for the testimony of the book:
Chanah Frank ( Schweiger). Yedidia Pelovsky, Mordechai Halprin,
Zvulin Zvulini, Azrael Bezrutzika ( Veinshtein)
Prepared and Edited by Rav Abraham Losh
Organization of the Emigres from Rozanka in Israel
According to the assembly of leaders, Rozanka was first recalled as “Georgpecheny Krulevstava Pulskiga,” and authorized about 1885 as “Rozhanka” with this statement: “Rozhanka is a city on the river Tureka in the district of Lida, a distance of 56 kilometers from Mana and 144 kilometers from Vilna." There are 883 residents (449 men, 438 women). A stone church stands there built in the year 1764 by the commander Patz.”
According to the Russian Encyclopedia, Jewish residents were known by the year 1847. The Jewish community of Rozhanka numbered 202 souls and, as of the assessment issued in 1897, the population was 777, among them 543 Jews.
Note: Diagram added: not in original text
The town is laid out on four streets, corresponding to the four points on the compass. The east side, Szczuczyn (also Shchuchyn) Road; the west side, Bridge Street; the north side, the Mill street; south side, the Connected Street. Between the four streets are several alleyways, such as the Alley of the Bet Hamidrash and the Alley of the Gentiles. A Marketplace already existed in the center of the town, in which the permanent institutions of the community were located, such as the town council, police station, fire house, cooperative bank and so forth.
In the years before the Shoah, there were about one hundred twenty Jewish families (about six hundred people) and about forty Christian families.
By the order of the Committee, through the Polish government, for thirty years, a Board of Committees participated in an association with six surrounding communities. This arrangement also included our town. Our representatives on the Board of Committees were Yakov VILENCHIK, Zev GARVOVSKY, and others.
The Economic Life
The heads of the families were tradesmen such as tailors, cobblers, carpenters, sheet metal workers, butchers, bakers, and so forth. Their livelihood depended on the population of the surrounding communities that were in need of Jewish tradesmen. There were also a number of stores for food, fabrics, household articles, excavations of material for construction, and agricultural tools for the farmers in the area. Also, some Jews from the nearby villages bought agricultural products themselves and sold them to wholesale merchants and other businesses. There were those who dealt in rented gardens and orchards from the Christian residents and sold their produce to merchants in the larger cities of the area. In the first years after the First World War, many engaged in the growing of tobacco.
It is also remembered that the owners of two of the flourmills were Yosef PESKOVSKY and Alter MEKANIK. In the last years before World War II, Moshe KHABILBITZKI owned a soda factory and also two combing wool mills belonged to Baruch ZILIKOVSKI and Simcha SHLEVSKI.
Communal Organization and Association Life
The activities of the societies and organizations centered
about the Synagogue. (Their programs related to the older generation; the
younger generation concentrated on the library and the Pioneer organization.
Besides the established lessons of the Bet Hamidrash such as Chevra Shas, Chevra
Mishniat, Chevra Tihilim, and so forth, there were the times between Mincha and
Maariv to discuss enlightened ideas, whether of the locality or events in the
state and the world at large. There were agreements with them and disputes, each
according to his perception.
Until the fire in 1927, in our town, there were two bet hamidrash and one synagogue, wooden buildings. They were the Old Bet Hamidrash, the New Bet Hamidrash, and the Synagogue designated for prayer only in the summer. In the days of rain (cooler seasons), there was no praying in it because no furnace existed to supply heat. A water well situated in the building had wellheads located about it. It is to note that before World War I, yeshiva bochars, who were supported by the community, studied in the Bet Hamidrash.
The fire of 1927 burnt down many of the houses of the town; the fire also consumed the two Bet Hamidrash. The Synagogue, alone, remained standing for prayer. In the year 1928, building began on one Bet Hamidrash to replace the two that existed before the fire. This Bet Hamidrash was a much larger building so that it contained all of the places that existed in the prior two Bet Hamidrash. The building of the Bet Hamidrash was made possible thanks to the assistance of those who had left our community for the United States, the spirit of which was initiated principally by Mrs. Ester Beilah, of blessed memory. The year 1930 marked an important celebration of the building, in which all of the community participated to dedicate the splendid Aron Hakodesh with much beauty and adornment by master craftsmen.
Several community institutions were also concentrated near the Bet Hamidrash. The most important of all was the Chevra Kedusha, which was the first Jewish institution to exist. The Chevra was for those who sat in houses of mourning. The heads of the Bet Hamidrash were Rav Noach Paretsky and Shraga Feivel Draznin. As the head of the Chevra Kedusha was Rav Chaim Ber Mostovsky, and after his passing, Rav Chaim Pieskovsky. The attendant (Shamash) for the Bet Hamidrash was Rav Yoel Binah, and after his passing, Rav Yosef Patashinsky. Shifra, the wife of Rav Yoel Binah the attendant, sewed the shrouds, served as caretaker of the children of the town, and was superintendent of the Mikva.
A school for the Jewish people did not exist in Rozanka. There were some experimental “culture” schools formed in the surrounding towns but generally they did not become established because of the opposition of the leaders and directors. Rabbi Shmuel VISHNEVSKY, also a pious Talmud scholar and interpreter of matters of law, came out, with authority, against the new innovations in the education of boys. Without a suitable school, the children studied in the existing cheder. Before, when there was a national government school, the education laws required secular education for Jews as well. The Jews cleverly made a secret pact with the headmaster of the government school so that he would go the cheder to teach Polish and mathematics so that the boys avoided attending the government school. On the contrary, he was not charged in this regard for the girls who were taught in the government school.
The teachers were Rav Yoel Binah (the Shamash), teacher of “aleph-bet” for the small children--his location the Bet Hamidrash; Rav Beryl VORONOVSKY and Rav Berul ZDANITZER who were teaching Tanach and Gemorah. From them, it passed over to the “Zilviar” Rebi who, in addition to teaching to aforementioned, was a Gemorah scholar to a greater degree as well as for mathematics, grammar, and Hebrew. He was also located in the Bet Hamidrash; and so, this was an enthusiastic teacher for comprehensive learning. After completing the required studies, many of the boys moved on to the Yeshiva; and some went to study as a profession. It is worth noting that among the sons of our city were those who, with their knowledge, occupied places of honor in Yeshivot, and in particular, remember the Rav Nison PATASHINSKY who was the director of Yeshiva “Bet Yosef” in Bialystok.
Rabbis blessed our city with a grand Torah, well celebrated from all around. Until the year 5684 (1925)?, the exalted rabbi, Rav Gershon SAVITZKY, served in our community. Until the year 5684 and going to the bitter end, rabbi of the city was Rav Yosef [ LISS], son of Shloma David, of blessed memory, who (“ascended to the alter,”) joined with the members of his congregation in the year 5702. [1943--a letter was omitted from the Hebrew year which otherwise would have been 5302.]
This is the place to give specifics about the rest of the religious ministrants from our city. Cantors who passed before the Ark on the High Holy Days were Rav Yehudah SHKLARSKY, Rav Beryl Hamelamed, Rav Shmuel ZAKROISKY, Rav Moshe Elyahu BOYARSKY, Rav Beryl MEZDNETZA, and Rav Zelig PARETZKY. The last one was also the Torah reader. In addition, the son(s) of Yitzhak Beryl and Rav Mikal MITVISKY were Torah readers.
In the year 1924, Yakov VILENCHIK instituted a charity. Members of the Board were Zev GRABOVSKI, Lev KATZINSKY, Eliaju KAMINSKY and others. During that time, the Cooperative Bank was founded. However, during the later years before the war, the workers of the bank established interest free loans, again by the initiative of the Rav, of blessed memory, that distributed credit to the needy each week and developed extensive work within the limited economy.
Also, the organization of volunteer fire fighters was established in the years 1925-26, which included Jews and Christians. However, most members were Jews. The leader was a Jew, Yakov VILENCHIK. In the later years before the War, a wind instrument orchestra of fifteen musicians was formed through the firemen organization. Almost all in the orchestra were Jews as well.
The affiliates of the political factions that were prevalent among Jews of Poland between the two World Wars were not prominent in our city. A branch of the Histadrut, Hechalutz (The Pioneer,) established in the year 1923, attracted many of the youth and opened wonderful cultural-educational work.
The library that preceded Hechalutz was established in 1921 and initially was located in the home of Alta GRABOVSKY. Among the founders were Rachel PELOVSKY, Ben-Zion PARETZKY, and Henya BOYARSKY (killed in the Shoah.) Also were LeBa YARANOVSKY, Esther ALUF ( LUNIANSKY), and Chanah Frank ( SHVIEGER)—the three of them presently in Israel. The money to acquire books was collected by means of “banner days” and the performance of a dramatic troupe. Consequently, a considerable sum was gathered from friends of readers. The hall of the library became a gathering place of young people and served as a cultural club and meeting place for friends. From time to time, the young people came in for evenings of literary activities. From this emerged the initial impetus to establish a branch of Hechalutz in our community.
Hechalutz members advocated the concept of Zionism in our city and were the workers for all Jewish National Fund and Jewish Foundation Fund collections. By means of Hechalutz, many local youth immigrated to Israel. The principle workers of Hechalutz prevailed in the aliyah to Israel. Between the years 1927-1933, they were Ben-Zion PARETZKY of blessed memory, Reuven ZILBERSHTEIN of blessed memory, and Chaim BOYARSKY, present in Israel. Also, during the First World War, they included Chaim GARBOVSKY, Chanah SHVIEGER Frank, Esther LUNETSKY, Chaviva VORONOVSKY, and Esther GRABOVSKY.
Because of Hechalutz, a dramatics group was established in the year 1924 of the most talented young people, workers, and students. The rehearsals were conducted during the long winter nights in order that the performance could be presented to the community at large on days of holiday and vacation. Among the better of the plays presented were “Moshe the Tailor of Goldfaden,” “The Way to Buenos Aires,” “The Purim Play,” “King Lear,” “The Violin of David,” and so forth. The performances were held in the government school and the firehouse. The profits were dedicated for the workers of cultural and sociality.
Photos: Page 440- 1925 Hechalutz; 1930 Hechalutz Hetzeir
The exalted Rav Yosef LISS, son of Rav Shloma David LISS (a local rabbi), born in the year 5644 in the city of Tziknovtzi near Bialystok, studied in the Yeshiva Chafetz Chaim in Radun and officiated as the authority for several towns. In the year 5684, the prior rabbi, Rav Gershon SAVITITZKY of blessed memory, died. Rav Yosef [ LISS], among the rest of the rabbis, mourned him. His words made so great an impression that, immediately following the funeral, the residents of the city presented him the authority of the rabbinate. He was a man of good nature and well liked. He inspired the congregation with his expositions to see heaven and virtue. He disseminated Torah to many and encouraged lessons several times on weekdays on all avenues of the community. He wrote many new interpretations of the Torah for Halachah and appropriate replies to be carried out in practice. He also dedicated himself to serve the poor, widows, orphans, and all in austere circumstances.
He was slaughtered together with his family and a group from the community during the bitter and impetuous day of 22 Iyar 5702. Among his entire family, only his elder son, Rav Avraham LISS, remained. He immigrated to Israel prior to the eruption of the War and worked as a Torah scholar at the place of Rav Hertzog in Jerusalem.
The Rav Shmuel VISHNIEVSKY was a learned man, resolute in his knowledge. He did not discriminate against a person and would defend with the zeal by his knowledge. His regard for learning was uncompromising but opposed. As a matter of course, all innovations for education of the young generation and emphasized that he was greatly opposed to Zionism as seen as a freedom movement. Every day, he studied with his students at the Bet Hamidrash while the sons of his house were occupied with a fabric product shop. Also, his opponents respected him since they regarded him as an honest man without a partial character. When the Rav was absent from town, his contribution for all relevant knowledge and law ceased. He died five years before the outbreak of the War.
Rav Shmuel ZAKROISKY served in the capacity of shochet for twenty-five years in our city and was learned and established in the epoch of the Torah. He also was engaged in the needs of the citizens in a hospitable way. On Holidays, as well as the Days of Awe, he passed before the Ark with his pleasant voice. He was cherished and loved by all that knew him. He was killed together with members of his family in the days of the Shoah.
His children in the United States supported Rav Chaim Ber MOSTOVSKI, a popular and sensitive Jew. Still, he was an extender of Tzedakah beyond his ability, in a discrete way, for support of the poor, widows and orphans. Until his last days, and he had already passed the age of eighty, he continued to go around all of the streets every Erev Shabbat prior to lighting the candles and proclaim the approaching Sabbath. He died several years before the outbreak of the War.
Rav Noteh ZABATSKI, an “old man and seven days.” His maintenance was imposed upon his son. He stayed all day in the Bet Hamidrash and said tehilim [psalms] without pause. He did not suffer from what he lacked. Shortly, he returned to reciting tehilim. He was the tehilim authority of our town. He died before the War.
Photographs page 442: 1925 Tarbut; students of "Bet Rbn".
Rav Shmeryl, a popular man, what he did not know was [not written] and not from teachers. All week, he went about the countryside and traded with the farmers. He was poor and wretched; and his means of support was limited. Only the evening before Shabbat was the time his spirits were elevated. At the time, the congregation assembled in the synagogue to say tehilim. He was the cantor for them. His pleasant and full melodies blended with the twilight of the Polish people. He perished during the years of the Shoah.
Rav Shabbtai LUNIANSKY, before the First World War and the German occupation of 1915-1918, was the exclusive representative, on behalf of the Jewish salesmen, with the authorities during the time of the Russian government. At the time, trouble was not lacking for the Jewish residents of the city. Law forbade the sale of brandy. This greatly discriminated against the Jews and prevented them from earning a living by such trade with the farmers. Thus did the passages of laws of the country complicate many situations. At the time, the face of Rav Shabbtai was troubled. He did not concern himself about sparing his own health. With exertion and irritation, he pled for mercy in his sermons to remove the terrible decrees. He perished in the days of the Shoah.
The Years of the Shoah
On Tuesday, January 24, 1942, German parachutes descended
around Grodna as well as near Rozanka. The parachutists entered
Rozanka by way of Szczuczyn Road, near the home of the
family while a small tank and several mounted on motorcycles brushed by them.
The sound of automatic weapons began; and many homes were destroyed, among them
the slaughterhouse. Upon completion of the bombardment, they fortified
themselves on the hill behind the town, the dominant hill on the road of Volkovisk-Mosty.
The remainder observed from the tower of the Christian church.
Meanwhile, the existing Russian army was still located in Bialystok after the German invasion. The Russians did come to Rozanka with strength and, upon their return, occupied it. They destroyed the German observers who were present in the tower of the church and captured seven of the Germans who had fortified themselves on the hill. Along with the Germans, the Russians seized several Christian inhabitants who were collaborators with the Germans. The Russians then transported the prisoners to a work camp, "Magazinus,” that was located along the Szczuczyn Road, they then shot them and cut their bodies up into shreds.
On Shabbat, 28 June, the regular German army entered Rozanka after a short battle with the Russians. With the arrival of the Germans, many of the Jewish residents fled to the surrounding small farms to hide. Christian residents came forward against them and notified the Germans with the false accusation that the Jews had informed the Russians about the incursion of the German parachutist, causing the death of this German corp. Immediately, the Germans arrested eight Jews. Among them were Velvel PODOLINSKY (the shoemaker), his son Hirshel, Chaim MAZAVURIA, and Zeidel, the son of LEIBITSKA. They were transported to an unknown location; and none has heard from them since.
Subsequently, on that day, the regular Germans searched for other Jews, particularly males and found seventy men. Among them were Shmuel ZAKROISKY, his son and son-in-law; Shmuel KAMINSKY and his sons Yitzhak, Malech, and Dovid; Menachem BOYARSKY; Liebka KATZIEKA; Velvul the butcher; and others. All were transported to the village Podvavry and assembled in the open space near the wall. They were ordered to dig a pit after which they were all shot to death. At the time, the walls of the square were covered with the blood of the victims.
On the graves of the slain Germans an inscription is written: “Here, the Jews killed the German soldiers.” The remaining Jews fled to surrounding villages as well as to Szczuczyn before more evil struck against them.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Germans left Rozanka; and others came in their place. They asked the Jewish women the whereabouts of their husbands. When the women told them what had happened on Shabbat, the Germans calmed them, told them that the men would be able to return from their hiding places, and would not be treated badly. The outcome of this assurance was the return of a portion of the men. The Germans engaged them in different work under guard of the local Christian police.
Near Rosh Hashanah 5702 more Germans arrived and laid siege to the town. The Jews feared that they would be massacred and began to flee the city. Among those fleeing was also Azrael BEZRUTZIKA but not without withstanding encounters with the Germans. He was not fired upon and was allowed to escape. Azrael saw Benyamin VILENCHIK and the son of Velvul HaKohan while attempting a run across the road. A German machine gunner shot and killed them on the spot. Those that were captured were returned to their locations and put to work.
A short time before this, Yakov PODOLINSKI ran from the city, fearing for his life. The Germans captured him, brought him back to town, and after a severe humiliation, executed him. At the same time, the Germans were seizing men in the streets. All who they abducted were put to work.
After the Holidays, they ordered all Jews to wear a blue and white band on the sleeve of the right arm and then transported them to work. At times, in the midst of their work, they were maltreated with bashing and beatings by members of the S.S.
In October 1942, the men of the S.S. ordered all Jews to assemble at the village marketplace, and announced that whoever had remained in their homes would be shot at the site. All the Jews, along with their wives and children, appeared except for one young woman by the name of Rivka BLUSHTEIN. She was unable to get out of bed because of illness. The murderers found her and killed her in her bed.
After many hours of anxious anticipation, as the murderers ranted about them, the Germans called out the most esteemed family men and forced their leader, Rabbi LIS, to stand nearby as a symbol. They declared to him, with the threat of death, for each one to hand over all valuable items such as gold, money, and jewelry to a German representative. After they had robbed everything from the Jews, they returned them to their homes.
It happened weeks afterward that all Jews were ordered to leave the city and travel to the Szczuczyn Ghetto. Each was permitted to take whatever they could carry in their hands. Accompanied by a guard of Christian police, all of the Jews then went to the Szczuczyn Ghetto. Upon arrival there, it was announced that those who were related were to arrange themselves next to their family member. Those who did not do so would stay among the existing residents.
Representatives of the Jews of Rozanka in the “Judenrat” of the Szczuczyn Ghetto were Chaim PARETZKY, Dovid PARETZKY, and Lieba PESKOVSKY. A part of the Jews of Rozanka was sent to join the remainder of the residents of the Ghetto at labor camps in Lida, Oshmina, and Boresov. Noted here is the designation of the brave work of Chanah-Gimpel HALPERIN. She risked her life by smuggling food into the Ghetto until the Germans caught her; and they killed her.
The 22nd of Iyar 5702 was the date of the final liquidation of the Szczuczyn Ghetto and the cruel end of the remaining citizens of the Rozanka community. Joined with this remnant was the annihilation of the residents of the Jewish village of Kolonia Dubrova, nearby Rozanka. All of them, in an innocent way, delivered to the capacity of G-d, going up to the fire together with their fellow Rozanka neighbors.
The Remainder of the Refugees
Photograph: Bet Hamidrash
So, the community of Rozanka ascended to the ovens, a Jewish community small in quantity but large in quality. Active in Jewish source of life with charity and just at all times, they modestly, and with much honor, went with G-d.
At the present time, Rozanka has no Jewish residents. Local and neighboring Christians settled in Jewish homes. The remaining homes of the residents were dismantled. The Bet Hamidrash was converted into a stable. In the cemetery, gravestones were removed and used for building needs. It was, then, leveled out and served as a pasture for cattle.
Accordingly, Azrael BEZRUTZIKA succeeded in escaping; also, Mordechai MEYEROWITZ was able to escape. Both of them fought in the ranks of the partisans and emigrated to Israel after the War. Another fate came to Yudel and Chaim HALPERIN. Yudel was successful in escaping from the Ghetto in Szczuczyn and joined the partisans of the nearby cities. During one of their actions, he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned with a group of Catholic priests. The outcome is not known. His brother Chaim also fled from the Ghetto and was distinguished in his capacity as a partisan fighter. He participated in many actions against the Germans and merited seeing their defeat.
In the year 1944, a remnant of the Soviet police was killed at the hands of a gang of Poles in the vicinity of Karolitz. So befell the fate of Abrahamel MERTASHES after his escape from the Lida Ghetto to join the partisans. Afterwards, he was seized and killed by non-Jews. So, those who were saved and arrived at secure sanctuary included Chanah NEMANSKY, Benjamin Chaim KAMINSKY, Shmuel Yitzchak PELOVSKY, Sarah Bluma KHABILBITSKY with son Shloma and daughter Chanah, and the Rabbi Ariyah ZILBERSHTEIN. All are located in Israel. Besides the latter, many managed a course to the United States.
The memory of the Rozhanka community is with the several tens of families who emigrated to the United States before the First World War and the thirty-some families who made aliyah to Israel in the period between the two World Wars.
Those who left Rozanka for Israel established an Organization of Émigrés from Rozanka and elected a committee. The committee of the organization participates in a memorial gathering each year with the survivors of the Szczuczyn Ghetto on the 22nd of Iyar, the day of the liquidation of the Ghetto (and Israel Independence Day.) The former residents of Rozanka perpetuated the community by the planting of a grove in the Forest of Martyrs and the construction of a monument to remember the sanctity of Rozhanka. The climax of the work of the committee was the establishment of a charitable fund, an auxiliary division for the émigrés of Rozanka and the delivery of aid to the survivors of the Shoah. All the workers of the aforementioned and all of those who established the charitable fund made their contributions possible for those who left Rozanka for Israel and the United States.
O mein shtetele Rozshanke
Ikh zeh dich itst bulter vi amol,
Ven Du kumst oif meine gedanken
Dervekstu benkshaft ohn a tsol.
Noch deine nohr tsvay langeh gassn
Vos zaynen getaylt geven oif fier,
Noch unzer yugentlechen lachn-spassn
Umfergessn zeinen die klangen far mir.
O, mein shtetele, mein heymele
Kein oremkeit hot nit gefelt.
Ich vel dir keynmol nit fargessn
Shtendik benk ich noch dir, mein heym.
Ot zeh ich unzer gas die langeh
Getsoigen zich fun unz tsum teich,
Vu kinder flegn zich fraylech shpieln,
Un chevre flegt shpatsirn geyn.
Ot ze ich dem bes-medresh dem altn
Oich dem nayem noent fun ihm,
Yunge bochrim flegn dort lernen
Es klingt noch deitlech zeyer shtim.
Es vilt zich alts dermonen itst
Mein heym dort ich bin geboyrn,
Volt ich gekent dort vemen trefn
Vi gliklech volt ich mich geshetst.
Es iz dort keyn zach farblibn
Nor a nechtn mit blut fargossn,
Beyze vintn hobn alts fartriben.
Far unz di shtern oisgeloshn.
Far di kinder fun unzer shtetl
Zol zein faraybikt unzer amol,
Dort hobn mir gekholmt vegn a medine
Vegn Tsions berg un Isroels tol.
Tseshtert is alts vos iz geven
In unzer haymshtetl Rozshanke,
Mir gedenken un farbindn alts
Mit unzere hertser un gedanken.
Oh, my dear little town. Roshanke
I see you now more clearly than then,
When you enter my thoughts
You awaken countless longings.
For your only two long streets
Which were divided into four
For our youthful laughing-joking
Unforgotten are their sounds for me.
Oh, my dear little town, my dear little home
No poverty did we lack,
I shall never forget you
I always long for you, my home.
Now I see our street, the long one
Stretching from us to the river,
Where children played happily,
And friends used to go strolling.
Now I see the old Bes Medresh1
Also the new one close by,
Youngsters used to learn there
Their voices can yet be clearly heard.
Everything wills itself to be remembered now
My home- there where I was born
Were I able to meet with anyone there
How happy should I consider myself.
Nothing has remained there
Only a blood-stained yesterday
Angry winds drove everything away,
For us the stars are extinguished
For the children of our town
Let our past become eternalized,
There we dreamed of a nation
Of Zion's hills and Israel's valley.
Destroyed is everything that was
In our hometown Roshanke,
We remember and tie-up everything
Together with our hearts and thoughts.
1. from Hebrew=Bet Midrash=house of study/synagogue
2. The author's name deserves comment: Nechome=Hebrew, Nechama=solace or consolation. I wonder whether she was indeed Nechome or simply chose a pen-name that is so very ironic: can there ever be solace?…..
The address of the Organization of Émigrés from Rozanka in Israel:
Chanah Shveiger Frank, Tel Aviv, Vedyat Ketubitz 11 [ESR NOTE: Chanah died on 25 Jul 1974.]
Yedidiah Pelovsky, Tel Aviv, Shderot Dovid Hamelech 26.
Necrology for Rozanka
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