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[Col. 1279]


(Dukštas, Lithuania)



[Col. 1279]

On Polish – Lithuanian Soil

Chaim Grade

Translated by Janie Respitz

––Were you only from straw and moss
That the wind , without vestige could carry you away?
My poor Sabbath, my holy ecstatic week,
Who will now recite the mourner's prayer for you?
The market place is full with merchants and villager's wagons,
The fairs are bustling and joyfully noisy,
The village virgins bow to the stone Jesus,
As if they were thanking him because there were no longer any Jews.

Fathers dreaming, your stringy beards
Are now the autumn spider webs, that hang in the air,
They hang like harps on the river banks of Babylon…rusty
On willows bent over Polish – Lithuanian soil.
A flood of water, that ends, leaves no signs
As our settlement here has been abandoned,
Only I see, on the porches of our occupied homes –
A shadow of the side locks that are blown and scream in the wind.
I search on the road for the prayer shawl I spun
From stories of our Shtetl, cemetery legends and worker's songs.
If I could only find a piece of my torn prayer shawl –
I would spin it again.

[Col. 1293]

My Little Shtetle

By Ruben Hamburg

Translation by Anita Frishman Gabbay

My little shtetle Dukst were I was born and where I spent the best years of my youth, comes back to me now as if in a long lost and beautiful dream.

Until today, I remember every detail of my little shtetl. I can see the streets with their shops, the market place with tens of stalls, the mill with the electric power, the 2 Jewish Folk schools, the synagogue and the miniamin, the Holy aura during the “Days of Awe” (Yom Kippur), and other holidays, the Zionists and the “Yiddishists”. All this is so near and dear to me and stands before my eyes.

I remember my little town with its beautiful nature, with her lakes and forests, hills and valleys, each placed where we used to play or stroll during the Shabbath. I remember those frosty winter days, when we used to sled down the higher hill, this was always a wonderful time for us, the children of Dukst.

It amazes me that I remember my dear home, without my dear and wonderful parents and without my entire family, which were so closely knit to each other.

My heart pines for them and my eyes are filled with tears, like flood waters from the Sea, and I think that there is no one to remember the Kushlins, the Segals, the Himmelfarbs, the Zainmans, the Shapiras, the Gedods, the Levines, the Rosenbergs, the Gurewitches, the Arons. I, alone, remain from my Hamburg family.

[Col. 1294]

Everyone perished at the hands of those murderous beasts! My sister Lipka perished in Vilna when she left the Ghetto. My cousins Bluma and Sara–Elka were shot on the way to the forest, where they wanted to reach the Partisans. My parents with my younger brother Smerele, died in the Dukst forest together with the Jews Malak, Rimsana, Turmant, Zarasai.

In Dukst, 20 people were hacked to pieces, amongst them my young friends.

From this “Action” very few remained.

From this moment on, my will to survive became my obsession. Besides this, my sister Bluma was still alive, as well as my cousins Sara–Devora Berman, who had at the right time left for America. My aunt Chaia Kushlin with her sons Abraham and Sneour.

Those who saved themselves by fleeing into the forests and fighting alongside the Partisans in bloody battles are most thankful.

The part of the Dukst community that remained was very small, one can say they were almost annihilated.

In the Dukst forests you can find our “Dear Brother's Grave” and this is what remains to remember our dear little shtetl of Dukst.

It was a very little shtetl. Jews lived side by side like one large and extended family. You couldn't distinguish who was a relative and who wasn't. We all lived like brothers and sisters, until the wild and barbaric beasts arrived and slaughtered these good and innocent souls. I, together with those who survived, will always keep their Memory alive.

[Col. 1295]

The Cultural – Communal Life

Soreh – Dvoyreh Berman / Hartford, United States

Translation by Janie Respitz

Duksht began to develop as a town when it was decided to build a large train station in the region. Jews were dispersed throughout all the villages in the region like: Kaniuk, Drishkun, Ligun and others. They lived a lonely life. They believed a community could be built around the train station and began to move to Duksht.

They all built their homes around the train station.

One of the first Jewish residents in the new community was actually my great grandfather Moishe Kaniuker, or Moishe Hamburg. He moved there with his sons: Abba – Nakhman, Yisroel and Leyb. Following him other families arrived including the family of Reb Shneour Zalman Levin, from whom all the Levins and Davidovitchs in town descended.

Another early Jewish resident was Reb Lipeh Rappaport, whose son Anshl became an important socialist leader in France.

Besides the Jews from the villages, many Jews moved to Dushkt from surrounding towns. They believed it would be easier to earn a living close to the new train station. They were right. Many Jews benefited from the station.

Among the Jews in Duksht who earned a good living were: Ruven Eidelman, Yehuda Leyb Podvitch, Shaul Ber Shinavitch, Zundl Tzinaman, Yisroel Feldman, Yisroel Luria, and all the Tarnesses and Bloshteyns.

Slowly, a Jewish community grew around the station.

[Col. 1296]

A nice House of Prayer was built, a Rabbi was hired and Duksht became a Jewish community like all the others in Sventzian province.

The first Rabbi in Duksht was Rabbi Dov– Ber Abigil. He arrived as a young man and remained his whole life. When he died his position was taken over by his son–in–law Rabbi Borukh Spivak who was a great scholar.

Duksht was always proud of its Rabbis and they were loved throughout the region. Rabbi Abigil was even a student of the well–known Rabbi Meir Simkha. The story in town was Rabbi Meir Simkha gave him a prayer book as a gift with the following inscription: “One should know what is written here”.

In the early years Duksht suffered a fire which destroyed the town. In those days no one was insured and as they say, everyone was left with only the shirt on their backs. But, no one lost faith. They quickly rebuilt the town and returned to a normal life.


The large family of Leyb Hamburg with their relatives: Doytch, Rozentzveig, Ahkenazi

[Col. 1297]

The story went that when people did not even have a piece of bread, they still sent their children to their teacher, and made sure he lacked nothing so the children could continue learning.

Duksht was situated topographically on a hill. This did not help much as the town was often deep in mud. It was referred to in the region as the “Duksht Marsh”.

My mother, may she rest in peace, Taybe (nee Epshteyn), would recount how when she arrived in Duksht from the Lithuanian city Vilkovsky, she had to get used to wearing boots all the time. At home, only peasants would wear boots, not Jewish women.

In time, the main streets were paved and they even built wooden sidewalks. The town now looked nice and people forgot about the past marshes.

Until the outbreak of the First World War, Jews lived in tranquility. They were satisfied and happy. A few months after the war began the front moved closer and the Jews had to leave all their belongings and evacuate their homes. The majority wandered to Ukraine and deep into Russia. Meanwhile the Christians destroyed and stole their belongings. The few Jewish families which remained tried to guard the Jewish homes, but they too were eventually chased out by the Germans and they settled in Utian and Ponevezh.

In time, all the Jews from Duksht became refugees.

After the war, when they returned home, they had to start from scratch. They had to rebuild their homes and look for livelihood. But our Jews did not lose their courage or faith. With great trouble they rebuilt and found a way to earn a living. Some more and some less but everyone found his way. Almost all who left returned.

After the war the Jewish population

[Col. 1298]

increased not only in numbers but in quality. Some important well– off people arrived like: Aharon Katcherginsky, Noteh Luria, Yakov Kovarsky and others.

They brought new colour into the communal and economic life of Duksht. Duksht was reborn and once again had a great reputation in the region.

Aharon Katcherginsky has the town to thank for two large economic endeavors. He built a steam mill and was the first to provide the town with electricity. He had a strong will. When Katcherginsky decided to do something, everyone knew he would not rest until it was accomplished. This is what happened with his dream of providing the town with electricity. Within a few years there was electricity in all the homes and in all the streets.

Communal life began to develop after the First World War. The youth were particularly involved. Firstly, a Jewish Folk – School was established thanks to the energy and initiative of Zalman Feygelson, Lipman Levin and Eliyahu Himilfarb.


Youth from top to bottom: Borukh Noyman, Dovid Gravitch, Yakov Feldman, Kanovsky, Shneour Korb, ____

[Col. 1299]

The school quickly became associated with the centre of all the Jewish schools in Vilna.

From the first day, the economic situation of the school was not well founded. They received subsidies from the central school organization as well as tuition from the parents. However this did not cover all the expenses.

The students decided to form a drama club and all proceeds from performances would go to the school.

The leaders of the drama club were: Lipman Levin, Tzipe Levin, Eliyahu Himlfarb, Leyb Kushlin, Malka Bloshteyn, Esther Feldman, Soreh Levin (Davidovitch), Hirshl Gurvitch, Motl Kalrin, Motl Levin, Shloimeh Katcherginsky, Binyomin Davidovitch, Asher Segal and others.

The drama club from Duksht soon acquired a great reputation throughout the province. All of their performances were well received. They strove toward two goals: the town now had a Yiddish theatre and they now had the financial ability to support the Yiddish school.

The drama club from Duksht performed plays by: Sholem Asch, Sholem Aleichem, Yakov Gordin, Dovid Pinsky as well as translations from general literature.

Thanks to the initiative of Bezalel Levin a Jewish People's Bank was also founded which had the colossal responsibility for the economic development of the town. Its first board of directors was comprised of: Bezalel Levin, Aharon Katcherginsky, Abba Levin, Yoel Luria, Yosef Rives, Pinkhas Daytch and Avrom Segal.

In later years, the bank saved many shopkeepers and artisans from a big crisis.

The Jewish public library helped build the communal and cultural life in town. It contained many Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian and Polish books. There were always many readers and they raised the cultural level of the town's youth.

When the struggle began throughout Poland between the Hebraists and Yiddishists

[Col. 1300]

a second Jewish school was founded. The language of instruction in the new school was Hebrew and it belonged to the Tarbut organization. Its founders and leaders were: Bezalel Levin, Binyomin Davidovitch, Moishe Luria, Shloimeh Katcherginsky and Moishe Doytch.

Later, a branch of “HeChalutz” was founded. They opened a carpentry workshop which taught many young people a good trade. Besides this, “HeChalutz” rented land from a Christian and planted vegetables. This garden provided income, but more importantly, taught the youth to work the land.

Duksht was considered a Zionist town. Often speakers would come from Vilna and Warsaw and provide propaganda on behalf of The Jewish National Fund and The Jewish Agency.

I remember a speaker called Garbovsky who made a big impression on his listeners. After his talk many wrote out pledges for the Zionist fund.

There was also a division of Mizrachi in Duksht. All the Zionist organizations were represented. It was said that our town played a large role in the building of the Land of Israel.

This is how our town was active until the outbreak of the Second World War. First our town was occupied by the Red Army. Then it was given over to the Lithuanian Republic.

At that time I took advantage of the opportunity and left for Kovno. I then had the opportunity to leave and join my husband who was in America.

This is the reason I was saved, but I left behind my entire family. They were all later killed by the bloody hands of the German and Lithuanian beasts.

Today I live with my husband and two children in Hartford, in the United States. We will never forget our nearest and best who were murdered in Duksht.

Their memories will be eternally engraved in our hearts.


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