Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
I was not born in Haydutzishok. I married a young man from a shtetl and we came here only in 1935. I familiarized myself with the townsfolk and immediately I felt like a Haydutzishker daughter.
I fell in love with the people and the shtetl. There was a high cultural standard amongst the young folk. Many noteworthy institutions existed here, friendly and inviting. There was a wonderful library, a hornorchestra, a drama club, 2 FolkSchuls, and several Zionist organizations.
This did not last very long. The second World War broke out 4 years after I arrived, and within a month, our world was upside down. Everything that the people built with all the strength in their bodies, was in disarray.
Already under Russian rule, the Jews lived in constant fear for the days ahead. A lot were deported to Siberia, a lot were imprisoned. One was a Zionist, the other a Bolshevik!
June 22, 1941, the thunder arrived: Hitler had arrived.
My husband and I were in Svir and we decided to return home. On our way home we already felt what Hitler's Regime had in store for us! We were stopped several times, searched, nevertheless, we made it home.
We arrived at Itzhak Potasnik's home to a warm welcome. We stayed with him for 3 weeks. Everyday the men went to Yozek Kracovski's warehouse, a good Christian who gave them food and promised to help us in whatever manner he was able. If there wasn't any work to be done, he told the men to pretend they were working by bringing the same bundles of flax in and out the warehouse.
The priest Bunevitch also helped the Jewish folk. One Thursday, when a progrom against the Jews was to take place, the priest held the crazed crowd back. The day dragged on, and on Sunday after lunch, Moishe Smuckler ran into our house. He worked in the mill and came to tell us a ghetto was being prepared on Vidzer Street.
Several Christians arrived at our home with sticks and clenched fists: we must leave our home in 2 hours and move into the ghetto. We put as much clothing as possible on our bodies, we still believed that we would need them. Everything
was left behind, which the Christians robbed and took away. The ghetto was extremely crowded, a small room was packed with 15 people. Food was scarce. And still this was not the worst! Some Christians told us that we will be led to a camp(barracks) and be shot.
We lived in this ghetto for several weeks, and on a Thursday before its liquidation, a Christian friend of ours came to us to let us in on a secret: all the Jews were going to be killed in a few days. He says: escape as soon as possible! That is how it happened! Friday in the morning we snuck out of the ghetto and ran with Grachovski to Svir. During the day my husband Eliahu saw the roundup of the Jews from Stayatishok. His heart told him that the ghetto would be the worst place to remain. He went to the priest to plead with him to help us.
The priest, like I said, was friendly toward the Jews. He asked that my husband remain in his home, while he went to get news from the streets and about the activities in the ghetto. He came back quickly and confirmed: do not return to the ghetto. He brought him to Gravoski where we found the entire Smuckler family (that worked in the mill), where they were awaiting Gravoskis' reurn from Svir. When he returned in the evening, Gravoski told us all was quiet in Svir. He asked that we leave immediately, not even to spend the night.
Shabbos, very early in the morning, my husband and the Smuckler family and Michel Potasnik arrived in Svir. In the meantime, news arrived that all the Jews of Sventzian district were sent to Poligon. We sent a friendly Christian to verify the truth. He returned and this was validated. He asked that one of us accompany him back to Svir, but no one wanted to goHitler is everywhere they replied.
Only one woman with a child agreed to go with him and actually, they survived. We all left for a small town near Svir, where an uncle of mine lived and we stayed with him about 6 months, from Erev Yom Kippur to Purim. We found out about the gruesome tragedy on KolHamoed Succoth, what happened to our people. The folk told us 8000 Jews were all shot in the woods of Poligon.
It is unbelievable to absorb this now, how did we survive those days under such conditions?
We were stronger than iron that we were able to endure such horrific ordeals!
We spent the entire winter in Svir, more or less it was quiet, and in the spring, the murdering started again. We found out that the Jews from Kurenitz were shot, and also from another shtetl. We felt we were sitting on a volcano!
In the meantime tragedy struck Sheina and Moishe Smuckler: they had a sister in Dolhinov and suddenly they wanted to go to her, the entire Dolhinov community was massacred. They were caught there and shot with the others (in Dolhinov).
All this news came as a shock and from then on we decided not to remain in the ghetto. The question: where to go, where to hide? Either find a Christian or go to the forests! I went off to find a friendly Christian, one would hide me and my son, another one would hide only my husband. Everyone was afraid. I returned to the Svir ghetto to my husband, we made our plans, and at the first opportunity we made a plan to escape to our Christians. Our days were numbered: that same evening a policeman, our friend, came to us and told us to leave right away. An order came to deport all the Jews from the ghetto and the surrounding region. We jumped out of bed, quickly got dressed and left from the back door that led us to the river bank. Our house was next to the lake, luckily for us.
We travelled in the darkness, lengthwise along the bank in the direction of the town, where our cousin, Korosin, lived. With great difficulty we arrived only to find out their families were all in the Svir ghetto. We waited impatiently until it became light out, and sent a message to them in the ghetto to escape right away. People in Svir thought we were creating an unnecessary panic and fear, and they didn't believe us. We decided whatever the outcome, not to return to Svir. I went with my son to one Christian, my husband to the other, and we hid there. After a week, we wanted to know the outcome of the Svir ghetto, so we begged our Christian to bring us some news. He returned and brought me a letter from my cousin, Do not return here. The Lithuanians took over control of the Svir ghetto several weeks later.
Several months passed in this hideout, when a partisan attack occurred nearby on a German commander, who was driving from Sventzian to Lyntup, captured him and shot him.
The forests and surrounding shtetls were overrun by German military, our Christians became frightened to hide us. I then begged the Christian to keep only my son, my husband and I decided to return to Svir. In Svir it was again somewhat quiet again, the Jews were sent to work in the surrounding towns. My husband made arrangements to work in a town, not far from where my son was. Every Sunday, our Christian came to this town with our son, who we could see in the distance. You can imagine we paid the Christian very well for this
This is how we lived in the shtetl Komorova until we found out that all the Jews from Svir and Michaelishok are going to be deported.
Our tears were endless. No one knew where death lurked. We had to decide instantly whether to remain or to go to Michelishok. Our hearts told us not to go. We couldn't remain in the shtetl either, so we returned to the Christian who had our son, and with great difficulty arrived safely. Three months passed, our Christian gave us information that the Jews from Michaelishok were sent to Vilna. Later we were informed they were all sent to Ponar woods where they perished.
We remained 6 months like this, hiding between the 2 Christians. In 1944, 6 weeks before the arrival of the Red Army, the partisans located my husband and took him to the forests with them. I had no news. He did not return.
Together with my son, I was freed by the Red Army. Where should I go? There was no place for us, our dearest and finest were all slaughtered.
We started to wander again through roads and fields, but the end of the road led us here (Eretz Israel).
This is a small part of the entire story, what I lived through. The memories are still disturbing and it is difficult to concentrate on the pain and suffering we endured, and the enormity of the crime against humanity.
Rivers of tears flow from my eyes, when I take my pen in my hand and want to write. In short, I want to remember and honor the names of those nearest and dearest, whom the Hitlerite bandits robbed from me.
With heartache and tears I remind myself daily! Holy be thy Names!
God shall revenge for their spilled blood!
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
As soon as the Red Army fled Haydutishok and even before the German Army arrived, the Lithuanian hooligans took control of our shtetl. The Jews felt this great unrest. Part of them left their homes and together with their families went to their acquaintances in smaller towns. At first they were welcomed, but later on they were asked to leave: this happened all over like an order from God.
In the meantime, the peasants discovered the guns and ammunition that the Russians left behind, and the descent into chaos began. In the beginning, these attacks occurred in the evening, but shortly after, they became emboldened and these attacks on Jewish homes took place in broad daylight. First, the attacks were on the empty homes, later they attacked the homes with rocks to make the Jews run away.
The peasants from our neighbourhood arrived with their wagons, as if it were market day, robbed the home and off they went with wagons loaded with our possessions. This lasted until July 2, 1941, when the German military arrived in our shtetl.
Also, in nearby Vidz, about 30 kilometers away, the same robberies occurred. The robberies were not sufficient, murders were also taking place. In a matter of 10 days, between the Red Army leaving and the Germans arriving, these Lithuanian bandits murdered 200 Jews. The Jews of Vidz fled and some arrived in Haydutishok.
When the Germans arrived, 10 hooligans in police uniforms took over our shtetl. These police recruited more Lithuanian hooligans from our shtetl and the surrounding area and the destruction began. They started with the synagogues, Sefer Torahs and books, which
we held in such high esteem. They started to arrest the Jews that fled from Vidz, and every day they took a few to the outskirts and shot them. Women were raped before they were shot. The Jews of Haydutishok were warned if they would hide amongst the Christians, all would be shot, even the Christians. When the interim authority arrived, they freed the remaining hostages from Vidz, who returned to Vidz.
When there were no more Jews from Vidz left, the Lithuanians started attacking the Haydustikzer Jews: they arrested 3 Jewish boys under the pretext that they were Communists. These were: Gershon Charmatz, Chaim Gordon and Abraham Yocelman. After a few days in prison, they were brought to the edge of town to be shot. In the last minute, Gershon Charmatz offered a bribe, A. Yocelman overtook his shooter and fled, receiving only a bullet wound. Then he fought with the Partisans and eventually arrived in Eretz Israel. The third friend, Chaim Gordon, was shot through and through like a sieve, all the bullets for the 3 of them found their way into Chaim's body. Chaim was the first Jewish resident of Haydutishok to be shot, the second, Israel Lapida, the baker. When the Germans confiscated foodstuffs and other goods from the Jewish homes, they said the baker was hiding his goods from them. Israel was shot outside his home. Besides murder, the Hitlerite sadists
invented various ways to torture and torment these poor Jews: in a few minutes they requested a pail full of water be brought from far away, not to spill a drop, the Jew was clocked, and God forbid, 1 additional second cost him! Jews had to fill sacks with heavy weights and run! God forbid they stopped to catch their breath! Beatings with sticks were commonplace. On a chosen day, the Lithuanians rounded up the Jews, old, young, men women, children, in the market square. Seeing this, the peasants ran with sacks thinking these Jews were going to be killed. Robbery was on their mind. But the German commander who was new to the shtetl, wanted only to record each Jew and to demand that items, such as guns, radios, etc. should be turned over to the authorities in 2 hours time or else they would be shot.
All the towns folk, age 1460, and women who didn't have small children, had to report for work at 6 a.m. every day. Jews were not allowed on the streets from 7p.m to 5 a.m: every Jew had to sew on the front and on the back of his coat a yellow patch with the letterJ. On every house a board with a Yellow MagenDavid had to be posted. Those who did not obey had 1 option: Death!
When the German military advanced to other shtetls, they left in place 5 local representatives to keep order. These were: Faivel Rakovski, Leon Rimsha, Faivel Fashun, Ilitz Shidlovski. These 4 were from our town, Together with the 10 Lithuanian policemen who arrived earlier, they were in charge. Also, they left 5 Germans who took such pride in how well their work was being performed.
New edicts were issued each day! A Jew cannot live under the same roof as a Christian. The Jew cannot leave the shtetl without a pass. Jews were not permitted to eat meat or butter.
The Jews obeyed and arrived for work on time: they had to repair the roads under Lithuanian supervision. Every Jew still had his Goy, which he trusted! There were those that brought the Jews food, whiskey to be used as bribes, (used to bribe when a Jew was about to be shot). It didn't always work, especially when it came to torture.
When a hooligan was angry with a Jew, he went to the police, threw the Jew in prison in a dark cellar, beat him so badly that later he to be wrapped in wet sheets. When a Jew got sick, he wasn't allowed to visit the Christian doctor, only if he got a pass from the good hearted police. Bread was baked in our own premises.
Every Thursday was market day, and the Jews were not permitted to attend in the first days. Later, with bribes, Jews could come for 1 hour, 121, knowing that the Christians were finished their shopping. A whistle to commence and when to end was used. If the Jews didn't leave at once, they were beat by the hooligans with rubber hoses. One crisis after another! The mighty hand of these Lithuanian bandits, our former neighbours, decided to enclose us in a ghetto. August 15, 1941, within 2 hours, we were ordered to vacate and move into the ghetto on Vidzer street. It was overcrowded, but we used every inch: stalls, barns, sheds, attics. Lucky it was still warm outside. Arriving in the ghetto, our once friendly neighbours were still inspecting what we were carrying with us, what pleased them, they stole. All that was left in our homes were robbed by the marauding peasants. Even in the ghetto, they arrived with wagons and policemen, and continued to rob us. They even gave the simple peasant the robbed booty. Every hooligan choose for himself a cow, a goat. The time was moving along, and in the third month, Erev Rosh Hashana, Monday and Tuesday, the few old Jews were released from work and found a place in the ghetto to conduct a service and to cry to the Almighty. We were not allowed to go to our beautiful synagogue, and 3 days after, Erev Shabbos, the ghetto was made smaller.
Pressure mounted, we were squeezed in so tightly, cordoned off and surrounded by Lithuanians with guns: if we dare leave we would be shot. After blessing the Shabbos candles, 200 Jews from Stayatitchok were brought into the ghetto by Lithuanians and the next morning at 10, they herded them into the market square. Peasants with wagons and were waiting to transport the Jews, only the sick, elderly and small children were allowed to ride, the others had to go by foot. They were only allowed to bring with them a small bundle with small things. The peasants even stole these small bundles!
Also on this morning other horrible events took place: Yitzhak Yacov Zeiger was shot because he was protesting to the commander about the mass roundups of the Jews from the ghetto.
This was the fate of the Haydutsker Jews, their last road. They walked 50 kilometers to the thin forest of Poligon, near to NewSventzian.
On the way, the strength of Shimon Reichel gave up, he stopped in the middle of the road to rest, the Lithuanian behind him shot him. He walked with his Sefer Torah in hand all this way. This is how many perished. Finally they arrived in Poligon late at night, and shoved into wooden barracks. The stench was unbearable. All the Jews from the region were assembled here: from Sventian, New Sventzian, Haydutishok, Ignalina, Podbrodz, Kamelishak, Daugelishak, Maligan, Kaltinian, Stayatishok and others. For 12 days they suffered, worse than animals, and Chol H'Hoed Succoth, Jews were released in groups, taken to freshly dug pits and shot with machine guns.
It took 3 days to completely annihilate 8000 Jews in this manner. The helpers didn't bother to look if they were dead or wounded. They dumped the earth on the living souls and still several days later the earth was seen moving in this brotherly mass grave. Some managed to escape, some got shot. These were: Raizel Barenstein with her 2 children, Moishe and Rochel, Rochel Rudnitzki with her daughter Miriam and Rochel Chait. Two days later they shot ChaiaFaiga Fisher, who was sick in bed In Haudutishok, at a Christian hospital, where she was brought with a special pass a week earlier.
Zundel Potasnik managed to escape to Postov, there he was shot in the middle of the street by a policeman, who did not recognize him as a Postov resident. Those that perished while fighting with the partisans: ChaimLeib Gordon, Berl Fisher, Shmuel Potasnik, Shalom Abel, and others. And many more perished in the lagers and ghettos.
This was the fate of the entire region. When the Germans left and the Red Army arrived, 2 Jewish brothers came out of hiding: Leib and Wolf Katcherginski. They went into town, but they didn't recognize anyone so they left for Lodzenel, a few kilometers from Haydutishok, where they knew some good Lithuanians from earlier days. They were attacked and murdered in a horrible manner. Few of the Haydutchiser Jews survived. I alone, sick, hungry and half naked through the shtetls of Svir, Kobylnik, and finally Myadel. Together with the Jews of Myadel, we all decided not to wait till the Murderers arrived to kill us, we decided to escape to the only friendly place on earththe forests (Narach).
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