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Liquidation of the Bransk Jews
November 2nd 1942

The second of November is the day of sorrow and pain. This is the Tisha b'Av[1] of the destruction of Bransk. This is the day the decree was issued by the Nazi murderers to annihilate the Jews of the Bialystok area and was implemented with the accursed German precision.

The Jews in the Bransk ghetto already felt the impending approach of the terrible storm. They felt death in the cold oncoming winds of Autumn, and yet, they could not believe that in a few days all would end.

On the first of November, Yerukhm Don[2] of Bialystok arrived. He was involved in the smuggling business. He brings us the news that of rumours circulating in Bialystok that the Jewish population of the Bialystok area will be liquidated.

He was insulted by those in the ghetto because he brings such reports, and yet no one slept that night. Many left the ghetto to hide with Christian acquaintances. No one knows to whom and where they are going because no one tells anyone. They trusted no one. They sought only to save themselves and their families.

All the terrible expectations were realized that same night. At four o'clock in the morning heavy shooting is heard around the ghetto. Those seeking to escape the ghetto

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now fall victim. They become aware that the ghetto is now surrounded. There is now no way to get out of the ghetto.

The electric beams cast a bright light everywhere. There is destruction in the houses. Everywhere there is crying, mothers pressing their little children to their hearts. Even the young now understand they must die because they are Jews.

The desire to rescue one's self is strong. They want to escape the ghetto. They know every unsuccessful attempt will end in death. This does not deter the people. They jump over the high fence, try to slip out through the secret openings that had been arranged during the construction of the ghetto's fence. Shots ring out from every side. Victims fall and yet, they still make attempts to escape.


Mirke Noske Katsev's
Khaim–Ruven Rypke[3]


Death no longer frightened anyone. Esther Hurvitz, with her child in her arms falls dead. The child remains alive in the arms of the dead mother. Aharon Pulshansky's wife, the pharmacist's daughter, Khaim Ruven Rypke all dead together on the sidewalk near

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Maishke Bakker's, and near the lake, while running, Yoel Oyslender, Motl's son–in–law and his two children fall.

Many others drag themselves around, wounded and bloody. They drag themselves further using their last bit of strength, further from the beleaguered ghetto. Poor unfortunates, they do not know that death hovers over them from everywhere, that their fate is already sealed. Among those who had been wounded were: Itskhak Rekhlzon, Berl Yatz. There is no longer any talk about running away, and yet a couple of hundred had fled the ghetto through various means. Many tore through the hail of bullets.

They ran to the forests. Not one of the Christians wanted to let Jews in. Signs made an appearance in the villages: ‘For sheltering or helping Jews there will be the punishment of death.’

The ghetto is heavily guarded by SS troops, Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Polish police bandits.

In subsequent days many more Jews escaped the ghetto, a total of approximately 800 Jews, fleeing to the forests or to villages. Many of those who fled do not find where to hide. Christians do not take them in. Having nowhere to go they return to the ghetto.

The Paplover[4] Christians had already captured their first victim – Yankev Kashtan, Khone Kashtan's youngest son. He had hidden there and the Christians captured him, bound him and brought him to the gendarmes. Yankev Kashtan receives a terrible beating from the gendarmes.

Khone Sokolovitch, Dovid Gimpel's grandchild, throws his five year old son Berele, over the fence. The child survives. Then Khone Sokolovitch grabs a pail and goes supposedly to fetch water from the hospital, thinking that he would in this way be able to get a chance to slip out of the ghetto. A guard stands at the gate, a Jewish policeman. He notices Khone and says to his German gendarme, pointing at Khone: “This Jew is trying to leave.” Khone is taken into custody to the mountain where he is shot.

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Velvl Golde Motke's writes from Germany on 11th August, 1947. He describes the liquidation of the Bransk ghetto. Velvel was in the underground hiding–place in the centre of the ghetto for 11 days. He is the only living witness of the betrayal committed by Shaiye Tsuker. But there is a special chapter regarding this. Velvel writes the following: “On the 2nd of November at about 5 o'clock in the morning footsteps of the military are heard in the ghetto. People are frightened. Some say they are going out hunting in the Rutker forest.[5] It turns out that the hunt was on for Bransk Jews.

About 800 Jews have already fled the ghetto. The ghetto was surrounded until Shabbos the 7th of November. There is no longer any possibility of flight. The security watch is increased as were the electric projectors in the towers making sure no one could run away.

They are thinking of underground hiding–places. This too, was in secrecy. I notice Hershl Pipke carrying water and I understand he is carrying the water to the hiding–place. I ask him and receive permission to hide with them in the hiding–place beneath Khaye Yenkl Khukar's house.

During the past few days, people walk about like shadows. No one is eating and no one is sleeping. They are thinking of how to get out of the ghetto. Monday night the Jews of the small ghetto near the lake[6] are brought to the large ghetto without any of their belongings.

On Friday the 6th, Itskhak Finklshteyn, the Judenrat'nik goes to pay the weekly contribution to the gendarmerie. They take the money from him. A Polish teacher, an official, informs Tsuker that preparations for 500 wagons belonging to the neighboring villages are under way to remove the Jews early the next day, Shabbos.

On Friday rumors are spread that the security watch is being removed from the ghetto. The women are preparing for Shabbos. The gendarmes appear when it is time to light the candles and report that on Shabbos morning at seven o'clock everyone must report as families at the entrance of the ghetto. There must be no missing members. They are told to bring only bread and water.

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There is terrible crying in the ghetto. Crying coming from all the Jewish homes, they cry about themselves and the children, people go to say goodbye to the to the rabbinical teacher. We lived in Kashtan's brick house. We all gathered together at Isser Shepsl Katsev's son. I will never forget how Isser ‘took this bundle of troubles and his stick in his hand,’ and began to describe in what kind of situation we were all in. Early the following morning we all have to abandon the houses and die as martyrs. Then he made kiddush.[7] Each of his words trembled. The crying was horrible.

My father and I then went into our house. My father also made kiddush. Once again, we began to cry. As we entered the courtyard people came over to ask me how to save themselves. I answered that no one should report early tomorrow but hide instead wherever they can find a place.

I went to the hiding–place later. I ask my father to go with me, but he says: ‘No my child, I want to die together with all the Bransk Jews!’ I parted from him for all eternity.”[8]

This is what Velvel Motke–Slove's writes:

“The happiness and driving force of life and death are not unconnected.”[9] Many people, under this order did not want to part from their nearest and went to their death together.

Beynish Okan had the opportunity to flee. He did not want to. His wife, Tsheshe and her two beautiful children Dvoshe and Shoshana also did not want to perish without him. He decides to die with them. He goes to Treblinka with them.

Maishe Feldman, Alye Gershon's only son, has a wife, Reizl who is sick with typhus and already knows her fate. He decides to die. He does not run away. Mirke Noske Katsev's and her daughter of about fifteen years old run away. Her husband Menakhem does not want to flee. Then Mirke returns with her daughter to die together with her nearest. They die with everyone else.

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Sender Friedman, known in Bransk as the Dombrofker[10] linen merchant, can also not run away. His wife is sick, paralyzed. She does not want to nor can she flee. Sender decided to die together with his wife.

Hershl Shpak, Alter Orke's son, hid in the ghetto in an underground hiding–place. Several days after the liquidation, he describes the following: “During the first days of the ghetto, when it was surrounded, Hershl Stolyer, or as the elderly Jews called him: Hershl–Maishe Ber's, died in


Hershl Stolyer and wife Henye


Sarah's two daughters Khaitche and Rivka
Their two daughters Sarah and Dvorke

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the ghetto.

Everyone envied him dying a natural death, although he was not allowed to have a proper Jewish burial. He was buried near a Jewish house in the ghetto. The Germans did not permit exiting the ghetto, not even dead Jews.” Hershl Shpak relates further: “Friday evening while they were saying their goodbyes, they broke everything in the house. They tore the clothing, even tore the money. They poured kerosene over leftover food. They did not want to leave anything to those who were waiting for these things.

Hiding–places were prepared with friendly Christians, but no one wanted to use them. They were going to their deaths along with everyone else. There was a prepared hiding–place with Skavronski the Christian shoemaker for Khaim Leyb Lyev, Hershl Stolyer's son–in–law and others. Khaim Leyb becomes aware of this accidentally and calls his wife and children to be with him, but no one of his family wants to go into hiding. He then goes to the attic by himself and can run away to the forest from there. There was enough food there for three months. However, Khaim Leyb returns to die with his family.

Early Shabbos morning everyone is herded to the exit. 500 wagons wait at the gate of the ghetto. The Bransk rabbi, Rabbi Yitzkhak Zev Tsukerman, says goodbye to the Bransk Jews and the Bransk community. His words are heart–wrenching: “It is ordained from heaven, we must die. I wish for those who will remain alive to be worthy of this, and to tell the world about our suffering.” I was told that the Bransk rabbi's son–in–law, Rabbi Bentsiyon Kagan had hidden a bottle containing certain documents somewhere in the ghetto. The only one who knew this secret was Elye Yentchman. Regretfully, he too fell and no one knows what was contained therein and where it is.

Rabbi Yitskhak Zev Tsukerman did not console anyone, nor did anyone comfort him either. Everyone looked to heaven for revenge. Levin of the Judenrat informs everyone that they were only being taken for work. He admits that he had been told to say this.”

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It is now time to leave their homes and their town where for 150 years they had lived a Jewish life.

A signal is given and all the wagons drive away on the road to Bielsk.[11]

At the same time, they remove the sick from the hospital together with Doctor Kaminetsky, Reizl Gotlieb's and Tsivye Alentsker. They all perish in Bielsk.

A notice in Polish and German appears in Bransk: ‘Bransk is Judenrein.’[12]

The Jews are held in Bielsk for two days. Dovid Grinshpan, Lazer the beltmaker's son–in–law, an electrical technician, electrocutes his wife and two children and slits his own throat with a knife.

Things are being controlled in Bielsk. The Nazis discover that there are 800 missing Bransk Jews. Demand is made to the Judenrat'nikes to produce those who had fled. They promise them that they and their families would be saved. Yankev Gotlieb categorically refuses to turn them in. Other Judenrat'nikes also refuse. Yeshaye Tsuker did not answer the question, but more about this in another chapter.


Leybele Rose, Shloyme Hitsl's grandchild

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Leybele Rose, Shloyme Hitsl the khasid's grandchild, fled from Bielsk. According to what he tells, all the clothing everyone had brought with them was taken away. They were divided into three groups, men, women and children separated. There is terrible crying when they are seated in the wagons. Families are divided and no longer together. They are beaten with sticks, with rubber poles, with rifle butts. Christians stand by and shout: ‘stupid zhidkes[13] , why are you carrying packages, give them to us.’ Little Leybele however, perished in the village of Alyekshin. More about this in another chapter.

Elye Yentchman, Dovid the candy–maker's son, Shloyme Hersh the khasid's grandchild, about 45 years old said that there were already dead Bransk Jews in the wagons together with Jews from other neighboring towns. They were now practically begging for death. Regretfully, Elye also did not survive. His death occurred during the attack in the Rutker forest.

On the 9th of November the Bransk Jews are taken through Bialystok to Treblinka[14] near Malkin.[14]

On the 10th everyone is already in Treblinka. According to the evidence the Jews who worked there and also from Koptchiven who had fled from there, all the Bransk Jews, men and women separately, breathed their last in the Treblinka gas chambers on the 10th of November, 1942 at four o'clock in the afternoon. Their bodies were burned in the crematorium in Treblinka.

And this is how our elders, sisters and brothers of Bransk came to the end of their lives. This is how 150 years of the lives and striving of the Bransk community ended.

There will be more in further chapters about those who fled and those who hid.

Footnotes (Rubin Roy Cobb)

  1. Wikipedia – Tisha B'Av [lit. in Hebrew “the ninth of Av”], is an annual fast day in Judaism which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and subsequent exile of the Jews from the Land of Israel…. (It) is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and a day which is destined for tragedy…Many religious communities use Tisha B'Av to mourn the 6,000,000 Jews who perished in the Shoah. Return
  2. Yankel (Jack) Rubin of Baltimore, [related to Rubin Roy Cobb through his paternal grandmother Gelie (Genia) Rokhel Rubin–Kobylanski], told on a flight from New York to Warsaw to film the documentary ‘Shtetl’ for PBS on 10/11/1991 that the person who reported that Friday night, November1, 1942 that the ghetto was to be surrounded, was a Pole. Was this person Yerukhm Don and the Pole the same person? Return
  3. Related to Khaim and Khanah Rypka and also Reizl Albiter (Rypka) [mother of Anne Barber (Alberts) of Los Angeles] from Johannesburg [see photo on page 417]. Return
  4. See Map Section 2, Number II. Return
  5. See Map Section 2, Number II. Return
  6. See Map drawn by Rubin Roy Cobb on November, 2011, Return
  7. Proclamation of the holiness of the Sabbath recited with blessing over the wine. Return
  8. Yankel (Jack) Rubin of Baltimore, [related to Rubin Roy Cobb through his paternal grandmother Gelie (Gelia) Rokhel Rubin–Kobylanski], told on a flight from New York to Warsaw to film the documentary ‘Shtetl’ for PBS on 10/11/1991 that he begged his mother and father to accompany him and his brother and his brother's wife and children, but they refused and his mother gave him all the money that they had saved because they would not need it to where they were going. He tearfully (then 78 years old) told me that this was the last time that he saw his parents. Return
  9. A Hebrew phrase, probably Talmudic. Return
  10. See Map Section 2, Number III. Return
  11. See Map Section 2, Numbers I and III. Return
  12. Cleansed of Jews. Return
  13. Derogatory word for Jews Return
  14. See Map Section 2, Numbers I and IV. Return

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The Tsuker Story

Deep beneath the houses of the ghetto Jews, in the greatest secrecy, arranged hiding places. In hiding places such as these, there were hidden 100 Bransk Jews. Their hope was that little–by–little they would have the opportunity to flee the ghetto to seek sanctuary and safety somewhere.

The one hundred Jews spent eight days in the cellars. After all the Jews in the ghetto had been removed, they did not have an opportunity to emerge because the police kept strict watch at the gates. Other Germans or Christians would sneak into the empty houses looking and searching hoping to find something of value.

We can imagine what the hidden Jews were experiencing during this week. The fear and angst, as they listened to every footfall. They heard the laughter, the whistling of the police and guards. They were able to come out at night and crawl like worms to find a little water. The food they had prepared for themselves consisted only of bread. There was less and less bread, although on Monday and Thursday, they developed as fast days and did not taste any bread.

There were 15 Jews in Khaim Klode's cellar. The rest were in other hiding places. It is believed there were eight or seven such underground hiding places. There was no communication between any of them. One did not know of the other.

Sunday, the 15th of November, promptly at three o'clock in the afternoon

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the Gestapo came to their hideout, breaking open the doors and demanding they emerge. They hear them shout : ‘Come out Jews.’ How terrible their situation when the voice calling them was that of Yeshaye Tsuker along with the Gestapo agents. 13 of those hidden come out and two remain inside. The two died at another time.

The 13 people are inspected, lined up in rows and taken to Avrume Makofsky's courtyard in the ghetto where they find more Jews who had also been removed from their hiding places, for a total of 71 people. Everyone tells the same story: Yeshaye Tsuker came with Germans and took them out of their hiding places. Yeshaye Tsuker stands there alongside the Gestapo and Polish police. Isser Shepsl Katsev's insults him, Tsuker, calling him various names, also in Polish ‘Zdrajca – Zdrajca[1] The Germans remove Tsuker from the courtyard and take him somewhere else.

All of these Jews are later taken to jail, locked up overnight. The following day, promptly at twelve o'clock noon, they are taken in farmers' wagons to the Jewish cemetery. Many of the Christian population are forced to witness this scene. They [the Jews] are all shot there after having been ordered to undress naked.

The list of people shot, with the exception of the 13 who were at Khaim Klade's, was later compiled by Christian acquaintances who had been there and possibly knew everyone personally. And yet, the list is incomplete, with several names missing because it was not possible to find them out.

The only survivor of this horrific blood bath episode also cannot remember all 70 who were there. The total number of seventy is confirmed regardless of there being only 46 names recorded.

This was the fate of 70 Jews who had hidden in the ghetto.

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Before we present the written story of the living witnesses about the entire tragic episode, I (Julius Cohen) will record the opinions of remaining Branskers, of those with whom I spoke to in New York and of those who wrote to me.

Maishe Yentchman asked me to write in the book that Tsuker was forced by the Gestapo in Bielsk, with abuse and torture to disclose the whereabouts of the hidden Jews. At the same time he admits that Yankev Gotlieb, the Judenrat'nik, did not want to hear about turning in the Jews.

The protocols that are now located in the Jewish Historical Commission of the Bialystok Provincial Committee are based on the eye witness account and written statement of Maishe Yentchman, and therefore I will not note them once again.

During a personal conversation I had in New York with Sonya Rubinshteyn[2], the Deaf Maishe Hirsh's grandchild, despite the fact that her mother, Beyle, and her brother Shloyme, were victims of the incident, she expressed her opinion that Tsuker thought the people were being taken for work, although why they needed between two and five year old children or men and women between 65 and seventy years old for work, she did not know.

On the other hand, her husband, Zavl Rubinshteyn, says Tsuker was far from being a naïve person. He did this in order to save himself. While being in Bielsk, he saw that there was no longer anyone left of the Bielsk Jewish ghetto. The Bielsk ghetto was already empty. The Bransk Jews occupied the Bielsk Jewish ghetto houses for the two days that they were there.

We do not presume to pass judgment on the memory of those people who are no longer among the living because, as it is said: ‘You should not judge your friend until you yourself will be in the same position as he whom you want to judge.’ (paraphrased MGC ).

The following is the letter, better said, the two letters sent, Velvl Golde, Shmuel'ke Slove's grandchild, the sole surviving

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Jew of the 70 individuals who so horrifically perished during this action. I have these letters with me in New York. I requested and received them from Alter Trus because the letters had been sent to him.

Word for–word these letters are from Velvl Golde. The originals are with Julius Cohen.

“I noticed how Sholem Kratz's son–in–law of Wysokie Mazowieckie[3] carries water,

and I immediately understood that he was taking it to an underground hiding–place. I saw him carrying the water in to my relative Kloden. I went in and asked if I and my father could also go into the hiding–place. They told us to come. My father did not want to go to the hiding place, so I had to part from my father for all eternity. Isser Bransky, and Yankev Kashtan went along with me. We only took bread and water with us and not even much of that. This is how we were out of touch with the world. Shabbos morning we prayed with the minyan.[4] There was a Torah. We bless the new month of Kislev. We arranged a fast schedule for Monday and Thursday.[5] When the food ran out we opened the baker's oven where there was a kholent[6] from nine days earlier. We ate this with great relish as if it was the best meal. We brought potatoes and other food into the hiding–place. We reentered the hiding place temporarily because in the evening we had to go to the courtyard for water.

This was the second Sunday that there were no Jews in the ghetto.

At three o'clock in the afternoon Yeshaye Tsuker and the Gestapo came to our underground hiding–place, tore it open and shined in light with flashlights. They order us to emerge from the hiding–place.

Tsuker calls for us to come out. We hear Tsuker's voice and this made a terrible impression on us. How does Tsuker come to do this? And how do they know of our hiding–place?

They ask us how many we are, so we said

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13. There were 15 people with us:

Avrume Verpikhovsky and his wife Sorah, Khaye Klade and three children, Isser Bransky, Shloyme Lazer, Yankev Kashtan, Sorah Rubinshteyn, Hershl Shroyt and Rivka Bialistotsky, and two remained inside, Yoske Smurzhik and Kratze's son–in–law (they later left the hiding–place and fell victims under other circumstances.

I took food with me when I left the hiding–place and Tsuker says to me: ‘Why do you need this? It's not necessary.’ Then they inspected us and stood us in rows and then took us all to Makofski's courtyard where the well was.

We found more people there who have been taken out of other hiding places. The people of other hiding places ask us how we had been discovered, so we told them that Tsuker had brought Germans to our hiding place. They said Tsuker had also brought Germans to their hiding places. We were surrounded. There were more Germans than us. Fleeing was impossible. Then I thought to myself: the world is so large and for us it is so small.

I make a decision to go into the well. Perhaps they will not notice. Without giving it much thought I went into the well. The Germans did not notice. The water was already slightly frozen and it was dark in there. I had matches with me which gave a little light. I notice in a corner there lay a basket with sacks of items. I was in water up to my neck. I got to the corner and hid among the sacks. I lay there five hours. It was already night. It is quiet in the courtyard. Being there is not my end goal. I removed two shirts from the sacks and I carefully came into the courtyard. I notice the ghetto patrol walking about. They are whistling and singing on our account.

There already was snow on the ground, so I put a shirt on over my jacket and the second on my head so that it would be like a mask. I

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dragged myself across the snow to the fence that surrounds the ghetto. I remained lying at the fence for about fifteen minutes. As I lay there, I heard someone coughing on the other side of the fence, indicating that a guard was standing there. I dragged myself to the fence that separates the Christian hospital. It was light in the hospital because of the electricity. Getting out through the fence was not possible. A board could be torn off but that would certainly be heard. I dragged myself to Okonyen's house, took out a gutter with a basket, crept over to the fence, joined together the gutter and the basket like a ladder and threw it over the fence. When I found myself in the field I breathed easier.

When I checked myself, I myself got frightened. I looked like the living dead. I took off the clothing mask. I ask myself where do I go now? I went on Pshedmyetar to a Christian who used to haul wood for us. His name is Nikadim Mishkevitch. I knock on the door, and the wife opens. When she saw me she screamed: ‘Jesus!’ The husband heard the shout and he became frightened. He immediately covered the windows and turned on lights. He asks me from where did I come now? I told them I was hidden between the wooden boards, but I don't have any food. That is why I came. I did not tell them the episode with the hiding places from where I had fled. I did not want to frighten them to think there would soon be attacks. They consoled me saying they would hide me. They gave me food. I could not eat, but I did eat in order not to arouse any suspicion. Then they took me to the stable, hid me in the straw. He went back to his house to sleep. The following day he brought me breakfast and asked me how I liked the accommodations. I told him that I liked them a lot and I was then the luckiest person in the world.

About 12 o'clock, I heard shooting from the side of the cemetery. I became frightened. I think that maybe they are shooting the people who yesterday were

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taken out of the hiding places. Two hours later, the Christian brought me lunch. He was frightened, telling me the entire story. He tells me that yesterday Tsuker came from Bielsk with Gestapo, indicating underground hiding places. They took seventy people out of the hiding places, overnight they placed them in Gotslyevski's prison. Today they take all to the cemetery and shot all seventy together with two Poles, and tells me all their names. I act surprised. I pretend not to know about anything, but in my heart, I know better than him, I was there. When he went away I began to cry.

After the liberation I met a Jew from Simyatitch[7] and he told me that the Bransk Jews were taken to the Bielsk ghetto and then taken away from there. They convinced them that in Bielsk there would be a work camp and they would remain there. So they sent Tsuker to Bransk with the Gestapo. Tsuker gave the addresses of the hiding–places to bring them to Bielsk. This is how they fooled people.”

(This is the letter from Velvl Golde, precisely related.)

Tsuker, under unknown circumstances was later shot. The details are unknown.

This is the history and facts about the Tsuker story.

Footnotes (Rubin Roy Cobb)

  1. Traitor Return
  2. She lived in Baltimore. After her husband passed away she married Jack (Yankel) Rubin. Jack, Cynthia and I together with Hymie (Howard) Shapiro (whose parents were also survivors from Bransk) travelled together to Bransk in November 1991 to film the documentary ‘Shtetl’ about Bransk for PBS. Return
  3. See Map Sheet 2 Number III. Return
  4. Jewish quorum of ten adult men meeting in prayer, the minimum required for public worship. Return
  5. The Torah is read three times a week –– on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Return
  6. Sabbath dish of meat, potatoes and beans, prepared on Friday and kept warm out of respect for the prohibition of cooking on the Sabbath. Return
  7. See Map Sheet 2 Number I. Return

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The Heroism of Avrume Verpikhovsky

Jewish history is rich with our heroes and holy men who did not lose themselves under the most dangerous circumstances. The greater the danger, the greater was the courage exhibited by our martyrs.


Avrume Verpikhovsky[1]

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With bowed heads and a feeling of our smallness, we stand at the memory of Bransk's greatest hero of all times. His name should be immortalized for all time by Branskers throughout the world with a suitable memorial.

This is a man of the people, a worker who was acknowledged in Bransk by the various organizations, who was vice–president of the Bransk People's Bank (Folksbank), which was a folk institution and on many occasions represented the working man.

Avrume Verpikhovsky did not accept anything as having no importance, and employed his talents and dedication to everything in which he participated. He was one of Bransk's Khevra Kadisha (Jewish Burial Society).

As a member of the Khevra Kadisha he rose to the level of the greatest Bransk folk–hero. This was at the horrific scene when the seventy Bransk Jews who were removed from the cellars of the ghetto with Tsuker's help and were taken to the cemetery to be murdered by Nazi bullets.

Avrume was fifty years old, a cutter and stitcher of shoe–leather by trade. There were older Jews than he on the cemetery.

Alter Trus received these facts from personal conversations he had with the Bransk Christians who were forced to be present on the Bransk Jewish cemetery when all seventy Jews were shot there.

Avrume Verpikhovsky asks the Germans to be the last to be shot. He has a duty, a holy duty to fulfill. He is the Khevra Kadisha member and must do the right thing for the deceased Jews according to Jewish law. The Germans are big–hearted and agree to his request.

With courage, Avrum'ke stands at his post. He lays out the fallen bodies as if for burial, men separate, women separate, and recites

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verses. How the Christians tell of “his prayers.”[2] He takes his time, arranges each person properly. His eyes fill but no tear appears. He says goodbye to each one, closes their eyes with his hand, says goodbye to his wife Sorah, and does not permit anyone to cry. He remains the last at the open pit. He summons a peasant over, an acquaintance, gives him the money he had with him: ‘Take this money and with it you should not chase any Jews out who sometimes come to you asking for a piece of bread. Give it to him. I am paying you in advance’, and with this he was shot, the last one.

And so Bransk's greatest hero fell a victim.

The following are the fallen Bransk Jews at this horrific scene:

Shabbat Khomsky 55 years old, Yekhiel Don 50
Sorah Khomsky 55 years old, Feygl Don 50
Khaim–Yosl Shapiro 60, his children 12, 14, 17
Avrum Verpikhovsky 50, Shloyme Lazer from Bocki 75,
Sorah, his wife 50, Rokhl Lazer from Bocki 70,
Shlomo Kukafke 50, Khaim Klode from Bocki 55,
Sorah Kukafke 45, Klode's three children 6, 11, 8,
Leybke Vainer 55, Isser Bransky 55,
Mares Leybe Vainer 50, Yankev Kashtan 25,
Sorah Rubinshteyn, Itskhak Rymer's girl 22,  
Rivka Bialystoksky 25, Dovid Panitz 55,
Hershl Shroyt, Berl's son 18, Tsirl his wife 50,
Alter Gadibrotsky's grandchild, Panitz's girl 17,
Daniel Kagan, Alter Gadavratsky's son–in–law 45,  
Daniel's wife, Alter the Gelen's daughter 42,  
Feyge Kestin 70, Daniel's child 8,
Shepsl Katlavitch, Khaim Beker's son 22,  

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Maishe Flaisher, the Red Rooster's[3] son–in–law 25,  
His wife 22, her daughter Sorah 18, Their two children 2, 5,
Avruml Itche Gimpel's wife 55,
Esther Bransky, Shakhraike's 45, 2 children, Braine 15, and Berl 19,
Her son Bertche 16, Shloyme Smurzshik's younger son 20,
Bayle Vaynshteyn, Maishe Hersh the Deaf's daughter about 55,  
Shloyme Vaynshteyn, her son 18, Leybl Hurwitz and Fraidl's son 25,
The remaining names – not known.  


Shabbat Chomsky
Important activist in all town
undertakings the first to be shot


Footnotes (Rubin Roy Cobb)
  1. See Maps Numbers 2 being pages 2/8 and 3/8 under the name of Khomsky; and Number 6 being page 1/2 under the name of Verpikhovsky. The well–kept tombstone that was erected over this mass grave (per Map Number 2 page 3/8) by the Poles of Bransk which last saw when he visited Bransk in 1998 with his son Gavin Aryeh Cobb, and presumably is still there, was erected as two of the captives were Polish [looters]. The only two Jewish names that appear on the tombstone are those of Khomsky and Verpikhovsky. When visited Bransk with Jack (Yankl) Rubin in 1991 we were shown this tombstone and were shocked to see a cross above it as well as flowers arranged in the shape of a cross on the ground above the mass grave. The Poles, Zbigniew Romaniuk and his friend, who showed us the tombstone could see our absolute outrage and removed the portable cross from the top of the tombstone and explained that it was placed there when the anniversary of the murders was commemorated. The flowers forming a cross was unexplained. 68 Jews are murdered but a memorial stone with a cross (albeit portable) is erected and a flowerbed in the shape of a cross above the mass grave is planted because 2 Catholic looters are also buried there!! Ironic isn't it? Return
  2. The word molytve as it appears in the text, is Slavic, and means a Christian prayer. Return
  3. Shimon Rubin was known by this name because he had a large swollen red nose, thus the nickname Red Rooster. He was related to Rubin Roy Cobb through 's paternal grand–mother Gelie (Genia) Rokhel Rubin–Kobylanski. Return

[Page 301]

The Fire in the Empty Ghetto

There remain only those Jews who are hiding in other cellars of the ghetto because Yeshaye Tsuker did not know of all the hiding places as they had been arranged in the greatest secrecy.

Those Jews who were still in the cellars already knew what had happened to the Jews who had been discovered through Tsuker. Their situation is now even worse, defenseless. They do not venture out of their cellars, they notice the reflections at night that throw fear into the cellars' residents. They understand the ghetto is still well–guarded. There is no talk of trying to get out.

Leybl Polyak's wife starts a fire beneath the houses and stables of Itche Gimpl and Khana Sokolavitch, figuring that in the tumult of the fire, they would succeed in fleeing the ghetto. Regretfully, the plan also didn't work. In the confusion of the fire the ghetto was guarded even more closely.

Those who make an attempt to escape the ghetto are shot by Polish policemen or turned over to the Germans.

During the terrible night of November 15th–16th, 23 victims fell. All paid with their lives for making an attempt to sneak out of the ghetto.

The following paid with their lives on that terrible night:

Leybl Polyak's wife and daughter 17 years old.

At the fence of the ghetto where they were shot:

[Page 302]

Kive Yamshin 24 years, Meir Khaim Kanafyate, 21 years old, Avrum Yentchman, Khaye Sorah Yentchman, Avrume's wife, a 5 year old child who was with Avrume in the hiding place. These three are caught by two Bransk Christians, Stashek Poplovski and Stazshek Kutlinski. They are robbed and turned over to the Germans. Avrume, his wife Khaye Sorah and the unknown child who was with them, are shot near Arke Katsev's house. On the night of the 15th–16th November 1942.

Avrum Burak, Khaim Burak's the butcher's son makes an attempt together with his wife, Yenkl Zavl's daughter and two children to escape, the policeman Zshevutski, notices them and a fight between Avrume and the policeman erupts. Avrum Burak grabs a gendarme by the neck. A shot rings out and Avrume Burak falls. His wife and the two beautiful children are shot near the pharmacy on the night of November 15th.

At Bobe Gershon Berl's in the basement a young woman was shot. No one knew her name. The Christians told this story. Many other names are also not known. The total of 23 victims is confirmed. All 23 were buried by Bransk Christians in the Jewish cemetery.

Hershl Shpak, the only survivor from the above–mentioned Jews in the ghetto relates the following:

“I hear a shout, it is burning! I notice, it is light. The fire is quite near. At that time I was at Skavronek the shoemaker's in the attic. I am restless. I grab a pail and go to put out the fire. How foolish I was. I am on the street and I encounter two Christian youths. They begin to shout: Oh Hershko! I retreat. I hear shooting, heart–rending screams, dying screams. I already know what this means. I calm down somewhat. I go over to the Christian neighbor Zshire on Shayer Street. They become afraid of me. I tell them that I will leave them. I have no difficulty getting across the fence.

[Page 303]

A little further on, I am noticed by Polish policemen. They are ready to shoot me. Suddenly Ramak, a Christian, Dzhezhinstchikhe's grandchild shouts: “Let Hershke go”. They let me go, and several minutes later, I was in the Bransk forest. I lived through everything.”

There still remained Jews in the ghetto. On the 20th of November Liebe Jaskolke, Reizl the blacksmith's step daughter with her three year old son Naute were caught by the Germans' agent Mikhal Panashuk, Liebe and her son were shot.

On the 21st November the same Panashuk discovered the hiding place of Jews in the ghetto, in Yenkl Voytek's basement. There was shot Alter Gotlieb, Yankev Yentchman's son–in–law and two children of 11 and 14 years, Yankev Tcheslyak, Yitskhak the baker of buckwheat's (?) son–in–law and his two sons Avreml 19 years and Khaim 17 years. This is the record of the Historical Commission at the Bialystok Provincial Committee, according to list number 17/17.

On January 22nd 1947 I entered a complaint in Bialystok against the murderers Panashuk, Zhevutski, Kotlynski, Poplavske. There are no results at this time. Those murdered during the attack and those caught by Panashuk are buried in the Bransk cemetery.

The ruling of the Historical Commission about the Polish policeman Murkowski, a terrible beast, who was known as the murderer of little Jewish children, is noted according to 17/47.

The attack on Jews takes a horrible form. They search for Jews in order to take their money. The rumour is that Jews have a lot of money. To this end, they hated Jews that in previous years had money. (?)

The vulgar men of Shayer Street shot Yosef Kapelotsh, Fishel Spishinger's grandson, 22 years, Leybl Hurvitz, Hershl Hurvitz's

[Page 304]

son, 28, Leybl Shereshefsky, Alter Shereshefsky's son, Maishe Gusikhe's grandchild 26, and the five year old Shaike Broyde.

Makofski would wait with his firearm, where little Jewish children would wander about looking for their fathers and mothers. Poor things, they did not know their young innocent lives were about to be ended. This is how Makofski near Shayer Street, caught Yoske Menukhe's grandson of 9 years, Khane Shvartz's grandson 12 years, this Khane Itsl Avrum Ber's.

Both children were neighbours on the street, and both murdered by one bandit.

He also murdered Leybl Burak's son of 16 years.

After the liberation, he was arrested. The result: he was freed. His crimes against Jewish children were not great enough to punish him.

I pressed charges against Markofski, but he is in hiding somewhere.


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