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[Col. 1449]

Kimelishak

(Kamelishki, Belarus)

5451' 2553'

 

Kimelishak, a Village Transformed into a Splendid Shtetl

Leah Aharon Kuritzki

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

Edited by Rhoda Miller

Until October 17, 1942 our small shtetl led a splendid existence. Four generations of Jews grew up here until the wild Nazi beasts arrived and sowed their destruction, all our nearest and dearests, grandfathers and grandmothers, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and our beloved young children were murdered and wiped from this earth.

To this day there are very few that remained to tell the story of how the shtetl was founded and how it developed. I see it as my Holy duty to write and brag about the things I learned during my Cheder–years and which I heard from my grandfathers, father and mother.

Through the flatlands of Lithuania and White–Russia there were kilometers of thick, lush green forests that cut the landscape, from Podbrodz, Michaelishok and Bistritz. Within this triangle of about eighteen kilometers from the Podbrodz train station was a long narrow village, surrounded by sharp stones. The wooden houses were covered with straw roofs. This village was called Kimelishak.

Next to the town meandered a stream which went as far as lake Niemen, on whose waters sailed many boats transporting the wood–products from our rich forests to all the towns of Europe.

Passing through the village, next to the road which led us to moniantek sviranec (Svir mountain), a new landscape appeared before our eyes where we saw different styles of houses. They were built in the modern style and they were covered with shingles, tin or other materials, but not straw.

[Col. 1450]

Not far from these home the sidewalks, comfortable and wide, made of wood stretched alongside. These homes belonged to the Jewish folk, which developed the shtetl into a splendid one.

In the center of town was the market square with its old Church standing nearby, surrounded by a wooden fence.

The main streets were called: Church Street, Prener Street and Sviranker Street. Each street also had side streets, the so–called “little streets.” At the end of town, behind the forest, was the Christian Cemetery, the Magilnik.

When the Polish revolt of 1863 was over, the Tzarist regime

[Col. 1451]

declared to confiscate the Polish homes and divide the land amongst the poor. Thanks to this change the small town of Kimelishak was founded in that area.

Many Jewish Yeshuvnikes (from the work Ishuv=collective farm) lived in the surrounding area. They rich folk of the noble estates employed them; mill keepers, craftsmen, Innkeepers and tradesmen. They lived far from a Jewish community, separated and their dream was to live amongst fellow Jews.

These original Yeshuvniks were the first founders of Kimelishak. In 1873, my great grandfather happened to arrive here, Rabbi Moishe Yankel Kuritzki, z”l.

His parents previously lived in Haydutishok, when he was 13 years old they left for a small village Apushin, at 16 years he married and opened a kleitel in that village.

Slowly the young man found a better profession. He was a procurer of meat for the Russian garrison, not far from his village and he delivered various products for the workers who were laying the tracks for the Vilna–Petersburg railway.

In Apushin he bore five sons and three daughters. The eldest son Elochim married a girl from Niemencine, and moved to Sviranek. The second son Meir married the daughter of the Sol(er) Rabbi and moved to Varnian.

The third son married Esther–Raize Levin from Sventzian and moved to Kimelishak.

Arriving in the village our grandfather found one Jewish family, Eliahu Garberovitch who came from Pren and already owned an Inn and a restaurant. Many peasants frequented his establishments. Especially every Sunday it was full when the Christians came to pray at Church. At the same time they brought fruit and other produce which they sold to the Innkeeper. He earned a comfortable living this way.

Slowly the Jewish community grew

[Col. 1452]

and by the 1900s there were approximately 30 Jewish families in Kimelishak.

It became known throughout the region that the priest was secretly converting Jews. Often Jews arrived to seek help to rescue those converted Jews.

Grandfather Gershon told us how he saved Jewish girls from this shame. At that time you risked your life. The gentiles were angered and if they knew the truth, they were prepared to kill us. I was still a young boy when this took place and I was very frightened. My grandfather seemed a true Jewish hero to me, I respected and loved him.

It seems to me that business was done on those Sundays. They took advantage of bringing their produce and went home with various products they bought in return.

The community survived from these Sundays and holidays, it was their primary means of livelihood.

Although the church bells and Christian holidays brought us our income, we, children, have unhappy memories. When the bells started ringing, we suddenly had bad thoughts. Mainly, I remember, we were frightened when a Christian funeral took place. We closed our shutters, pulled down the curtains and hid in our homes. We children peaked through the cracks. Our hearts were sad.

In the weekdays the shtetl was very quiet. The Jewish shopkeepers sat on their porches and talked politics or read a newspaper.

When the shtetl grew larger, we organized a weekly market day, like in all the nearby towns. This took place every Wednesday,

[Col. 1453]

hundreds of small wagons arrived laden with products. The peasants brought eggs, hen, butter, cheese, fruit and vegetables, calves and horses, and other animals.

The shtetl was filed with noise. All the Jews were overworked and exhausted. One bought a sack of corn, another a sack of wheat. We children loved to watch in bewilderment how the hens were bought. An old Jewish woman took a hen from a wagon, and blew into its behind to see if the hen had enough fat.

I remember the two brothers Sender and Menachem Stripunski who were considered large traders in eggs and pig–hair.

Chana stood with her little wagon and sold her polive and other things. She traded her products for things to eat.

Faivele the foreman traded in calves. Other Jews sold bread, candies, fruit and lemonade.

Asher Gimnanski dealt in other things. He had large spinning– machines in his store. The peasants brought him the wool of the shorn sheep. Here they spun the wool on his spinning wheels and they prepared the yarn for the long winter days and nights.

Max Beckenteyn had a beautiful shop. His store was always full with gentile boys and girls. One could dress from head to toe in his shop, everything from hats, clothing and footwear.

For the market day, the nearby brewery of Sviranek sent hundreds of bottles of beer.

In the old tavern of Eliahu Garberovitch the gentiles got very drunk. By nighttime, there were many drunkards in the shtetl. Most of the time it entailed lots of noise, other times they broke into fights…

When it got dark everyone started to return to their towns, the market square emptied. The shopkeepers of the shtetl counted their proceeds of the day and had to wait for their next market day.

The shtetl Cheder must be mentioned, it brought culture and knowledge to our shtetl.

[Col. 1454]

In my time the Cheder was in the women's section of the synagogue, the schochet was also our teacher. He was tall and thin with a black beard. Often when he was caught by a gang of gentiles, he suffered many blows from their hands.

It is very interesting, in our shtetl there were almost no beggars. When we had one in the shtetl, he was often just passing through. The residents all made a living, some less, some more than others. Even the craftsmen studied a page of Gemara every night. I can still see before my eyes Rabi Itzhak Meir the shoemaker catching another page of his Gemara in the synagogue. Sitting next to him was always Lipa the blacksmith and Afroim the tailor.

Of the better known rich folk of the shtetl was Rabbi Gershon Kuritzki. He inherited his intelligence from his father Rabbi Moishe Yankel. Both he and his brother Meir were involved in the timber business ad were the first to build beautiful homes in the shtetl.

 

Sve1454.jpg
Rabbi Gershon Kuritzki,
one of the founders of the shtetl

 

Their business was very successful and even sold their merchandise as far away as Danzig. The eldest son Dovid married the daughter of Hanoch Ginzburg and settled in Sventzian. He owned a manufacture–facility. He was able to make Aliyah to Eretz Israel and died at his daughter Chaia in Kibbutz Gebat.

Mainly the Kuritzkis were known throughout the region for their intelligent offspring. Max Kuritzki finished the Vilna Teachers' Seminary. Idel Kuritzki finished his pharmacy studies in Kiev.

At Meir Kuritzki's home, the writer Dan

[Col. 1455]

Kaplanovitch spent many years. He was the later writer of the Vilna newspaper, “Times.”

Besides the Kuritzkis, Rabbi Afroim Reznik was another owner(boss) in the shtetl. He was smart and learned. Other important Jews in the shtetl were: Rabbi Asher Gimszanski, Max Beckensteyn, and the pharmacist Rudnick.

Until World War One the Jews of Kimelishak lived a quiet and orderly life.

Erev Yom Kippur, 1915, the Germans took control of the entire Vilna province. Many Jews became refugees and thus their wander–years began in all directions with their belongings on their backs. Our family also decided to flee. We dragged ourselves for a year, from village to village, then my parents decided to return home and whatever will be will be. We could no longer live in our former house. Arriving in our shtetl we learned our home was turned into a field–hospital. The Christians took our furniture and we had to rebuild from the beginning.

Slowly other families returned and the shtetl began to turn itself into a Jewish one.

The war ended and a Jewish–American committee was founded, which helped the returning refugees re–establish their businesses. A soup kitchen was opened for the impoverished folk and provided inexpensive meals or were given free to those in need. This kitchen saved many Jewish children from starvation. Many packages and money arrived from America to help the Jews get back on their feet.

 

The Founding of the Yiddish Folk–Shul

A Gemilut Hesed Bank was also founded and actually, my grandfather Rabbi Gershon Kuritzki, z”l was its first president. It got a lot of support from the Vilna “yekapo.”

The political climate after the war was very fragile. The regimes changed very often

[Col. 1456]

Sve1456a.jpg
A group of students and their teachers of the Yiddish Folk–Shul

 

First came the Russians, then the Poles, then the Lithuanians, and again the Poles. This affected our shtetl. When the Polish regime stabilized, our shtetl Jews began to rebuild their trade and their lives.

Meanwhile the children grew older and educating them was necessary. Whoever had the means sent their children outside the shtetl. Jewish children from Kimelishak studied in Sventzian an Vilna. When they came home a drama club was founded, which performed various plays. This opportunity also allowed us to found a library and a “poszarne kamande. (Gymnastic club)

The students and gymnasts brought new life

 

Sve1456b.jpg
Fire fighters 1928

From left to right sitting: Yacov Gesheit, Volf Rudnitzki, Max Beckensteyn
Standing: Siame Garberovitch, (commander), Leib Rudnitzki, Shabtai Feinberg, Yacov Garberovitch, Ahron Gimzanski, Yacov Hadash, Shimon Garberovitch, Leizer Rudnitzki, Chaim Pruzan

[Col. 1457]

to our shtetl and elevated Kimelishak to a higher cultural platform.

In the meantime branches of the “he'chalutz” also developed in the shtetl. A group of the youth left for training and later made Aliyah to Eretz Israel.

Kimelishak was counted as a Zionist shtetl. Many Jewish children studied in secular schools, they were even brought up with the Zionist idealology.

During a holiday, the Jewish youth went for an outing to the “old tree” that the Christians used to call (tree worship=old believers) that dated back to pagan times, it was three meters thick. In the summertime we went to the Vilya to swim. Another delight for us, we sat on a boat and floated on the lake. These meetings didn't last long. The young people didn't have much opportunity in the shtetl and left in many directions. Most left for Eretz Israel,

 

Sve1457.jpg
The large tree on the Yorzimkin hill
Hanoch Garberovitch (on the right)

[Col. 1458]

Sve1458.jpg
Departure of Dovid Kuritzki for Eretz Israel

Sitting from right to left: Belal Kuritzki, Dina, Dovid and Genendel Kuritzki, Alme Feinberg, Motel Kuritzki, Ahron Kuritzki,__, Abraham Kuritzki, Bluma Kuritzki, Monia Kuritzki, Batia Gershovitch, Shabtai Feinberg, Dovid Huritzki
Standing at the back: Lipa Kuritzki, Leib Kuritzki
On the ground sitting: Lusia, Chaim, Esther Kuritzki

 

The shtel became empty and sad.

Every Halutz dreamt and hoped to establish themselves and bring over their parents, brothers and sisters. In the meantime World War Two approached and many were unable to save themselves. October 17, 1942, the Jews of Kimelishak perished and from this old Jewish community there remained only destruction and mass graves.

We, Kimelishak Jews, are left with the legacy to remember our lost Jews and remind our children never to forget.

Their memory shall be engraved in our hearts forever.

God will rise in their blood!


[Col. 1459]

In Calm Days

M. Kuritzki–Shulzinger

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

Edited by Rhoda Miller

Kimelishak was a tiny village, approximately fifty kilometers from Vilna, thirty– five kilometers from Sventzian, fifteen kilometers from Podbrodz, eighteen kilometers from Michalishok, and six kilometers from Bistritz. In all there were about thirty– five Jewish families.

This shtetl was full of beautiful scenery. All the houses were beautifully painted with grey windows and roofs. Next to each home was a garden sprinkled with flowers. Along the main street was an alley of tall trees. The road was well built and covered on both side with covered sidewalks, often not seen in those days in small towns. All the residents greeted each other with pride and wonder of their shtetl.

The main industry of the Jews was shop keeping and small trade. Jews owned two bakeries and a pharmacy. Besides this, the Jews were involved in all types of craft. All the tailors, shoemakers and blacksmiths were basically Jews.

 

Sve1459.jpg
At the pharmacy of the Rudniks

From right to left: Monia Kuritzki, Chaim Yudel Grodzenski, Ahron Gimzanski, Yacov Garberovitch, Leib Rudnitzki, Dobe Pruzan, Rochel Rudnik(the pharmacist), Betia Rudnik, Leizer Rudnitzki, Shmuel Kuritzki, Shimon Garberovitch, Yudel Kuritzki
Sitting: Chaim Pruzan, children of the shtetl

[Col. 1460]

There were several wealthy families amongst the Jewish folk, Rudnitzki, Beckenteyn, and Gimzanski.

In the last years before World War Two, the Jews suffered from heavy taxation which ruined the economic situation for the Jews. The tax collectors emptied the Jewish homes of their last possessions and sold them at auction.

The local anti–Semites played an important role in the ruination of Jewish economic life, they incited the local population to boycott the Jewish shops. There were episodes, when gentile lads overturned Jewish stalls in the market place and spread anti–Semitic leaflets amongst the Christian folk.

In spite all the shenanigans, a cultural and spiritual environment remained in our small shtetl. The young people had modern clothing, almost all were members of the Folk–Library and read Jewish and worldly literature.

Part of the Jewish youth participated in sports. The drama club had a very good reputation, which performed many interesting plays. The roles were always performed by good, culture– orientated people.

New winds started to blow into Jewish life with the arrival of the Halutz and Halutz Ha'tzair. Kimelishak had to thank the Sventzian young man, Moishe Kuritzki, who especially came to Kimelishak to form this branch.

Thanks to his initiative evening courses began in Hebrew and in Yiddish history.

The “Halutz” locale was always packed with young people who sang and danced or just met for interesting conversation and companionship.

[Col. 1461]

We often went to these meetings and returned with new information and new Israeli songs. Part of the youth left for Hacshara (preparation) and this gave them the opportunity to make Aliyah to Eretz Israel.

Often members from the interior, from Warsaw and from Vilna, came to visit. This enlivened our shtetl and many came to listen to our guests' speeches.

The older generation had their own forms of entertainment. In the synagogue, where they often fought for an Aliyah (an honor),a bet with a friend or a page of Gemara.

In general the older folk lived a quiet and intertwined existence. They all lived as if they all belonged to one large family. When there was a wedding or a Bar mitzvah,

[Col. 1462]

the entire shtetl shared in the joy. The same was, if God forbid, a tragedy occurred, they all grieved and cried together with the bereaved family.

In 1939, when our shtetl was occupied by the Soviet regime, Jewish life slowly worsened. The economic situation, however, was not so bad. Many Jews got involved in good jobs with the Regime or with the cooperatives, the shopkeepers got used to the high taxes but they were also happy, that Hitler's bandits had not yet arrived here.

Overnight we all became devoted Soviet citizens, and some of us relaxed. Even the citizens said a blessing: thank God from delivering us from Polish anti–Semites.

These quiet days did not last long. Barely two years past, and the heavy and dark Devil descended upon us.


 

[Column 1461]

The Economic Situation in Kimelishak

According to the Pinchas of Lita, Yekapo, 1931

Translation by Anita Frishman Gabbay

In Kimelishak lived 140 families, only 36 were Jewish ones.

The main income of the Jewish families came from shopkeeping. There was a surplus of shops. The competition amongst them was great and the earnings were small.

The Regime thought that the Jews were earning a splendid living and therefore the taxes were high.

Besides the high taxes, the Jewish trade became somewhat of a hidden nature(illegal). When a Jewess went to the market with her basket to barter, she also had to buy a pass, even if her merchandise of little significance. Her earnings at the end of the day was several groshen, of small importance.

Many foreign tradesmen arrive at market day, who undercut the prices. The profits of the shopkeepers of Kimelishak were small.

Several Jewish craftsmen also lived in Kimelishak, they barely made a living. In the surrounding towns there were many Christian craftsmen and they stole many of the clients from the Jewish craftsmen.

To our misfortune, the last summer brought a poor harvest and the peasants became impoverished and did not have the means to tailor new clothing or buy new shoes.
Earning a living became more difficult from day to day. The youth were leaving the shtetl and the old folk were waiting for miracles or help from their American relatives.

This is how the economic situation played itself out in a faraway place like Kimelishak.


[Col. 1463]

Destruction and Holocaust

M. Kuritzki–Shulzinger

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

Edited by Rhoda Miller

June 22, 1941, at the outbreak of the German–Soviet war, a flood of pain, suffering and blood rained on our heads, in Kimelishak as well. In the first days of the war the Jews suffered at the hands of brutal and wild outbursts. An empowered Christian Haman ran through the streets robbing and plundering. Overnight, the Jews felt that they became the target of every hooligan and bandit. They hid in their cellars or in their attics, and were frightened by every shadow.

In the day time barely a Jew was seen on the streets. In the first few weeks we had enough food in our homes and no one was in the mood to go outside. Basically, we all sought various ways to procure food products. We felt that tomorrow will bring hunger and need.

After a long meeting, it was decided to rent some healthy Christians, to pay them well, in order to provide protection for the Jewish population.

Shortly after, we found out that these Christians hired hooligans to attack the Jews in order to demand more money from us Jews.

Once they also spread a rumour, that the shtetl was going to be set on fire. There was a terrible panic in all the homes. Everyone went to sleep in their clothing, we all packed some necessities and prearranged places where to escape to in case of an emergency.

Actually, a miracle happened, the village priest tricked the folk. The church bells rang, church officiants led a procession and created such a mystical atmosphere for the Christian folk that they forgot about their desire to burn the Jewish homes.

We passed the time with such panic, and to mention the priest again,

[Col. 1464]

he often stopped many of the hooligan attacks against the Jews. In his church sermons he repeatedly spoke about the love for humanity and requested his religious believers to respect their neighbours.

At every troublesome moment, the Jews ran to the priest to intervene. He quickly lost his power and later did not officially have ways to continue with his help.

In the first weeks all the trouble came from the town's residents. No one could believe the Hell that was to encompass us, especially when the German Army marched in.

Kimelishak was a village off the beaten path, far from the main towns, therefore the Nazis arrived here not so early in the occupation. This didn't matter as our fate was the same as in all the other towns of the region.

The first Aktion that was ordered in our town, was somewhat a strange one: Christians were forbidden to greet their Jewish neighbours and no contact with them what so ever.

A few days later, a new order was issued: Jews must clean the streets and were not allowed to go to the market place.

An order came to us that our mothers had to sweep the streets of the shtetl. We barely got used to this when a new order was issued, Jews needed to wear yellow patches with the Magen David on the front and back of their clothing.

One evening at home, when I was sewing the yellow Star, Sosia Feinberg came in. I cried:

Sosia said to me:

“What are you crying for? We have to wear the Star with pride, this is nothing shameful.

This is our

[Col. 1465]

national symbol, our end will be, that our Magen David will outlive the Black Iron Cross (Hackenkreuz).”

His words lifted our spirits and we calmed down.

Soon another situation arose where they sent Jews for forced labour. German soldiers went from house to house, chased the Jews onto the street, and like animals, chased them to work.

One time a German soldier shot a dog in the street, he came into our house, and made my mother hurry out to bury the dog. If she refused him he would shoot her.

Mother left and buried the dog in the garden. She said that this sadistic act alone describes what was to come.

She was right. Life grew more intolerable. Every roar from a motor threw the shtetl in a panic. Our hearts stopped beating when a motorcycle or a car rolled into the shtetl. We all knew this meant another tragic episode.

One time several motorcycles arrived to fool us in think they came for the cows, we didn't care about robbers. We heard worse, the Jews in the neighbouring villages were being slaughtered. They were slaughtering Jews like animals.

We welcomed all the refugees and did our best to help them with whatever means we had. We basically shared every piece of bread with them. We shared our home with Rivka Kimkhi, the New Sventzian's Rabbi's daughter– in– law. She stayed six weeks with us and then left for Svir.

Another order came, a ghetto in Kimelishak needs to be made for the Jews. They gave us two days to arrange this and move our belongings.

[Col. 1466]

It was our luck to bribe the police and we were able to remain in our home, and the ghetto started directly from our house. The Garberovitch family lived with us, whose son Yacov was very well connected with all the Christian youth. Thanks to him we managed to keep the ghetto open and not fenced off like in the other ghettos.

Without a fence we could leave to buy necessary food products. We traded different articles and clothing for food.

Many refugees came to us again in the winter months. They were hidden in the woods, but during the freezing winter they could not endure and came to warm themselves in the Kimelishak ghetto.

The lack of space was unbearable. There was no place for them to sleep. Food was not sufficient. Our children didn't have enough to eat and suddenly they had to share their little rations with strange mouths.

They all escaped in summer–like clothing and lacked what to wear.

We did our best to share everything we had with them. We all gave them our last piece of clothing.

The frost was unusually bitter and all the roads were covered with thick white snow. The Germans didn't seem to care and drove the Jews to work in spite of the conditions. One froze his feet and one froze his ears. Epidemics spread in the ghetto.

Many refugees stayed in the synagogue and it was overcrowded, they lay head to head. The filth was great, lice and pox spread. They lay on rotten straw and many sick people lay between them.

A ray of hope came to us in one of those days. We found out that the Germans received a terrible blow at Stalingrad. We were thrilled with the good news that came from the front and we started to believe in Hitler's defeat. The question was, were we going to survive?

Erev New Year Hitler's henchmen held a rally and declared, the Jews will not live to see the end of the war.

[Col. 1467]

A few days after New Year the German soldiers arrived in Kimelishak and ordered the Jews into the streets for an Apel.

We knew very well, from the refugees, what this meant and the ghetto was in a panic. We were certain, this was our last day. Many prepared to escape to the forests.

The frosty weather burned, and few escaped. The most part went to the Apel. To our good fortune, the officer called us only for a speech and demanded we work harder.

We were not convinced sitting in the ghetto meant waiting to die. Everyone made plans for their escape, but where to and to whom? Everyone looked for a friendly and Christian acquaintance who would accept to hide us.

Our good fortune we owe to the Christian mayor of Kimelishak who was quite a trustworthy and upstanding person. We owe him our gratitude. He allowed the Christians to come to us in the ghetto for black market trade, allowed us to go to the nearby villages to buy food to save us from starvation.

A second mayor came shortly after. He was a tyrant, the exact opposite, he immediately ordered the ghetto to be fenced all around and all the windows which faced the street, barricaded.

From then on it was very difficult to leave the ghetto.

Winter ended and spring, 1942 arrived. Such a miserable spring! At least it became easier to sneak out of the ghetto and buy some food. We hid either in the bushes or the woods and under the darkness of the night we left to the Christian to buy food. Our whole life depended on buying food.

In spite of all, spring was a marvelous wonder, the beautiful nature gave us the will to live.

We had four to five bake– ovens in the ghetto for about ninety families.

[Col. 1468]

It meant that the oven had to be heated five to six times a day in one house. The heat was overwhelming, the smoke choked us and everyone sat barricaded inside, like prisoners under lock and key, not being allowed to go out for some fresh air.

My mother was known as a good woman and all came to her to bake bread. We had three rooms, but thirty souls lived with us, ten per room. We thought things couldn't get worse.

Then we started to understand what awaited us. As long as we were alive we considered ourselves fortunate.

The men of the shtetl left for work in the surrounding villages. I worked in the canteen with men from Michalishok and Svir.

The summer months of 1942 passed this way. The peasants started to harvest their fields, autumn approached and when we thought of the weather our hearts became sad. We all had a bad omen that something evil was coming our way. We talked amongst ourselves. Death was near, quickly approaching. Basically, we hoped for another miracle.

Many bought potatoes, cabbage and beets from the neighbouring villages and began to prepare supplies for the winter months. The living soul wanted to believe that his life will be spared and he will need these supplies.

When the autumn winds started to blow, we learned about the selections that took place in all the other shtetls. They selected the young ones and strong work–worthy and left them in the labour–camps. The others were led to unknown places. By then we all knew and we sought the means and where to flee.

A decree came to us in Kimelishak, an Apel twice a day was mandatory. No one was allowed to leave the ghetto.

The ghetto was filled with sorrow.

[Col. 1469]

We all felt the end was near. There was no longer a drop of hope. Fall was a difficult one, rain, mud, and cold, where can we run in such conditions?

It was on a Wednesday, market day, a German automobile arrived and the mayor and the commander were taken away. This was our sign of death.

Several hours later a Christian arrived at our home and told us, pits, long and narrow, are being dug near the shtetl. Among the village folk they spoke about the shooting of all the Jews.

There was a mess hall in the shtetl for officers and other city officials. This is where I worked for several days.

Shabbos, October 22, I suddenly heard shots. Someone arrived and spoke in Lithuanian. I didn't understand, but I had the feeling that the Jewish slaughter began.

I hid in a small room, and five minutes later the Lithuanian police arrived and said all Jews must return to the ghetto.

I left the room and returned to the ghetto, which was already surrounded by Lithuanian police called up for duty, chasing the Jews from their homes and go to the Apel.

In our home, behind the shop was a cellar. During the days of the ghetto we stored our potatoes there during the winter months. It was empty now, except for a few broken crates that lay in the corners.

I immediately thought to go to the cellar. I called my mother and together we hid amongst the boards. Mother's foot hurt

[Col. 1470]

and she was wearing boots and warm clothing.

Shortly after, Bracha Kagan, from Vilna, joined us in the cellar. She lived in our home and knew about the cellar. She was a rich Jewess and stuck a lot of gold in her hair.

We remained hidden, minute by minute passed like an eternity. We heard the shooting and fear entered every ounce of our being. We even heard some entering our house, banging and dragging things!

Several hours passed and then dead silence surrounded us. We lay there until it got very dark outside. Then we left, our house was demolished. Everything was either stolen or broken. In all corners nothing remained of our memories of everything good. It was not important, I looked for several things for mother and myself, dressed warmly and we snuck out of the shtetl.

We heard footsteps and thought, the ghetto was perhaps being guarded. We decided to leave through a back window, which led to the garden. As the gate was closed with chains, I quietly removed them and we left the shtetl. In the darkness no one noticed us and we finally arrived in a small village. Here we knew a Christian acquaintance and he permitted us to come into his home.

From him we learned the entire situation. All the Jews of Kimelishak were murdered. They were led to the pits that had been previously prepared and were ordered to undress. They were shot naked.

The blameless execution of our community took place October 22, 1942. This is now our Yartzheit. (yearly memorial)

May these pure souls be forever remembered and blessed! God avenge their blood!

 

Sve14709.jpg

 

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