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[Page 365]

Volozhin Memories

Shoshana Nishri – Berkovich

Translated by Rivka Matz (Shoshana's daughter)

Edited by Mike Kalt

At the beginning of the 1930's Volozhin became the district (poviat) town of the region with close to six thousand inhabitants, among them four thousand Jews.

One part of our town was located on a hill. It was called Arooftsoo (uphill). The other part, located on the descent, was called Aroptsoo (downhill). The market square, on the town's center, was in the upper part. It was a spacious square area, which contained mostly Jewish stores and the Catholic Church. All the national ceremonies of the non- Jewish population took place there. (See map in the section “Volozhin Childhood”)

The Christians celebrated their holidays in the city streets. The Polish Independence Day, May 3rd, was very impressive and I don't have enough words to express our sense of jealousy when we saw the joy and happiness on the faces of the celebrants.

Close to the Market Square, on its northern side, were located the Etz Hayim Yeshiva, the Hebrew Tarbut School, and the main Synagogue. The public Christian school, the government offices, and military barracks were located on the its southern side

The market place was filled every Thursday. with harnessed horse carts in which the farmers brought their peasant products, fruits, and hand made fabrics to sell.

The farmers were White- Russians (Orthodox), primitive in their way of life and education. Their garments were unique. The women had long wide skirts, one on top of another. Obviously the nicest was the outside one. They banded their hair with colorful kerchiefs. The men wore embroidered shirts (known in Israel as Russian shirts) and trousers tucked in high boots.

They spent the market day earnings buying holiday clothes and other necessities. They ate their meals on the carts. The main nutrition was pork fat, bread, milk, and potatoes, accompanied with strong vodka.

During market day there were many drunkards who could hardly stay on their feet. Most of them kept quarrelling and cursing. Many times these exchanges ended in fights.

White Russians lived also in the suburbs; most of them in Ponizhe on the eastern side of the town. They were influenced by the city atmosphere and were more educated. The bureaucracy was composed of local and western Poles.

Most of the houses were single floor buildings constructed from wood. The houses were surrounded by vegetable gardens. Many houses had cowsheds in the yard and the cow's milk was consumed by the owners. The vegetables were stored in caves, kept fresh by the cool temperature. There were also a few two-story houses near the market. There were some buildings with a room in the attic. In one of them dwelled the musician Mr. Ratner, with his wife. He organized a string orchestra in the Tarbut School and the firemen's wind orchestra. In the other house lived my family. The nicest buildings in town were the Government and Military buildings. They once belonged to Graf Tishkevitsh, whose estate included Volozhin.

There was no running water in town. Water was carried in buckets from wells. A pair of buckets attached on a rod, which was carried on the shoulders, and brought home. The water was kept in barrels, which stood near the entrance during summer. In winter the barrels were placed in the kitchen, to prevent freezing. There was no bathroom, no bathtub, and no shower inside the house, so people bathed in the municipal public bath house. Once my father tried something unusual--he ordered a bathtub made of tin and we filled it with hot water from the stove. This procedure was very tiresome and long. That is why a few family members bathed in the same water, first the women, later the men. Finally we decided that it wasn't worthwhile and for the time being, we continued to visit the public bath-house.

 

vol365.jpg
Market Square South-West corner in the nineteen thirties
Berkovitsh's (author parents) house the fourth from left

 

The stoves were built from bricks. One stove “Aristocrat” was covered with china, and was used to heat the appartment. The second, a simpler one, was in the kitchen and was used for cooking and baking. The housewife, even though she dedicated much time to raise the family and contribute to the income, found time to bake during the end of the week. A special homemade bake was the “Bonda” kind of bread made of chopped potatoes with flour and yeast. They baked the “Bondas” in special baking boxes, and to prevent sticking, they used to spread big yellow leaves at the bottom.

 

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My Mother Keyla Berkovitsh, the loving wife and mother, the beautiful, energetic, hard working housewife of our family

 

Some families baked regular bread. The ingredients they baked with were eggs, flour, milk, butter and sometimes jam. We never knew chocolate or cream cakes. The jams were made by the housewife herself. In the forest fruit seasons, the female farmers came with buckets full of raspberries and black berries, which they picked in the forests.

In those times the housewives stood near the stoves in front of the “Mednitzes” (wide, flat brass bowls specially made to fry jams). Those bowls had a stand (Dreifus) ,and they stirred the fruit mixed with sugar.

We didn't know about refrigirators or ice coolers. It was necessary to cook daily. Truly our mothers' lives were tough. We, their sons and daughters, often wonder about their diligence and work ability.

Electricity was introduced only in 1925. Before it, the houses were lit by kerosene lamps, and the main streets were lit by kerosene lanterns. Hand lights were made with candles and only few had battery-operated lights.

The city had a large public park; a large part of it contained fruit trees. A small shallow creek ran through the city, it was called Volozhinka. The townspeople enjoyed dipping and swimming in it. The bushes around it were used as “changing rooms”. On the side of the main street was a nice lake which was frozen in winter; its surface was used for ice skating. People skied also on the surrounding hills. Sleds were used at the crossroads of the streets that connected the upper and the lower part. It filled the Jewish youth with joyous occupation. It was a small low sled for two riders with their feet outside from both sides of the sled. The feet guided the sled like oars of a boat. A third person pushed the sled down.

The main street was called Vilna; it started from the center in the direction of Vilna, the nearest big city. The streets were covered with irregular unpolished cobblestones and walking or riding on them was difficult. The sidewalks were made from wood. The building owners themselves kept the sidewalks and the adjacent roads clean. The public places, like the market, were cleaned by workers. The shopkeepers who sat in their open stores got warm by the “fire top“ - a pot full with burning coals.

Few buses and cars appeared; and then only in the thirties. Before that, the horse cart was the only means of transport. The train station was 17 km away, and people went there by horse carts. Any ride to the near cities and villages was by cart, because there was no train or bus service.

The climate was almost northern. Rain fell also in summer. Fall rains were heavy. In winter snow fell frequently. Deep snow covered the earth. People wore warm leather boots to keep their bodies warm.

Commerce was the main source of Jewish income. Most shops were owned by Jews. The trade in linen was important economically. Flax grew in the fields near Volozhin. The businessmen sent it as raw material to the big cities.

Cultural life in this time was scarce, despite the thirst for knowledge. Youth education usually ended in elementary school; only a few went to Vilna to continue their studies, because tuition and life in the city were expensive, far beyond the possibilities of many.

Very pleasant memories are bound with the Matza baking. The baking took place in private homes, which were evacuated during the days between Purim and Passover. In one room was prepared the dough. In the big room of the apartment, girls sat on two sides of a long table and used to round the dough and cut it into Matzot. The Matzot were baked cooperatively. The work was done precisely and the Matzot were tasty. A part of the Matzot was prepared to make Matze-Mell (Flour) mostly for kneydlakh (dumplings). These Mazot were crushed with a pestle in the “Stupe”, a wooden recepticle of conic shape. The ones who were lazy were threatened by not having Kneidleich.

Volozhin Jews were united in times of mourning and trouble. As I said before, the houses were built of wood. The roofs were made from wood tiles. Some roofs were of straw. When a fire broke out (a most difficult and frequent disaster) it spread quickly. Its location and extinguishing was difficult. It required quick action of many people. Our city people always acted with devotion to save human life and property.

When a person died, almost all the town inhabitants participated at the funeral. Crying and wailing, they accompanied the dead. As much as mourning was everywhere, so was also the joy. A wedding in the town was a source of joy for everyone. The wedding started generally in the big room of the bride's parents. The bride would sit in a chair, on her head a white veil, and on both her sides stood women who were relatives and friends. The groom, who waited at his parents' house, went to the bride's place accompanied by his nearest men. There they greeted him with “Mazal Tov”. After that, the bride and groom walked at the head of the crowd, accompanied by musicians (Kleizmers) to the chupa ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the couple went to the “party house”. At the entrance, two women raised trays above their heads. On each tray were candles and large cakes. Inside the house, tables were set with all kinds of homemade delicacies. Food and delicacies were also distributed among the kids who gathered around the house. On Saturday, the bride went to the Synagogue. In the evening there was a dance ball; most of the young people participated in it. They danced until dawn. For seven days (”Seven Blessing”) the participants continued to celebrate among the family.

The feeling of a common destiny and mutual assistance was one of the most admired qualities which our parents possessed. Their descendants desire to imprint those superb qualities among their children.


[Page 370]

I Shall Remember You, Volozhin

Pesach Berman

Translated by Meir Razy

Donated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

“I will remember and pour out my soul”:Psalms 2:5

“I had tears in my eyes day and night”:Psalms 2:4

The Volozhin legend

At times, I think of it as if it were all an illusion and Volozhin itself some lost mirage. It appears as a noble world where reality existed in a different dimension. Then, the pain stabs my heart, reminding me of all that was lost; the Torah sages, the Torah learners and all the simple, ordinary, everyday people.

Now, after everything has literally gone up in smoke, their lives came back to me as if in a dream. I see them and hear their plea to set down their lives in writing so that their existence once filled with so many joys and sorrow, will not just disappear. Therefore, I shall write the Volozhin story for everyone, a legend for both adults and children.


Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro
and Simchat Beit Hashoeva in the Yeshiva

Pesach Berman

Translated by Meir Razy

Whenever I think of Volozhin I remember the enlightened personality of Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro Z”L, who was loved by everyone in town. He was a member of the Volozhin rabbinical dynasty that had started with Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin. Rabbi Yaakov was the son of Rabbi Raphael Shapiro who married, in succession, Sara, Resha and Dreizel, the three daughters of the NATZIV (Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin).

The festival of Simchat Beir HaShoeva was a happy celebration, indelibly linked to Rabbi Yaakov in my mind. We, the students of the Yeshiva, used to go to his home, carrying lamps at night, to bring him to the Yeshiva. We carried him on our shoulders, a Chuppa–like canopy over his head, singing and dancing all the way. The entire town's Jewish population celebrated with us and the Rabbi's face shone with happiness.

My heart still pounds when I think of the celebrations that followed inside the Yeshiva. The teachers and the students were singing during the HAKAFOT (dancing with the Torah) and I remember the voices of Motel Traber, Leibel Klachker, and that of my cousin, Rabbi Shlomo Kozlowski, who had made a special trip from his own Yeshiva in the town of Mir.

The celebration peaked when Chaim “the tailor” gave everyone an apple. He had the “right” for doing so. He used to buy apples from the owners of the apple orchard, hide the apple boxes inside the synagogue and finally, distribute them to everyone.

[Page 371]

Rabbi Chaim was a remarkable person. He participated in all the charities, was a member of many committees and was the Treasurer of the Burial Society.


Groups of Scholars

Pesach Berman (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Meir Razy

Donated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

 

Vol371a.jpg
A group of Etz–Chaim Yeshiva Students – 1925

Standing (right to left): Moshe Golob, Motel Traber, Moshe–Simcha Traber, Shmidt (from Vilna), Margolin, Chaim Bergman, a Student from Slabotka
Sitting: Herchel (from Rakov), Yoseph Goldstein, a Student from Lomza, Meir Berniker, Tkatch (from Grodno), Arie Charutz, Leinel Perski (from Klatzk)

 

I would like to mention some of the students of the Yeshiva. The head of the Yeshiva at that time was The Gaon Rabbi Yitzhak Weinstein (we wish him a long life), and under him studied groups of scholars. One of them was Motel Traber from the town of Trab (Traip). He was one of the outstanding graduates of the Yeshiva.

Another important person was Rabbi Yehuda Avraham the Slaughterer, who was very old. As a young man, he met the NATZIV. The walls would tremble when he raised his voice, calling “holy” during prayers.

[Page 372]

I remember the visit of Daniel Perski Z”L, a famous writer who was a relative of the slaughterer. Rabbi Avraham welcomed him with the “Shehecheyanu” blessing, thus greeting his relative who had just come from Eretz Israel.

 

Vol371b.jpg
R'Yehuda Avraham Persky

 

The Sundial and the Renovation of the Yeshiva

Pesach Berman (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Meir Razy

I remember the beautiful sundial that was built on the East wall of the Yeshiva building. It had a large hand and black numerals. Over time, the outside of the building deteriorated. One day Mr. Yoseph Sochobolski of Bialystok, who had once been a student in the Yeshiva and later on became a prosperous contractor in the U.S.A., revisited our town. Seeing the condition of the building he paid for the necessary renovations, including its outside appearance. This made the sundial even more striking and distinctive.

The Great Synagogue stood on the east side of the Yeshiva while the house of Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro stood on a hill to the north. Next were the homes of both Naphtali Arotzker, a bookbinder and owner of the stationery and newspaper store, and of Pesia Bakshet, whose food store fed the students of the Yeshiva.


Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro's House,
his Death and Funeral

Pesach Berman (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Meir Razy

We all remember the wedding celebration of Rivka, the daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, to Rabbi Chaim Walkin, a son of the rabbi of Pinsk. We remember the groomsmen, dancing in the streets, accompanying the couple on their way to the wedding ceremony. The wedding party included a non–Jewish couple dancing in front of the wedding couple, holding two buckets of water. The young couple was both tossing coins into the water for good luck and happiness.

The Rabbi's house was large and spacious and when I entered, I felt the holiness and awe of the surroundings. The Rebbetzin asked me what I needed, which was always a Kashrut question my mother had sent me to ask. I remember one very serious question. My mother had bought meat for Passover and unintentionally placed it a non–Pesach towel. She wanted to know if that meat was still ‘kosher for Passover’. The Rabbi answered that if it was not yet salted and washed with water – it is kosher.

 

vol372.jpg
Rebbetzin Shaina Disha Shapiro

 

Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro was not a healthy man and was under the medical care of Doctor Avraham Tzart. The doctor did all he could but the Rabbi's condition continued to deteriorate.

[Page 373]

At some point, the doctor decided that the Rabbi needed to see a specialist in Warsaw. Although it was a Saturday, the rabbi and the doctor took the bus due to “Pikuach Nefesh”. After his condition improved somewhat, they returned to Volozhin. Unfortunately, the rabbi's condition continued to deteriorate. Once more he went back to Warsaw but there he passed away.

 

vol373.jpg
Smorgon Street

 

The news of the Rabbi's death spread quickly across Volozhin and the neighboring villages. The leaders of the community wanted to bury him in the local cemetery. The government insisted that his body would be transported by a dedicated vehicle. An agreement was reached and his body left Warsaw.

All the businesses were closed while the citizens gathered at the town's entrance. Some people climbed on top of the tall monument to watch for the approaching bus.

The town's leaders, headed by Rabbi Israel Lunin, went to meet the bus. They unloaded the casket and carried it on their shoulders to the Rabbi's home. Rabbis and yeshiva students from Volozhin and the surrounding area came to pay their respects. The next day, the casket was placed in the Yeshiva while many people gathered to eulogize the Rabbi.

[Page 374]

The casket was then taken to the Great Synagogue where the Chazan performed the funeral service. Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro was buried in the section dedicated to Volozhin Gaonim.

 

vol374.jpg
The road to the cemetery

 

The Volozhyn Youth and the Educators

Pesach Berman (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Meir Razy

In his famous poem, Hamatmid (the Eternal Learner), Bialik wrote that the daughters of Volozhin were redheads while the women of the surrounding villages were “full and fat”. Our national Poet distorted the image of the young Volozhin women, but I want to write about all the young people of Volozhin. Who formed its spirit? Who ignited the desire for Eretz Israel? The answer is: the teachers in the Tarbut schools and the Guides and troop leaders in the different Zionist youth movements. I can see the mentor and math teacher Chaim Golovenchick (and wish him a long life). When he moved to Montevideo before settling in Israel, his departure from Volozhin was hard on his students. I also remember other teachers: the science teacher Binyamin Shishko, Moshe Bram who taught us the Polish language and Chaim Portnoy, the Hebrew teacher.

[Page 375]

I remember the building of the Tarbut School, the heating stoves that kept us warm in winter, and Mania, the Christian housekeeper, who kept the classrooms impeccably clean. I fondly remember the punishments we received for not completing our homework. There were different penalty levels, from standing in the corner of the class facing the wall to copying ten pages from the textbook. These punishments were trivial when I think of the pleasure of learning. The school was the place where we developed our love for Zion, desire for Jerusalem, and dedication to the Hebrew language. Our Student Council had passed a resolution that a student caught speaking any language other than Hebrew would pay a fine and that money would be donated to the Jewish National Fund.

We must remember the sacred work of the Melameds (teachers for the younger grades) in the Hederim and the Talmud Torah Schools. For example, Rabbi Bezalel “the Melamed” was an excellent teacher who taught young children everything from Aleph–Bet to the three main parts of the Bible: Torah, Prophets and the Writings. His home was modest and he instilled respect and a sense respect for the holiness of the printed page of Jewish books. He taught us that torn pages of Holy Books are sacred and must be buried in a proper ceremony. He taught us to feel for the poor, the lonely and the neglected and that they too were created in God's image. Above all, he taught us to respect our parents.

This teaching bore fruit. Each Thursday, at the end of the Market Day, we collected the money that the merchants had set aside to help the poor. Rabbi Avraham Itche Schwartzberg dedicated his time to the “Bread for the Poor” Charity, an organization that fed people in need in Volozhin.


The Zionist Youth Movements
and the Love of Eretz Israel

Pesach Berman (Tel Aviv)

Translated by Meir Razy

BEITAR, Hashomer Hatzair (the Young Guard) and Hechalutz (The Pioneer) youth movements collected donations for the Jewish National Fund. The money was used to buy the land where houses would be built, orchards planted and roads paved. All of this was for the one purpose: resurrecting the State of Israel. People rejoiced when some of us immigrated to Eretz Israel. However, we feel our pain that our parents, those who had instilled the love of our country in us, did not survive to enjoy it.

Some days were special. These were the days when young men and women left town on their way to Eretz Israel. The town escorted them to the train station, dancing in the streets, believing the Messiah would soon be coming.

[Page 376]

I remember the departure of Moshka Rogovin, Etel Shacker and Fania Kivilevich. The departure of my brother Shlomo is etched in my memory too. A long convoy of horse-drawn carriages, full of his friends, all of them singing, came to see him board the train.

The convoy made a stop in front of the home of my grandmother. With tears of happiness in her eyes, she said, “all my life I prayed for this day”.


Purim and Pesach in Volozhyn

Pesach Berman

Translated by Meir Razy

Purim is not one of the three main Jewish Holidays, but Purim was a major Holiday in Volozhin. A spontaneous “ad–lo–yada”, the Purim parade and carnival developed as young and older people put on costumes, walked in the streets and sang their song near different houses: “Today is Purim, tomorrow it will be over, give me a nickel and chase me away”. They dedicated the collected money for buying land in Israel. The reading of the Megilah (the book of Esther in the Bible) was a happy event, especially for small children. Everyone stood at attention holding our clappers and pistols, ready to make a lot of noise when the name of Haman was read.

What type of pistols did we have? We took a large house key, filled its cavity with heads of matches and inserted a large nail to block the cavity. When this device was swung against the floor, it caused the matches to burn and explode. This produced a loud bang while the smell of burning filled the synagogue.

Several weeks before the start of Pesach, its holiday atmosphere began to descend over the town when people started baking their matzah. Many people volunteered to help. Some were rolling the dough, some were marking the holes, some carried the flour, some mixed it with the water, and others packed the matzahs in special baskets that protected them from Chametz. The baskets were kept in locked storage or on top of cabinets and dressers until the Holiday.

The night before Passover was special. We slept on the floor on a layer of straw. The beds were washed and “Kosher” so we were not allowed to even touch them. We could not use the plates and utensils that were ready for the SEDER and everyone just grabbed something to eat.

The morning before Passover arrived was the time to search and burn the Chametz in the house. All the Chametz was collected in one place. The rooms were kept dark and father lit the special candle used for the search. With a big ladle in his left hand and goose feathers in his right hand, he recited the blessing “who ordered us to burn the Chametz” and checked under the tables and the cabinets. He knew, of course, he would not find any Chametz there.

[Page 377]

I am longing for the special cooking pots used to make kugel and Kramzalach, the different nuts that our parents kept out of our sight. I remember the special sweet raisin wine that was made in the attic that we children used to sneak into and taste.


The Food We Used to Eat in Volozhin

Pesach Berman

Translated by Meir Razy

During the year, we drank pure cream that was made of milk, not yogurt, which was stored in large clay jars. Lazar “the Baker” and his wife Fruma baked wonderful breads and semolina rolls. Other bakers were Yoseph Ribels and Sheina Lunin, the wife of Rabbi Israel.

The supplier of fish was Rabbi Gershon “der Bunier”. His fish were not always very fresh and frequently people felt sick after eating them. He used to have many “special sales” trying to get rid of smelly, deteriorating inventory.


Bread Winning [Livelihoods] in Volozhyn

Pesach Berman

Translated by Meir Razy

Most of the Jews in Volozhin earned their living in trade, shopkeeping or peddling. Most of the activities took place in the market on Market Day each Thursday. The peasants sold linen, wheat and buckwheat, milk and milk products. Jews did not trust the Kashrut of the milk so every family kept a cow and hired a shepherd who led a group of cows to the hills outside the town. It was nice to see how each cow knew which way to return to the right “home” at the end of the grazing day.

During the summer, people collected berries and hay for the cows' winter feed. In winter, people used to warm bricks on the in houses' stoves and place them next to the cows' feed in order to keep it warm.

Different stores stood in the market area. Each store specialized in a particular set of products and merchandise, from shoelaces to herring, to stoves and glass jars. One special store sold glass plates for windows. The peasants would bring their windows and the glassmaker replaced the broken panes in the store. I loved the screeching sound of the diamond cutting the glass.

[Page 378]

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The market of Volozhin

[Page 379]

The shopkeepers wore heavy winter coats and carried shawls around their necks in winter, to protect themselves from the cold wind that came through the open doors. However, these measures were not enough and every store kept a “firetap”, a pot full of smoldering coal. The men wore special boots made of wool or felt.

There were two hotels in town. One belonged to Eliyahu Moshe Brodna, and the other – to Shlomo Chaim Brodna. Many clients of the hotels were merchants who came to town to trade timber, linen and agriculture products. Many important deals were signed in these hotels.

People got water from deep wells. One well was at the Market near the home of Itche Rogovin. Raising water from the well was not an easy task. People had to pull up a bucket full of water, tied to a rope. The rope regularly tore and the water supply operation ceased until a volunteer descended into the well and brought the bucket back. In winter, ice formed around the well and presented a serious risk of slipping or even falling into the well. I remember the yoke that people used in order to carry two buckets as well as the large barrel that stood in our kitchen and the copper cup we used to ladle water from the barrel.

At some point, a man named Herschel “the water pumper” started a business delivering water. He placed a big barrel on a cart that was pulled by his horse, and started selling water “by the bucket”. The horse, which was blind, had been very cheap to buy. The women of the town started praying for the health of Herschel “the water pumper” as well as that of his horse.


[Page 381]

Volozhinka – the town stream

By Yakov Kagan

Translated by Moshe Porat

Edited by Mike Kalt

The source of the stream comes from the Brilki hamlet, three kilometers from Volozhin. Crossing the fields of the towns of Hordinovo and Shapoval, the creek arrives inside the town to separate the town's eastern and western areas. On its western side were situated Mostisitski Street (Polish name), now Oktiabrskaya (Russian), the “Arptsu” Synagogue, and the Count's Estate. M. Polak's and Rapoport-Perlman's saw & gristmills extended on its eastern shore.

The Minsk-Vilna trail passed over a wooden bridge constructed over the stream. The creek continued to flow southwardly between Ponizhe on its left and the Military sports stadium on its right side, then through the Kelvitsh hamlet until it emptied into the Yislotsh River, fifteen kilometers from town.

Every year the shtetl's inhabitants used to say the “Tashlikh” prayer on its borders

The dwellers of Volozhin and hamlets in its vicinity used to wash their laundry in its water. There, peasants used to beat the flax crop from their fields.

On its northeast side extended a large meadow covered with opulent grass, called Veehon (“Drive away place” in Russian), to which the town dwellers' cows were driven each morning for pasture.

The stream was shallow. There was no danger of drowning. Each summer, town youngsters would cut pieces of sod from the Weehon meadow grass and throw them in the stream. The barrier blocked the flow, creating a small swimming pool to the great joy of the Shtetl's children.

Near the sources at Hordinovo were some sections deep enough for adult bathing. The high wild shrubs on its shore served as places to change clothes. A young woman, Dvora Perski, drowned in such a place in the late twenties.

An additional water environment, a small lake, the so-called Sazhelk-pond was situated near Vilna Street

The town authorities renovated parts of the Volozhinka and the Sazhelke borders during the late thirties. They framed some segments of the creek in regular, one-meter wide channels, leveled its elevated sides, and removed the wild vegetation on the western border, replanting it with cultivated grass.

The authorities arranged also the Sazhelke. They framed the water pond in rectangular borders. It became suitable to serve as an ice-skating rink in winter and as a pleasure-walking place and a place for rowboat cruising in summer.

The Volozhinka and the Sazhelke–pond were quiet for the most part of the year, with cool calm water in summer and autumn, and covered with ice in winter. Nevertheless, it was completely different in springtime. Generally, on the eve of Passover, when the earth defrosted, large quantities of snow melted and flowed from the surrounding hills into the Volozhinka dale. The waters flooded the valley, creating a large lake in the Veehon-meadow. The quiet stream, usually passable by foot, became a large, deep, and dangerous torrent.

 

vol381.jpg
Pleasure walk on the Sazhelke borders – Volozhin 1936

 

Mr. Yani Garber, the first Volozhin Judenrat head, the first victim shot on the first mass slaughter –October 1941, walking on the Sazhelke borders with his son Dania (the pianist) his sister in law Etia Perlman and her daughter Sonitshka. Behind them, Yani's mother in law Malka Perlman -Itskhakin (Rabbi Itsele's G. Granddaughter) with her son Yossif Perlman


The three mass slaughters on the Volozhinka borders -Translator's note

The Nazis created the Volozhin Ghetto on the western shore during the summer of 1941. They accomplished the first mass slaughter at the Sport Stadium on the same shore to the south in the autumn of the same year.

The Volozhin Jews spent the winter of 1941 in relatively quiet conditions, enclosed in the Ghetto, where from they could see the last snow-thawing flood of their life.

Some days after that flood, when the roads became passable, an SS team did a reconnaissance tour in Volozhin. They looked for a place for the “Great Execution”. They found it near the ancient Jewish Cemetery, on the Volozhinka's rivulet. The main mass slaughter of 2,000 Volozhin Jews took place on the Volozhinka western shore a month after the spring flood, on May 10, 1942.

In the third (last) mass slaughter, the Nazis executed the remaining 300 Jews from the second great shtetl near the Veehon, on the east shore of the Volozhinka streambed, in August 1942

The Volozhinka stream carried away with its waters a large amount of innocent Jewish blood and ash.

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