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[Page 296]

Yehuda Satkoltshtsik ז”ל[1]

Shlomo Aviel

Translated by Meir Bulman

Righteous, honest, humble, lover of Zion and his Nation, with a big warm heart
On men like him it is written in Psalm 15,

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend.

It is customary around the globe that when a person passes to the next world, his family, relatives, and friends attend a funeral, feel pain, and eulogize. Then as time passes they grow accustomed to the absence, reconcile, and even forget. But there are others, though they are few and outstanding, who are never forgotten– and one of those people was Yehuda Satkolshtsik ז”ל.

I met Yehuda while I was still young, in my 20's. He was an honest, precious Jew, a devoted lover of Zion, a public servant of high stature, and a member of HaHistadrut HaTziyonit[2] in town. Among the founders of the library, the organizers of the theater company, and a loyal and active participant in all Divenishok institutions.

His greatest love was towards the Zionist youth movements, including all factions: HaShomer HaTzair[3], HaKhalutz[4], etc. He was not only a friend to all, but also a leader, a planner, and operator. He supported and assisted all. He would say, “in my eyes you are all equal, as you are all headed to Zion, and there you will get along.”

After some time he married a woman and moved to her home in Volozhin. It was said that he acclimated and immediately became a central figure there in the Zionist movement and its institutions; Keren Kayemes[5], Keren HaYesod,[6] etc. There, too, he became attached to his life–long devotion to the youth. He contributed much to them. We know he played a central role in the town's social and public scene.

He, as many others, was executed by the cruel Nazi beast, along with his wife and his only daughter. The heart aches that he too did not get to arrive in Zion.

May these few paragraphs serve as a memorial candle in his honor.

 

Editor's Footnotes
  1. ‘may his memory be a blessing’ Return
  2. World Zionist Organization Return
  3. Zionist self–defense movement Return
  4. Zionist youth movement Return
  5. Jewish National Fund Return
  6. United Israel Appeal Return


My Father Provided
Much Aid to Jews

Yehuda Katz

Translated by Meir Bulman

I was born in 1909. My paternal grandfather, Leybe Katz, was ordained as a rabbi. My maternal grandfather, Leyb Kagan, maintained and managed the ranch owned by the family of Polish Prime Minister Piłsudski. The well–known banker in Vilne, Bonimovitsh, was from my mother's family.

My paternal grandfather[1], Kalmenovitsh, who lived at Niamn Station, was a telegrapher. He was of the Cantonists, or as his nickname stated, “a Nikolai–ist soldier.” He was kidnapped as a child for service in the Russian military and served for 25 years. During his military service he was a telegraphist in the Czar's castle. It was a respectable position which a Jew could not normally fill, but the Czar was not aware of his Jewish lineage. Then the Czar saw him wearing a tallit and tefillin. Realizing his career would end, he escaped, but later overcame his fear and presented himself to the Czar, who informed him that his continued service would be impossible. My grandfather's brother requested to settle at Neiman, and that request was granted. He was rich and established a large local sawmill.

About my father David I can say that in 1918, in the days of Bolshevik control, he was chairman of the local MRC (Voyenno–revolyutsionny komitet – Military Revolutionary Committee). When the Polish entered he became a wanted man, but he escaped from home. The Poles demanded that Mother turn in my father and hand over the weapon he had supposedly left with her,

The local priest saved my father by testifying that my father always informed him ahead of time when the MRC was preparing to seize some farmer's assets. The priest said, “Do not harm this Jew! He aided us a lot under the Bolsheviks.”

My father indeed provided much aid to Jews; on one occasion, he rescued Mordechai Kaplan from prison after he ran into trouble with the authorities. When the Germans entered our town, my father saved the lives of many Russian soldiers the Germans had captured in the woods and had locked in Natan Itzkovitz's basement. My father risked his life by removing the door off its hinges to release the prisoners.

Our family was comprised of four brothers and one sister. The oldest, Yakov, was a carpenter. He perished at the Vornova ghetto along with his wife, and three children, as well as my mother and father. My second brother was an excellent student at a high school in Vilne. In 1923, while in Vilne, he tripped down the stairs, was severely wounded, and passed away at the young age of 14. The third one has been living in the United States. The fourth is Devora–Roykhle, and I, Yehuda Katz am the fifth.

I made Aliyah in 1936 and spent the two prior years training with HaKhalutz[2] in Święciany, Poland. There were 66 members who trained there. There was no work and members suffered poverty and starvation. In my occupation as a carpenter, I provided them with many benefits, and I had much work, both at the kibbutz, as well as at external jobs. My wife, Yocheved, was kibbutz manager, and she excelled in diligence and devotion. As a token of appreciation, we were the first of all trainees to receive immigration certificates, and we made Aliyah and built a family in Hadera.

In Israel three children were born to us and I was fortunate to have grandchildren too.

 

Editor's Footnotes
  1. The author calls Kalmenovitsh his paternal grandfather. From the context of the article, it is probable that Kalmenovitsh is actually the Grand Uncle of the author (that is, Kalmenovitsh is the brother of the author's paternal grandfather Leyb Katz). Under this theory, Kalmenovitsh would be his surname as a ‘Cantonist’. Return
  2. Zionist youth movement Return


[Page 297]

Our Mother Zipporah (Rashke)
of the Levine Family

Shoshana Yudenfreund

Translated by Meir Bulman

Mother, Of Blessed Memory, – Zipporah Yudenfruend (of the Levine family), made Aliyah in 1935, listed as her uncle Shlomo Levine's daughter. Shlomo Levine, Of Blessed Memory, and his family were among the first pioneers of Sde Ya'kkov, the first moshav[1] established by HaPoel HaMizrahi.[2] Since her first days in Israel to the day she died she worked in agriculture – raising livestock and working the land. Her work day began early in the day with milking the cows (then done by hand, of course). She spent the rest of the day working the fields, planting corn in the furrows dug beforehand by my uncle.

Even after she married my father, Shlomo, she continued working in agriculture. She worked at the cowshed and chicken coop, and in harvest season in cultivation. Alongside her work there were always refreshments and baked goods, liqueurs, and wines she prepared, and she even found time to pickle olives.

Her devotion to animals is embodied in the following anecdote: every day mother would give milk to the calves. She had to teach the small ones how to drink from the bucket. What did she do? She immersed her hands in the milk bucket and they sucked on her fingers. They bit her, and once, a calf infected with rabies bit her, and she had to be vaccinated–– but she was not deterred by all that.

Though she was busy on the farm all day, every needy and poor person found in our home an open heart and generosity in addition to the tzedakah[3] boxes in our home. Mother placed much value in mattan b'seter[4] and avidly maintained the practice. Her qualities of hakhnasat orhim[5] and charity to the poor are demonstrated with the following incident. It was the week before Passover. Preparations for the holiday were at their peak and impoverished Jews were preparing too. I gave them charity generously, but when they asked to eat breakfast, I apologized and said mother was ill and I am still little. But the poor folks claimed, “We have been coming to Sde Ya'kkov for 20 years and we always dine with Mother!” The passage in the book of Micah, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good… [a]nd what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” was an accurate characterization of Mother, because these were her attitudes towards God and man.

Mother was quiet by nature and never talked much. As is written in Pirkei Avot,[6] “Say little and do much, and receive every person with a pleasant countenance.” And our sages said, “The righteous say little and do much.” And indeed, malcontent people would enter our home to pour their hearts out, and Mother, despite her many activities, would sit in silence, listen, and help as much as she could.

Her passing away was also silent. On Thursday, the 24th of Iyar 5734, Mother wanted to get out of bed, in order to bake the dough she had prepared the previous night and then continue preparations for Shabbat, but suddenly she felt ill and in silence closed her eyes, returning her pure soul to God.

 

Editor's Footnotes
  1. A type of cooperative agricultural settlement in Israel Return
  2. Literally ‘Mizrahi Worker’; HaPoel HaMizrachi was one of the two parties that later in 1955 combined to form the National Religious Party, or Mafdal, in Israel (the other party being HaMizrahi). Return
  3. ‘charity’ Return
  4. ‘anonymous charitable giving’ Return
  5. ‘hospitality’ Return
  6. ‘Chapters of the Fathers’; a compilation of the ethical teachings and maxims from the Talmudic Era (c.190 - c.230 CE) Return


[Page 299]

In Memory of Itteh Blyakher

by Eliyahu Netaneli (Itzkovitsh) & Bella Ashman (Itzkovitsh)

Translated by Meir Bulman

She was the typical image of a ‘Yiddshe mamme’[1] from the old generation. She lived her life simply, wisely, and level-headedly. With a righteous heart, and with faith, she reached a ripe old age.

Fate was cruel to her. She was widowed as a young woman and had to bear the heavy burden of raising and educating seven children. Neither did the Holocaust pass over her home: in Divenishok, her son, along with her married daughter with her husband and five children perished at the hands of the Germans.

Despite that, she tolerated her suffering in silence. She battled life's obstacles and pains with immense heroism, never complained about her bitter fate, and always calmly accepted reality in good spirits.

She was aware of every event, loved her relatives very much, loved her townspeople, and was bound to them like a mother. He words were peppered with pleasantries and humor, refreshing to each listener. She would fascinate her listeners with stories from the past.

She was blessed to make aliyah before the Holocaust and raised three generations, a blessing which only a few receive. As she was virtuous she reached the very advanced age of 80.

She went to the hospital with a clear mind, ready and able to accept her fate. Her last words were, “This world is like a corridor, and one must prepare to reach everlasting life.”

Her loyalty to her people and her family will serve as an example and as a noble image of our glowing past.

 

Translator's Footnote
  1. An endearing term for a typical Jewish mother. Return


[Page 300]

About My Husband and Our Family

By Ida Kaplan

Translated by Meir Bulman

I married at age of 17 as was customary those days. My husband Mordechai (Rest in Peace) was a learned Torah scholar, but particularly excelled in his knowledge of the Russian language, which granted him a special status in town. His handwriting became famous in the region and many people knocked on his door to ask for assistance with appeals and forms in Russian.

My husband worked at the bank and at Myeshtshanskia Aufrava (a civic Jewish authority operating with consent from the regime) whose role was to hear all the concerns of Jews in town, and represent them to the Czarist regime. The Aufrava was certified to provide Jews with identity cards. The Aufrava had three members: my husband Mordechai Kaplan, Kushye Levin (Zalman Kushye's father) and Zvi Bertonovski.

My husband was among the leaders of the community and was familiar with many people. As a typical public activist, he was active in all town institutions. As a man knowledgeable in the laws of the Czarist regime, he always responded to calls for guidance and advice concerning all matters related to the government and the authority.

My husband had a knack for literature and he administered the burial society's notebook where he would record all such events in town. After he arrived in Israel he composed, from memory alone, a detailed list of our town folk who perished in the Holocaust.

My husband's family was wealthy; they owned the land on Dubizishok Street up to Moshe the Blacksmith's home (Moshe der Shmid). The properties were later sold and all that remained for us was the property behind the house. That plot was quite large and spanned several acres.

We had seven children. Three perished in Hitler's time. My daughter Khaya and her husband Mordechai Berman perished in Ivia. The second daughter, Gittel and her husband Chaim Aliashkovitz along with the third daughter, Tzila, and her husband Aharon Kharson perished at the Vornova ghetto.

One daughter resides in Canada with her husband Mordechai Kupel and their three children. I have two sons in Israel, Natan and Yossef, both high ranking police officers.


In Memory of My Parents,
Brothers, Sister, and Family

Bella Ashman

Translated by Meir Bulman

The image of my maternal grandmother comes before me as if in a fog. She was a short–statured woman, but energetic and lively. Her name was Miriam, but was nicknamed Mirle. My grandmother was a righteous woman and every Friday at sunrise she would collect various vegetables in a basket and sneak out of the house. I once followed her and saw her going up to a balcony, placing the basket, and disappearing. She was cautious to not let anyone know about her actions so the mitzvah of anonymous charity would be fulfilled.

My mother Khayne strove for knowledge. As opposed to other town girls, she studied at the Russian public school and later traveled to Vilne to continue her studies. In 1903 she completed the school of art, embroidery, and design and received a licensing diploma. She was the only young woman in town to complete high school level credentials in Russian and art.

My father was a kindhearted public activist. When someone came to request advice or assistance he would take off his work apron and run to lend a helping hand. My father invested his energy and life into public activism. It was simply etched in his blood. It was as natural to him as if he had been born to be a public servant. He was alert to all the issues in town, pleasant, and popular, and was always considered a pillar and leader of the community.

The Gentiles admired my father as well, and he was chosen to be lawnik in gamina (council representative). My father did not want to attend meetings on Shabbat so he told the chairman, “Hold the meeting without me. I speak broken Polish anyway.” The chairman postponed the meeting and told my father, “You and your broken Polish are more important to us than anyone who does speak Polish but has no ability to deliberate.”

Though my father was not Orthodox he strictly observed tradition. Every Shabbat he would take his sons to the synagogue for prayers; an unbroken rule he had was to fast on all fast days.

Once, after the Fast of Gedaliah,[1] there was a thunderstorm and my father had not yet returned from the synagogue. I took a sandwich and ran over to the synagogue. I found him at the rabbi's home. The people were surprised and said, “What a good daughter Natan has.” I saw it as a natural obligation, because how can one leave a father hungry? It was the result my upbringing and the good spirit in our home. My father was devoted to every child and had a special nickname for each one. My mother used to say, “No effort is too much when your children are concerned–– you would bring down a plate from the sky for them.”

There was once a regional conference of Beitar in Divenishok and a few young men were scheduled to be hosted in our home. At night, I went to see father and did not find him in his bed. In his stead were two young men. I went to the workshop and saw him laying on a table. When I asked him, “Father, why did you leave your bed?” He replied, “I heard the guys standing outside in the freezing cold! I pitied them and brought them to my bed.”

In 1908 my father traveled to America, but longed for his family. My mother firmly objected [to his return] and said, “We have no future here in town, I will come to you in America.” But my father could not contain himself and returned. My father feared to enter the house and sent a neighbor to prepare her. The man said, “Kheine, what would you say if Natan were to return home?” “He must be crazy! I will travel to him,” my mother replied. And at that moment my father entered the house.

*

I was a member of HaShomer HaTsair[2] and participated in all tasks given to us. We would make blue–and–white flowers from crepe paper and go in pairs to weddings and other events with Keren Kayemet[3] collection boxes to fundraise. Once, the Yiddishists wanted to collaborate with us on a play and give us 30% of proceeds. But my father refused. “I do not want to be involved with the Yiddishists,” he would say.

I was a devout Zionist and so wanted to travel for training. “I will not allow my only daughter to travel for training,” he said. My brother Eliahu sent a young man to us and we married fictitiously and made aliyah. I had a very tough time in Israel. I had been an only daughter pampered by her father and struggled to adjust to the harsh conditions in Israel. I lived with Eliahu and his wife Khayeh, who was like a mother to me, and thanks to them I stayed in Israel.

In Israel I married my husband Shlomo Ashman and we have two sons, the oldest Yossi and the second Avi. I would be happy if only my parents were alive and with me, and my brothers Leyzer and Khaykl who perished in the ghetto at the hands of the Germans.

 

My brother Leyzer Itskovitsh

Leyzer was the second, after Eliahu. After Eliahu made aliyah, he became the oldest in the home, so naturally he helped father with his business. He was an educated young man, knew Polish well, and would write requests on behalf of residents to the authorities, some paid and some free of charge. He was a nice, well–mannered young man, and was popular. He studied accounting in Vilne and kept my father's books.

There was a time when all the tandetnikim[4] established a co–op to sell clothes at a fixed price. The co–op consisted of my father Natan Itzkovitz, Meir Rogol, and Munye Cherson. Meir's son Yitzach[5] kept the books along with my brother Leyzer. Once, they ran into severe difficulties and could not calculate earnings. In the end they had to approach my father who easily made the calculations. My father smiled and told them, “Nu, kinderlach,[6] finally you cannot calculate and have to approach the schneider kopp?” (a name for a tailor who cannot keep books and can only sew).

My parents and brother Leyzer perished in the Lida ghetto. Leyzer was shot in the winter of 1943 when going with Leyzer the miller to prepare a broom for the house.

 

The Sisters Mineh and Rachel Levine

I see it as a sacred duty to memorialize the sisters Mineh and Rachel Levine. They were orphaned by their father and their mother was ill and bed–ridden. Mineh sewed for us and Rachel for Meir Rogol. I loved them deeply. They were quiet young women with pure souls, kind and gentle. They suffered in silence, were always modest, organized, neatly and cleanly dressed, always smiling, and pleasant to their fellow man. They found their deaths in Voronova with the other Divenishok martyrs.

 

My brother Khaykl Itskovitsh

When Khaykl graduated from the Tarbut school in Divenishok, he traveled to Rabbi Elchonen Wasserman's Yeshiva in Baranovich, who was famous as a pedagogue skilled at conveying basic Talmudic knowledge for beginners. Two years later, Khaykl transferred to the Radin Yeshiva where he studied alongside Binyamin Dubinski and Yeshayahu Moshe Katz.

Khakl had a big soul–– a kind and dear young man. “Whatever you do on Friday, say it's for Shabbat,” my brother would tell me. Diligent and studious, he devoted his entire being to the study of Torah. He always stayed in Radin for Yom Kippur to absorb the spirit of the High Holidays in the presence of the Chofetz Chaim. My brother Khaykl had the honor of dressing the Chofetz Chaim in his coat. It was a big honor that only a lucky few got.

After the high holidays we would send a coach to bring Khaykl home. Once, my father sent my brother Leyzer to bring him home. When Leyzer reached Radin, Khakl brought him to the Yeshiva and then to the Chofetz Chaim's house. Leyzer was captivated by the holiness imbuing the house which made such an unforgettable impression that he began to go daily to the synagogue even though he was not devout. My father was immensely happy.

My brother Meir Yosef told me that during the German occupation, when Khaykl was starving, he would not touch bread until he could ensure the bread was kosher and not near pork.

Khaykl was the jewel of our family and my father was very proud of him. With much joy and pride would my father go to the synagogue on Shabbat with his son Khaykl, and with much devotion would they pray together and return from the synagogue.

My father deeply wished for his son Khaykl to be a Rabbi in Israel, and had he been so honored there would be no man happier than him. Indeed, Khaykl was very well–versed in Torah and was on the threshold of ordination, but fate was very, very cruel to us and my father did not receive that honor.

 

Velvel the Butcher's Home

That house on Subotnik Street was one of the few houses in town in which a heartwarming, friendly atmosphere was present for all who visited. The door was always open to all and everyone was greeted kindly. A feeling of tranquility surrounded you in the unique atmosphere present in that house: harmony and good spirits between all family members, always smiling, calm and polite, and always willing to accept any friend or stranger.

There was something special in that house which attracted the town's youth. The house served as a meeting place for the youth of Divenishok. From morning to evening the house was full, be it for card games or checkers or rehearsals for plays.

That house is near and dear to me. It was etched deep in my soul and to this day I dream of it as if I am still in it, spending the beautiful times of my youth. Whenever I felt an empty inside, and sadness surrounded me, I would rush to that house; as soon as I would enter, my mood would change as if by magic wand, and I would become a different person, calmer, all woes far away. I would forget everything and be in a different world. Fate was cruel to that family. Aside from one son, Yitzach, who resides in the United States, not one remained alive. It was a large household of 8 people.

The father, Velvel, was sure to attend daily services at the synagogue and was a regular member of the Psalm Society. Every Shabbat afternoon, after a short nap, he would read the weekly Torah portion, reciting Shnayim mikra ve–echad targum.[7]

The burden of providing for the family rested on the shoulders of Yudl and Manke, two strong, kind, and courteous young men. Manke excelled in physical strength, and when the occasional squabble between Jews and Gentiles took place, he always stood guard. The Gentiles treated him with respect, as they recognized his strength.

It is said of Manke that when the family was led to their deaths and the Germans began hitting his father, Manke rushed over and began raining blows on the German until a bullet pierced his heart.

Rokhl was a good woman and a kind soul. She would help her mother in caring for the household, and with kindness and conversational talent was the main hostess who made stays pleasant, entertaining guests with a kind word or attractive story.

Nekhamak'e was an active member of HaShomer HaTsair. She attended training but was not fortunate enough to make aliyah. She studied accounting in Vilne and later worked at a bank.

The youngest and most pampered in the family was Khaykl. He was a talented young man who studied for some time in Radin and then devoted himself completely to the Zionist ideal. He was very active in HaShomer HaTsair and became one of its leaders. A very kind young man, he was very popular among the youth in town–– kind, courteous, always smiling and calm. The smile on his face did not dissolve until the very last moment.

 

On Minke Mintz and Her Family

I am obliged to mention my friend Minkeh Mintz. They lived in a warehouse on Geranion Street. Her father, Yosl “the warehouse man”, was a merchant who struggled hard to feed his family. His wife Esther was Sarah Leah, Velvel the butcher's, wife [sic].[8] Like her sister, she was a quiet woman, modest, and carried her suffering in silence. The son, Mordechai, was a quiet and kind young man, but weak and sickly from the day he was born. He was a good friend who helped his father with providing for the family.

The daughter Mineh was the most successful in her family. Tall, with dreamy blue eyes, she was beautiful and beloved by all. She attended training, but for various reasons was not fortunate enough to make aliyah.

They were honest and tranquil people. They too perished in the Voronova Ghetto.

 

Editor's Footnotes
  1. After Nebuchadnezzar exiled most of the Jews from Israel, he appointed Gedaliah to govern those who remained. Gedaliah advocated submission to Babylon as a means of ensuring continued partial Jewish autonomy, and under his administration, the Jewish colony prospered. When he was assassinated in 423BC by political rivals, the Jews scattered and all remaining vestiges of Jewish autonomy were lost. His assassination is commemorated yearly with the Fast of Gedaliah. (“Gedalia ben Ahikam”, in Chabad.org Knowledge Base, http://www.chabad.org/search/keyword_cdo/kid/9673/jewish/Gedaliah–ben–Ahikam.htm, last accessed 18 December 2017. Return
  2. Zionist self–defense movement Return
  3. Jewish National Fund Return
  4. Tailors involved in sewing ready–made clothing, as opposed to made–to–measure clothing, see https://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/Capresti/cap030.html, last accessed 18 December 2017. Return
  5. This is likely a misremembered name since Meir Rogol's son Moshe Yakov was a bookkeeper, see p. 328. Return
  6. ‘So, children…’ Return
  7. A mitzvot, or religious obligation, to twice re–read by recitation the weekly Torah portion along with some commentary to the portion once, outside of the synagogue. Return
  8. An obvious misprint. Esther is Sarah Leah's sister. Return


[Page 305]

A Daughter and Granddaughter Speaks

Sarah Hinde Movshovitsh [Blyakher]

Translated by Meir Bulman

My grandfather was named Binyamin. I do not know much about him. One action he took was etched deep in my heart. It was on a cold winter day. My mother was sick with pneumonia. Grandfather, then aged 75, left his spot by the fireplace, approached mother, and said, “You are still young and you care for small children. I am an old man. If the heavens wish you any harm I accept your fate and punishment in your stead.” He passed a short while following that.

My grandmother Khaveh died aged 93, though she was never ill. On the day she would pass she approached mother and said, “Khenye, are you cooking for the holiday? I would like to taste Passover soup before I travel – I am going home.” “What are you talking about?” my mother responded, “We are preparing for the Passover Seder and you will join us.” “No,” she said, “go call Moshe, I really need him.” When my father entered she told him, “Go tell Mikhel the gravedigger to prepare a plot for me, I am going home.” Father was startled and refused. My grandmother would not let him evade her, and so he fulfilled her request, teary–eyed. When he returned, Grandmother called him and said, “Moshe, you see, I am sweating. This is cold perspiration, my final perspiration.” Father wiped away the sweat and she passed away in his arms in the blink of an eye.

After the final hessed[1] was done for her, all sat a brief shivah, because shivah cannot be fulfilled during the festival.

My father was a manual laborer and worked hard so he could provide for his family, but that did not stop him from dealing in public matters and providing aid to the needy. Father would raise funds for ma'ot khitim,[2] and general charity for the poor and the sick – as matan b'seter.[3] On Friday nights he would remain in the synagogue and wait for the needy who were not yet invited to the Sabbath meal, and invite them to our home. There were always many poor folks at our Sabbath meals.

After the Germans invaded, father sheltered many refugees in our home–– though that required putting his own life on the line. I remember that as he sheltered two Yeshiva students in our home, one of them was practically barefoot. Father removed the boots from his own feet, gave them to the yeshiva student and said, “I am not working, so I can stay at home. You go to work: take the boots.”

In the days of Russian control father bought grain and sent my husband to the mill to grind, and then distributed the flower to the poor.

 

Editor's and Translator's Footnotes
  1. Ed. Note: The act of Jewish burial is known as hessed shel emet (literally: true kindness). Return
  2. Tr. Note: The Jewish custom of giving charity before Passover to help needy families buy matza and other necessities for the festival (literally: money for wheat) (from morfix.co.il) Return
  3. Tr. Note: Anonymous charitable contributions Return


My Mother Immigrated to Israel in 1922

Sara Kaplan

Translated by Meir Bulman

My mother, Yonah, was the daughter of Eliahu the Butcher (Elyeh der Katzev). She arrived in Israel in 1922.

My grandfather cared for a large family of 11 people. There were many butchers in town and competition was fierce so his financial status was poor. Every child who matured searched for a haven out of the house and most of them dispersed across the world.

My grandfather's origin was in Eyshishok where he had many relatives. Among them was the Schneider family, who decided to make aliyah. My [grand]father took advantage of that opportunity and asked the Schneiders to list my mother as a family member, allowing my mother to make aliyah. She made aliyah with the Schneider family and worked various jobs to sustain herself.

After a while, she met my father, Yehuda Spivak, and married.

After wandering from one moshav[1] to the next, they reached Kfar Ma'as where they decided to reside permanently. My mother had three children here: Sima, Eliahu, and myself, Sarah.

Since the Mordechai Kaplan [family] from Divenishok also resided in Ma'as, we were naturally friendly with them, and my future husband Yosef became friendly with me and we married eventually.

While still in Divenishok, my mother owned a small grocery store in Moshe the Tinsmith's house. My future husband Yosef would come to her store to ask for candy. Decades later, when her daughter was grown and Yosef was courting her, he would remind my mother of the candy she gave him in Divenishok and the flavor which remained with him to that day. My mother would smile and say, "I have a realistic view of life: I prepared a husband for my daughter in the Diaspora."

After I married my husband Yosef, we relocated to Ramat Aviv in Tel Aviv. He enlisted in the Israeli Police and reached the rank of officer. We were also fortunate to have three girls: Orit, Liat, and Einat who continue their parents' tradition. Orit received an honor in school for an essay titled My Father's House which appears in this Yizkor Book.

 

Editor's Footnote
  1. A farmer's cooperative. Return


[Page 306]

A Family of Blacksmiths

By Zalmen Bronshtayn

Translated by Meir Bulman

The profession of blacksmith was difficult and physically exhausting. Yet it is a historical fact that in Poland, only Jews did this profession. There must have been political and economic reasons for that and I do not wish to examine them here. But it is a fact that must not be denied. I write this to emphasize that the profession of blacksmith was a family tradition spanning many generations. My grandfather, and his grandfather before him, and my father, brother, and I continued that tradition.

My grandfather was a blacksmith and inherited the smithy from his father. My grandmother's name was Sara Feigl.

My grandfather was a Torah scholar and had sons knowledgeable of Torah. He was admired and respected by the area farmers, who came to him to exchange horseshoes, repair wagon wheels and sled blades. He was known as Yehuda the Blacksmith, but one event added to him the description of dentist: a farmer who came to the smithy complained of a severe toothache. In those days, there were no dentists in small towns, and my grandfather wanted to help the poor farmer who was squirming in pain. He searched for a solution and found one; because he knew toothaches are not persistent but rather come and go, he approached the farmer, put his fingers into his mouth, whispered some spell, and promised the farmer that when he will return home the pain will subside. And indeed, that is what happened: the pain diminished. The farmer brought my father a gift and said, “You saved me, Yudtshke.” He then told an audience of villagers about the wonders of Yehuda the Blacksmith, who was immediately crowned with the title “dentist.”

My grandmother was known as a kind-hearted and righteous woman. She enjoyed giving to charity and granting others the mitzvah of charity.

My grandfather had six sisters and three brothers.[1] The eldest traveled to the United States after he married. The second, Daniel, also traveled to the United States. The third child was my father Moshe. His sister Rachel-Malka also married in Divenishok and traveled to the States. Tzire Leah (Lyke), a beautiful and intelligent young woman was active in the Bund prior to WWI. She was a leader and enthusiastic speaker. Once, while lecturing to a crowd of young men and women, soldiers and police officers appeared and began hitting attendants left and right. Lyke was scared, later developed epilepsy, and after a few months on the brink of death passed away. The remainder of the sisters married, and they too left Divenishok.

My father had eight children: Shakhne-Itshe who passed away in America; Sarah, who married in Warsaw perished at the hands of the Nazis in 1941, along with her husband and three children; Sholom Ber (Dov) who married and moved to Oren, near the border of Lithuania, and became one of the most daring Partisans in the Oren area. Tzirke married Antek from Warsaw, who was the first to offer a taxi service in Divenishok. He drove passengers twice daily from Divenishok to the train station in Benakani and from there they would travel by train to Vilne. My sister Yeintke married Mendel “Kragele [bars]”. The sixth child is myself – Zalman Yosef. Dovke and Yehudit had not married and perished in Voronova.

I began my studies at the Hebrew school, which was right across the street from us. My teachers were Ingulski, who taught us according to Manosevits' Sight for Eyes, and the teacher Leyb Arye who taught us bible and Talmud. My studies were discontinued by my father who took me to work. I objected and escaped to my relatives in Geranion, but my father returned me to work because my assistance at the smithy was very much needed. “The family is large and there are many needs,” he would claim, “you must help me work so I can provide for my large family!” In the end I agreed and since then I worked with father at the smithy-- until he passed away. After that I managed the smithy.

In my youth I was a member of Gordonia.[2] The activists in that movement were Eliyahu Itzkovitz (Netaneli), and Yossef son of Rabbi Movoshovitz. After that, crisis erupted in the land and winds of change began blowing in town.

Luck smiled upon me and I reached Israel by a difficult path, built a home, and now live in Hadera with my wife Rachel and my only child, Moshe.

 

Editor's Footnotes
  1. From the context it is clear that the meaning of this sentence is that the grandfather had 9 children, six girls and three boys. Return
  2. A Zionist youth movement established in 1923 in Galicia. According to the Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe: “From the time of its founding, its acknowledged leader and ideologue was Pinchas Lubianniker (Lavon; 1904–1976), who established Gordonia after he left Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa'ir in disagreement with its ideological developments.” Tzur, Eli. 2010. Gordonia. YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Gordonia (accessed August 4, 2017). Return


[Page 308]

A Typical Jewish Home

Zipporah Yudenfreund (Levine)

Translated by Meir Bulman

Our home was a typical Jewish home like all Jewish homes in town. Father was an ordinary man who made his living by hard work. But behind the ordinary [façade] hid a noble personality and a gentle soul which strove to instill in the hearts of his children a love of Torah and a love of humanity.

Those days from my childhood are etched deep in my heart. There was no kindergarten, nor kindergarten teacher, and my father filled the role of educator. He taught us to memorize the morning blessing. Every morning after the blessing each child had to approach mother and father and say, “Good morning” and kiss their palms, and at night before bed [each child] had to say good night. On Shabbat, we had to sing hymns with father although we barely knew how to pronounce the words.

Father expected great things from his children but regretfully was not so honored. At a certain age children [tend to] go through a crisis and stop studying. This was very painful for father. He attempted to persuade [us] in a charming manner, quoting passages from Pirkei Avot.

My father was kind and looked after poor children. When Nahum's class completed its course, the [class] parents wanted to establish a continuing class which the parents would have to fund. Yeshayahu Moshe Katz was in that class; his widowed mother could not afford tuition. There were parents who objected to Yeshayahu Moshe continuing his studies, but my father rose and said, “Be careful about the education of the sons of paupers, as it is from them that the Torah will issue forth.[1] If Yeshayahu Moshe will not study, my son Nahum will also not study.” Spirits were calmed and everyone agreed for him to continue.

My father was a man of conversation and liked company. He gladly participated in various cultural activities. I remember my father played the role of Jacob the Forefather, which was the lead role in the Sale of Yosef play in town. The play made a good impression on the town and generated substantial revenue for the library.

 

Translator's Footnote
  1. The quotation is from the Talmud: Nedarim 81a. Return


A Brief Biography
of My Friend Avraham Kartshmer

Avraham Aloni

Translated by Meir Bulman

Ever since I was a young boy Avraham Kartshmer stood out to me as a talented child. Avarham and his uncle Reuven Kartshmer were similar: talented, sharp, studious, and with a phenomenal memory. As a pupil at the kheyder, Rabbi Leyb Aryeh predicted a great future for him.

After graduating from the local school, Avraham Kartshmer traveled to Vilne where he completed his schooling at the Sophia Gorvits Gymnasium and was hired as a teacher in a town nearby.

Avraham did not see teaching as his life's destiny, but a spring–board to continue his post–secondary schooling.

At school he met his future wife Tamara, who was a Polish–language instructor. He traveled with her to Paris to pursue a higher education. Conditions were harsh; they had no source of income and had to worry about both schooling and work.

Thanks to his willpower and his many talents, Avraham managed to overcome all obstacles and obtained an engineering degree. He specialized in alcohol manufacturing and succeeded in that field beyond expectations. He was appointed manager of the largest beer brewery in Lille, France.

He was considered an expert in that field in France and published many articles on the subject. Avraham visited Israel often and once even came as the leader of a group of expert consultants to the beer industry in Israel.

At the start of the World War, he was enlisted in the French military and was taken prisoner. His wife Tamara suffered much and the burden of raising their daughter fell on her shoulders– a task which she fulfilled with honor until her husband returned. They raised their daughter on the love of humanity and the love of Israel. She completed her university studies with honors and worked as a physics instructor at a university and won an award for her research in the field of physics. Her husband who is from a respected Jewish French family works as a scientist at a university. Avraham was also blessed with a granddaughter who will soon complete medical school.

In his youth, Avraham was somewhat distanced from Zionism, but in recent years became a conscious Zionist and is alert to every Jewish issue in Israel and the world. He retired last year and began taking an interest in cultural and social issues. His wife Tamara is a loyal life–friend to him and has supported him through his struggles.


[Page 309]

Khaneh[1]

Khonen Eysishki

Translated by Meir Bulman

It was a blessing in disguise. Moshke Rivel's di Blindde informed the NKVD[2] that I had in my possession a gun from the Polish days. The gun was found during a surprise inspection conducted in my house, and after a trial I was sent to two years in prison in Sverdlovsk. In September of 1941 I was released with the Poles from the camps. I could no longer return home and was sent to the Stalingrad District, where I worked 18 months at a kolkhoz[3] named Watero. After that I was transferred to the coal mines near the Mongolian border at Komorowska Oblast and at the order of Vanda Vasilsovka was enlisted in the Armia Ludowa (The Polish People's Army). Thanks to my athletic build, my appearance, and especially my perfect command of the Polish language and style, I gained the trust of my superiors.

After questioning, I was sent to an officer's training course in Razian, and was certified as a Polish officer six months later. I was enlisted in the Polish Brigade headed by General Berling which made its way west with the Russian army. We traveled from Smolensk to Zhitomir and from there to the Barditchev and the Lutskiverts woods in Polish Ukraine. I commanded a platoon of 67 people. We crossed the Bug River and reached Lublin two days after the invasion. Coincidentally, I was transferred from an officer on the front lines to an officer on the rear, and I could patrol freely behind the lines and witness events. In Lublin I visited the death camps. For the first time I saw the horrors the Germans inflicted on Jews. The camp still had human skeletons, piles of eyeglasses, children's shoes, a large hair warehouse, torture cellars, and more. The horrifying sight left an impression on me and I was in shock.

From Lublin we traveled to the Vistula, and while the army was situated in Dumblin Fortress I patrolled the town of Dumblin and saw uprooted tombstones used for sidewalks. The town itself contained no trace of Jews.

Warsaw was under heavy siege by Russian artillery and aerial bombardment. German units were seen roaming through Warsaw by car or on foot, all headed west wearing rags, barefoot, with unkempt beards. On 2/8/1944 we were ready to cross the Vistula, but the Russian offensive was suddenly stopped. Later it turned out that the Armia Ludowa in Warsaw, headed by General Bór–Komorowski, started an uprising against the Germans to take control before the Soviet army and the Polish Brigade fighting alongside it would cross the Vistula. The Russians postponed the offensive and waited until the Germans would [begin to] suppress the uprising. General Berling sent in two para–trooping units that fought alongside the rebels in Zoliborz and Czerniaków, but the uprising failed and on 2 October an envoy of Armia Ludowa signed the surrender. The Russians began an all–out assault on Warsaw and occupied it in a short time. General Berling payed with his life for daring to send para–troopers to the aid of the rebels and command of the Kościuszko Polish Division was taken from him; his whereabouts since are unknown.[4]

I was wounded at the battle on the Vistula and was hospitalized for a few months in a field hospital in Otebsk. After I healed I was once again enlisted in the Polish Brigade and reached Eastern Prussia during the fighting. In one of the battles I took 2 Germans as prisoners. My platoon sustained heavy losses that day and with burning hatred for the Germans I executed the Germans with my own hands.

In the evening, battalion commander Smitanin contacted me and instructed me to immediately appoint my immediate subordinate and report to the command center at once. When I reached the command center, Smitanin drew his gun from his holster while spouting juicy curses. My blood froze. “You took prisoners?” he asked, and without waiting for my response added, “Where are they?” I answered firmly, “You know I'm Jewish and what the Germans did to my people! You should know that every German I take as a prisoner will not live, and you can do with me as you please.” The commander was slightly calmed and then the political first–lieutenant addressed me and said it would have been better if I had at least interrogated them first– since we had sustained heavy losses that day. After that I was sent back to my unit.

I was severely wounded in the town of Miroslawiec and was hospitalized for over four months. I then returned to my unit which was in Biala Podalaska where I was discharged from the army.

 

Editor's Footnotes
  1. The reason for the selection of the name Khaneh for the title of the article is not clear. Return
  2. The leading Soviet secret police organization from 1934 to 1946 Return
  3. A collective farm in the Soviet Union Return
  4. In fact Berling was not killed during these events and reached the age of 84; (https://www.hoover.org/news/papers–polish–general–zygmunt–berling–now–available–hoover–institution) Return


[Page 311]

About the Family of Tsvi Schmidt
(Hershl the Stableman)

Zalmen Dan Kushtulski

Translated by Meir Bulman

After the dismantling of the Vornova Ghetto, Hershl and his family were at Biale Wotzka, near Vilne and not far from Suruk Tatrov. When I went to Vilne to extract an organized group from the ghetto, we also extracted him and his family. On our way back, his wife and his child were killed in a German ambush. Tsvi and his son escaped to Divenishok, where the gentiles murdered them.


Our Mother Khayne
Daughter of Avraham Eliezer and Miriam Levine

Eliyahu Netaneli [Itskovtish]

Translated by Meir Bulman

With these words I memorialize you, mother, and fulfill a sacred obligation. In your memories we include hundreds of mothers in our town.

Although you were not overly ambitious, nor caused any miracles, I want to raise three events that remain in my memory.

At the start of the 20th Century a revolutionary underground countering the Czar expanded and many Jews joined. As in every town, a cell of the Bund organized in Divenishok, which my mother joined at age 15. As a member of the cell, she and three young men were tasked with assassinating the commander of the regional gendarmerie in Oshmene, who was known as a Jew–hating dictator.

In his passage by coach through the Kalvitze Forest on his way to Divenishok, my mother served as a look–out. The men attacked the commander and quickly restrained him, and before he could draw his weapon they tied a rope around his neck and slowly strangled him. They tied up the coachman in the coach and left.

The men were quickly smuggled abroad. My mother returned home half–conscious and was bedridden for a few days. After she recovered she told of what had happened to the gendarmerie commander. My parents quickly moved her to relatives in Vilne, where she began studying handcrafts, and three years later was bestowed the master's degree.

The second event took place during WWI in 1914 when I was seven years old. The Germans expelled us from our house and moved us to a small wooden house plagued by dampness and humidity.

One day, hunger bothered me and I ran to my grandfather's house to ask for a slice of bread. On the way there I passed near the military police station where I saw a full loaf of bread on the window sill. A battle took place within me between the commandment “thou shall not steal” and the sense of hunger. I felt an inner pang and could not contain myself and nicked the loaf of bread from the window.

Before I could move I felt a blow to my face and a German police sergeant appeared before me, raining blows and shouting in German. I fell to the ground, my nose bleeding. The sergeant carried me in his arms and brought me to the commander. He saw me bleeding, took pity on me, and commanded the return of the loaf to me and the supply of a loaf to my family daily.

My mother was not home at that time, as she and the other local women were apple picking at the Albertina Ranch by German decree. She returned shattered and broken because the Germans had assaulted her for not keeping up the pace with the other women. When she saw me, she began to cry, bandaged me with a cold bandage and began consoling me. When she handed me a slice of bread, I refused to eat and yelled, “No! I will not eat stolen bread, God will punish me.” My mother consoled me, saying I was young and stole without intent and therefore God will forgive me. The war ended and a few more children were added to our home, and our life returned to its usual course. Our home was spacious. There were laborers in the workshop and merchants came from nearby towns to purchase coats, and my mother conducted the household and ensured the children had all they needed. She made every effort for her children to be raised in the Jewish tradition and to study a profession, so they could make a decent living.

Since I left home many years have passed. Many experiences and memories became blurred, new times have come, everything changed, and only memories remain.

In these words, I dedicate my gratitude to you, mother. You lived a life of financial success, but one of hard work. Raising children and managing a house with many laborers are not trivial matters, and also [you] did everything with love and devotion, never complaining, always silently, calm, and cheerful. As they say, [you were a] “a Yiddishe Mama,” until that fateful day arrived.

May her soul be bound in the bond of everlasting life.

 

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