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[Page 354]

Jew–Murderers Sentenced to Death

Lyeshnikes are forced to spy for the partisans, Bransk partisans join the Soviet
partisan headquarters, given the name of Bransk Zhukov Partisan Detachment

At the beginning of 1944 the first group of partisans of the Major Kapuste brothers Martinov appear in the Bransk forest.

Four partisan groups in four areas are organized. The largest group is called Zhukov and is the Bransk group.

The first order of business of the Bransk group consists of destroying the telephone connections which were located on the Bransk Tchekhenoftse road. This was the direct line to the front at Warsaw. In one night the telephone wires on this road were cut in several places. The poles for a distance of 2 kilometres were torn down. The entire Bransk group of partisans participated in this.

At this same time a Boyevoyer detachment is set up as well as a family camp. Included in this camp were the families who were in the forest. There were a number of complete families in the forest – Khaim Finklshteyn, his wife and three children, Gitl Rubinshteyn 65 years old and her two daughters. And others. Khaim was the commander of the family detachment.


Death Sentences

The Bransk detachment decides to take revenge on the Pole Koshak, the betrayer and Jew murderer.

At a meeting of the detachment heads, it is decided to hand down the death sentence to Koshak.

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The armed men are given the job of carrying out this order. Among them are Mulye Kleinot and Yosl Broyde.[1]

The road to Koshak is a long one and they need to pass through the entire town. The snow makes their footprints easy to notice. This would total about forty kilometres. They cannot cover this distance in one day. The group decides to stop along the way and spend the night until the following evening.


Sonya Rubinshteyn,[2] centre
Shloyme Pat, partisan


They stop at a Polish colonist. He must give them food and remain with them the entire evening and day. He cannot leave the house. The door is guarded.

They set out once again when darkness falls and come into Koshak's house, who, upon seeing the ‘guests’ turns pale. They ask him for food and receive it, including alcohol. The men do not permit themselves to forget their purpose and keep clear heads.

After eating, Commander Radzin says to Koshak: “khazaien, (?) now we must make a reckoning.”

Koshak, frightened, says: ‘Go, you owe me nothing. I do not need to take any money from you poor people.’

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“No,” says Radzin, “you stole, murdered and served the Germans well. Therefore we must make a reckoning.”

They tell him to sit and not dare to move. ‘First, return all you stole from your victims:’ They then give him several blows. He returns the gold, dollars, clothing and a nice little knife. The knife was recognized immediately as having belonged to the Bransker 19–year old Itskhak Okronglies, one of Koshak's victims. He also turns over all his weapons. A special guard goes with his wife and takes all the weapons he had. They then read to him the death sentence: “In the name of the united councils, in the name of the field court of Bransk Zhukov partisan detachment, you, Koshak, are sentenced to death by shooting.”

He is asked to sign the death sentence. An Alyekshener gentile girl is there, and she is also required to sign the decree as a witness. Frightened, she signs the paper with trembling hands.

Mulye Kleinot, the partisan, is honoured with carrying out the death sentence.

Mulye remembers well how Koshak had brought his uncle Nakhum, tied up, to the German gendarmes to be shot. Mulye shoots twice with his revolver. Koshak lies motionless. They check his pulse, dead. The time the decree was carried out is noted in the diary. They write a notice to the population that Koshak has been killed by the Zhukov partisan detachment of the Bransk forest for his murders and robberies. The gentile girl is given all the papers and strictly ordered that the papers be hung in a public place.

Radzin does not forget to mention to the mother that she should bring her children up in a better way.

The following day there were reports of this incident, and the partisan detachment was given even more recognition by the population.

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The detachment forced the Lyeshnikes to give them information about all suspicious happenings. Out of fear, they disclosed valuable information.

One of the Lyeshnikes reports to the detachment that a certain person always comes to him to inquire how many partisans there are? Do they have a lot of weapons? He asks the lyeshnik not to tell anyone about his visit.

The detachment now knows about this. They look for this person. Finally, the lyeshnik points him out. They meet with him. He is touched to have the opportunity to meet with the partisans.

After a brief examination, they note this man is wearing white underwear, fine boots and has enough money and good cigarettes. His explanation that he has been in the forest for six months is discounted and they now see he is a spy, and with no questions asked, the order is given to shoot him.

The detachment also forced many Christians to be spies. To tell them everything they had seen or carried as messengers which could only be done by the Christians. They were threatened with death, with burning their houses. They obeyed. Much necessary information came from the forced spies. They called themselves “ligalnikes.”

For a certain length of time there came to the detachment a Russian partizanke. She was a young, pretty Russian woman who came to spend a little bit of relaxed time. She is suspected of spying. It is decided that a definite investigation must be carried out. When she comes again, she is followed by one of the ligalnikes. He follows her from afar and notices she is going to Bransk from the forest. The first place she goes is to the gendarmerie.

At that time there were high officials of the central Zhukov detachment, parachutists and other who had come from the central command. In a word, important officials. The danger was that if the gentile woman had told them everything, the Germans would attack.

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If she had not noticed too much she would certainly return again. The situation becomes serious.

They establish a front guard on the side of Bransk near the forest. One of the partisans is stationed on a tree with binoculars and they wait. He notices her approaching from afar and she is alone. They greet her in a friendly fashion. They spend some pleasant time with the Russian gentile girl. Then the political commander Danski, commander of the detachment and also the party representative in the forest interrogates her. After a severe questioning and a personal examination, they find a revolver and a German confirmation from the Gestapo. The partisan court decides to hang her immediately.

Young Itchele Broyde earns the honour, shoots her, but she is wounded. The commanders order her to be hanged. Everyone carries out the sentence. Now there is one spy less.

Very often parachutists, come to the Bransk forest. The brigadier commander Martinov also come often with ten aides. Also the major of the partisan detachment Vesolov. Martinov's wife, a parachutist.

They make known their very good opinion about the Bransk detachment. The population is the best organized.

They improved the discipline when summoned for diversified work for the battle against the Germans and Polish bandits.

A permanent group of parachutists remained in the Bransk forest. There was now constant communication with the headquarters and other detachments. Newspapers were brought every day from Moscow of the Partisan Post.

Reports from the front were sent from the Bransk forest every day.

The detachment issues an order that all Russians who are with Christians to report to the partisan detachment. The detachment is greatly increased.

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The civilian population is warned not to hinder the partisans in their activities. Those who do will be handled accordingly.

The Polish 70–year old lame Dr. Tsivinski is mobilized. He is forced to come every day to the forest, supply medicines, help the wounded partisans. They sent a wagon for him to bring him to perform various operations and to bring with him various medicines. We must note that Dr. Tzivinski's trip from Bransk to the forest had to be conducted in secrecy. However, he performed his work like a hero.

Bransk Jews and Russians were sent for work. They acknowledged and praised the heroic work of the partisans – Yosl Broyde, Mulye Kleinot, the brothers Olyentsky, Khaim–Velvl Pribut.

There were some partisans who wanted to get rich in the forest. Because of this they meddled in certain necessary work.

There was special mention of Khaim Vrobel (Motl Kevlyaker's son). His work resulted in good things for everyone. He personally did not seek to make use of the forest to become rich.

There was other work going on that would hinder the Nazi effort to wipe out the food contingent. There was a collection point in every village for food for the Germans. The partisans used to attack these collection points and take everything and destroy what was left. The central collection point for milk was also attacked. The milk was poured out.

Bridges were ordered to be burned. However, they were well–guarded. There was a large watch at each bridge. There were attempts made several times but they were unsuccessful. Then the bridge from the Bransk road to the Shepetove main road, central to the highway from Warsaw to Byalevyezh was burned by the partisans.

A second group at the Bialystok Warsaw railway track near Shepetove, twice dismantled the railway line. This led to a railway line catastrophe.

In honour of the 1st of May an attack is organized on the Vyelkove estate near Bransk. The estate is managed by a German

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administration. Four Russians and eight Jews take part in this attack. Shooting begins, but after a half–hour, the partisans retreat without losses.

As they returned, the group is attacked by some Armaia Krayowa who had been hiding.

During this sudden attack, the Bransk Jew Yeshaye Tabak, 24 years old, a Vishinker, who had worked in Bransk for several years, by trade a master at repairing valuable tools falls dead. Wounded are Shloyme Olyentsky, Yankev Voyitek's son and Mulye Kleinot, Elber's grandchild.

The wounded Russians are taken through Bransk to Tchaie. Dr. Tsivinski goes to treat them until they recover. The 12 wounded Jews are quartered with Christians and the same Doctor Tsivinski comes to treat them.

On the 8th of May 1944 a large group of people are noticed nearing the forest. They quickly find out that 600 Germans and Ukrainians and their death battalions have blockaded the forest. The situation at that moment was serious. 28 experienced fighters take a stand against 600 armed Germans and Vlosavtses (Ukrainians) (?) There are at that time in the family camp 40 women and sick children. It becomes necessary to evacuate the family camp from the forest. There is no opportunity to do this because the large band of Germans in the forest. The partisans heroically defend the forest. There are victims on both sides. The fascists pull back.

The family camp is set up in another forest. Dead as a result of this attack were Meir Vishnevitch, 20 years, Kopke's grandchild and one Russian.

The following day there were write–ups in the press that the Germans had wiped out the Bransk partisan detachment of Russians and Jews.

The central organ of the partisans, “Partisan” wrote that 28 partisans were victorious over 600 Germans and Vlaslavtses (Ukrainians), (?) and thereby crediting the Bransk Zhukov partisan detachment.

Of course you understand, that after this attack the forest can no longer be used,

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so they decide to relocate to the Bielsk area to the Popokhovs detachment. However, attacks had also occurred on this detachment by Polish armed gangs. But an order arrives from headquarters to return to the Bransk forest. We settle in again into forest near Pyetkeve.


They Take Prisoners – The front nears

The Neman near Grodno is now the battlefield. The partisans watch takes 19 Vlaslavtses prisoners, well–dressed in German uniforms. They always have with them leaflets that the Russian airplanes have distributed.

The partisans are not led astray. They take the German clothes from them. This now becomes very necessary. The roads are now filled with returning Nazis. They cannot go for food in their old clothes, so they make use of the new German uniforms. Twelve men don the uniforms and set out to the Christians. They bring back calves, sheep, bread, butter. Some Poles were unsure whether these were really Germans, so they cursed and nevertheless gave.

The question of water became very important. They can no longer go to the town for water. They decide to dig a well in the forest. The 19 prisoners think we are digging a grave for them, and felt that they had no other alternative than to make peace with their fate that this was their grave.

The front comes closer with quickening steps. An order arrives that an ultimatum should be given to the Polish underground gang to cease their operations near the partisans.

At a meeting with certain Polish educated partisans in the house of a peasant, Commander Major Vesolof openly stated that ‘any day we shall surround the forests.’ ‘The Red Army is coming. Prepare yourselves to turn over your weapons.’

The front is now very close. They can clearly see the shooting around Bransk, there is fire around the town. Soviet airplanes are flying, covering the town with leaflets. The night is lit by huge projectors

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and the fires all around. The partisan detachment finds itself in the middle of the front.

Vesalov orders them to form into small groups. They divide into small groups of three in trenches or other holes. There is military everywhere. The forest is full of infantry and artillery.

On the 2nd of August 1944, at 4 a.m., the partisans receive an order to leave.

After a short pause, the first advance of the Russian army appears. They know where the Zhukovtses are, i.e. the Bransk Zhukov detachment. They clasp the hands of the commanders, Vesolov and Radzin, Danski and all Soviets and Jewish defenders.

The officers of the headquarters of the Red Army order the Bransk partisans to return to Bransk because here in the forests around Pyetkever Glinik there will be a large battle.

We set out in groups to return to Bransk in little groups of six or ten people. We are a total of 64 people.

We stand in the Bransk big market. We have a horrific picture before our eyes. The ghetto is still fenced–in. Jewish Bransk is empty. An echo is heard, an echo of Jewish voices, of Jewish life, the echo of the last screams of mother and father, of children that one imagines have remained in the air. We hear clearly the word: ‘Why? Why, God?’

How hardened we have become in the 21 months of living in the forest, a life of animals, not of humans and our hearts melted away, our eyes that long ago had lost the ability to shed tears, were suddenly filled with bitter tears.

We look at ourselves, our 64 people, tattered, traumatized countenances. We look at the empty, frightening fenced–in ghetto that stands veiled in sorrow and yearns for her children who will never return to her.[3]

Footnotes (Rubin Roy Cobb)

  1. Rubin Roy Cobb met him in the 1990s at a wedding or bar–mitzvah given by Evelyn Iteld in Atlanta. He was blind and lived in Venezuela. He related how well he remembered the Piekuckis (maternal family of ) and how argumentative they were amongst themselves. He wrote a manuscript on his partisan activities in Yiddish that has been translated and has a copy thereof. Return
  2. Married to Jack Rubin (paternal family of Rubin Roy Cobb) of Baltimore after her first husband died. Return
  3. Jack Rubin of Baltimore told Rubin Roy Cobb when they were in Bransk in 1991 how he watched German soldiers retreating, followed by Russian infantry advancing after them and how he carefully, with hands raised to the advancing Russians speaking Russian that he was Jewish and advised to return to Bransk. There he met the other 63 Jewish survivors referred to here. Return

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One of the 64

As told by Zavl Rubinshteyn to Julius Cohen[1]

In this article we will present the story of one of the surviving Branskers who was fortunate enough to come to New York.

It took much effort on my part to persuade Zavl to tell his story about what happened to him from the first day when the Nazis entered Bransk until the second of August 1944, when he returned to Bransk, one of the 64 survivors of the entire Bransk Jewish population of almost three thousand.

Zavl is a great–grandchild of Zavl–Hersh the Khasid. He is a harness–maker by trade, mostly working with his father. This is a trade practiced primarily by Christians for their own horses. Therefore, he had many Christian acquaintances where he could hide from time to time.

And yet, he was the only one of a family of eight to survive. His parents, sisters and brothers all perished.

This is his story as he told it to Julius Cohen.

The first order issued by the Germans was for mobilizing all the horses in Bransk. The mobilization point was Shayer Street. There were investigations conducted of the saddle–makers to confiscate all material from the businesses.

The Nazis took everything from our house. They piled all the merchandise on my shoulders and instructed us to take everything to Shayer Street.

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I was laden down by the thugs, with reins, bridles. I could not move. I go with all the merchandise to the gathering–point. The German gendarme walks before me. I hold on to the walls, the fences near the houses and look at the German. At the first opportunity I throw a couple of bridles over a fence. My load got lighter, easier. Little–by–little, I freed myself from almost half of my weight. Finally, all sweaty, I arrive at the gathering–point. The Nazi studies me, curious. There is something that disturbs him. He demands I prepare all the harnesses for the horses. I explain to him in a pure Yiddish–German that I do not have any tools. I send my brother Alye 19 years, who had followed me, to bring my tools, asking and telling him with a wink to take his time. Finally, I get the tools. I work until night and then I take my tools, wanting to go home. I receive a merciless beating and am accused of wanting to steal German tools.

The Germans take me to the magistrate, the familiar bandit Doctor Dambrovski who is thrilled with his first chance to shoot a Jew. He orders his Polish police to do a new search in our house. Police who only a couple of days earlier had been policemen for the Soviets. They conducted a thorough search. The thugs look for leather goods and other valuable items and stuff them into their pockets. My mother calls them Bolshevikes. The policemen also bring my mother to the magistrate Dambrovski who is now even happier. He telephones the German official representative that they have to shoot the first Jews and then the others will have respect for the new power. He accuses us of having hidden more merchandise and that we wanted to steal German possessions.

The German commander orders us to be brought to him. He wants to see us. Everyone in town knows we will be the first victims. He asks my mother why she insulted the Polish police? She points to Borkofsken and says he was the policeman for the Bolshevikes and is now wearing the same rifle. The acting–commander

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frees my mother. Then he asks me, how many people work in your factory? I tell him my father is a sick man and I work together with him. I had worked the entire day for the Germans with my own tools. Now I take the tools to work at home. He let me go as well, and Dambrovski is left with nothing.

I worked for several days and prepared the horses and then I was sent home. At night, I collected my merchandise that I had slung over the fences. I saved something.

Then there was a request for a harness–maker to work in Pyetkever. There in Pyetkever were already working about 50 young girls aged twelve who were digging potatoes. These workers had already been sent by the Judenrat knowing they would be forced to go to work. I voluntarily reported for work to the Polish harness–maker Shtzervinski for twelve weeks. During this time I did work for private peasants who were badly in need of harnesses. This was with the permission of Shtzervinski. They came to me in Pyetkever and brought the work. I placed my life in danger. However, knowing the peasants would give me food for my family and me, I took a chance. They paid me well. They sent enough potatoes to my house and other food. I was very friendly with the German overseers and they pretended not to notice. When the work ended, I returned to Bransk and asked the Judenrat to help the children who were working with the potatoes and in the fields.

The Judenrat receives a second request for workers also under the Polish harness–maker Shtzervinski. The Judenrat, seeing I had received food when working under Shtzervinski decides their own person should be sent there to work. They send Motl the harness–maker's son.

Shtzervinski is not pleased with this worker and the Germans beat him and tell him to go home. Alter Yamshin, the president of the

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Judenrat, comes to find out what has taken place there and he too, is badly beaten by the Nazis.

Maishe Tikatsky and Itskhak Finklshteyn of the Judenrat come to me with a smile: ‘You are already a candidate so go to work over there.’ Eventually I did agree to be sent once again to work. I find out the work is in Valke. There is a palace there and a large holding that belonged to Mrs Pilsudski and is now under the German commander by the name of Gogo. The man in charge is once again the Christian Shtzervinski. We find there a large stash of leather that the Soviets had left behind. We begin to work, cutting up the best leather to make bridles. I see that a shoemaker can also make a living. I go to the Judenrat and ask them to send Khaim Tsiplinsky the shoemaker. He makes good boots from this leather for the Germans. I make good business and we send it to Gogo to his courtyard. The rest we make for the German needs. For local peasants there is also work using the leather. Once again I receive potatoes, honey and spirits for my family. Many times we find a good piece of leather mixed in with the potatoes. In the house we know what to do with these items. We get little nails from Maishe Tikatsky and slowly create the merchandise.

The work and leather in Valke runs out within two months. I must sign to attest that I will return to work in the spring or when they will get more leather. It appears that they did not get any leather because they did not require me to work anymore and the Judenrat did not send me for any work. So for the summer months I worked with my father in the house and somehow earning enough for some bread and putting my life in danger because it was forbidden to own any leather whatsoever.


November, 1942

At the end of October there is a noticeably large change in the behavior of the Christian population. The Germans who had worked in the ghetto's Jewish–owned workshops

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suddenly appeared and demanded the work to cease immediately. Some take unfinished work. They know about something that is going to happen. Jews wonder why is there such haste? It becomes clear. The ghetto is going to be surrounded by wire so no one can climb over. The gates are heavily guarded. There is a feeling that danger is close at hand. The days are numbered.

I decide to take my family out of the ghetto. I ask my father to leave the ghetto and go to Christian acquaintances until we see what will happen further. My father takes my mother and three children and leaves the ghetto. Along the road they become confused, and this frightened them and they return to the ghetto. I take them by the hand and lead them out of the ghetto through the fields and tell them to go to Zshilinski. Itskhak Finklshteyn, the Judenrat member, sends his two daughters out with Shimon Rubin's[2] wife and child on a wagon. My sister Peshe, my cousin Sorah Klode and a cousin from Sokolove remain in our house. My brother was not at home.

I told my sister Peshe we must be prepared because I feel something will happen this night. I ask them to sleep in their clothes and be prepared for anything that can occur. I gathered together valuable items and buried them near the door of our house.

We did not have to wait long. In the early morning we hear the noise of the approaching very end. (?) We soon hear heavy footsteps around the ghetto. The cordon has arrived. The ghetto is surrounded. We leave the house, lock the door and go to the gate of the ghetto that leads to the forest. They must have noticed us because we hear shooting in our direction. We run and luckily, due to the darkness, not one of us was wounded.

We were in the forest for several days. There were other Jews there as well. We hear rumours that many Jews

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were safe near Alekshon. My sister Peshe goes to Zshilinski where our parents were supposed to be. Zshilinski tells her our father and a daughter left Friday to return to the ghetto and were taken out with everyone else on Shabbos. My mother went to Dolovove where she was born. She thinks there in the town she will find a place to hide with a Christian acquaintance.

A couple of days later we meet our brother Elye and our cousin Berl Pat in the forest. We decide to go to Dolokhove to find out where out mother is. However, we are afraid to be seen by the Christians. I meet again with Zshilinski but he cannot hide us. He gives us a letter to one of his in–laws in the village of Sheshke. There will be room there for three to hide. I tell this to Bevel who most especially wants to find his wife Brokha and the child whom he had left with the Christian Romakh Yavorski. He, Yavorski, returns many items to Bevel that he had kept hidden for him. He could not have taken Brokha and the child because they would certainly not be successful. Yavorski assures Bevel he will bring Brokha and the child to a certain place on the road the following evening, but we have to be there and take them with us. He gives us a letter to a gentile acquaintance by the name of Trushkofske who takes us by wagon to the paved road where we find Brokha and the child. We are now all in the forest.

I go to the village of Sheshke to find place for them at the Christian who Zshilinski had recommended. He permits only three people to stay with him. I find place for Bevel with his wife and child and at a second Christian by the name of Guglyefski in a colony near the village of Malyesher. My sister Peshe and my brother Ely and I remain in Sheshke. It is understood we paid well. At night we all met in the forest. Now that we had taken care of everyone having a place, we decide to go to Dolobove to find out where our mother and the children are – but we do not have any clothes – especially warm ones.

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Trushkofski tells us Jews come into the ghetto at night to remove things from their houses. This gentile Trushkofski tells us he will take us to the ghetto and wait there for us. We were successful the first evening. Berl went into the ghetto. Oley Zshevoytske says he will stand watch. He pretended to not hear. He tells them to come only during the hours he is on watch. On the second evening, Berl once again went to the ghetto to look for things, especially warm items.

It is extremely dark in the house with only the wall–clock continuing to tick. He strikes a match. The flashing light of the match brought Germans to the ghetto. Berl Pat and my brother Alye flee, barely escaping with their lives.

Berl tells us we must find weapons to be able to defend ourselves. Without them we are lost. He becomes acquainted with a young gentile who wants to sell him weapons. He establishes the price but the gentile does not give him any weapons. He instructs him to return a week later with the money. This is suspicious so we do not return to the gentile.


Berl and My Brother Alye Become Victims

We must now go to Dolobove to look for my mother. Berl and Alye set out. Peshe and I remain in Sheshke.

Lyeshnikes come to their hiding–place. They are captured, turned over to the Germans and are both shot.

Guglyefski already knows Berl is dead. He will no longer get any money from Berl so he does not want to hide Brokha and her child. He says he is afraid of the Germans.

I go alone to Dolobove to search for my mother. Along the way to Kolnitse, I am met by Tetlitski, the lord from Voylker. He was a former Polish judge. He warns me that if I wish to remain alive I should not be in the forest but rather somewhere hidden in a house or stable. He himself would hide me in his courtyard even though there are German top level leaders there, but he is afraid for his own farmhands.

He tells me several farmhands were hiding a

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little Jewish boy in a stable. They give him food. He pretends not to notice. This was Yankele Rothstein, Mendl Toker's grandchild. He assures me he will bring food for Brokha to a designated place. He points out along the way a little hill near a rock and that is where he will come to leave food at night and I will be responsible. I thank him for his goodness and set out again.

I meet the peasant Yanek Katseski who tells me my mother had been in the colony yesterday. She said she was going with a daughter to the village of Zaluske. He also tells me Finklshteyn's two girls are hiding with his neighbour. They naihen (?) for the peasant and that is why he is feeding them.

In Zaluske I find out my mother is no longer there. She went to the village of Kozovske. I finally get to Kozovske and find my mother and sister Shayne.

I take my mother and Shayne to the peasant Gurski. He allows four of us to stay with him. I also bring my sister Peshe from the village of Sheshke to Gurski. My mother wants me to be with them. When I had come to the village of Sheshke to get my sister Peshe, I heard someone coughing on the opposite side of the wall. I ask: who this is? The Christian says the priest from Toptshever had asked him to hide a Jew by the name of Aron, a Lapser doctor, and therefore, he could not hide us because he would not have enough food for everyone. So I took Peshe and left to go to Gurski. The following day that place was attacked and Doctor Aron is shot. The entire neighborhood defends the priest and the Christian family, who had hidden the Jewish doctor and they released them. My mother, two sisters and I stayed in Gurski the entire winter.


Mother and Sisters Become Victims

Gurski tells me that in the spring the Germans go to the villages to inventory the cows, horses and chickens. This means

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to determine how much each peasant has to give to the Germans. It would be terribly dangerous for us to remain with him because the Germans will find us.

He helped us to stay in the forest for several days until the investigations will be conducted. We leave the peasant Gurski and we all come to the forest where we meet six other Jews: Berl Rozinke, Berl Yakobtsiner, Leybl Grazshinsky's son, Yenkl Mulyer's son and a Bialystok Jew who had jumped from the train, and Bobble's grandchild, a 12–year old boy.

We meet each other several times in the forest. We try to plan what to do further. It was impossible to stay with Gurski. First–of–all, our money had already run out. We now did not have anything with which to pay. Secondly, according to Gurski's explanations, the stable was already empty and there is nowhere to hide in there.

Berl Rozinka says we should now live in the forest because it is now summer. We can live in the forest and be safe. We will have to find food somewhere without money. We remain together in the forest. For now we have only to find a pair of boots for one of the group who was barefoot.

This was the first of May 1943, 26th Nissan.

I leave behind in the forest my mother, the two sisters and Bobble's small grandchild, and we go into the village to get a pair of boots.

They are all attacked and shot. We hear the shooting from afar. I already understand the victims are mine, they are of my flesh and blood. We inquire of the peasants – What had happened? Why was there shooting there? Did they want to capture us? We managed to get away from the peasants but still not knowing what exactly had happened. We come to Gurski's stable. He tells us Levandovske from the village of Tchaye was horseback riding and noticed the group in the forest. He brought gendarmes from Toptsheve. All were shot. Gurski felt guilty that we had

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left his house. “You know that it was impossible for me to keep you,” he said to us.

We leave Gurski. I am now alone in the world, one left of a family. Rozinka, Yakobtsiner, I and the small Ishyele set out to another forest, not knowing where we could hide. I had even lost the desire to hide. Life has no worth for me now.

Berl Rozinka, himself a Bialystoker, says, we need now to go to Bialystok. The ghetto still exists there. Jews live and work there. I declined to go with them, but eventually I agreed and we head to the road to Bialystok.

On the road to Bialystok we come to the village of Lutsaiev and go to a Christian by the name of Palkovski. He undertakes to hide us. He feeds us well. We remained with Palkovski for two weeks. But he could not take all six of us. He has room for three, and the other three do not have where to spend the night. We decide that all of us will continue on to Bialystok.

Between Stroblye and Suraz we cross the Narew River with a raft. At night we wake the raftsman to take us across the Narew. He indicates the road we should take to get to Bialystok.

We stay together. We get to a point near the city and we are attacked by gendarmes. Everyone scatters in different directions. I remain lying in a hole in the middle of the field. I no longer see anyone around me.

Suddenly, I notice a young gentile far from me in the field. I give him my jacket as a present. He is pleased. I ask him to bring me an old summer shirt and water to drink. The gentile youth examines the jacket. He liked it. He returns later with water and a torn jacket with holes. I put on the summer jacket. I ask the gentile youth if there are Jews in Bialystok. “Yes,” he says. ‘Stay here in the hole until the

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evening when the Jews return to town after work and you will be able to join in the group and that is how you will go into Bialystok.' I thank the gentile and remain lying in the hole. Sweat is pouring from me. I am alone. My friends are not here with me. What has happened to them I do not know.

In the evening I notice a large group of Jews marching in rows coming from work. I edge closer to the road, stand up and join the marching Jews who are returning home from forced labor. They quietly make a spot for me in the row so they should be straight and not noticeable. ‘A Jew?’ – someone asks. ‘Yes’ I answer him. He gives me a piece of his yellow patch. “Put this on quickly,” he says. We march together. How proud I felt at that moment with this piece of yellow patch is indescribable.

I hear one of the marchers behind me mumble: “Give him something to carry.” That is when I notice all the marchers carrying packages of tools. Only I have nothing with me. My situation is not safe. I think to myself: “Take it.” Someone in the line shoves a package into my hand. “Here, carry,” he says. Now I am the same as everyone else. I am carrying a package and wear a yellow patch. I am going together with all the Jews from forced labour, returning to the ghetto in Bialystok which is strange to me because I have never been there. How lonely I was. In those minutes I was the most fortunate person in the world: A Jew among Jews. I was happy, proud and safe among my own.

We come to the gate where we are stopped and searched. I examine my package. I see that in the package there are eggs, certainly a terrible item because food is surely not permitted to be brought into the ghetto. My heart pounds again with fear. What will happen now? They come to my row. The German opens my sack. He finds eggs. He is happy with this. He takes them from me with joy. I see that the eggs will rescue me. Yes, the German allows me through the gate.


In Bialystok

This was in the middle of May, 1943. I

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enter the ghetto. Someone tells me where to go to find a place to spend the night. The people in the house give me food. The next day I am already a Bialystok ghetto Jew. They give me an address. I go there and they give me work in the ghetto which consists of assembling rifles from small parts that are smuggled into the ghetto through various secret means.

This was a secret underground organization. They experienced much danger. In particular there were three brothers from Slonim with the name Yudkofsky who caused much trouble in the ghetto.

The organization wants me to show them I am devoted. I assure them I will do everything to seek revenge for my parents, sister and brother. They believe me on my word. They see that I am troubled.


I Receive Weapons

In the place where I sleep, I hear someone tell that he works in the house of a former officer as a painter. He noticed two revolvers there hidden in the wall. I ask him to take me with him to work tomorrow. He refuses. I threaten him and it works. In the morning he gives me a pot of whitewash and rags and we both go to work. We get to the house. I ask him where he had seen the revolvers. He does not want to say. My threats work. He shows me the wall. I remove a little box with two new revolvers. In the evening I wrap the revolvers in a rag, cover them with the whitewash and carry them into the ghetto.

I take the revolvers to the organization. A girl whom everyone called Yudite is the chief order giver. They are pleased with the weapons. They give me 20 rubles and say I can keep one revolver for myself and that I would need it during further work.

The underground organization had to carry out much work in the ghetto and outside of the ghetto. They sent me every day to work

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outside of the ghetto. They felt the ghetto would eventually be liquidated. There is a secret house in the ghetto at Leybl the baker on Nai Velt Street where the weapons are assembled. Many of those who work here are not suited to this work. The entire house is blown up and burns. Three people lost their lives. The gendarmes begin an investigation. They know these were explosions and the fire was not of the usual kind.

Too my greatest astonishment, I meet in the ghetto Berl Rozinka and Berl Yakobtsiner. They arrived in the ghetto through other means a week after I arrived. We are happy with each other and stay together. We are in Bialystok until the middle of August. I become well–known in the underground organization. They have trust in me.

The work outside of the ghetto was fraught with danger vis–à–vis my leaving and returning. I ask them to give me work in the ghetto because I do not have any papers and with every failure I will pay with my life.

I am agonized with a longing to leave Bialystok. I still have the feeling my mother begs me, requests: “Zavl, leave the ghetto.”

The day of the liquidation of the Bialystok ghetto draws near. We decide to divide our strengths with some being in the forests around the city, waiting for several days.

The Bialystok ghetto meanwhile is surrounded by three cordons. There are 45 of us in the forest. We hope we can find those who fled from the ghetto. I know that hundreds of Jews had fled from the Bransk ghetto. Regretfully, no one from the ghetto came to the forest. The Bialystok ghetto is now empty. No one survived. Our work has finished. There were a few Russians in the forest, but they advised the group to divide the weapons among the 45 people and hide in small

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groups of five. Rozinka, Yakobtsiner and I get our portion of weapons. We decide to return to Bransk.

On the way to Bransk, behind the village of Malinove, we come to a peasant, Marzhvinski. We ask him to hide us for several days so we can rest. We hide our weapons in the forest. He tells us he himself does not have any food and therefore he cannot give us anything. We assure him we will not need his food. He permits us to sleep in the stable.

We retrieve our weapons at night and go to distant villages. There is respect for the rifles. We bring enough food. We give Marzhvinski some food as well. He is pleased to hide us. We went once a week to get food. We took everything we could get: sheep, pigs, potatoes, flour and brought these to Marzhvinski. We were so careful that he never saw us with the weapons. We meet Itche Grazhinsky, Shyele and a Bialystoker in the forest. We give them food as well. This is how we lived through the entire winter with the peasant. Spring approached. The nights are getting shorter. We cannot go too far to find food. We did not want to go in this neighborhood because Marzhvinski would also be blamed. We decide we must prepare food for the entire summer.

We set out with a wagon that the peasant gave us. We fill a wagon with food, meat and flour. We have to take it to the village to the peasant so he can salt [the meat] and put it away.

The night passed quickly. Day is beginning to dawn. We drive into the village. It is possible some peasants were already awake and had noticed the wagon of food and other merchandise arriving at Marzhvinski's and had become suspicious.

We are not aware of this. The entire load of food is prepared, well–packed with salt. We are certain we will now have food. We will not have to look for food the entire summer. We sleep in the stable.

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Marzhvinski had during the winter eaten quite well. The Christians wonder about this. His wife wears a new Jewish dress we had given her as a present. At the same time there were rumours circulating in Bielsk that Jewish bandits steal from good Polish citizens and Marzhvinski is spied upon.

We are all in the stable. We hear dogs barking at night. I peer through the cracks see flashlights lighting the road. Our weapons were in the stable at that time. I grab my weapon and crawl down from the stable. I am noticed. There is shooting and I am lightly wounded. I respond with fire. Berl Rozinka and Maishe the Bialystoker shoot from within the stable. The group pulls back. When we remain quiet they do not shoot back thinking we were no long alive. 15 minutes later, we come out into the courtyard. The Christian woman comes out of the house. We warn her not to divulge any names. She makes the sign of the cross and assures us she will not say a word.

Wounded I crawl away twelve miles to the village Kozuske to meet Gurski. I arrive at three o'clock at night and knock on the door and Gurski says to his wife: “Zavl is at the door.”

She opens the door and I come inside. Gurski sees my weapon and says: ‘Zavl, what is it with you?’ I answer him that I have been wounded by the gendarmes. I tell him that Berl Rozinka finds himself somewhere in the forest, when he asks about ne, he must tell him that I am somewhere in the village.

I had arranged to meet Berl every three days near the forest at the two mills. If someone did not show up it would mean that he was dead.

Several days later, I began to notice something. The Christians were acting differently. They whisper to one another so I would not hear. They either suspect me or want to turn me over to the Germans. I go to the stable to check the weapons I had hidden. Gurski's son follows me from a distance. I see that the weapons have

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been touched but everything was there. This means that Gurski now knows my friends and I have weapons.

I meet with Maishe in the forest near the mill. Berl Rozinka is not there. Is he dead? It is impossible. We decide to wait another day. We must now leave Gurski. The following day, Gurski's little boy tells me someone with a green cloak had inquired about me. So Berl is here. We meet in the forest late at night and decide to go to Alekshon.

The Christian Stanislav Kroyze lives in a colony near the village of Alekshon. We come to her house. She is pleased to hide us: “With me you will survive the war,” she says. The front is now near, at Brisk.[3] We were in the colony with Kroyze three months. We had to find food with our weapons. Stanislav knew we had weapons and how we got food.

In the middle of summer the Polish police who had been devoted Nazis up to this point realized the Russians were near and they now have to become, once again, Polish patriots. 25 Bransk Polish policemen together with a few young men organized in the Armia Krajowe in Polish partisan groups. They, with all their weapons, came to the forests. Jewish partisans suffered great trouble from these Poles. Their first work was to betray the Jews whom they found in the forests.

One night we left from Alekshon to get food. We get bread, eggs and butter. We are ready to take our packages and return to our hiding–place. Berl Rozinka says he had seen a pot of cream at the peasant's house. He does not want to leave it. It has been a long time since he ate cream. We wait for him and then return to the Christian woman.

Meanwhile the Krayovtses arrive. They notice us. They think we are Polish. They ask us for a password. They had expected

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to find some of them in the stable where they slept.

In any event they left us, taking their pals and left together. As they left, I heard them say: ‘Who were these people who did not know the password? They were not ours.’ They shoot several rounds and leave.

We crawl into the stable and lie down to sleep. In the early morning we hear Kroyze milking the cows, speaking to them so we can hear: ‘Two bands met here yesterday. Ten of them slept in the stable.’

At the end of the month of July, on a Sunday, the front was already near Alekshon. Germans retreat. The Russians arrive in the forest. We watch the battle from the stable. All the houses around the village are burning from the gunfire. We will have to leave the stable because it will probably at any minute begin to burn. We cannot get out of the stable. We will certainly be noticed by either the Russians or the Germans. We cannot cause any difficulties for Kroyze who had been good to us.

The Germans come looking for horses to retreat. They find a young gentile girl. They carry her away to the forest and forget about the horse.

We climb down from the stable, hide in the high oats. The Germans take up positions. They shoot all of Alekshon. The Russians are located on the other side of the village. Bullets fly over our heads. We lay in the oats and suddenly we hear a German panzer leaving the road and drive into the field. We now fully expect our death, to be squeezed by the terrible monster that is about 20 feet from the spot where we lay in hiding. Luckily, the Germans turned the tank around almost near our bodies and begin to shoot towards the forest. It is evening. The sounds of Russian artillery can be heard closer. The German artillery pulls back. We crawl in the stable once again which, through a miracle, remained standing, not burned

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and lie down. Have we truly survived? Or are we yet to become victims of the flying bullets.

Kroyze comes in the early morning and tells us there are no Germans to be seen. They had been cleared out of the village.

An officer arrives. I recognize he is a Soviet officer. He asks us who we are and we tell him we are the remaining Jews. He tells us to go to Bransk.

We enter the village of Alekshon, now free people. We come to Adamtchik the saltim, the biggest bandit. His wife receives us like dear guests. She gives us our first breakfast. She is a totally different to Adamtchik. Her husband was not there.

We get to Bransk in the morning. It is a rainy, dreary and cold morning.

We find Maishe Yentchman and Dovtche Olyentsky in town.

This is the story of Zavl Rubinshteyn.


Zavl Rubinshteyn


Footnotes (Rubin Roy Cobb)
  1. Married to Sonya after the War and when he died in the US she married Jack Rubin of Baltimore, a paternal cousin of Rubin Roy Cobb. Return
  2. Related to Rubin Roy Cobb through his father's mother. Return
  3. Brisk de'Lite (Brest Litovsk) Return

[Page 381]

Bransk After the Liberation

We slowly begin to recover. We begin to evaluate our situation, begin to comprehend the entire tragedy.

Later, a top Soviet official makes an appearance. I think he was a railway engineer. He questions everyone. He is most especially interested in finding information about the Tsukerman family, the family of the Bransk rabbi. Perhaps it is possible that someone is still alive. He launches a special investigation. It does not take too long. He discovers the terrible truth that not one member of the rabbi's family is among the living. He was Rabbi Tuckerman's grandchild, serving in the Soviet army. He had come to look for members of the family and found destruction.

People begin to do some kind of work. The Polish mobs do not allow us to settle in Bransk. Every morning there are placards warning Jews to leave Bransk.

The Jewish homes are occupied by Poles. The trade, work – is all Polish.

Heartbroken, we watch as the Christians went to church dressed in Jewish clothing. One recognizes one's father's suit.

There were still Soviet military in Bransk until Warsaw was liberated, and therefore the Poles could not exert much influence. Later, when the Soviets pulled back, Jewish life took a turn for the worse. After working during the day, at night we would all gather together

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at Itskhak Gotlieb's brick house on the second floor. Some of us, with our weapons, slept while others stood guard.


Murders After the Liberation

In March, 1945 Zisl Taptchefsky (Lipe Portselainik's) and Maishe Tikatsky's sister–in–law went to work at the Shtainmanove on Benduge. The Shtainmanove had a tailoring workshop. The Shtainmanove brought food to the Jews when they were in hiding in the forests. Suddenly a tumult breaks out, someone was shot. People come to the Shtainmanove and find both girls and the Pole Shtainmanove had been shot.

Sometime later Itchele Broyda and a youth from Drogetchin were traveling to the village, were both murdered along the road.

The Jew Poktcheve who had escaped the gas chambers of Treblinka had kept a girl near the village of Shemyon was on his way there when he was murdered.


Action to Bring Jews to a Proper Jewish Burial

Khaim Vrobel the Kevlyaker (?) organizes the work of bringing from the many scattered areas where Jews were known to have fallen to give them a proper Jewish burial. Groups are organized in Bransk. We make coffins. Each group sets out to different villages to gather together the fallen Branskers to bring them for burial. This was truly heroic work because their lives were placed in jeopardy as they traveled to the villages. And yet, they carried it all out in one day. Zavl Rubinshteyn even relates how dangerous this was. Almost everyone helped with only a few who declined to participate.

Since I was in Bialystok no one could give me precise information who had been buried, until I received it from Velvl Golde in the camp in Germany.

[Page 383]

This is the list of those who received a proper Jewish burial:

Meir Rubin, Leyzer Rubin's son,[1]
Menukhe, his wife and two children,[1]
Zelig Kestin,
Sorah Kusarsky, Perl Yankl Olshver's daughter,
Rokhl Tcheslyak, the Koshnik's grandchild,
Bobtche Rubinshteyn, Yazefinerke's grandchild,
Maishe Kleinot, Elber's grandchild,
Leybl Pav, from Tchizev,
Shimon Rubin, wife and children,[2]
Yankev Olyentsky, Maishe Alyentsky's son,
Binyomin Pribut, Lazer Schmidt's grandchild,
Khaim–Hersh Rotenshtein, Mendl Toker's son,
Yankev Rotenshtein, Leybl Stelmakh's grandchild,
Shayne Halperen, Inditshke's daughter–in–law,
Hershl Halperen, Inditchke's grandchild,
Menukhe Horvitz, Hershl's daughter,
Yokhe Susel, Maishe Susel's,
Avrum Vainovitch from Benduge,
Reizl Voinovich,
Feygl Voinovich,
Khaviva Voinovich, 2 Years,
Rakhmiel Brenner, Pesakh Milner's,
Berl Yatz, Shloyme Valfke's son,
Malkhe Yatz, Shloyme Valfke's grandchild,
Yosl Broyde, Shayke's son,
Tsolke Broyde, Shayke's son,
Note Broyde, Shayke's grandchild,
Pesakh Kaplan, Shloyme Valfke's son–in–law,
Velvl Yerusalimsky the scribe's, ,
Shalemaike the teacher's grandchild
Hershl Pulshansky, Tchotchke's son,

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Yitskhak Volkovitch, Pesakh Milner's grandchild,
Motl Vrobel, Kevlyaker,
Herzl Vrobel, Motl's son,
Niske Nudelman, Itche Zalitcher's son,
Maishe Khaim Dombrovsky, Botker Melamed's grandchild,
Khlavne Beeber, Rikls Beeber's son,[3]
A Pyekuter youth, name unknown
A strange Jew from Sokale, name unknown,

All these were identifiable.

There were many more who were buried whom we could no longer recognize and know who they were. Many were identified because of the papers they had carried with them. It was impossible to recognize those who had undertaken this noble work of gathering the dead and bringing them to a proper Jewish burial, so the only thanks we can offer is to Khaim Vrobel.[4] It would have yet been possible to bring more, but life was uncertain, most especially out–of–town.

It became known that in the nearby neighboring towns, within one day, there would be organized attacks upon Jews. Five fell in Simyatchitz five were killed, in Sokale, fifteen, in Tchekhenoftse four, in Tchizhev twelve, in Bocki one, and in Drogetchin four.

It now becomes impossible to remain in Bransk and therefore, we decide to leave.

Passover, 1945, all Bransk Jews must leave, barely escaping with their lives.

We will no longer derive anything good from Bransk. As we left Bransk, the Christians stood by, smiling, laughing at us and enjoying their new homes, beautiful clothing, new furniture and everything that had been Jewish. Now no one will come to claim their inheritance.

Many of the survivors set out not knowing where to go, once again wandering, dragging themselves across mountains and waters, across different borders.

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Some were successful in reaching the D.P. camps in the American zone of Germany and Austria.

Wherever there are remnants of survivors there can be found a few from Bransk.

There were those who no longer had the strength for new wandering and remained in the Polish towns of Lower Silesia.

A small number settle in Bialystok.[5]

Bransk remained free of Jews.

Khaim Finklshteyn, the former commandant of the family camp of the Bransk partisan detachment came to the Bransk market on February 24, 1947, and in the middle of the day, in the centre of the market, was shot.

Bransk had begun with Jews from the area settling hundreds of years ago and ended with the murder of Khaim Finklshteyn on February 24, 1947.

This is the story of our hometown, Bransk, of its 140 year–long life, striving, hopes, battles and eventual destruction. Bransk, only a small town, is an example of all Jewish European influential existence that changed during the years from 1939 to 1944. Five years and so many victims. Will all these victims have died in vain?

We always complain the eternal complaint
That has never yet reached the heavens
And perhaps will never reach the heavens
Why? Why? And once again, Why?

(From Bialik's “In the City of Slaughter”)

zot kratnu v'saparnu b'shinun’ (Heb.) – ‘This happened to us and we have described it clearly.’ With this we fulfill the will of Bransk's last rabbi of Bransk, Rabbi Yitskhak Ze'ev Tsukerman, of blessed memory, who perished at the head of the entire Jewish community of our hometown, Bransk..

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Yitskhak Finklshteyn of the Bransk detachment, the last Jew in Bransk, murdered February, 1947 by Poles[a]


Footnotes (Rubin Roy Cobb)
  1. Related to Rubin Roy Cobb through his paternal grandmother. Jack Rubin of Baltimore told him in 1991 during a visit to Bransk that they were together on the wagon going from Bransk to Bialystok in early 1943 when they were all shot by the Germans, Jack being the sole survivor. He was amongst those of the survivors who reburied the corpses in the Jewish cemetery in Bransk. Brakha Harris–Weiner, a Bransker living in Johannesburg told during a visit there in the 1990s that Meir Rubin introduced 's parents, Jospa Skornik and Khlawna Kobylanski (Cobb) to each other in the late 1920s. Return
  2. Related to Rubin Roy Cobb through his paternal grandmother. He was a brother of Jack Rubin and was on the same wagon as that referred to in above. Return
  3. Rubin Roy Cobb's father's first cousin, his mother Rikl Beeber being a sister of Gelie (Genia) Rokhel Rubin–Kobylanski. Khlavne is a very unusual first name and exists only in the Brest Litovsk – Bialystok area, the name originating in Bohemia in the eleventh century CE. does not know after whom Khlawna Cobb (Kobylanski) is named after, but as his first cousin was also named Khlawne it must be an ancestor of Shimon Rubin, a tavern keeper in Bransk, the father of Rikl and Gelie, either from Shimon Rubin's father's family or his mother's (name unknown) family. Three of the Beeber brothers and a sister move to Atlanta, GA before World War I. Descendants of two of the brothers still reside there. Jack Rubin of Baltimore told that when he escaped from the Bialystok Ghetto just before its liquidation in 1943, this Khlawne Beeber asked to join Jack, but as Jack felt that he (Khlawne Beeber) would not have the strength to keep up with him, he could not take him with. Return
  4. Jack Rubin of Baltimore told that he was one of those who participated in the burial. Return
  5. This included Yankl (John) Rubin {related to Rubin Roy Cobb through his paternal grandmother Gelie [Genia] Rokhel Rubin–Kobylanski) who only left Bialystok for Melbourne, Australia in 1967 as told to by him when visited Melbourne in the late 1990s Return

Footnote (Mindle Crystal Gross)

  1. Please note he states Khaim Finklshteyn was the last Jew shot in February, 1947 (in the body of the writing) and yet he identifies the photo as Yitskhak Finklshteyn. Which is it? Return

[Page 387]

Bransk Jews in Various Armies

To give an account of all Branskers who participated as armed soldiers or in the role of higher level officers, we must approach various armies because Branskers were represented everywhere.

At the beginning of the war in 1939, it is understandable that many Branskers were indicted into the Polish army. During the early days, they immediately fell:

Motke Olyentsky,
Meir Friedman, Khone Raizke's son,

In Maidanek near Lublin, there were in German prisoner–of–war camps ten Branskers from September 1939. Bransk received letters from them until the end of 1942. You understand they were taken to the gas chambers of Maidanek at the end of 1942. They were:

Mordekhai Turovitch, Yankev–Meir Kharlap's grandchild,
Mendl Lievartovske, Alter Radishaver Schmidt's son,
Maishe Mordekhai Perlman, Avrum Ber's,
Kaplan, Yenkl Vasser Treger's grandchild, Avrum's son,
Melekh Goldvaser, Mende Leyb's son,
Maishe Goldvaser,
Finklshteyn, baker from Benduge,
Mordekhai Khashe's, Alyentsker Shuster's son, two are unknown,
Yoske Weiner, Yankev Weiner's son (according to Christian friends' explanations and Yoske was missing in action on the battlefield.)

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On June 22, 1941, more than 100 were drawn into the mobilization. Many returned later but many fell.

Niske Golob, Avrum Abe the Toker's
Mordekhai Fraimener, Deborah Dyne's son–in–law,
Khatz, a quilter, originated from Orla,
Pyetrikovsky, bank bookkeeper,
Yosl Bransky, Aryeh Leyb's son, Beyle Feyge's great–grandchild,
Artchik Semyatitsky, Maishe Abe's son, Bashe Syme's grandchild,
Itche Fakhter, Yenkl Binyamin's son,
Yenkl Burak, Leybl Burak's son,
Kukafke, the watchmaker,
Hertzke Rypke, Mordekhai Hersh Melamed's son,
Yudl Kratz, Sholem Kratz's son,
Yisroel Grazhinsky, Avrum's son,
Leyzer–Lype Gutman Tchone's son–in–law,
Yankev Katlavitch, Kapuste's son,
Berl Deitch, Preiysl Schmidt's,
Itche Mann, Yenkl Marvinker's son,
Shloyme Grakhovsky, Shloyme Beker's,
Leyzer Susel, Shloyme Ephraim's son,
Maishe Yosl Truss, Motye Abe's son,
Maishe Khondovsky, Ayzik Zaifman's stepson,
Itche Levin, Shmuelke Beker's son,
Maishe Meckler, Kersnover Shnaider's son,
Patsovske, Dovid Liev's son–in–law,
Artchik Shpak, Hershl Gelen's son,
Sender Kontchik, Khatskl Shokhet's son,
Avruml Bransky, Yelke Benduger's son,
Podratchik, Alter Farber's grandchild,
Zabludofsky, Bertche, Naphtali Dominover's grandchild,
Artchik, Khaile Tikatsky's friend.

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There are certainly more, but I was not successful in finding any further information.

In the fall of 1944, when Bransk was already liberated and the battle was continuing near Pultusk. Three letters arrived from the front from Branskers in the Soviet military. They were: Benye Medvet, Faivl Shuster's son, Dovid Bombe, Yenkl Vasser Treger's grandchild and Meir Rive, Yosl Voygeser's son. They inquired at that time about who of the Branskers were alive. Regretfully, no one answer them. They did not even have any addresses. In the summer of 1946, certain people inquired about them, but I regret I cannot respond because there is uncertainty. There were big battles in these areas, but it is possible they are living elsewhere.


Bransker in the Russian armies:

Hershl Bransky, Avrum Shkop's son, returned,
Shloym'ke Truss, Motye Abe's son, returned,
Avrum Yudl Vasser, Maishe Aron Klektor's son, fell in 1945,
Bai Piltusk was already 50 years old,
Asher Vyertchin, Berl Fidel's grandchild was in Anderse's army and near East and lately in England, Khaim Vaynshteyn, Maishe Hersh the deaf,
Khone Mann, Marvinke's,
Kalman Tskhtlyer, Ben–Tsiyon Melamed's grandchild,
Yeshaye Tchizetsky, Malke Zitserke's grandchild,

All of the above served in Kostchyaske's division. All returned, many with medals and awards.


Bransk Jews as Officers During the War:

Shloyme Truss, Shloym'ke Motye Abe's, participated in battles in Kursk, Stalingrad, Oryol, Kharkov, Kiev, Carpathians, Romania, Czechoslovakia, battalion commander. Last title captain. Several times wounded, received award from Red Cross and other medals. Was very loved by the officer's corps.

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Hershl Bransky' participated during the war in the Soviet Union as an officer with the rank of First Lieutenant, was Director of the music corps, performed outstandingly several times.

Khone Mann, was an officer of political education in and was only 22 years, but very talented.
Khaim Vainshteyn, choirmaster advanced officer, with the Kastchyaske division at age 21 years.


Bransk Jews in Other Partisan Detachments

Dr. Datner from Bialystok, was one of the best partisans in the “Revenge” detachment. He describes in his writings and memoirs heroic battles by the “Revenge” detachment, about the heroic deeds of Bransker. He is speaking of Yekhiel Zaifman, the son of Yosl Zaifman, Artche's grandchild. Yekhiel is named after the famous Bransk community activist Yekhiel Leyb Zaifman.

Yosl Zaifman was active in many branches of Bransk life as a teacher, leader of the folk–school, editor and publisher of the local Bransk newspaper “Bransker Life” and other timely activities. Yekhiel received a traditional–national education. He was a pioneer.[1] Doctor Datner has asked me personally to bring this out in the Bransk Yizkor Book. This is brought out.

Yekhiel Zaifman was very active around Bialystok in the “Revenge” detachment in which he worked as a former Polish soldier. He was a good marksman and machine–gunner and was a participant in all heavy work. His specialty was causing the trains to derail between Bialystok and Valkavisk.

He received a thank you note for his work. The daily record of the “Revenge” detachment also notes that Yekhiel is a brave hero.

He had to carry out a death sentence on a lyeshnik (forest watchman) who agreed to become a German spy with two of his friends. He comes to the lyeshnik on Sunday afternoon. He finds

[Page 391]

many guests at the lyeshnik. Yekhiel stands at the door with a broad ‘good morning.’ He holds a revolver in his hand, an automatic. They want to throw themselves on him, but Yekhiel in those seconds fired a series of bullets which resulted in the spy and his two German guests to fall dead immediately.

On October 25, 1943, he fell in the battle with a band of Gestapos. He defended himself bravely and fell as a hero.

The partisans conducted a memorial for Yekhiel Zaifman with the greatest partisans' honour.

Hodes Susel, the dark young woman, Maishe – Susel's girl or Maishe Yenkl Zalman Avrum's as her father was called, until the war was a member of the youth movement ‘He'khalutz.’

After the Bransk ghetto was liquidated on November 7, 1942 she ran away to the forest where she encountered a group of Soviet deserters and is immediately enmeshed in their work. She did everything to help the enemies of the Nazis, even spying, and was successful in many cases.

In the summer of 1943, they are accosted by a large group of Germans. The battle lasts an entire day. German officers fall dead. Hodes stands in the middle of the fire, loads the weapons for the Russians to enable them to shoot more quickly. There is shooting from all sides. Hodes does not leave her position until she falls along with her compatriots. Honour her memory.

Footnote (Rubin Roy Cobb)

  1. Hebrew is khalutz, being a pioneer in the Zionist socialist group who trained to immigrate to then called Palestine to establish Jewish settlements there. Rubin Roy Cobb's father's brother, Naftali Kobylanski, who after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 changed his family name to Yogev. He immigrated to Palestine in 1938 from Bielsk–Podlaski that was near Bransk. Return

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List of Bransk Jews Who Survived

Where They Were During the Period 1939–1944

Alpern, Velvl Hindetchke's grandchild, in the forest,
Alpern, Maishe Yosl, Hindetchke's son, in Russia,
Olyentsky, Dovid, Yenkl Vote's, in the forest,
Olyentsky, Abe, Yenkl Voyitek's, in the forest,
Olyentsky, Shloyme, Yenkl Voyitek's, in the forest,
Olyentsky, Dina, Maishe Alentsker's, in the forest,
Okon, Khava, in the forest,
Okon, Leah, in the forest,
Askard, Maishe, Zakhriya's son, in the forest,
Adelman, Shakhna, in Russia,
Bider, Maishe, Maishe Aharon Vaser's grandchild, in Russia,
Burak, Velvl, Hershl Burak's son, in a bunker,
Brenner, Yisroel Pesakh Milner's grandchild, in the forest,
Broyde, Yosl, Lazer Broyde's son, in the forest,
Bag, Shloyme Fishl Bag's in Russia,
Broyde Shayne, Shaye Tsalke's grandchild, in Russia,
Broyde, Avruml, Niske's grandchild, in Russia,
Broyde, Itche'ele, Lozier's son, murdered in 1945, in the forest,
Golde, Velvl, Slave's grandchild, in the forest,
Golde, Eva, Slave's grandchild, now in America, in the forest,
Goldberg, Yeshaye, Babele Beker's grandchild, in the forest,
Gradzhensky, Meir, in the forest,

[Page 393]

Gradzhensky, Itche, in the forest,
Dalinsky, Khaim Kartoflye, in a bunker,
Dalinsky, Dovid Kartoflye, in a bunker,
Virtchin, Asher Fidel's, in Russia,
Vaser, Sholem, Maishe Aron Vaser's grandchild, in the forest,
Vaser, Menukhe, Maishe Aron's in a bunker,
Vrone, Leyzer, grandchild of Benduge, in the forest,
Vrone, Khanah, in the forest,
Vainshteyn, Shoshke, Maishe Hersh's now in America, in the forest,
Vrobel, Khaim Kevlyaker's, in the forest,
Vygotsky Dovid, Aydel's, in the forest,
Voinovich, Binyomin, Benduger's, in the forest,
Zilbershteyn, Avrum, Yenkl Vaser Treger's, in Russia,
Zalyefsky, Motl, Noske Katsev's, in Russia,
Khazn, Shayne, Mendl Gursker's, in Russia,
Toptchefsky, Zisl, Lype Partselainik's, murdered 1945. in the forest,
Tikatsky, Maishe, now in America, in the forest,
Tikatsky, Khanah, in the forest,
Tshizetsky, Yeshaye Malkhah'les, in Russia,
Trus, Alter, Motye Abes, in Russia, now in Sweden,
Trus, Leybl Alter's son in the forest, now in Sweden,
Tcheshainske, Stella, found in the forest,
Iteld, Shome, Alter Iteld's now in America,[1] in Russia,
Yentchman, Maishe, Avrum's son, in the forest, now in Poland,
Lievartofsky, Minke Schmidt's, in a bunker,
Lype, Hershl Tchone's, in the forest,
Lyev, Mulke, Dovid'ke's, Camp,[2]
Lyev, Fishl, Alyarnik's, in a bunker,
Lyev, Khaiah Sorah, Avrum Rifke's daughter, in Russia,
Lyev, Binyomke, Shaiye Tsalke's grandchild, in Russia,
Lyev, Treine Shaiye Tsalke's grandchild, in Russia,
Lyev, Peshe, Shaiye Tsalke's grandchild, in Russia,

[Page 394]

Lyev, Gitl, Shaiye Tsalke's grandchild in Russia,
Maggid, Yankev, the old ritual slaughterer's son, now in America, in Shanghai,
Melamed, Dovtche, Yentitshike's grandchild, in Russia,
Mann, Khanke Marvinker's, in Russia,
Shmurzhik, Dvorke, Leyzer Katsev's grandchild, in Camp,
Sukman, Zalman, Pyetkever, in the forest,
Sukman Freydl, Pyetkever, in the forest,
Sukman, Khaye, Pyetkever, in the forest,
Sakalovitch, Berele Khone's, in the forest,
Samoyle, Yankev, Yenkl–Hershl Schmidt's grandchild, in the forest,
Fraynd Nekhemye, the Khazan's son, in Russia,
Pas Simkhah, Borukh–Velvl's, in the forest,
Fenekherus Perl, Zalman Rutker's, in bunker, now in Israel,
Posesor, Syme, Tuckerman's, in Russia, now in Camp,
Pav, Maishe, Shmulye Paplaver's son–in–law, in Russia,
Pakhter, Shloyme Binyomke the shoemaker in Russia,
Finklshteyn, Khaim, Rakhke's from Benduge, murdered 1947, in the forest,
Finklshteyn, Motl, in the forest,
Finklshteyn, Avreml, in the forest,
Finklshteyn, Shoshke, in the forest,
Finklshteyn, Khanah, in the forest,
Pribut, Aryeh Leyb, Hershl Schmidt's grandchild, in the forest,
Pribut, Zalman, in Russia,
Pribut, Khaim Velvl, in the forest,
Pribut, Esther, in the forest,
Frank, Lube, found in the forest, in the forest,
Tsukhtlyer, Kalman, Ben Tsiyon Melamed's grandchild, in Russia,
Kaminetsky, Dore, Daktershe, in a bunker,
Kamen Maishe, Galise's, in a bunker,
Kotlovitch, Yosef, Khaim Beker's, now in Eretz Yisroel, in the forest,
Kestin, Yankev, now in Italy, in the forest,
Kleinot, Mulye, Elber Shuster's, in the forest,

[Page 395]

Kestin, Yosef–Betsalel, now in Palestine, in Russia,
Kontchik, Khatskl, Shloyme's in Russia,
Kontchik, Shayne, in Russia,
Kontchik, Leybe, in Russia,
Rubinshteyn, Gitl, Yozefiner, died in 1945,
Rubinshteyn, Maishe, Gitl's son in the forest,
Rubinshteyn, Sonya, in the forest,[3]
Resnick, Tzvia, Yozefynerke's grandchild, in a bunker,
Rekhelzon, Mulye, Dvora Dyne's grandchild, in the forest,
Rubin, Yankev [John], Royten Ons[4] son, in the forest,
Rubinshteyn, Zavl[3], Zavl Hersh the Khasid's now in America, in the forest
Royzen, Pesakh, Dovid Schmidt's grandchild, in the forest,
Royzen, Khone Basl, Melikhe's grandchild, in the forest,
Rotslav, Berl, Shaye Tsalke's, in the forest,
Rotslav, Perl, Berl's wife, in the forest, Rotslav, Glike, Berl's daughter, in the forest,
Rotslav Maishe's son, in the forest,
Rotslav, Freyde, daughter, in the forest,
Rotslav, Feygl, daughter, in the forest,
Shapira, Faivl, Bashe Sime's grandchild, in a bunker,[5]
Shapira, Leybl, Bashe Sime's grandchild, in a bunker,[5]
Shpak, Hershl, Alter Orke's, in the forest, now in Cuba,[6]
Shpak, Brokha, in the forest,
Shteyn, Pesakh, Meir Khaim's grandchild, now in America, in Shanghai,

Letters arrived in Bransk from the following four right after the liberation

Regretfully, no one answered them, so we are unable to verify their current status.

Benye Medved, Faivl Shuster's,
Dovid Bonke, Yenkl Vaser Treger,
Mordekhai Sukhavitch, Yankev Meir Kharlap's,
Ryve Maior, Yosl Vaneser's.

Footnotes (Rubin Roy Cobb)

  1. Lived in Atlanta, Rubin Roy Cobb met him, and he remembered hearing that 's mother (Jospa Skornik–Cobb) had been killed in a motor accident in South Africa. He lived across the street in Bransk from her family [see Maps Section 1 Page 1 for overall view, and Map 2, Page 7 of 8 and Map 6 Page 2of 2 for detailed information]. Return
  2. Refers to DP (Displaced Persons) Camps established in the Western Allies Zones of Germany after World War II awaiting visas to resettle elsewhere – USA, Israel, Australia etc. Return
  3. After her husband Zavl died she married Jack Rubin of Baltimore [paternal cousin of Rubin Roy Cobb]. Her daughter is Cynthia Rubinstein who lives in Baltimore. Return
  4. Means Red Rooster referring to his huge red nose. First cousin of Jack Rubin of Baltimore, lived in Bialystok, Poland until 1967, then moved to Melbourne, Australia where he was called John. Has a son named Henry who is an accountant in Melbourne. Related to Rubin Roy Cobb through his paternal grandmother. met them in Melbourne in late 1990s. Return
  5. Two Shapiro brothers that lived in Baltimore. met their families in the 1990s. Their wives passed on a lot of information about the shtetl. One of the brothers was murdered it is believed because he refused to raise the prices of items sold in his store when requested to do so in Baltimore. Return
  6. Met his wife at a celebration of a Bransker in Atlanta. She believed that her infant baby could still be alive as after the liberation the baby's body could not be found and was brought up by Poles (or Germans) without knowing of his/her origins. Her husband had a very successful manufacturing clothing plant in Cuba, but when Castro arose they had to leave Cuba in a hurry penniless. In Charlotte, North Carolina he reestablished another successful plant. Return


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