pear tree planted in the patio of the Cheder teacher, to get to the top of the leafy tree and find the treasure – the best pears. I liked to listen to this story many times.

I also "met" a teacher of special personality whose name was Shmuel Bam. When the students arrived, they hoped to find in front of them a common "cheder" rabbi. But he was something exceptional, and astonished the children and their parents. He not only taught the prayers of the Sidur, Torah and Talmud, but the astonishing thing is that he also taught arithmetic. Arithmetic? Who ever heard of a person like this? When was it he rabbi's job to teach arithmetic? And get this: whenever parents came pick up their chldren at Cheder, they were surprised and astonished by novelties. One of the surprises: he hung on the door a note with tasks schedule and weekly study program.

Another novelty: One fine day he started to teach Hebrew! Impossible to believe! In the town only Yiddish was studied and spoken. Why suddenly Hebrew? Shmuel Bam didn't give in. He believed that Jewish children should know Hebrew, and that this one was their language. Without knowing him personally, I always thanked him from the deepness of my heart for the good Hebrew that my father had acquired. When he arrived as new immigrant in Israel, the knowledge of this language helped him a lot. The novelties continued. One day Rabbi Shmuel decided to dedicate some time to song classes! Never had such a thing been heard of in Kartuz Bereza! And which songs did he teach? My father used to sing the refrain "Quickly siblings, quickly" and "On the main road somebody threw a rose". To sum it up, the rabbi was a unique character in that time.

My memories of Bereza are not only experiences and nostalgias. My father's last story is engraved in my memory. It happened when the town was no longer there. During World War II when Germans were about to conquer the town, my father escaped because he was an active member in an organization included on the German black list. He escaped alone, saved his life, but left all his family there. When war ended he wrote to his family, but didn't receive any answers to his letters. Time and again he wrote to his relatives, friends, and neighbors. To all those that he knew, he asked what happened? Nobody answered his letters.

When he was completely disappointed, he wrote to town's postmaster, asking him to give the letter to the first Jew that enters to post office. In that letter, my father asked to be told about what had happened to his family and with all the Jews in the town. Somehow the letter arrived in the hands of a Jew who was not from around there, and by chance had entered post office. He got interested, and wrote to my father to inform him that regrettably all the Jews of the town were murdered by the Nazis, and nobody was left alive.

I also "lived" this end as if I did it with my own eyes. This stayed with me until the end of my days as if I had been there, in the Valley of Death of Jews of Kartuz Bereza…

[Page 112]

My Village Kartuz Bereza

by Itzchak Tuchman

(Written June 6 1946. Translated from Yiddish to Hebrew by Tzvi and Sarah Gachelet)

Bereza, Bereza, my town!
My soul despairs of nostalgia
Even if nobody sends an air letter
My heart for you is destroyed

Where are my children?
Where are my parents and wife?
Console me, friends,
Come to help me

I see before my eyes the small cheder
There several years we stayed
The beautiful and innocent youth
Who can believe that this has happened?

I walk in contour
All silent, all dead
It was not seen to palpitate any soul
My hours are black and sad

From the day of my birth and up to now
Satan was active
Poor myself
Where my three children are

The cheder transformed into cemetery
Nobody was left alive
All collapsed and exterminated
In a dark time

Bereze, Bereze, my town
What have they made of you, of my house?
What happened to people and to the "chadarim"?
They eliminated them and they were war victims.

[Page 113]

Travel To Unknown

Amir Graff

We leave for a train journey
We leave on a trip toward unknown
Just yesterday she told me that she loves me
Just yesterday I told her I love her

And like a nightmare returns at night in my dream
The man of mustaches, and the black swastika
And as a dream she disappeared
I hope he will not return

That day they separated us
And that day something died inside me
And instead of going for a walk together between the sky and the water
I give turns alone, in middle of many dead.

And like a nightmare, he returns in the dream of the night,
The man of mustaches, and the black swastika,
And as a dream she disappeared
I hope he will not return.

And now I am here without her
And only memories of death go by my mind
She left with other six millions
And every night I hear them crying

The man of mustaches, and the black swastika
And as a dream she disappeared
I hope he will not return.

And you that live here, without knowing about her,
And you that live here without looking behind
Only you can learn of history
And prevent the bad man from returning

Yes – only you can stop the swastika.

(This poem was written by the grandson of Mrs. Adina Vigansky (Epshtein), born in Kartuz Bereza who emigrated to Israel. The poet and his mother were born in Israel).

[Page 114-116]

A Travel to my Grandparents House

(Dedicated to my mother's memory: Civia Heller Podorovsky)

by Yael Chizkiyahu (Heller)

"Next summer we will travel to Kartuz Bereza." This was what my mother promised us, starting from my early childhood. Probably the first time that she made me that promise, Bereza was no longer, and she loved and missed all her loved ones until the day she died, because they were murdered by the Nazi enemy.

I knew that there was no way she could fulfill the promise, but I liked a lot to sit down and to listen to her when she spoke to us of her town and her family. We took pictures out of the box, mom told us about them, and I listened and asked her questions. The last year of her life, when she already spent most of her time in bed, we spent many hours "in Bereza", with her family and her relatives. In time, I knew many details and particulars of my mother, her childhood, her family, and in general on Bereza.

Mom's house, the house of Chaia and Yosef Chaim Podorovsky, was located in the heart of town. It was a wooden house that my grandfather built with his own hands. The wooden planks were from trees cut from the forest, and they lifted this way a wide house, with many rooms, some of which were rented to the Municipality of Bereza and to other people.

In the main room there was a big table, and gathered around it were the family and the relatives that came to visit us, some of whom even stayed until spring. The table was covered with wine-colored velvet, and on it sat another white cloth. On one side of the room was a carved piece of furniture, and on it were a couple of silver chandeliers, and other sacred decorations. In front, in the corner, there was a copper samovar that we polished from time to time. The windows were covered by hand knitted curtains.

At mom's home there was ample water and in the patio there was a reservoir. One of the rooms was special: it was used for the festival of Succot, and my grandfather used to live there all seven days of the holiday. I also remember the bath that was leaning on four lathed paws, and the long copper faucets glowed… The house had a basement, and during the summer my grandparents stored the best things there, which were to be used by the family and the visitors, especially during winter. There was everything: sweets, cucumbers in salt, sweet and sour cabbage, dry fruits, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables.

My maternal great-grandmother lived with my parents in Kartuz Bereza at times, and at other times she traveled to United States where her daughters lived that emigrated fearing the government, because they were activate in politics. This great-grandmother, my mom's grandmother, was the midwife of the town, and she helped deliver almost all the children in Bereza. Only my mother and her brother Michl survived the Holocaust, while the rest were murdered. Michl was the oldest brother, emigrated to Argentina in 1927, raised a family there, and died in April 1991.

The siblings murdered in the Holocaust were Sarah, married and with two children, the oldest a boy and a daughter named Matele. Another sister, Libe, married, studied sewing with her mother and painting with Moishe Bernshtein and then got a diploma as dressmaker. The third sister was Maite, teacher of Physical Training. One of the brothers was Ydl; he was the pride of the family and my mother liked him a lot. In the Ghetto he married Rivka Bernshtein, sister of the painter Moishe.

The last one, the very dear youngest child, was Leibele, be his memory blessed. My mother Civia, emigrate to Israel in 1937. Here she married my father, and gave birth to me and my sister Chaia who was named after my grandmother. Chaim Podorovsky my grandfather, was a blacksmith. His gold hands created all sorts of perfect things. For example, he made a bicycle as a gift for his first grandson, on the day of his bar mitzvah."

My grandparents Chaia and Chaim Podorovsky were religious people. Their house was open for advanced Judaism and for universal culture. Ydl studied in the cheder of teacher Minkovitz and later continued his studies in Vilna Polytechnic. My mother said that he always had in his suitcase a toiletries bag and the bible. She told us with pride that he finished his engineering studies with excellent marks.

I met uncle Michl when he visited us only one time in Israel in 1978, and I was very satisfied to be with him, and to listen to his wide literature and poetry knowledge, and his mastering of several languages. He told me: "All this is of house"…

Our mother taught my sister and me to love literature and poetry. She recited to us poetry of Kadia Molodovky who was born in Kartuz Bereza, also Miriam Yeliv-Shtekelis's poetry, and Bialik's poems. Through Kadia's poetry, mom walked with me and my sister Chaia through her house and her town that she loved so much.

In the 1950's when Kadia lived in Israel, we used to visit her. The relationship between Kadia and my mom began in Bereza when mom was a girl and Kadia was already 18. She rented a room in grandfather's house. Mom said that grandfather used to point his finger at her and say "You will see, she will be a poet some day." I want to highlight, to mom's pride, that the first poem I recited was "Open the doors"…

An atmosphere of tolerance reigned in my grandfather's house. No fanaticism. Around the table sat down bundists, communist, Zionist, socialists, revisionists, and what not? As a Jewish rule, many times they discussed, maybe they fought verbally, but mainly there was a cultural atmosphere….

How much it pained my mom's parents that their children were no longer rigorous in the execution of the 613 precepts. I should highlight that they respected the habits of the house and the religious feeling of their parents.

I could continue about the house garden, the forests and the blueberries, the lake frozen during winter, the dynamic social life, the loves and disillusions, the discussions and the search of new roads, my sister's Libe beauty and her loving children, my grandmother's Chaia works, virtuous woman, etc., etc. The stories on mom's family are endless, and they will never finish for me…

Mom died 11 Tamuz 5751 (1991). I thought to myself: she will surely find in the world of absolute truth, all her dear beings that she missed so much, and she had so much nostalgia for them for so many years.

Maybe this is my comfort…

[Page 117-123]

Memories Of My Father's Home

Shmuel Tinari (Tabulitzky)

When the elders of our town of Kartuz Bereza would gathering at the synagogue for the evening prayers, they used to come out to the balcony in front of my house. I would listen to their tales about our family, which was one of the founders and builders of Bereza at the end of seventeenth century. The descendants of our family lived in Bereza until the bitter end.

In the 1920's, I used to hear tales from the elders and especially from my father's lips. On the fast of Av, I would go with my father to the old cemetery on Sditva street (Babitz lane) to visit the graves of our ancestors. We also visited the new cemetery on "Beit Hachaim" street (Cemetery street), and there again I would hear the stories about his family, and the past generations.

Our family came to Bereza from the area called Tabulitz. When the Russian authorities demanded the citizens of Great Russia to adopt a surname, the end "ky" was added to the city's name and we got the surname "Tabulitzky".

These are the members of our family, according to the generations: The first one known according to a document in my hands, is buried in the old cemetery on Sditva street (Babitz lane) and was named Zvi and was born about 1750. Zvi's son was Yacov Ury born about 1790 (he's buried on the new cemetery). Yacov Ury's son was Eliohu Yosef, born around 1821. Eliohu Yosef's son was Aaron Yehuda, born around 1851. Aaron Yehuda's son is my father Moishe, born around 1878. My father Moishe, my mother Zahava Blumrosen and my sister Rachel (May God take revenge on their blood), were murdered by the nazis and their local helpers (may their names be erased), on the Ghetto's annihilation on the first of Av, July 15th of 1942, in Brona Gura.

Yacov Ury Tabulitzky was a pious and God-fearing Jew, and an entrepreneur. In the middle of nineteenth century, he worked on the paving of the main Warsaw-Moscow road. The elders of the town used to say that the application for paving took place on a Saturday afternoon in Saint Petersburg. The government officials asked Yacov Ury to sign the statement, but he refused to profane the Sabbath and he left the application office. Anyway, he was called back to the Russian Ministry of the Interior and he received the paving contract, one of the bigger development works in the Russia at that time.

The construction was carried out thanks to the help of thousands of hands, to the authorities satisfaction. To show their gratitude for his work, the czarist government transferred to YACOV URY's inheritance two large agricultural farms: farm Lusasin beside Ruzhany on a 4500 Russian hectares area, which is about 45000 dunam, and farm Avirantzitz Linowo, beside Pruzhany on a 1700 Russian hectares area, which is 17000 dunams. This deed permitted enlarging the limits of Jewish settlements in more than 100 farming settlements, which turned into urban settlements. Regarding this transference of the two farms to Yacov Ury, there was a commitment to share it between the three religions – Russian orthodox, Catholics and Jews – in order to install houses of pray, cemeteries, and cultural and social institutions as well. The farm Avirantzitz Linowo developed as a town, and parts of its lands were given to the religious representatives. The farm was sold by my father's intermediary at the end the 1930's. The farm Lusasin was annulled by the polish authorities who ruled the area since 1920. These polish authorities said their peasants had priority because they collected branches from the farm's trees, and therefore they prohibited cutting down trees because this would prefent them from collecting the branches.

After many trials in several Polish courts, we had no choice of either continuing to pay the high taxes on the farm property, not enjoying our rights, or forfeiting the property to the Polish government thereby getting rid of the high taxes and the risk of impounds. We finally gave the property to the Polish government.

This was an usurpation from an anti-Semite government from its center in Warsaw, and its aim was to deprive the Jews of all their farming goods in the whole territory! Our family, in the vast czarist territory, was one of the few who owned a large amount of farmland.

Yacov Ury Tabulitzky built the "rich" synagogue on the main road in Bereza, and another in one of his properties, with seating capacity for 60 men and 60 women. He also supported a group of ten Jews ( a miniyan) who were paid to take part in the three daily payers. Among them were Aizik Molodovsky, teacher Urke and Piny the shoemaker. I heard this from them when I was 8 years old. Yacov Ury also developed community institutions, built the public bathhouse and the double line of stores in the market.

The money from their rental was set aside for charity institution expenses. He built many houses along the main road for his relatives, near his own home. Over a long period of time before the October revolution, most of his descendants moved to live in the big cities like Minsk, Moscow and St. Petersburg. Only my father and his family stayed in the town. My father was sold on the Zionist ideology. When national Zionism appeared at the end of the last century, he studied its culture at the famous Yeshiva of Volozhin, along with his older brother Itzhak Tabulitzky. Itzhak later settled in Lomze, and headed the religious community there.

My father was a constant Zionist activist in the "Center Zionism" group. He took part in the famous Minsk council, and had interviews with Zionist activist from Russia, at his brother's and sister-in-law's place (Chana Dvoire and Yechiel Askenazi) in Minsk.

In Kartuz Bereza my father created the group known as Tiferet Bachurim (nice teenagers) to get Zionism closer to the religious youth; he succeeded. Among the youths was Yacov Gorazalky (Goraly), one of the most important leaders of the Zionist ideology in Poland before the outbreak of World War II.

My father also organized fund raising for the KKL, and spreading the activity known as "The Treasure of Jewish Settlement". This happened in 1900 when Dr. Biniamin Zeev Herzl founded the Bank for Zionist Organization ("Histadrut Ha'tzionit").

In 1913 my father registered the Bereza Zionist Organization into the Golden Book of KKL. During the entire Russian domination, and even during the Polish one up until the outbreak of World War II, my father was the official responsible for Zionist activities in town. On his hands lay the official stamp, guaranteed by the state authorities.

In the 1920's my father refused to select the candidates to emigrate to Israel and thought they should help every Jew who wanted to emigrate. Thanks to his help, the Eliovitz and Berkovitz families emigrated to Israel in 1913, and they were the founders of the settlement (Moshava) Yavniel, as well as the Sapir family to Jerusalem and the Gurman family to Ramat Gan.

In 1948 I visited my parents home in Kartuz Bereza. Then I was already an Israeli citizen, and had in my hands a Britain passport. I knew that the Commandant of the Great Polish Concentration Camp of Kartuz Bereza was living in and occupying half of my parents house. According to my memories his name was Kolonal Garfner. He was originally from Tartar, at the time of the great Tartar invasion in Central Europe. He was a personal friend of the military group ruling Poland. Every morning ten political prisoners arrived, and many of them were appointed to cleaning tasks, and other to work on the camp my father gave to the Commandant.

One day in August of 1938, the Commandant invited me to a friendly meeting in the huge balcony. I was a foreign citizen, younger than 20, and he was the governing man with all the power in his hands. He asked me many questions about the relationship between the British Mandate and its citizens, and their privileges. I told him that, under the power of Great Britain, every citizen had the right to discuss and criticize with no violence. Then he asked me: And how do you like our behavior here in Poland? I said that during my visit to this country I saw Jews being attacked, and they were scared, and I thought the government actually hunted and oppressed the Jews.

The next day the security police turned up, dressed in civilian clothes. They took my passport away and stamped an expulsion order in it, because I was not a "desirable person". They force me to leave the country within 24 hours on September 7th, 1938.

I quickly left my father's home and returned to Israel on the Polish ship "Poland", through the Constanza port. On September 7 I was in Warsaw, and my friend from Bereza, Meir Shvartz, who was on his way to US, accompanied me to the train station.

When the train headed to Lvov, I saw thousands of Jews singing the current national anthem of Israel, "Ha'tikva", and that was a miracle to me.

In the first train car I found a relative from Haifa who was my age. He too was returning from a visit to his parents. We decided to pass to another car to find out why people were singing "Hatikva". We approached the first class car, which was almost empty. In a corner was sitting Zeev Zabotinsky who was writing on a typewriter. In front of him was his assistant Yoser Klarman. We got closer, introduced ourselves, and said we were going back to Israel. Both Zabotinsky and Klarman shook our hands and congratulated us. Zabotinsky apologized for he had to finish the speech he would deliver to Jews of Lvov. That was the first and only time I saw Zabotinsky face to face.

And I am returning again to my childhood memories.

Our house was a Hebrew house. My parents spoke Hebrew and addressed their children in that language. I was the first in town to speak Hebrew with his parents (this is confirmed by Nechemia Shtuker in his book "Memories of Bereza", released in Yiddish in Argentina in 1958). The other kids became estranged to me because they didn't speak my language. The neighbors at the other side of the road made fun of me; one of them was studying with me at the Tarbut school, in which Hebrew was taught. Time does its work, and little by little people got used to that.

I want to mention an important deed, a pious act, done by Naftaly Levinson to a cousin of mine. Levinson was then the assistant secretary to the mayor of Bereza, and my cousin, Baruch Blumrozen, had deserted from the Polish army at the beginning of 1920, and eventually arrived in Bereza. He hid in the garden of my house, between the leafy walnut trees. My father spoke to Naftaly Levinson, asking him for help and advice. Knowing that he could be condemned to death under the law, Levinson didn't hesitate and quickly changed my cousins name to that of a Jew named Rozenberg who had passed away at the age of 20, and this way became a living person again. Levinson extended the passport validity, stamped my cousin's portrait, and certified its legality. Baruch Blumrozen received his new identity and turned into Rozenberg. Later my father accompanied my cousin to Warsaw, passed through Vilnus and from there to Israel. Only after being in Israel for a few years did he abandon his false name and return to the original one. Naftaly Levinson risked his own life. For many years this was a top secret and no one knew about it. It's praiseworthy to note Naftaly Levinson's attitude.

[Page 124]

Our Emigration To Eretz Israel

by Ytzhak Sapir

At the end of World War II, my family decided to emigrate to Israel. My father Yackov Sapir was a religious Zionist man, and, as usual in those days, they sent us to schools where Yiddish was the spoken language. Therefore we didn't speak Hebrew and this was a drawback.

There was another drawback for the Zionists in town. It was a time of economic-crisis in Israel, and people feared we wouldn't be welcome there since many emigrated due to their own economic troubles. Our father was convinced on emigrating to Israel. He spoke to the great Zionist Jew Moishe Tabulitzky (Shmuel and Eliasaf's father) who encouraged our emigration.

The longed-for document came, and in 1926 we had the privilege of emigrating to Israel. We'll never forget the "justice" gift Moishe Tabulitzky gave us, and thanks to that we stayed alive. May his memory be blessed.

[Page 125-129]

Mania Serlin And Yitzhak Slutzky

Zionism without quotation marks

by Chaim Solan (Slutzky)

My mother, Mania, from the Serlin family, was born in 1906 in the town of Pruzhany. Her parents were Yente and Zvi Hersh Serlin. There she spent her childhood with her older sister Alte Freide. In 1927 mom graduated from the "Matzkevich" state high school majoring in Mathematics and Biology, and one year later in 1928 she graduated from the Teachers Seminar, placed beside the state high school.

At first she taught in Pruzhany, and in 1929 she worked as a teacher in the Popular Hebrew School in Lenin town. There she taught mathematics, geography, history and Polish language. In Lenin she met my father, Yitzhak son of Mashe and Chaim Slutzky, who would later become her husband.

One year later their ways split. Dad traveled to Warsaw because of his job as a bookkeeper, and mom worked in Kartuz Bereza. Mom arrived in Kartuz Bereza in 1930. She was appointed to the position of Director of the Yavne Hebrew School, of the Tarbut net. Despite her age, for she was very young, she served as director of the school and was the teacher for the higher level (7th) for six years. In this school like others of Tarbut net, pupils used to learn all liberal arts and technical subjects in Hebrew, with sefardic pronunciation. Since my mother spoke Polish, she was required to teach these subjects in that language.

Dad decided to move to Kartuz Bereza too. There he got a job as Accountant Director and joined Mania, his friend from past years. They both joined the local activist group "Poalei Sion" (workers Zionist party) and worked very intensely in their spare time, as well as collecting money for the KKL and "Keren Ha'yesod".

In 1934 Yitzhak and Mania got married in Bereza, to the delight of their friend. Of course they thought at once about emigrating to Israel, but how would they avoid the sanction imposed by the British mandate for immigration? At that moment, "sacred objects" were needed in the Israeli community. Dad was a lover of liturgical songs. He let his beard grow, he studied Jewish laws related to animal slaughtering, and with the help of his relatives, he obtained permission from Israel Rabbinate to emigrate. Armed with his polish passport and the British stamp in it, with the emigration document of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the request letter by the Central Rabbinate, and with several documents about his Jewish heritage, my parents left Lenin for the long journey to Israel, and on April 26 the ship docked in the port of Haifa.

Dad worked as an Accountant Director at the Youth School "Ben Semen". Mom didn't go back to teaching but spent her days on an infinite devotion to her son Chaim (after her grandfather) and Neta (after her grandmother Yente Serlin). For many years our house was the meeting point, and a torch for mom's pupils, those who were not exterminated on the holocaust and came to Israel.

Dad died in 1966, still young, and mom passed away in good old age, in 1988. May their memories be blessed.

[Page 130-131]

Kartuz Bereza, My Home Town

by Noach Peniel (Falantonvsky)

"Bereza Kartuzka" in Yiddish was simply Bereze. It was located between Brest Litovsk and Baranovici. Through its center was the Moscow-Warsaw main road. I haven't found out the meaning of our town's complete name but I think the word "Bereza" comes from Polish language referring to the typical tree in that area, and the name "Kartuz" is related to monastery of the kartuzian monks who lived there. I have to say there wasn't any hill of conifer while I was a child.

I saw the kartuzian monastery ruins. It was hidden on a fenced area, and there are several fruit trees growing there. I used to go with my friends on Saturdays in order to enjoy the place's beauty, and buy some apples and pears to eat there. (once I wrote a sonnet titled "In the Monastery garden" about it.)

Our town had a beautiful view – it was situated near Yasolda River, which drained its waters on Bug River. In summer, the town inhabitants used to take a bath in the river around the town, and huge green fields extended there, some sowed with rye, and others were pasture fields. The town itself was full of gardens and fruit trees. For several kilometers leafy woods with pine trees extended.

During my childhood, I would go there to collect red currants and mushrooms. The Jews lived in the center of town, and in the gentiles were in the suburbs – mostly white Russians and a few Poles. We had Poles as neighbors. Around the town there were villages inhabited by White Russians, called "Fulishukim". In my childhood and adolescence I used to visit those villages and I was very impressed by the view of the fields and peasants.

In town there was a big influence of Jewish culture, and an outstanding social group of Jewish intellectuals, that apparently became very famous on the local society and other social groups. Its rabbis were famous, and in time they got to be very known in the Jewish world. Rav Itzhak Elchanan was one of the rabbis before he was transferred to the same position in Kovno. Rav Eliohu Klatzkin went to become the rabbi at Lublin (his son is Dr. Yakov Klatzkin, who grew up and was educated in Bereza until the age of 15)

Just like every small Jewish town of the area, before the World War II there were chedarim for the Jewish children's education. Later the outbreak of the new learning system of cheder began to stand out. Between the world wars two modern schools were established, one Yiddish and one (Tarbut) Hebrew. Like I said before, there were active and smart intellectuals.

In 1905, the time of the revolutionary movement in Russia, Bereza was a focal point of revolutionary fermentation. I was told that the man who was responsible for all the activities of the town and surrounding areas was one of Lenin's assistants, later Minister of Foreign Affairs of Soviet Russia, Maxim Litvinov. There were a strong Zionist activity as well; among the founders of the Yavniel settlement in Israel were the first emigrants of our town. Several political parties were active: Zionist, bundist, populist, Yidishists, and Hebraist. Each political movement carried out an intense propaganda. I have to emphasize that most of the arguments between political movements and different groups were especially concentrated around the two schools of town: the Yiddish School and the Hebrew School Tarbut, formerly "Yavne" (although it hadn't any relation with "oriental education").

I remember with homesickness the days of my childhood in town, the baths in the river that wasn't very far from home, the runs and rides by the countryside, and the woods I will never tear out from my heart. I want to remember the village Selcz, where my father was born, about 10 km. from Bereza. It was a town with a very beautiful landscape. My paternal grandparents lived there, in a little house surrounded by gardens and fruit trees. One of my visits in those distant days of my youth was during the Pesach festivity. I described that visit in my story "Nostalgia of the tale-legend" which was published in the magazine "Something for children", and then later in my book "Spending the night at an empty tavern". In my early youth I used to walk there through fields and pine hills. I wrote down in the book "Over the rivers of Poland" the description of these walks to my grandfather's house.

For centuries, Selcz was a very important town in the area. I read in the "Jewish Records of Lithuania" by Simon Dubnov, that the Council of Four Countries in Poland had its head in Selcz. There were outstanding pupils ther, and they even said that Gaon (genius) of Vilnus was born there. In time, Selz lost some of its relevance, and by the end of nineteenth century Bereza began to develop and grow thanks to the building of the railway.

Finally, I'd like to emphasize another phenomenon not related to Bereza. In the suburbs were military headquarters and Russian soldiers had installed the "Piatgorsky" there. After World War I Bereza and the whole area passed to Polish domain, and Bereza became part of the Polesia district. The Mayor of the district took up residence at Brest Litovsk, and he took up his rights on the surrounding villages.

The military headquarters were empty. The Polish army hardly used them. But before World War II, a colonel from Pilsutzky named Kostek-Bayernatzky began to use them. A few years before the war this military man was appointed as Minister of the Interior of the Polish government. There was a "zanatzia" (reactionary regime) in the government, and they decided to convert the quarters into a concentration camp for political opponents. So the Minister of the Interior established the concentration camp there, and Kartuz Bereza became world famous because of this camp. But to our regret, it hadn't any sense for us, since the Jewish population was innocent and pure…

I left Bereza when I was a youth, and I went to Vilnus in order to study at the Tarbut Teachers Seminar. Later I worked as a teacher and director of Tarbut in Poland. The news about the town and its surroundings came to me through journals and tales.

[Page 132-133]

Memories of Kartuz Bereza

Chava Shmerlovsky Epshtein

In 1938 I left my little town Kartuz Bereza and I arrived in Israel as an illegal immigrant. A long time has passed since that moment. Many things happened, but I still see clearly my village, through my soul's eyes. I remember the main street, and the woods at its end. On both sides the river wound, and there were three bridges above it. Over there, green fields. On this side the wooden houses, many of them built after World War I, for the previous houses had been burned, and the other side old wooden houses were built many generations ago.

There were a few stone houses. I remember two of them very well. They were situated alongside each other in the market, and they looked like two rich men facing to know which one was the richer. Only the main street was paved; the other sidewalks were made of wood.

The whole town wanted to live. The Jewish inhabitants were traditionalist and studied the Torah. They consisted of artisans, traders and sellers. They fulfilled their sustenance with humility and their ambitions were modest. They were supportive. They helped their fellow men. They assisted the sick (for example, two people stay with a sick person all night long, so his family would be able to rest)

I remember my grandfather, Nachum Epshtein. He studied medicine from Russian books, and although he wasn't a graduate, he used to cure the sick for free. He came to help them even if it was cold or raining.

There were four synagogues in town, and one belonged to the Chasidim. The young people was culture-thirsty. There was no secondary school in town, and some youths traveled elsewhere to acquire knowledge. Most of them achieved it by themselves, through reading and attending conferences. There was a primary school, and the main language was Yiddish. Besides that, there were Torah studies groups, and cheder.

A few years later the Tarbut School was founded, and the subjects were taught only in Hebrew.

My uncle Leibl Epshtein was a Zionist, and one of the founders of this school. He also was active in other institutions.

There were youth political movements in town. Among them, "Ha'shomer Ha'tzair", "He'chalutz Ha'tzair" and "Bund". These different political parties used to provoke arguments among the youths.

There was a Yiddish and Hebrew theater. Classic pieces like Shakespeare's King Lear were performed there. There was a Yiddish theater for children as well. We were visited by actors from other places, like the Yiddish Theatre of Vilnius. I remember the famous actress Ester Rochel Kaminsky, the actress Yda Kaminsky's mother, who performed in town. I remember the performance of the famous liturgical singer Sirota. The poet Peretz Markish visited us too, and he gave an excellent lecture at the Yiddish school. He said goodbye to the Jews of the town, before leaving Poland to visit Russia. The poet Alter Katinka was with him. The woman poet Kadia Molodovky was born in our town, she was one of my teachers, but later she settled in Warsaw.

There were several choruses of adults and children. And there was a mandolin orchestra too, in which my younger sister took part. Of course there were "klezmorim" (popular musicians) who used to play at weddings.

The young people grew up in touch with nature. We liked to take walks to the forest, the countryside, the nearby villages, and to swim in the river. We were physical and healthy in spirit, but in time we began to understand we had no future in the town. We had a feeling that the anti-Semitism was advancing, and we suspected the future was uncertain. As a result, some of the youths left the town. Some chose training on collective farms so that they could emigrate to Israel. I was one of them. Other traveled to the United States and Argentina. But most of adults and many youths stayed in town until the bitter end. Only a few were able to escape. It's hard to live knowing the bitter reality that most of Bereza Jews were annihilated so cruelly, my family and relatives among them.

In order to celebrate Lag Baomer we used to go to the conifer and pines wood, singing and dancing. These trees are the silent witnesses of the terrible tragedy. No doubt, they pray kaddish in their language, for a holy community, full of life yearning, that was exterminated and disappeared.

May their memory be blessed!

[Page 134-135]

My Ancestor's Kartuz Bereza

by Abraham Shatz

I came to Kartuz Bereza in 1928 with my grandparents and my brother Moishe, now member of the kibbutz Sarid. My grandfather, David Shatz, hoped that his sons would settle in Leningrad, to get closer to Judaism. My father, Zvi, his brother Shlomo and his daughter Yda, were all born in Kartuz Bereza. Only my father, after much insistence from my grandfather, managed to be allowed to leave Soviet Union.

My grandfather, David Shatz, was born in Brest Litovsk in a honorable family of rabbis called Shatz Yophe. He got married in 1880, to Chaie Rochel Broida, daughter of a traders family that settled in Kartuz Bereza many generations ago. The history of the Broida family can be traced back to 1800. My grandmother Rochel Shatz's parents, and Chaim and Palteh Barutza, were born in Kartuz Bereza and they lived in a spacious house beside the bridge, on the main road. They worked in the wholesale food business. Grandmother Palteh lived to be 104, and I had the pleasure of meeting her. After her death, her son Israel continued the business. Her other son Shloie had a tavern in Bereza, and her daughters left the town.

Grandfather Chaim Broida got married very young, and while he was studying at the town's Talmud Torah he was announced the birth of his son Shloime.

Grandfather David Shatz had a big food store beside the military headquarters. Most of his customers were officials of the Polish army, and traders of the area. They respected my grandfather for being a upright man, precept keeper, and well educated.

My grandmother Rochel was a virtuous woman. She was the one who ran the store, and grandfather checked the accounts during the night. Rochel was an extraordinary woman, brave and clever. The Christians respected her very much. Her house was never damaged by the bandits. I remember she used to walk between the drunks, and they always cleared the way.

My grandfather was a lover of Israel, and he contributed money for the KKL and the "Keren Ha'yesod". He had the typical blue money box at his house.

When we arrived in Bereza, we children didn't speak any language but Russian. Very soon we learned Yiddish and I also got to reach the 5th degree at the Tarbut School. Later, together with my brother Moishe we frequented the local branch of Betar and among my friends were the best Jewish youths of Kartuz Bereza.

In the early 30's, when the echoes of Hitler speeches came to our town, my grandfather seemed to wake up from a dream and said: "Children, we have to escape to Israel, it's going to be a mess here!"

When the military camp was turned into the first concentration camp of the Pilsudsky government, and police guards began to arrive from Poznan – the enemies of Jewish people, my grandfather knew we had to hurry up.

These policemen and detectives followed every person that they found to be suspicious. They couldn't tolerate the Jews who walked the streets calm and innocent, talking and laughing in Yiddish. They called them all sort of humiliating and offensive names.

My grandfather sent first my father to Israel. That happened in 1933 when Hitler rose to power. Later I emigrated in 1934 as a pupil of the farm school Mikve Israel. In 1935 and 1938 my mother, my brother, my grandfather David and his wife RACHEL emigrated. My parents settled in Hedera, but my grandfather couldn't live there because he saw the Jews traveling on Saturday. That's why my father rented a house for him in Bnei Brak. There he was known as a man cultivated in mosaic laws. Many years later when he died from heart disease, the liturgical singer (blessed his memory) said during his burial "There was a man, David Shatz, and there won't be another like him!" My grandmother Rochel died at 96, and she was buried in Hedera.

Thanks to the famous honesty of my grandfather, I was saved from prison at the concentration camp. This happened one year before emigrating to Israel. Suddenly, detectives turned up at home, and took me away for be interrogated. It seems that among the items in my grandfather's store that were used to supply the camp kitchen, there was a package of soap wrapped in newspaper. In a blank space of the newspaper was a handwritten sentence in Hebrew, written by my grandfather: "He hasn't come yet". Sure.y my grandfather thought about the Messiah then, so he wrote that sentence on the paper wrapping the soap. The detectives thought that I, the younger grandson, had some secret contact with prisoners. My grandfather, as soon as he heard the incident, spoke to the town's mayor and the chief of police; they recognized him, they believed him, and I was immediately released. This was a big miracle, given that no prisoner ever left that prison alive. I still remember the tortured yells at the concentration camp; they easily reached me because my house was 100 meters away.

I have good hearted and very pious memories of my town Kartuz Bereza. My grandfather built a hospital and other charity works. From our family, 563 members were exterminated during the Holocaust. May their memories be blessed, together with all the immolated when sanctifying His name.

[Page 136-146]

Memories Of My Childhood In My Village Kartuz Bereza

by Chaim Ben Israel (Goldberg)

In memory of my brother Itzchak Arie (Leibe Goldberg), wife and children. In memory of my aunt Chana Mushe Blushtein, her sons Benie, Shleimke, Shoike and Avigdor, their wives and children. In memory of my aunt Rochel and my uncle Yacov Osher Fridnshtein and their children Moshe, Niome, Leah (Leike) and Simche, their wives, husbands and children. In memory of my aunt Chaia and my uncle Moishe Alexandrovsky, their daughters Tzirl and Reitze, their husbands and children, exterminated during the holocaust.

May their memories be blessed.


One spring day in 1988, the painter Moishele Bernshtein invited me to his house in Tel Aviv. When I arrived I met many people from my village Kartuz Bereza. Among them were Moshe Tuchman, Simcha Nosetzky, and Abraham Potak. The reason for the meeting was to make some changes to the organization "Survivors of Kartuz Bereza in Israel" (some members of the Council moved from Haifa to the center of the country).

At that meeting I took the post of Council Member, in order to keep alive the memory of that little community whose Jewish majority was exterminated during World War II by the nazis and their local Polish or Byelorussian helpers.

We emigrated to Israel in August 1933, and prior to that meeting I had been living in Israel for about 52 years. I was convinced that with my rich experience on direction and organization that I acquired in Israel (I'll describe it next), this would be another little post in addition to the volunteer duties I perform.

I rendered clandestine services to the Lechi group in Tel Aviv and Haifa. The British were searching for Chaim Goldberg but I changed my identity. I moved with the Jewish brigade under the name of Moishe Karpushik. Then I received the identity of Karl Flikstein and I was transferred to Jerusalem. There I met my partner Sarah Babiof, mother of my sons: the Vice General Dr. Ytzhak Ben Israel and Dr. Yakov Ben Israel.

In Jerusalem I was arrested and a British military court sentenced me to 10 years in prison. After 4 months I escaped from jail[1]. The British didn't know I was carrying borrowed identity cards, both during my duties at the brigade and in jail.

From time to time they went to my parent's house to arrest Chaim Goldberg. With the founding of the State of Israel, I joined the Israeli Defense Forces "Tzahal" and I served there for 20 consecutive years. I took on important duties in the Air Forces and I ended my service as lieutenant colonel. Later I was elected as representative to the Local Join Council in Ramat Ha'Sharon[2] and, at the same time, to the council of "Solel Bone Constructions"[3]. In this duty I was General Secretary of the Council[4].

Given my experience as Organization Director[5], I didn't hesitate to take the duty at the Survivors of Kartuz Bereza Society. Many times I had asked myself how much time I should devote to this issues and I never knew the answer. In that first meeting at Moishele Bernshtein's place, everybody was looking at me, and the memories of my little village sprang to my mind – in the morning, evening and night – my childhood days and all Jewish life, all destroyed by nazis hands.

I addressed my fellow citizens and we all decided to build a living monument through the publication of a book, and to keep for ever what used to be the Jewish life in Kartuz Bereza.

Our Emigration to Eretz Israel

I was bar-mitzvah age when we moved to Israel. I remember very well how a few months and days before our trip, our good neighbors came over and tried to dissuade my father from his plan. "Reb Isroel", they said, "Arabs kill Jews in Israel, and you're going there? Perhaps you can delay your trip for a while?" My father was obstinate and constant, resolute in his conviction, especially for my mother's influence. He wouldn't listen and he answered: "I'm not traveling for myself nor for my wife; I do it for my children!"

My father was a modest man. Together with Rabbi Unterman who was later Chief Rabbi of Israel, he studied torah at the Yeshiva in Malech and then he was Chafetz Chaim's (blessed be his pious memory) disciple. He was qualified to be a rabbi but he didn't really practice that duty.

I have always been proud of my father and I liked his intellectual ability. From all his activities in his life, the most intelligent was his obstinate decision of emigrating to Israel.

I remember how we loaded the packages into the carts and we traveled with a great number of inhabitants of the village to the train station of Bluden. Of course there was my brother Ytzhak with his wife and kids, my brother Leibe and Avigdor. Avigdor managed to go to Israel with "Hechalutz Hatzair" movement. The others were exterminated with the Jews of the town.

From Bluden we went to Warsaw accompanied by my brother Ytzhak and my cousin Simcha Fridnshtein who died in Bereza because of a German bomb in 1941. We stayed in Warsaw for a few days and we took the train to Constanza in Romania and from there we boarded the ship. After sailing for several days, we reached Haifa. Here my brother Zvi was waiting for us, as he had arrived in Israel some days before, and he had sent the certificates for us. He came with a truck in which we loaded our belongings. We arrived in our first house, located on Hertzl street in Tel Aviv.

What kind of Jews are these that don't speak yidish? As I said before, we came to Israel when I was bar-mitzvah age. From our first house in Tel Aviv I started walking up and down, trying to understand the life style and the future of the first Hebrew city. And here I saw kiosks, and newspapers in Hebrew letter at the entrances. Since I had studied at Tarbut school I was supposed to be able to speak Hebrew; I got closer, I took a look and read the newspapers trying to understand it, but I couldn't. What's going on here? Isn't this the language I studied?

At dusk my brother Zvi came home and he explained those papers were written in Ladino. I have to confess until that moment I hadn't known anything about the Ladino language, nor the Jews in Spain, nor eastern communities, because I was sure every Jew in the world spoke Yiddish. Otherwise, how could they possibly be Jews?

Yechutiel Minkovitz's Cheder

As I already mentioned, I was a pupil of the Tarbut school. But I must add that between the second degree and the last year in the Tarbut, and before emigrating, I attended four years at the Yechutiel Cheder and the Talmud Torah. In truth, I was very satisfied with my studies at the Tarbut. Teacher Lis taught Hebrew, even writing and reading. We were proud because we knew the language spoken by Jews in Israel, and each one of us hoped to emigrate there someday and speak Hebrew.

One Saturday evening, I was visited by my friend, my neighbor's son, who was studying at the cheder. My brother Leibe, who was attending an out-of-town yeshiva at that time, was celebrating the Sabbath at home. Suddenly my brother said in front of my father, "Come, I'd like to evaluate your knowledge". Dad nodded his head and we both, the neighbor's son and I, got ready for the test. My brother Leibe opened a Pentateuch spontaneously, and he ordered me to read it. I could read Hebrew very well, but I had never attempted to read an original Pentateuch with musical stresses. When I reached a four-letter word, which is the tetra gram, I wasn't able to read it. It was evident I could hardly stammer. My brother gave the book to my friend and told him to read it. He showed his great knowledge, reading it all correctly. Leibe didn't say anything to me and smiled. I didn't understand then. Only later I understood that I wasn't really qualified in torah studies, and that's why I was sent to the cheder instead of Tarbut school. The next day, my mother took me by the hand and brought me to Rabi Yechutiel's (Minkovitz) cheder, on May 3rd Street. I studied there for about 2 years. I remember very well his full belt and the scents coming from the kitchen, since there wasn't a door between the kitchen and our study place. I remember well the mathematics and Polish lessons that were taught by the rabbi's sons when they came back from high school outside the town. One of them was Prof. Abraham Minkovitz who died in Israel.

The environment of Rabbi Yechutiel's cheder wasn't any different from others in Eastern Europe. From dawn to dusk we were sitting at our places, praying or studying. We used to begin the day with the morning prayers, and at night the evening prayers. We had no breaks, and there's no doubt we didn't know how to play as children. We brought our food from home, and if somebody forgot to bring it, he had to ask another student for some. The toilets were outside, in the courtyard. I remember one time Levik asked permission to leave, but he immediately returned crying: "The rooster is looking at me!"…

During my study hours at cheder my mom worked at the store. She came back from work very late, and then she started preparing dinner (who would think then about refrigerators or civilized resorts like that?) I was tired from studying and other children's pranks. I used to fall asleep and I had to be awakened because dinner was the only important meal of the day for our family, and the house's youngest child was forced to eat properly.

I didn't like either the cheder or the Talmud Torah, after having tasted a modern and nice school like Tarbut. Four years later I was enrolled in the Tarbut and I studied there until we emigrated to Israel. When I try to remember the events of those days, regarding my education, I reached the following conclusion. If they had they discussed at home what school I should attend in the same way that other political issues were discussed, this four year episode at rabbi Yechutiel's and Talmud Torah would have been avoided.

My brother and his opinions

My father, Reb Israel Ha'Cohen Goldberg and my mother Yocheved (Yente) Moltzadsky had 7 children. From oldest to youngest they were Itzhak (Ytshe), Zvi, Avigdor, Arie (Leibl), Osher, Pnina (Peshke), and me, Chaim, the youngest.

Dad passed away at a ripe old age, in Tel Aviv. He was a modern religious man. He knew his children very well and knew about their opinions, but he never talked about politics to us. We knew he was an Israel supporter and lover. After his death, mom told us (she died at an old age too, in Tel Aviv, and was buried beside my father at Kiryat Shaul) that every year father supported the Zabotinsky movement, and he always voted for him. Contrary of our father's opinion, my brothers held the popular ideas of the Jewish street.

My oldest brother Ytzhak was familiar with the "Ha'poel Ha'mizrahi" movement (religious non-extremist workers). He devoted most of his free time to the KKL. He was appointed by the town authorities to be a part of the KKL Committee in Kartuz Bereza.

Ytzhak was the first to get married and start a family. He had two children. Ytzhak, his wife and children were killed in the Holocaust.

Zvi, my second brother, belonged to the "Betar" movement. He stuck to the ideology of this movement, even before our emigration to Israel. He was member of the Betar settlement in Rosh Pninah.

My third brother Avigdor was conquered by communism. This happened during his education at the Technion (polytechnic) in Vilnus. Later Avigdor had a Zionist tendency and joined the "Hechalutz" movement. After several years of preparation, Avigdor emigrated to Israel as soon as we left there.

My fourth brother Arie (Leibe), because of whom I was sent to the cheder, was studying torah. He later became a yeshiva pupil. I don't know to what political party he belonged, but I'm almost sure it was Agudat Israel.

Ari was also taken by the holocaust. My oldest son is named Ytzhak Ari after my two brothers exterminated in the holocaust.

My fifth brother Asher began his political career in "Ha'shomer Ha'tzair", then moved to Betar but he was faithful to Zabotinsky's ideas, even in Israel. The British arrested him and deported him to the detention camps in Africa.

Regarding my sister Pnina, it's possible to find many pages about her in the book "Fighters for Israel Freedom", by Natan Yelin Mor, head of the nationalist political party. For a time she was the link in the underground movement. As I was the youngest of my brothers and only a pupil at the time, I didn't say a word as I attended the discussions, especially on Friday evening after the kiddush ended and during the blessing over the bread. Pnina didn't really take part in the discussions until I arrived in Israel; I made my way by myself.

I want to emphasize that the arguments in the Goldberg home weren't just academic. I mean they were not just verbal arguments.

My brother Avigdor, who was qualified from the Technion of Vilnus, was the electrician of our town Kartuz Bereza. Once one of our neighbors was very angry with brother Avigdor because he had put the electrical wiring over the roof of his – over his head. This started an argument and this neighbor began to throw stones until he broke one of our windows.

Another incident on the electrical matter, happened a few years later. Menachem Begin had to make a speech in our town. At that time he was not yet Prime Minister of Israel nor the head of the underground movement "Etzel" (national military organization), but he was a famous and prestigious speaker. People of the nationalist movement Betar decided that his speech would be made in the Synagogue of the rich people of our town. Everything was carefully arranged. The day came, and that night the synagogue was crowded. Begin began his speech and suddenly… "Trach!!", the lights went out. A tumult (commotion) broke out, but he continued the speech by candlelight. Everybody knew Avigdor was to blame, since he was in charge of the electric installation that night at the synagogue. Betar people knew it too, but they had no proof. An argument broke out and Moishe Fridnshtein had to defend him with his own body. Betar people reported this to Kuzirsky, the only policeman in town. They asked for Avigdor to be arrested. Kuzirsky came over but since they had no proof, he wasn't put under arrest.

The crippled beggar

It's funny, but most of my memories are related to several places: the synagogues of the town, the study houses, the river surrounding the town, the concentration camp, and specially the market place. At the beginning, we lived in Market Place and Broida street, beside the Holy Synagogue. Then we moved to the other side of Market Place on May 3rd street, beside the Great Synagogue. I remember I used to come with mom and dad to visit my grandparents or uncles Fridnshtein. Their house was located on the main road, on Tabulitzky street, beside the synagogue called Tabulitzky. Uncles Alexandrovsky were living beside the great synagogue near the chasidim's sthibl (study house).

Dad used to attend the Synagogue of the Rich people placed on the intersection of the main road and Cemetery street. I envied my older brothers, especially on the Jewish holidays when they were wearing their best clothes – they got on the pulpit and blessed the parishioners by the "Birchat Ha'cohanim" (Cohen's blessing in his priestly role). I wasn't old enough and I couldn't do it…

In my free time, this is when I had no study obligations, I used to do all kinds of childish pranks with friends of my age, near the synagogue, in the river, and on Thursdays at the market.

I remember the crippled man, leg-less, with the wooden crutches at his side, sitting in a corner of the market, yelling, crying, and begging for a coin in the Bellorussain language. Merciful people, gentiles in general, used to give coins to him, asking: "Pray for Ivan", "Wish Stephan good health"… He crossed himself and promised… Many years later, people said he was Jew… I don't think that's true.

I remember at the monthly fair, scores of mostly-drunk gentiles left the market area on their carts, leaving behind a carpet of dung…

“The Angel of Death”

I remember there was a big brawl at Market Square. People pushed each other, and they ran to the other side of Broida street. I was about 4 o 5. I didn't know the reason, but I ran with them too. When I got closer to Aizik Glazer's courtyard, I saw a man hanging between the attic and the roof. I didn't know that people were given nicknames according to the place that they came from, or to a suspicious episode in their lives. There were people in town named "Krasnaburka" or "Kabaki", after the villages they were from. Others were called "Niures", "Kuske", "Vidre" and also "Angel of Death" (Beno, a boy my age with whom I went to school, drowned in the river one day).

"I don't know what to do," said one of those present when he saw the immobile body. "He's already dead." And he added, "He must be taken down". "He'll go to hell," yelled another Jew. All this terrified me. I wanted to run away, but curiosity got the better of me. So I stayed. Somebody brought wooden planks and the man known as "Niske, the angel of death", slowly took the corps down on the planks, and then he slid it down. I was shaking from fear, I didn't know what to do. Suddenly someone cried: "Children, go home!" Then I made up my mind to leave. My house was four houses away. I left, but the terrifying scene haunted me long after. I would wake up at night crying, and when my parents asked what happened, I said I had seen with my very eyes the way the "Angel of death" took the dead to hell…

I almost drowned in the river

I owe my life to Yosef Moshkovitz (he died in Israel) and Ydl Sholsberg. This episode happened at the Yasolda river that passes through our village. I was then about 10 years old, and one day we decided to take a bath in the river. A bath in the river was quite a simple thing. We didn't need a bathing suit nor toilets at the bank, nor towels to dry off. Very simple. We took off all our clothes and we got into the water. Some could swim, but most of us, including myself, couldn't. Suddenly one of my friends suggested that I get on his back in order to cross the river. It made me happy and I agreed at once. I got on his back, I made a face like I was driving a car (which was something unknown in our village), driving it up and down. My friend swam until the middle of the river heading to the opposite bank. Suddenly he said "I can't make it anymore" and without thinking, he threw me from his back. I couldn't swim, and I felt that those would be last moments of my life. I cried and other friends were staring in the bank and saw how little Chaimke got on his friend's back to get to the other side of the river. Just then Yosef Moskovitz and Ydl Shlosberg were passing through by chance. They went there in order to do some exercise and lose weight, because they had to report to the recruitment office of the Polish army. When they heard the screams, they undressed and jumped into the river to save me.

The concentration camp

Kartuz Bereza was known because its concentration camp for political prisoners, most of whom were communist. They worked in and around the camp, far from the eyes of the town inhabitants. Sometimes we saw them and we wanted to get closer, and have a few words, but the policemen didn't let us. I saw them close only once. That was one May 3rd, the Polish Independence Day.

The procession for the Independence Day celebration had to pass through our town, and the leader complained because the streets weren't clean enough. Then he sent the prisoners to clean and wash the streets where the parade was going to pass. The prisoners were tied to carts, as if they were oxen, and they carried brooms in their hands. From our house a few meters from the road, I could see how they were carrying out forced labor. I didn't understand how this could be possible. I just stared at the prisoners' faces, and once the "No trespassing" notice was removed, me and my friend went to the road. Everything was clean, washed, polished, you couldn't find a single trace of dirt.

Final words

My little village, Kartuz Bereza. The childhood memories come to mind. I'm looking at the picture of First Degree at the Tarbut School in town. We were 23 pupils and teacher Lis is in the center. I can find myself very easily and my friend Shimon Garber who emigrated to Israel in 1935 as well. But, what's the name of the other 21 souls? Which of them remained? Or maybe they were all exterminated by the nazis and local helpers, at Brona Gura or other places? Only a few persisted, and many, many of the names and anecdotes about the town will be forgotten, for I doubt all this will ever be known.

Ytgadal Ve'Ytkadash Shmei Raba – Be Sanctified His name. (prayer for the deceased)

  1. This way we escaped toward the battle front Ed. Ha'midrasha Ha'Leumit, 1979, page 272 return
  2. “Who is who in the Sharon”, personalities and facts. Ed. “Who is who in local communication media”, 1989, page 136 return
  3. “Economy Personalities Encyclopedia”, Ed Ythak Lis, Moshe Maor, 1982, page 76. return
  4. “Who is Who in Israel, Jew world personalities” Ed Laor, Tel Aviv, page 62 return
  5. “Men of Achievement, 1988” International Biographical Center, Cambridge, England, 1971, page 7 return

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