(pp 81 - 95) - Hebrew
(pp 96 - 107) - Yiddish
Translated by Rhoda Miller
Jews and non-Jews lived in a neighborhood, working and marketing side by side. Many in the township were craftsmen such as shoemakers and tailors, carpenters and lumberjacks who bound the beams of wood that were cut in the forest. They bound them into bundles in order to roll them in the stream of the Neman River to Germany.
The inhabitants of the town lived quite well. Many Jews raised ducks. In the winter, meat and fat were plentiful. The goyim brought wood in their carriages to the township to use as home firewood. The Jewish craftsmen found employment from the villages around the township. They sewed their fur coats and shod their horses. The farmers paid with cash or with the products of their farms. On Sunday, one could hear the sound of their church bells all over Orlowa. The residents of the surrounding villages with their wives, daughters and sons came together. Exiting their chapel at noontime, they came into our stores to buy products and goods they needed such as kerosene, salt, salted fish, kerchiefs, and colored fabric to sew dresses for their daughters. At their winter festivals (at Christmas), the Christian hatred against us was palpable because of their belief that the Jews crucified their messiah. The chapel priest and his secretary aroused this hate. The goyishe women of the village spun as well as bought colored wool or dyes. They also gave Nissim the dyer their spinning to color. Our house, as were the others, was built of wood as was the furniture but the roofs were mostly of straw. Fires used to break out often. The floor was earthen. Only several rich people, who lived in special houses, had floors made of wood. Two brick houses were there, too. One belonged to Simon and the other to Hinde. They stood there for many years.
My father was called Moshe the Melamed; and Mother was Tsippe Riva. They had eight children. As the boys grew up, they left the house, wandering far away to acquire knowledge in the Yeshivot. They carried out their learning in poverty and with eating days (essen tog.)
Our house was small but the big oven had a big space underneath called a pripatsak, which made a cave for the children. There were two small windows in our house. Above the bed was a very small one. One morning when we awakened, we saw that the small window was red! Wondering about the phenomenon, we were told that our uncle's house caught fire during the night.
Uncle Nucham-Yudl, our mother's brother, inherited the house from my Grandpa. The house was full of smoke but, because there was no wind during the night, the fire was contained. The next morning, my uncle and my aunt came to our house to be advised. What to do? Where to live ...a family with many children? My father advised him to leave Orlova and travel to America the land of gold. If God will help him succeed, in the future, he will be able to bring over his wife and their children. My uncle heard and accepted my father's advice. He sold his moveable goods, said farewell to his wife and children, and left for the Golden Land to seek his happiness. My aunt rented a room and waited for a letter and several dollars in order to live until a better time. She worked a vegetable garden on the ground where the burned house stood. She worked in the garden and waited for good news from overseas. When letters arrived, there was happiness in the family. My father planned and wrote answers to the letters, not only for my aunt, but also for others who had children or parents overseas.
My father was a melamed, a job he did with joy. I enjoyed hearing the chanting of the haftorah every Friday as well as the sweet chant of the Michra. My heart grieves for the various prayers and surely something remains in me from those days. Shabbat was kept very strictly in our little township. Everything was done to give it grace. Special dresses and the holy quiet, the cholent, the pie, and the grapes with the kishka, added something special. On Saturday, the young boys and girls were together for romance as well as debating, dancing and even arguing. In winter, they skated on the frozen Neman River. Joy showed in the excited faces. Skating and falling down did not remove the joy from their faces. In summer, we went to the Chowoinik Forest. The boys took ropes with them to make swings. When one fell down, it was a big laugh. When someone's pants were torn, it did not bother anyone. They were repaired; and life went on. Christians also lived in our neighborhood. They were behind us [?] and rude in their behavior. Usually, we lived in peace with them, but it was easy to incite them and arouse hostility.
We had a neighbor, Itsak Havazak (Itzak the Vazak : a horse and buggy driver), who carried wood from the forest. His wife's name was Sara-Hashka (Sura-Heshke.) They had many children. Hashka was memorable to me mainly because of an upsetting childhood recollection. One dark winter Saturday evening, I was sitting by the window and looking outside, awaiting my parents return. They went to the synagogue to pray maariv (the evening prayer). Being religious and before the stars were visible in heaven, we made no light or fire. Returning home, my mother changed her dress, made the fire, and began to cook the meal. Nearby, my small brother sat opposite the oven, enjoying the warmth. Father had gone out to bring more wood for the fire but was delayed for no reason. Mother became nervous and went out, too. Suddenly we heard her voice shouting, Don't go Moshe, don't go! They might kill you! We, too, the children, got panicky and ran out. A terrible picture presented itself. The goyim were beating our father with wood and he was bleeding. Then, the goyim ran away, leaving a great wound on our father's head and mother's hand broken. Evidently, in the beginning, they wanted to catch Itsak Havazak who succeeded in running away. Then, they met our parents and beat them. We, the children, began to cry and shout. The neighbors came but did not know how to help. Only the paramedic was in the township and said that he was unable to treat our mother's broken hand as that is the job of a doctor. Suddenly, Itsak Havazak arrived, as he felt guilt towards my parents, and said: Reb Moshe, because of you, I have survived the killers. I want to do something for you. I'll go and bring the horses with the carriage and bring you to Zholudek to the doctor. The friendly neighbors dressed our parents in warm clothing; and Itsak carried them on the wagon to the doctor in Zholudek. We, the children, remained upset at home. In the beginning, a lot of neighbors stayed with us. Afterwards, they left; and only one remained to look after us. They put us to bed and ordered us to sleep but I was not able to sleep. My heart was trembling with fear. I was yearning for my parents. Next day, Itsak brought his passengers back from Zholudek to Orlowa. Father had a bad wound; and his head was bandaged. Mother's hand was bandaged with a big plaster cast. Mother lamented to me about our faith: Oy vey. She worried about cooking for the children, who would teach, wash and look after the household.
However, mother's worries had not come to an end. People advised father to sue the goyim. It was a long time until all the documents were gathered and given to the jury. He wrote and explained the story to the clerk who prepared the documents. The trial was postponed three times for various reasons. In the end, the authorities stood up for the hooligans and explained that they were drunk at the time. If they were drunk, they asked: Where did they get the wine? The answer was clear: from the Jews. As such, they are not responsible. The Jews are guilty as they sold them the wine. That is how this event came to an end.
One day, my father returned from the synagogue and told us that a delegate of Baron Hirsh had come to the town. He explained the yichus (pedigree) of that Hirsh. First of all, he is a great baron. Secondly, the Baron wanted to help every Jew who had a bit of land by financing them to plant fruit trees. He did that all over the world. He supplied the plants and helped to fence the planted land so that pigs would not wander in and damage the plants. I remember how father became excited and imagined seeing our garden big and spreading. He walked with pleasure among the trees, the same as in the garden of a Parritz (squire in Polish), picking an apple or pear from the tree and enjoying its taste. Father voiced his thoughts loudly so that the whole family heard them. Then, he asked mother: What are you yelling Tzipa-Riva ? Isn't this worth being registered by the delegate? Mother had doubts and said that the whole matter seems to be wrong, too good and pleasurable. Is it possible to rely on that Baron's word? Why is he so good to us? The matter caused amazement. Moreover, our neighbors, the goyim, agreed that the Jews became landowners. You can imagine what awful things they might do to us. In the end, we will be guilty. My hand was broken and I am, until today, not able to move it. Remember all that happened. They used to argue about it. Father, in his excitement, replied to it all; and despite the wrath of the goyim, he planted the garden. He applied to the Baron's delegate. An expert gardener arrived and explained to mother, with sincerity, that the plants will be free of charge and that even the fence will be free. Their work is to make life easier. He also stressed that Baron Hirsch is very interested in the Jews having fruit and vegetable gardens in order to counter the argument of the accusers that the Jews are idlers and not workers. Eventually, mother came around to the idea. Very soon, places for the planting of apple, pear and other fruit trees were marked in the garden.
There is another image from those days. In the neighborhood lived Nissim the Painter with his wife and children...boys and girls. Their bichor, the eldest son Shulem, was a very talented boy who helped his father color wool and linen cords. He learned the dying trade and desired to learn what colors would not fade from washing or from the sun. One day, Nissim went with his father to one of the big cities, Kiev or Kishinev, in order to learn more about colors. At that time came information that in Kishinev there was a pogrom; and many Jews were killed. In Nissim's house, there was much sadness and gloom, crying and fainting. Their loved ones were assumed killed in the pogrom. They already mourned for them as for the dead. Consoling them was impossible. Until there is clear information, there must be hope. Eventually, they did receive a telegram that they were alive and would soon come home to Orlowa. The happiness was great. Itsak Havozak volunteered to bring them from the railway station in Rozhanka. All hurried to see them return as if from the dead. The pogroms received much public attention. Concern existed about a possible pogrom in Orlowa and Zholudek. There was much to do to forestall such a disaster. A gathering was called in the synagogue in order to seek advice. It was decided to organize some self-defense. The defense weapons were lashes and whips. Everything was done in secret and underground. Father was very active in those things. One day, when we children were playing in the attic, we became excited as we found the hidden weapons. I remember how we found the hidden weapons of lashes and whips as well as iron bars. Our brothers told us that it is a secret and not to discuss it. However, I went to mother and told her about it. In the house there was trouble. You robber shouted mother towards father. We'll be sent to Siberia and how could you have hidden such things in the attic without my knowledge. Had I known about it, the children wouldn't be allowed to run and play there. Now, who knows how it will end? Children are children and might, God forbid, chatter about what they found! If the information gets to the goyim that the Jews are making such preparations, a pogrom would break out because of the preparations. Father understood and agreed that mother was right. After dark, the underground people came and transferred the store of weapons to another hiding place.
At the edge of the township, on the fields of the priest, was an area seeded with very high growing lupine. One morning, we saw members of the police running towards that area. They were shooting and searching. It was a manhunt for some suspected young men from Orlowa and nearby townships. Two were captured. One of them was Shmuelke Peshkes, a youth from Orlowa. The other was Michael/Michel/Mihail from the nearby village of Zaptshi/Zatshefitz. The captured were beaten severely. They were accused of throwing a bomb under the train in which an important person was travelling. I remember how they brought the captured boys to the marketplace shackled and bleeding. We watched from a distance how they put lit cigarettes to their mouth since they could not extend their shackled hands. Shmuelke Peshkes, who was a young man, was released when a representative of the authorities recognized that he was very young and his presence in the lupine field was coincidental. I remember that Schmeulke's father, after he was released in the marketplace, approached him and gave him two slaps in the face. They were diplomatic slaps. He wanted to prove to the representatives of the authorities that they are not dealing with mutineers of the Kingdom but with a boy whose father slaps him on the face. Michael was sent to jail in Vilna. Our town was as a mixture of opinions. Everyone thought that something needed to be done to release the young man. Indeed, at the trial, many of Orlowa residents traveled to Vilna and testified under oath that, on the day of the attack, Michael was in the town and not in Rozhanka where the train passed through. Father told how the trial was carried out, how the prosecutor tried to confuse the Jews of Orlowa and the witnesses in the trial. However, his plan did not succeed; and the young man was released.
The Rabbi was a Jew with a distinguished appearance. He introduced new things into the township. At his initiative, yeshiva students came to Orlowa to study in the Bet Hamidrash, the House of Prayer. There was a different feeling in the town. One of the young men was a nice singer with a clear and pleasant tenor voice. He married one of Orlova's girls, Beilke Mashas. Another married Leah, the daughter of Lipa the glazier. There was happiness, mainly on Saturday night, when all gathered in the house of the Rabbi. They sang the pleasant tune of the Hamavdil, the separation of the Sabbath from the weekdays. The Rabbi's wife put on the samovar, a teakettle, to serve tea for the guests.
As in all towns, Orlowa of those days had a chazan, a Jew with a pleasant voice. Even though he was poor and wretched, he was also the shochet (slaughterer for the town) as well as the circumciser. He had a daughter name Babtshe/Babtze, a dressmaker. I also learned the craft of sewing and worked together with Babtshe. I remember that her father, the singer, used to gather the boys in summer and examine their voices to see if they were fit to be in the choir for the Jewish festival prayers. We used to sit in the room nearby and listen to the boys singing. But the chazan, who was a good man easily dealing with people, came into the room and said, Sorry that you aren't boys. If so, I would have you in the choir with all the boys who are gathered here.
At that time, the wife of the chazan stayed at home and worried about how to feed her family. The daughter Babtzshe had a good heart. She gave all her income from sewing to her parents. Her mother used to say, with tears in her eyes, that a girl has to keep her income to save for a dowry and not give it to her parents. Smiling, Babtshe answered her mother that a young girl does not need money. She needs mazel (luck). Since luck is not a thing that can be bought, what use is money?
In his speech, the Rabbi said farewell to all who were recruited into the army. He blessed them and told them how Orlowa will miss its young men, its skilled people and breadwinners, its pride and glory. When those words were spoken, great howl arose within the synagogue. Tears were shed. Not only during the Rabbi's speech, but afterwards also, everyone was moved and shaken. People returned home depressed and brokenhearted. Our home had double grief and sorrow as, at that time, our mother died.
We were at war but other news pushed away that grief. The army decided to build a bridge on the Nemen River. All who were able to hold working tools found work at the bridge. The roads in our vicinity were not good; they were dirt. When it rained, they caved in, becoming loose and yielding. That made traveling very difficult. At that time, carriages passed our house loaded with iron bars necessary for the building of the bridge. The wheels of the wagons bore into the ground and were unable to move. One day, a delegation of engineers and builders arrived to check the roads. They concluded that a new plank and wooden beam road of one kilometer had to be constructed to the Neman River. When it was finished, again, there was a big uproar in the town. Hundreds of workers, foremen, and engineers arrived needing places to live as well as consumable goods for their needs. The whole town became taverns and restaurants. Families rented rooms, cooked and laundered, bringing in great profits. From the front came information that the Germans are attacking with power and force. However, we believed that the Russian power was greater, expecting sometime soon an end to the hostilities. The bridge was built.
Everything was a fervor of work but then we heard odd noises. At the beginning, we thought that it was the sound of the work on the bridge. Very soon, it became clear to us that the front was coming closer to us. The noises were the sound of the cannons. From day to day, the noises came in quick succession. The mail was disrupted. Letters of the recruited boys of the town became rare. That was the first year of the war. Now, we saw the Russian Army withdraw. One night, we heard knocks on our door. Our neighbor, Yenta Shajes with her daughter Itka, came in. They were dressed in shabby dresses. They were told to do that deliberately to appear repulsive and older to the feared soldiers. We existed in constant fear, afraid of our own shadow. Then, it was Rosh Hashanah. There was little praying in the synagogue. Many of the Jewish inhabitants fled into Russia. The retreating soldiers went into the synagogue. They looked at us with disrespect. Others crossed themselves from horror or fear. Soldiers occupied the houses that were emptied of their owners. The courtyards were full of broken carts and dying horses. The soldiers were tired and enraged. From time to time, our door was opened. The soldiers came in and asked for water and bread. When a Jewish soldier came in, he said the Jews should hide as Jews were accused for the war and good things could not come from that. The soldiers robbed and looted or paid for the product with notes which they wrote themselves (worthless scrip.)
The Jewish soldier remained in our house. Father warned us that he might bring us some punishment. We asked the soldier and told him our fears. He asked to get into civilian dress. He changed his clothes and sat with the men as one of us. We had a night of nightmares. In the morning, we went out and found several wounded and someone dead. Father suggested that we leave the town. The wounded soldier's opinion was the same. Again, Itsak came with his horses and the wagon. On it, he arranged a canopy as a shelter and the cart already held his family members. Where are we going? he asked. Everyone's opinion was to travel to Zholudek. We left the town by a roundabout path. We traveled with Itsak's wagon in the middle of a procession of Jews going on foot. From time to time, other Jews joined in. The whole procession seemed like an escort for a funeral. That is what we did. We appeared as if most of us were women until we arrived at Zholudek. The town was completely silent. Nobody was seen on the street. We separated. Everyone went to his friend or relative in town. We went to our relatives, the Beilsks (Byelkes). However, we did not find anyone in the house. Suddenly, we saw one of Meir's daughters running to us. We learned from her that the whole town left their homes and hid between the gravestones in the cemetery. They left their homes out of fear of the Cossacks, rumored to be slaughterers of men. Shortly, the Beilsks came from their hiding place and welcomed us warmly. They boiled water and prepared tea to drink. All of us were very tired; our big wish was to rest. We lay down on the floor of the room and soon fell asleep.
Early in the morning, the widow Ester-Reiska (Rasike) from Lipritza (Lifnitze) awakened us. She and her children came from Orlowa with us. She told that she awakened early. When she went out, she saw German soldiers in Zholudek. Now, she was telling the good tidings that the Germans are kind people and spoke to her politely and even told her lieb frau (lovely lady.) They even kissed her and almost spoke Yiddish. Ester-Reiske was in seventh heaven. When father heard her excited tale, he said with sorrow, God in heaven forbid that all that she said would be true. The house was very crowded. Many came and told that the Germans are all over and kind, even seem to be tolerant. As such, they asked the question: Why sit in Zholudek? All decided to return home.
Swarms of big, light blue flies, the multiplying flies of death, came over our town. They covered the dead corpses scrambled on the fields and filled the air with bothersome buzzing. We could not get away from them and had no means of keeping our food sanitary, except for potatoes. We finished building the succah and put in a table and benches. On the table was a white tablecloth. We even found candles and lit them to provide the feeling of a feast. Meanwhile, the Germans left satisfied with their victories. They were too tired to pursue the Russians who had drained us of all assets, land and forests as well as herds of sheep and cattle. All of us were full of praise of the kindness of the Germans. On Sabbath of the feast, a group of Jews were going home with a fine feeling after praying in the synagogue, praising the German conquerors. A German soldier came toward them and asked for a smith, as he had to shoe his horse. But Meir-Moshe the smith did not want to profit on the Sabbath. He tried to trick him and answered him in the Russian language that he did not understand. The soldier became angry and began to beat Meir-Moshe. The Jews, coming from the synagogue, tried to explain to the German soldier that this is the Sabbath and that, on Saturday, a religious Jew is not allowed to do work. It was futile. The German began to shout: Bloody Jew and ordered him to open the smith shop, make the fire, and shoe the horse. The other German soldiers who gathered around said loudly that they are disappointed in the chutzpa of the Jews coming from their church in serenity, as if there is no war going on in the world. They were not only disappointed but began to beat the Jews without reason. You have to go quickly, shouted the Germans. You have to each go separately! Quick and separate!
The swarm of the flies increased daily. A plague broke out; and death began its harvest. There was no doctor in Orlowa. Any person stricken with the illness died. A relative of our family, Simon, became ill and suffered greatly. At that time, I met a Christian woman in our village. When she heard about Simon's illness, she told me: I knew your mother; and I want to help you. I've a cure for the illness - butter. Come to see me in the village; and I'll give you butter. Dissolve it on the oven to a liquid; the young man has to sip the fat. They did what the villager suggested but the boy worsened. The melted butter remedy did not help but we continued to give it. We received an order to boil the water, even wash hands with boiled water, to spill lime on the wet ground, and to be aware of all feces. With these measures, the death flies will stop multiplying. In the villages, half of the population died. The children were hit more than the adults. It was forbidden to go into the cemetery and into the houses where there were ill people. Only very few attended funerals, about two or three people. It was a terrible nightmare lasting until the cold weather arrived. In a family, all five children and their mother died. The father, who survived, was so depressed that the madness took over him.
One night, deserters came from the forest to Joshua the carpenter, blindfolded him and told him that they will not do him any harm but were taking him somewhere in order for to work for them. His family was afraid that they never would see him again. After three weeks, he returned. The Germans opened an inquiry as to where he has been. But Joshua told them that he was blindfolded and did not know where the kidnappers took him deep in the forest.
The Front moved far away. Now, another decree fell on us. Every child had to learn the German language. It was a law. In the hardships of life at that time, people were not thinking about developing their minds. But the Germans did not give up. With whips, they frightened the children into their schools. In our family, three children were obliged to learn in their school. There was no one to care about our needs at home. Other homes had the same problem. The Germans brought a Jewish teacher, named Teibl, the daughter of a chazen from Shtutchin. Teibel lived with Joshua the carpenter. She explained to the Germans that the children are hungry and that hungry children are impossible to teach. From that time on, the Germans put aside some portions of bread for the children.
One morning, I stood near the German dairy with a jar in my hand waiting to get some milk that they sold for two plessings a pint (a liter). I had no money so I stood and cried. A peasant woman saw me crying. She asked me the reason. I told her that my two brothers attended school and I, myself, had to be there but came to get some milk and had no money to pay, that hunger pestered me, and that I would be punished for my absence from school. So why wouldn't I cry? The peasant woman consoled me and asked me to come to her house to sew an apron for her small daughter. In exchange, she promised that she would give me enough food for my needs. As such, I became the breadwinner of the house. Every morning, I ran to the village with a needle, thread and a tailor's scissors to do sewing work. I even learned to sew for men. In exchange for my work, I received groats, potatoes, flour and other products. Teibl, our dear teacher, knew about all I did in going to work; and she taught me the German language in my house during her free time.
One Friday, after I returned from my sewing work, I was in a good mood as I had brought much food for the Sabbath. As I washed my hair, I heard a knock on the door. I looked through the window. It was the German who called people to work and tried to increase the number of children going to school. I became afraid. I didn't open the door immediately. He began to shout loudly and abusively. Because I was washing my hair, I had a mirror in my hand. Out of fear, it fell out of my hand and broke. The German had not stopped shouting abusively. Thus, when I opened the door and he saw the broken mirror, he became angry and began to beat me with his whip while abusively shouting, You bloody Jew. You don't go to work. You don't go to school. You only know how to break precious mirrors. He stooped down and, in anger, picked up a big piece of the broken mirror. He threw it toward me. Luckily, I was able to duck in time and was not hit. Then, he began to beat me with his whip; and I began to shout loudly. He panicked from my screaming and left the house.
And now an incident in which my father returned home in a hurry, pale and breathing heavily. In the linings of his coat and cap were apples. He told us: Children, quickly hide them as a German is running after me. He'll come in and for sure will want to take the apples. I quickly hid the apples somewhere. Into the house came a German who began to beat father while he shouted, You old bloody Jew. How dare you pick unripe apples from the tree! We began to shout and cry. The German soldier seeing us crying, with anger, spit on the floor and left the house. Father calmed down and said, Children, now, take the apples and cook them. It was worth the beating. Cook and eat them. What should I do? I am not able to bring you bread. No one wants to learn Torah (He was a Melamed.) Eat these apples for your health.
The typhus epidemic worsened. Our family members became ill; and I was the only one who could nurse them with cold compresses, the only remedy. Connection with the outside world was gone. A boy whose name was Itshe der Geler (gall bladder or blond) used to bring water to us. He had a heart of gold. He put a bucket of water near the house, knocking on the door and asking, Nu, how are the boys? until one day he brought water and asked but got no a reply, as I had become ill. Then Joshua, son of Nucham, came with a cart and brought all of us to the hospital at Zholudek.
For six weeks, we laid in that hospital. My hair was shaved; and I looked like a boy. The nurse used to say, When your father comes to visit you, he will not know who is his son and who is his daughter! Joshua, the son of Nucham, showed true devotion. When we recovered, he came to Zholudek and took us home. One day, he was found dead on the road. This writing is dedicated to his memory.
The Germans took all that was good back to Germany. They cut a lot of wood from the forest. The fruit of the land and the garden, even the yield of the cowshed and the hen-root, went to Germany. They kidnapped people and forced them to compulsory work. Our people were sent far away from us. One winter, Jewish and Christian young boys and girls were brought to our neighborhood from Lodz. A whole working camp was set up in the near village of Zatslspitz. We formed close and friendly relations with the youth, many of whom were intellectual and progressive. With their help, a dramatic club was organized; and they began to perform plays: Der Yeshiva Bochar (The Yeshiva Youth). I even got a role. It was before Pesach. We mobilized ourselves to get matzos for the Jewish forced laborers. We had a happy Pesach together.
Days passed. The Germans left our hometown. The Polish came instead. With them, new troubles began for the Jews. There were beatings and cutting of beards. However, the time of peace was at hand. The connection with the United States was renewed. Packages of food and clothing began to arrive, a salvation for us. After some time, our family left Orlowa and emigrated to the United States.
The memory of Orlowa remains engraved in our minds. Through we knew trouble there, we remember the bosom of our childhood until the time of the extermination with great yearning. Our hearts are wounded and bleeding; there is no cure for our pain
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