[Columns 1617 - 1624]
by Israel Gantovnik
Translated by Daniel Wolfe
Donated by Simon Kreindler
It was the 23rd of August. A week before the war. A large part of the Polish Jewish youth was mobilized. A terrible panic occurred among the Jews in the small towns. The war was going on for three weeks when, on September 19, the Red Army entered Shtayatsishok.
A part of the mobilized youth immediately returned home. Another part went with the Red Army deep into Russia.
The brothers Yehuda and Meyer Lapida did not return nor go deep into Russia. Yehuda was killed in battle and Meyer was severely wounded by the Nazis. He was captured and they killed him. The Lapida family was the first to suffer such severe casualties.
With the occupation of the Red Army, the economy of the shtetl was not too bad.The farmers were able to work their farms harder than ever and everyone was able to make a living.
Only political items had to be hidden. We burned all the archives of the Zionist organizations. A lot of Jews got assorted government posts and were very happy.
Our shtetl did not fall into the hands of the German Army. For nearly two years we were able to catch our breath until that terrible day, the 22nd of June 1941.
On that day, at six o'clock in the morning, Moscow radio reported that that Germany broke the German-Russian pact. This caused a panic among the Jewish population in general and of course in our shtetl.
The Lithuanian population (gentiles) received the news with great joy and were dancing in the streets. As the Russian Army withdrew, the population started to rob all the arms that were in storage. They immediately started their own militia which fought against the retreating Russian Army.
The leading criminal of the area was Feyoss Rokovski, a Lithuanian from Adutzishik. His group started harassing the Jews. Within the first few days there was a casualty, Gordon's son.
Eight days later Hitler's army entered the shtetl in the morning and pasted posters declaring laws against the Jewish population.
We learned that all Jews are to wear yellow patches in the front and back, each bearing the Star of David. All Jews fourteen years and older had to go on forced labor.
The Germans immediately revealed their sadistic nature. The soldiers caught ten Jews and ordered them to pull a large wagon with a very heavy load. The Germans were on both sides of the wagon carrying large wooden clubs. If any of the Jews faltered, the soldiers hit them over the head with the club.
The weeks passed in this manner. Finally, the Germans left our area because the front moved eastward. In Adutzishik the Germans left a Lithuanian civilian government. The head of this government was a young Lithuanian, a terrible anti-semite, Feyoss Rokovski. In Shtayatsishoks the criminal Joseph Senkowicz was designated the head of the shtetl. Ha became the boss of the area. He confiscated all the cows from the Jewish farmers and gave them to the gentiles in the area.
This was not the end of our agony. On the 20 of September, 1941, there was a conference of all the German appointed government heads in Shvintzan (Swincian). The head of the Vilna province proposed that all Jews be rounded up and sent to Poligan. Only Jews with essential skills were to exempted from this proposal. Only the head of the Shvintzan governnent agreed to exempt Jews with essential skills.
On the eve of the Sabbath, September 26th, ten Lithuanian police came to Shtayatsishok. They told all the Jews to go into the street and take with them a three day supply of food. In a few hours they were marched to Adutzishik. In addition to the Shtayatchik Jews, there were over 8,000 Jews from the Svintzan area here. On Chol Hamoid Succoss they were all murdered. Very few were able to escape or be rescued.
Shmuel Katzyonah, Hodeh Abel and Chana Wollak hid in the field. They were caught and shot to death. Rudnitzky was shot to death as he was running away from the shtetl. Only sixteen Jews were able to hide. They were: Eliyahu Gedod and his son Tzvi, Leib Wollak, David Gordono, Chanuch Kahan, Paysach Wollak and his wife Chana, his son Abraham and daughter Shayneh, my father Chayim Gontovnik, my mother Bayleh, brothers Eliyahu and Abraham, my sister Ethel, my wife Rachel, my daughter Rebecca (26 days old) and myself, Israel Gantovnik.
Everyone ran in different directions. Late in the evening we started looking for one another. Around eleven o'clock in the evening we met. We discovered my father and brother Eliyahu were missing. We waited a few hours for them, then decided to go through the woods at night in the direction of White Russia. On the way we came upon two Jews from our shtetl, Sholem Gantovnik's son Israel Itzchok and his daughter Miriam.
At four o'clock we approached a village not far from Vidz. A Russian gentile farmer whom we knew lived here. We decided to knock on his door to have pity on us and hide us in his attic for the day. He was startled. It was not easy to hide thirteen people. We spent the day with him and when it became dark we went on our way.
Early Sunday morning we arrived in Katzian. The Katzian Jews greeted us warmly and we were taken in by various families. Early Tuesday, my father and brother Eliyahu whom we hadn't heard from arrived here too.
In few days we heard that the situation in Opseh was better than in Katzian. We decided to leave and go there. We had to travel over 50 kilometers.
We arrived in Opseh erev Yom Kippur. The Opseh Jews greeted us warmly. Here we met Jewish refugees from Ignolineh, Doksh, and Adutzishik.
In a few weeks they found jobs for all of us and we remained in Opseh for a half year. In March 1942, there came an order for the roundup of all the Jews. They were to be sent to Vidz.
We decided that this was not a good situation so we left for Postoy. For three days we plodded through deep snow, through fields and forests until we finally arrived in the Postoy ghetto.
We immediately saw that we had made a mistake. The Postoy Jewish Council was afraid to take us in. With great reluctance they finally decided to take my wife, my child and myself because they had pity on the infant. The other Shtayatchisok Jews said goodbye to us and left for Donilovitsh. None of us realized what a sad day this was, for we did not realize that we would never see each other again.
The Postoy Jewish Council made us feel that we were useless. We remained there until the 17 of June 1942.
At the beginning of June they started killing all the Jews from the Postoy area. This brought on a terrible panic in the Postoy ghetto. On the 16 of June we learned that all the Jews in the area were to be killed. We decided to leave Postoy and continue our wandering.
The 17 of June was a rainy day. This saved our lives because it was easier to flee. The rain did not let up for the entire day. We bundled our little child and wandered through fields and forest back towards the direction of Shtayatchisok. The next morning, the 18 of June we came upon the village of Yakomenish, 3 kilometers from Shtayatchisok.
We knocked on the door of a gentile we knew, Favel Borok. He greeted us very warmly and allowed us to hide in his barn. We stayed there for entire day. In the evening, when our daughter started crying, he told us that he was afraid and suggested that we go to the Shvintzan ghetto. It was quiet and safe there.
Did we have a choice? So we left for Shvintzan. The Shvintzan Jewish council told us categorically that they could not under any circumstances take us in. They didn't even have a tiny room for us.
I found an old hovel and repaired it myself. I made a room from it and the problem of housing was solved.
It turned out that in this ghetto there were 40 illegals. We had to be careful of the Lithuanian police. I saw there was no future in this so we left for Tsurklishok.
I told the administrator Jan Chaltzki who I was and proposed to him
that I work
the land. He appealed to the German Work Council and in a few days he appointed me his landworker. A short time after I got employment for my brother Abraham and my sister Ethel who arrived from the Shvintzan ghetto.
Our situation improved. We had enough to eat and we were no longer illegal. Understand that we had to thank the kindhearted Chaletzki for this.
Meanwhile there was a shock throughout the ghetto. It was encircled with barbed wire. There was only one entrance and exit. The police became much sterner.
By the end of the summer, the Vids ghetto was liquidated and any remaining Jews were brought to Shvintzan. It became overcrowded. Rumors passed that there was a plan to liquidate all the ghettos.
I discussed the situation with my brother and sister. We decided not to wait but to leave quickly. Our daughter was fourteen months old at this time.
We waited for a dark night, wrapped my daughter well and left by way of a large forest in the direction of Lintov.
In the middle of the night we came upon a town. It was very cold and we wanted to get our child out from the bitter cold. We knocked on a gentile's door and asked him to have pity on us. He let us into his house. They were friendly people and gave us a warm welcome.
We ate, warmed up and wanted to continue further. The farmer said that with such a small child we could not get very far. He suggested that we leave the child with him. We couldn't make up our minds. All this time we had the child with us;
now we should separate ourselves from her? It was very difficult to arrive at such a decision. He presented us with a good argument. So, with a heavy heart, great sorrow and pain we finally decided to rescue Rebecca and left her with him. We took note of the name of the village and the name of this good family. The name of this village was Mili. The names of the family were Aniskenza and Matrona Burlokov. They had a daughter Zeena and a son Fyodor. They ware Russian Staravyaran who were not enemies of the Jews.
After leaving our child, our hearts were bitter. We left for the nearby forest and waited until nightfall. At night we started for Tsirlishok in order to find out what happened in Shvintzan. It turned out that it was quiet there and no harm was being done to the Jews. Chaletzki suggested that we continue at the work we were doing. We heeded his advice and remained there until February 1943.
Meanwhile, we received good news about the war. The German army was badly defeated at Stalingrad. The Red Army captured Kharkov and was approaching Vitebsk. Everyone began to hope that freedom was approaching. But simultaneously the situation in the Shvintzan ghetto became horrible. The head of the Vilna ghetto told us that all Shvintzan ghetto Jews will be transferred either to Kovno or Vilna.
We later found out what happened to them. The Kovno transport took them to the Ponar forest where they were slaughtered.
But my wife Rachel, brother Abraham and sister Ethel could not be talked into going on to the Kovno transport. We all left in the direction of Shtayatchisok. To our good fortune we came upon some good gentiles who had pity on us and hid us. I must note their names: Marcal Tsolko from
Shtayatchisok and Mazayeh Kazimir from Djikevenish. They placed their lives in danger in order to save ours.
On the seventh of July the Red Army came and freed us. We returned to our shtetl and learned that only seven Jews survived out of 350 in Shtayatchisok.
We decided not to remain amongst this death and destruction. We returned to the village of Mill to get our daughter.
We made aliyah to Eretz Israel.
This is only a brief story of a doomed Jewish shtetl. I want to honor all of our dear best friends and families who were tortured to death. I also want to honor all those friendly gentiles who imperiled their lives in the face of the Nazis.
Rachel Gantovnik's story. (Wife of Israel Gantovnik.)
The days were clear and bright and the sky was blue. It was Friday, Shabbos Tsuveh. There were little frosts in the morning and evening. The women were preparing tzolant. Some were in the midst of their housework. Suddenly shouts were heard throughout the shtetl, Take bread for three days and get into the street! These were the shouts of the drunken police who came to chase the Jews out of the shtetl.
There were more shouts, tears and screams from one end of the shtetl to the other. Where are we going? cried Chiyenneh Layeh. Where are they chasing us with our small children? My children have no shoes for the winterl
'Where are they taking us? asked Reb Chayim quietly. I have lived here my entire life. Where are they sending us? That which I own, I earned with my ten fingers. Even my house I built myself. To leave would be equal to death.
Then Reb Chayim became quiet. In his entire life he never had an argument nor insulted anyone. Thanks to his perseverance and skill his business grew and prospered. He couldn't understand the hatred of these German murderers. He said, I have no place to go from here. He sat quietly and prayed. To this day I could recall his prayers. To this day I cannot forget them.
Where are these killers taking us? asked Reb Nochim. I'm not going anywhere! This is my last word. They will not chase me out of my house!
He remained in his house. He didn't have the strength to go. He sat alone, alone and by himself he cursed the shtetl Shtayatchisok. Two days later, on Sunday, the police (Joseph Senkowicz) came and shot him in the field. To this day his grave is in that Shtayatchisok field.
What do these murderers want from us? cried Dvayrah. I have suffered so much these past few years. Finally I have a bit of money saved, oh how I denied myself over the years!
Dvayarah was left a widow with two small children, Abraham and Maysheh. She alone had to run the farm. Alone, with very little strength she plowed the fields, sowed the seeds and drove the cows to the fields. There wasn't anyone to relieve her. She lived in a broken down house outside the shtetl. With her last few pennies she paid to send the boys to chayder. When Abraham was a Bar Mitzvah he also became the boss. He began working the farm. He no longer ran to play with the children. He knew that the responsibility of the house was on his shoulders. He worked with his mother day in and day out. While everyone was asleep Abraham was working the fields. He was usually ahead of everyone. His cows were feeding before everyone elses'. His work was on a par with the adults'. Drayrah became old and bent from this heavy work. She never allowed herself to eat well because she was saving money for a new home. Their butter and eggs were sold in the village. A few years went by. Abraham and Maysheh became adults. They built a new house closer to the shtetl, near the hill next to Reb Nochim and Reb Haymen. Now they started to live better. They ate and dressed better. Dvayrah would llft her hands daily to God and say, I thank you God for the miracles you have bestowed upon me.
Where shall I go now? How could I leave my beautiful palace? How can I throw away everything for which I worked so hard and saved so long? Oh God , Oh God! What do these terrible people want from me?
This could be heard from a distance. It was tragic and heart rending.
Save yourself Jews, there is a fire burning (holocaust) Liebeh screamed. Oh how Liebeh and Shmuel suffered until their children grew up!
And Brankeh, who is studying at the gymnasium, Liebeh would boast. And Yehudis can sew and weave very well; and is also a good housekeeper; and both are beautiful.
Brankeh, I remember you to this day with your black braids and burning black eyes. When I asked you what you can learn from the books you were, reading, you would tell me all about them.
I heard cries and screams in the distance. I still hear them to this day.
Leib, the big one with ten children said goodbye to his house. He stood a long time at the doorway kissing the mezuzah. Oh how I want to save my house just as I want to save Shtayatchisok! he cried.
In our house we had no idea as to what was going on. We thought they were coming to rob us, so we hid a few things. Suddenly, our door flew open and my sister-in-law Ethel came running in wearing a coat over her shoulders and boots without socks.
Children, don't be afraid, God is with is. They came to take us to Poligan where we will die of hunger. Let's run away and God will help us. Quickly children, the police are ten meters awayl
Fortunately, we were all at home. I, Abraham and Shayneh. I thought that in White Russia they would not send us to a camp. None of us could imagine that they would send us to our death. My mother and father lived in Shtayatchisok for seven years… We moved into my grandfather's farm after his death. He had three cows, some sheep, chickens, ducks and geese.
I saw my father lean against the book cabinet and started to cry. It was the first time I ever saw him cry. How do I leave my home? How could I leave Shtayatchisok? How do I leave my books?
In one sac he placed a loaf of bread, a shirt and a few books. My mother tried to appease him. You shouldn't cry because we are leaving. God will help us. I saw her place a Chassidic sidur in his sac.
I was very confused. I didn't know how I was going to meet my husband Israel. But Ethel assured me that we would meet on the path late at night. He did not, under any circumstances want to leave at midday. We would escape by a hidden trail. He knew the direction we were to go. He said that we were to go towards Beyellow Russia (White Russia), Kazian and Postov where more Jews could be found. I couldn't find a kerchief for my head so I took a nightgown. I only found one shoe. So I left with a shoe on one foot and a heavy sock on the other. In my briefcase, I placed all my papers from the teacher seminar in Vilna and from the Jewish gymnasium in Vilna. I always saved them. They were very dear to me.
While Rebecca was asleep Ethel took her. Our little Rebecca! How much more will she suffer? We ran through the fields. From the distance we could see smoke rising from Shtayatchisok and a trail black with people wailing and screaming. The cries and the screams from the children accompanied us the entire way. From every direction we could hear the crying of the cows and sheep and the barking of dogs. Everything at this point was in a state of chaos. My father, speaking to Abraham said, We are leaving Shtayatchisok. Who knows if we shall ever return? This story has continually repeated itself throughout the history of the Jews. Ever since the Diaspora. Ever since the wandering of the Jews began. In every generation there was a new decree for banishment. But God always helped us. This time there is a terrible storm on unfriendly soil. What worth do we have to these murderers? We are like sheep bleating in the wind. Maybe we should have gone with the rest of the Shtayatchisok Jews? I don't know. Where shall we run to. The Germans are everywhere!
Late that night we met in the woods. My brother in law Reb Chayim, sister in law Bayleh, father in law Eliyahu, my son Abraham and my husband Israel.
Under no circumstances did Reb Chayim want to leave his home. With great difficulty his children led him out of his house. Whoever wants to go, should go; I will not leave,î he argued. I have nowhere to go!
It was dark and cold in the woods. Rebecca did not stop crying. I had nothing with which to cover her. Abraham was carrying her in his arms and rocking her, But it did not help. As we went further, she cried harder and everyone else was crying with her. It was decided that we should start a fire in order to warm her up. I tried to breast feed her but she wouldn't drink.
She was very cold and wet.
Woe is me!, Woe is me! We are living through such wonderful times said Reb Chayim sarcastically. We have sinned! We should have sold everything and moved to Eretz Israel said Reb Paysach.
Now it is too late! replied my father.
Rachel Gan Tov (Gantovnik)
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
The days were so beautiful and clear, the sky was a beautiful shade of blue. Friday, Shabbos Tsuvah, after Rosh Hashana, the days were bright and clear. Everyone was preparing for the Sabbath, the women were preparing their Cholent (baked beans and meat, kept in the oven overnight). Some folk were still at work. The ovens in some homes were still warming, suddenly a large sound was heard throughout the village: 3 days worth of bread and go into the streets! This was the message of those drunken policemen who came to take us away from our village.
A panic, lamentation, from one end of the village to the other!
Where shall we go? said Hiena Leah where are they chasing us with our small children my children don't have any winter shoes! Where do they want to bring us? said Rabbi Chaim, quietly. I lived here all my life with my wife and children, and with my 10 fingers worked for everything I have, I even built my house, leaving this home is like death to me
Rabbi Chaim was quiet, he never fought with anyone his entire life, nor insulted anyone. Thanks to his hard work, his livelihood improved and his situation was comfortable. He couldn't understand the rules that the Nazis were enforcing! He said I have no where to go! He sat quietly amongst his religious books and continued saying his Tehilim. The sounds are still ringing in my ears until today: his beautiful melody and I cannot forget!
Where are they taking us, these beasts? said Rabbi Nachum. I am not going anywhere! That is my final word! They are not throwing me out of my house!
He remained in his home. He no longer had the strength to go. Until Sunday, for 2 days, he sat alone, bereaving his Stayatishok! The police came and shot him, and until today, his grave is in the fields of Stayatishok.
What do these animals want from us, Devorah said. We laboured for so many years before we finally came into a little money. Oy, Devorah, Devorah, how I admired you! How I bear your pain!
Devorah remained a widow with 2 small children, Abrahamele and Moishele, alone she had to run her business. Alone with her frail health she laboured, she cultivated, she brought the animals to the fields. There was no one to help her. She lived at the ?, a broken down house. With her last few groschen, she sent the children to cheder. As soon as Avramke had his Bar Mitzvah, he took over as boss. He helped with the business. He no longer ran to play with the other children, he knew the burden of the household was now upon him. He worked day and night with his mother.
When everyone was still asleep, Avramke was in the fields. His animals were always fed before the others, his fields were reaped before the others. He was considered an equal amongst the elders, and was always willing to help.
Devorah became old and haggard before her time, due to her hard labour. She wouldn't allow herself to eat better, in order to save every cent to build a better home.
The butter and the eggs were sold in the village.
Several years past and Avramke and Moishele grew up. They built a new home closer to the village, on the hill next to Rabbi Nacuhman and Rabbi Chaim. soon as they started to live better, eat better and get some new clothes. Devorah got up every morning and raised her hands to God: Dear God, thank you dear God, for the blessings that you have brought to me!
Where do you want me to go now? Why do you want me to leave my beautiful palace? Why should I throw everything away? That I slaved for! For what? For what? What do our enemies want from us? I heard from a distance her pain and heartache.
Save the Jews, a great fire is burning! Livke was screaming. Livke and Shmuelke, with their 6 children. How much hardship she endured till those children got older. And Bronke, who is studying in the Gymnasia, who Livke was always bragging about. And Yehudit, thank God, who sews so well, and knits so well, now can help in the household chores. And both are so beautiful!
Bronke, I remember you until today, with your black braids and fiery eyes. You told me about the books you read, which you described to me, and I asked you, what can one learn from each book.
I heard the screaming and pleading from a distance, and still hear it today!
Leibe the big one, with his 10 children, said good bye to the synagogue, stood for a long time kissing the Mezuzah.
…Oy! how I don't want to give you up, oy, how I don't want to give up my Stayatishok he was saying to himself.
We, in our home, could not imagine what was happening. We thought they were coming to rob us, so we managed to hide some things. Suddenly the door opened, and my sister in law Ethel burst in, a coat on her shoulders, wearing boots without stockings.
Children, don't be frightened! God is with us, they came to take us to a work camp, in Poligon, we will surely die there of hunger. Let's run away, and God will help us. Children, quickly, have pity, the police are 10 meters away.
At that moment we were all at home, I, Avraham
and Sheina, too bad, I thought to myself, may be there in White Russia, they are not being sent to labour camps. Maybe it's not as bad there, like in Vilna. No one was going to protect us. Mother and father lived here in Stayatishok for 7 years, after the death of grandfather, he didn't want to leave the business in unknown hands, so they moved from Sventzian to here. After a few years they had 3 grown cows, sheep and hens, ducks and geese.
I saw my father, for the first time, crying. How can I leave my home? How can I leave my Stayatishok? How can we leave the Holy Books?
In one sack he put a piece of bread and a shirt and in the other sack, some books (maybe holy bible). Mother was trembling and said: Do not cry on the way. God will help us. I saw that she placed her Chasidic Siddur in one of the sacks, I was very emotional and scared that I wouldn't know how to meet up with Israel(her husband), but Ethel assured me, that late at night, we will all meet on the road. Under no circumstance did he want to meet in daylight. He will leave through the edge of town, knowing the direction we were heading. In the meantime, we are heading to Belarus, Kazian, Postov, wherever Jews are still to be found. I couldn't find a head scarf, so I pulled out a house coat, I couldn't find my second shoe, so I left with 1 shoe and 1 Volek (boot), and luckily, my papers were prepared earlier. My certificate from the Teacher's Seminary of Vilna, the certificate of the Sventzianer Jewish Gymnasia, and the other certificates from the Jewish school. I kept them always close by as they were always so dear to me. Rebeccela, our 3 week old child, was grabbed out of her carriage still asleep by Ethel. How much she still had to live! We ran out of the house leaving the door open. We ran through the fields,
from a distance, one could see the mass of black people, like smoke. The crying and the screaming greeted us on the way. We all cried silently.
The sounds of the animals and the sheep, the howling of the dogs, came from all directions.
My father spoke to my brother Avraham. We are leaving our home, our Stayatishok. Who knows if we are going to return. History keeps repeating itself, since we left our own land, we will continue to wander. In every generation we are faced with new obstacles, but God always helps us, but this time a great storm is coming towards us on foreign soil, we do not have a say in these matters, like a mighty wind(tornado). It could be, that we should have joined the crowd, where all the Jews are going. We don't know whether we will have a place to hide, everywhere there are Germans said our father.
Late at night we all met in the forest: my in laws, Rabbi Chaim and Baila, my brother in laws Eliahu and Abraham, and with my Israel.
Rabbi Chaim did not want to leave his home. With great difficulty, the children had to force him to leave with them. Where shall I go, he said?
The forests were cold and dark. Rebeccala didn't stop crying. There was nothing to rock her in. Abraham held her in his hands and rocked her, nothing helped. It made things worse, and we crying with her. We started a fire, to warm ourselves. I tried to nurse her, but was unable. She was completely frozen and wet.
Oy, oy, said rabbi Chaim, this is what we lived for! These are great times for Rabbi Pesach! We have sinned! We should have sold everything and gone to Eretz Israel.
Now it's too late! Opportunity was lost! Answered my father.
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
Suddenly in 1939 the population of Maligan was enlarged. Many refugees arrived here and they were warmly received. They remained until the outbreak of the German Soviet invasion in 1941.
When the Hitler Army and their Lithuanian helpers arrived, the young people decided to go deep into Russia. I was one of them, my 2 sisters, my brother in law, 2 cousins Rosa and Sonia Teitleboim, Meir Kovarski, Dovid Ravitch, Chaia Sura Svirski and a Yitzhak, whose family name I can't remember.
|Heina Teitlboim and her family|
This was on a Tuesday, the third day after the war started. We picked ourselves up and decided to run away. In our hearts we knew that we would not survive the Hitlerite Regime. The old generation would not listen to our warnings.
When my mother discovered our plan, she bid us farewell and peace, but she would not join us.
You are young, she said and you must run away. It is not a good plan for us to go wandering around (she was only 59 years old).
By chance my father was not at home that week. He was away on business, at Taraseitzkin in Sventzian, with whom he dealt with in large quantities of hay from the entire region. My father left with merchandise and didn't manage to return home. I never had the chance to say good bye to my father.
On the way, this left me with a very unsettling feeling. My thoughts kept me thinking that it was not correct to run away, leaving behind my mother and father.
After 4 kilometers away, I decided to return to the shtetl to bring my mother with us. My sister and her husband had to wait for me in the forest. She was overjoyed to see me, but wouldn't come. She gave me a ring with my father's monogram as a souvenir, and begged me, if they were murdered, not to forget to say Kaddish for them.
We kissed again, cried and then I left to join the others in the forest. After this I never saw my nearest and dearest again.
We met up an hour later and left for Polotsk by foot, arriving tired and hungry. We didn't stay long, we continued our journey deeper and deeper into Russia.
After much pain and suffering, hardships and wandering, we managed to remain alive.
In 1945, when Russia took control of the region, we decided to return to our shtetl of our birth.
Yitzhak fell in battle and the only ones to return to Maligan were myself, my sister Surel and Chaia Sura Svirski. We found complete destruction and only 1 living Jewish soul.
We were told how the complete Jewish folk of Maligan were murdered.
We learned about the horrors and fate of our parents. Our father returned from Sventzian several days later and together with my mother, they left to a Christian friend, who hid them in the fields between the potatoes. They remained till Khoel Hamoed Succoth. As soon as he found out that the Jews from the shtetl
were being deported, they decided to go with the entire folk. This was their gruesome end with the others in Poligon. There bones are in the mass grave amongst the bones and corpses of thousands murdered from the Sventzian district.
|Pesach Braslavski before the shooting|
According to our neighbour Roketch, he took pity on my parents and gave them some bread. The Lithuanians found out and they went to the house and burned it down. They also shot his father.(Roketch). Three homes and the synagogue remained, but later the Lithuanians destroyed everything that was left.
One Christian friend, who had worked for us, gave us a description who took part in the robberies of Jewish homes and goods, who murdered Jews, and where the Jewish goods could be found. I didn't wait long, and went to search for Jewish goods amongst the Christian homes. I was able to find some of our belongings as well as those of other Jews. I decided to report this to the N.K.V.D. and as a result several Christians were arrested and sent to Siberia.
Four days later I found out that the Christians were going to murder me on the road. Once before, they tried to trick me, offering me some whiskey to make a L'Chaim, but I got suspicious, and refused the offer. They were going to poison me. So now it was no longer safe, I had to make a plan to leave.
This was now official, they were out to murder me.
I still had a little hope. From a fellow Christian, when I had arrived to my cousin's house in Disna, my parents before their death found out that we were all safe and had crossed the border and arrived in Bobruisk.
After receiving all this information, I left for Vilna, then Poland, then to Germany and I finally arrived in Eretz Israel.
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
The liquidation took place December 25, 1942. There were still 1500 Jews in the ghetto. At 3 in the morning, screaming and disorder was heard. An order came from the police that the Jews were to leave the ghetto. The children were woken up. The Jews already had a feeling what this meant. They were ordered to make rows of four. Everyone assembled, men women, old and young, and the Germans order the people to march to the train station. They all knew what this meant, several, under darkness, started to run. Others followed and the Germans started shooting. The weaker ones were already shot on the way to the train station.
|Postov, dug up corpses|
To the mass grave, that had been prepared in advance, few Jews that were still alive were there. The mass grave was covered with the earth that was set alongside the pit. The "Mass Brothers Grave" is on the other side of the train station, at the end of Zelmianer Street.
|The mass grave of murdered Jews of Postov, which was opened when the Soviet Army arrived|
Translated by Janie Respitz
I figure that all we presented here is merely a drop in the ocean, but everyone who will turn page after page will experience his own lamenting.
In every line that has been written, our sadness can be felt and every word carries the holiness and purity drowning in suffering.
The voice of every survivor from Sventzian, New Sventzian, Ignalina, Old and New Dugelishok, Lingmian, Kaltinian, Kimelishok, Podbrodz, Lintup, Stayatzishok, Maligan, Dukstas and Haydutzishok and all the other surrounding small towns: Paliush, Gaviken, Tzeikin, Dzikovinesh, and smaller settlements like Vidz, Miori, Yadi, Postov, Kobilnik is a source of tears.
In each voice thousands and thousands of names are breathed, of those who were once cradled in a dream of a sunny life and who, at the hands of inhumane murderers were tortured, murdered and burned.
These are the holiest of holiest upon whom we recite the mourners prayer in a voice that calls out: Amen. May God's great name be blessed forever, in all worlds, unto eternity.
In our Kaddish (mourner's prayer) there is the pain and complaint, our helpless suffering and our burning hatred, the blood that is drunk in the terror of the darkest nights.
Through the unsurmountable mountain of pain, that hides for us the macabre reality, at the chasm of the unending terror and suffering that carried out this reality, our shout should be lifted, and shout not stop demanding and prevent sleep for the indifferent and their lives should resemble a flung stone, which will terrorize people and themselves.
That world which has been lost to horrific murder, twisted and hardened, did not see and did not hear the desperate cries from the ghettos, from Poligon and Ponar they should always feel the shame, the guilt for these brutalities.
May the murderers be punished, who are still walking around this world. May their horrific sins be washed away with their dirty blood.
The cries that emanate from this memorial book, the tombstone for twentythree Jewish towns from the Sventzian region, should never stop ringing in our ears and should never be silenced for generations to come.
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