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Gangs of debtors broke away from the Polish army, sneaked into towns and cities and started pillaging and looting: in Kamin-Kashirsk, the debtors carried out frightful killings of 90 Jews, including the ritual slaughterer, who they murdered with his own slaughtering knife.

        Large sections of debtors showed up around Drohitchin. We didn't see them during the day, but at night they would sneak into town to loot and plunder. We were living in fear for our lives. A group of young people decided to organize a unit to set large fires in four areas of town: near the Street House of Study; in the market, near Meshel Averbuch; a third was set near the bridge, and a fourth on the Sand. There were plenty of around the fires; and both young and old sat near the fires, or walked from one fire to the other. Many Jews chose their safest place to bed down for the night near the fires. This technique was successful, and the gangs didn't come into town.


The debtors engage in slaughter in Zakazelia

One day there was a rumor that a large group of debtors was arriving; they stopped at the Bronner courtyard near Drohitchin. While I was standing near Eliyahu Leibka's house, I saw a debtor break into the house. He had the face of a real killer, and stopped to pull out a Cossack whip. After waiting for a half hour in Leibka's house, the debtor came out extremely angry, got on his horse and left town.

        The news of the arrival of the debtor promised the worst, and the town was seized by fear. All streets were empty of people, and everyone went into hiding. Later, we found out that the debtor was intending to carry out a slaughter in Drohitchin when he arrived at Leibka's house. Through some miracle, we located Pintakowski, the Polish gendarme (of the famous Polish family that had lived in Drohitchin for years). Pintakowski immediately asked the debtor what he was doing in town. Realizing that the debtors wanted to carry out a pogrom in Drohitchin, Pintakowski told him that Pintakowski was appointed by the Polish authorities to insure the safety of the town, and ordered the debtor to get out of town. As mentioned, the debtor was forced to leave.

        [Photo:] The text of the gravestone of three people who were killed on the 2nd of Cheshvan, 5681 [October 14, 1920] is:

Earth! Earth! Don't cover the blood of our martyrs.

[Right to left:] Honored and Honest Man, Yitzchak Shmuel, son of Ezra
His Mother, the Modest Leah, [rest obscured]
Her daughter, the Virgin, Toiba, daughter of Ezra

[Caption:] The gravestones of Leah Lev and her children, Shmuel and Toibel (Ezra Mishiver's family), in addition to 14 other people slaughtered by the debtors: 2 Cheshvan 5681, 1921 [This is an error, since the correct date is above]. The victims are buried in the Drohitchin cemetery.

        Since they weren't able to do anything in Drohitchin, after that very night the debtors then attacked Zakazelia, where they found a dozen Jewish refugee families, and killed 17 Jews. Ezra Mishiver's son was shot by the bandits while lying sick in bed. His mother, who was taking care of him, was also killed. Her daughter, who escaped and hid in a tree, was found and shot by the bandits. Having finished their savage work, the group of debtors went on their way to Pinsk.

        The Jews of the village of Valivel heard about the massacre that very night, and immediately came

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to Zakazelia, but all that was left for them to do was recite psalms for the victims. The next day they sent someone to inform the Jews of Drohitchin about the dreadful murder. It's impossible to describe the effect the massacre in Zakazelia had on us. It became even more sorrowful when the martyrs of Zakazelia were brought to Drohitchin for burial in our cemetery a few days later. All the Jews in town wept and wailed as they accompanied the 17 victims to their eternal rest.

        The Zakazelia massacre was a warning to all Jews. A decision was made to go to Kobrin, where a Polish commander and many policemen were stationed, to request the commander send police protection to Drohitchin. The question was who ought to be the one to make the trip. Who was going to take the risk to life and limb to make such a long wagon trip to Kobrin? There weren't any trains at that time because the tracks had been destroyed. There was one courageous person who was willing to take the risk and travel to Kobrin – Aharon Asher Tolkovsky, may his memory be blessed!


The debtors pillage in Drohitchin

        While Aharon Asher was on his way to Kobrin, four Polish soldiers arrived in Drohitchin, and were looking for a place to bake bread for the soldiers working on the rail lines. It was decided that they would bake their bread in my house and that of my neighbor, Hershel the Shoemaker. The soldiers also stayed in Hershel's house. We lived together with those several Polish soldiers, and felt safer.

        On the third night, around midnight, we suddenly heard banging on the door. From the screaming I realized that it was the debtors. I immediately instructed my wife and children to climb out the window and go over to Hershel's house. When I opened the door, four debtors barged in with revolvers and ordered me to set a table with bread, butter eggs, cheese and milk, and to hand over dollars and jewelry. They warned me that if I didn't do as I was told, they would do to me what they did to the Jews in Kamin-Kashirsk where the debtors had just come from. They then started imitating the way the Jewish women in Kamin-Kashirsk were screaming and crying during the massacre. The bandits sat around the table, and I started placing anything I could find in the house on the table.

        While I was involved with the debtors, my wife and children were calling out to Hershel Popinsky at his house, and alerted the Polish soldiers. When they heard the word "debtors," the oldest of the soldiers got dressed, grabbed his revolver, and came into my house. The debtors asked him what he was doing here so late at night. The Pole answered that he came to heat up the oven to bake bread for his soldiers. He started to tinker around the oven, which got the "guests" interested. After they finished eating, the debtors ordered me to arrange beds for them to sleep in. Apparently to frighten me, one of the gang pointed his revolver at me the whole time. I wasn't scared by the diabolical behavior, and with total calm and a smile, I took the revolver from his hand. This confused the debtor, who asked whether a Jew shouldn't be scared to hold a revolver. The bandits went to sleep almost immediately. I started to leave the room, and one of the debtors called me in Yiddish. I was taken aback and asked him whether he was a Jew. He told me to be quiet and said that they wouldn't harm me, but that they wanted me to give them two thousand marks, and they would leave town.

        That same night we heard that a whole brigade of debtors was headed for Drohitchin, and would arrive the next morning. You can imagine how we must have felt. In the morning, the new "guests" started arriving in town. All the streets became filled with debtors. I stood up and looked through the window onto the street, and noticed a couple of horses and wagons passed quickly in front of my house. There were six Polish gendarmes. One of them stood up in the wagon and waved around a whip, shouting cheerfully. I recognized them, it was our own Aharon Asher, who was returning to Drohitchin with six Polish guards. He intentionally pulled out the whip to show the debtors that the town was no longer out of control. We began to feel much better.

        I had to give the four debtors who slept in my house 2000 marks, and they left town. They passed through Lipnik on the way to Yanovo,

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